Thursday, January 1, 2009

Do It Yourself

I've always said that you don't have to be a professional working in a sterile lab in order to contribute to the advancement of science and technology, and it looks like others are starting to catch on. The Associated Press ran an article a few days ago about amateurs using relatively inexpensive equipment, working out of their homes or garages, to genetically engineer new life forms.

The best quote in the article is from computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson, who is working to alter the bacteria that create yogurt to glow in the presence of melamine, who said, "People can really work on projects for the good of humanity while learning about something they want to learn about in the process." And that's exactly the point: making a contribution, yes, but also learning something.

It sounds interesting, but the biological sciences are not really an area that I've had any training (other than what I've taught myself and what I learned in biology class in 9th grade). I have been thinking, though, about picking up some equipment for a little physics experimentation out in my garage.

The point is that you can do something. Maybe you can work on genetic engineering, or maybe you can experiment with radioactive decay in your garage. Maybe you can write computer software for scientific simulations, or maybe you could just run the BOINC software (and, by the way, the organization responsible for BOINC is looking for help with programming, translating, testing, and documenting their software, if you have any of those skills). But do something.

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