Posts

2014-09-23: More stochastic than?

2014-08-17: Feynman's missing method for third-orders?

2014-07-31: CIA spies even on congress

2014-07-16: Rehm on vaccines

2014-06-21: Kurtosis, 4th order diffusion, and wave speed

2014-06-20: Random dispersal speeds invasions

2014-05-06: Preservation of information asymetry in Academia

2014-04-16: Dual numbers are really just calculus infinitessimals

2014-04-14: More on fairer markets

2014-03-18: It's a mad mad mad mad prisoner's dilemma

2014-03-05: Integration techniques: Fourier--Laplace Commutation

2014-02-25: Fiber-bundles for root-polishing in two dimensions

2014-02-17: Is life a simulation or a dream?

2014-01-30: PSU should be infosocialist

2014-01-12: The dark house of math

2014-01-11: Inconsistencies hinder pylab adoption

2013-12-24: Cuvier and the birth of extinction

2013-12-17: Risk Resonance

2013-12-15: The cult of the Levy flight

2013-12-09: 2013 Flu Shots at PSU

2013-12-02: Amazon sucker-punches 60 minutes

2013-11-26: Zombies are REAL, Dr. Tyson!

2013-11-22: Crying wolf over synthetic biology?

2013-11-21: Tilting Drake's Equation

2013-11-18: Why $1^\infty != 1$

2013-11-15: Adobe leaks of PSU data + NSA success accounting

2013-11-14: 60 Minutes misreport on Benghazi

2013-11-11: Making fairer trading markets

2013-11-10: L'Hopital's Rule for Multidimensional Systems

2013-11-09: Using infinitessimals in vector calculus

2013-11-08: Functional Calculus

2013-11-03: Elementary mathematical theory of the health poverty trap

2013-11-02: Proof of the area of a circle using elementary methods

Crying wolf over synthetic biology?

Laurie Garrett has a new biosecurity article at Foreign Affairs on the perils and challenges of synthetic biology. Biosecurity is yet another subdivision of security studies for national governance and international relations where people are going to being investing their lives trying to put a genie we scientists freed back in a bottle. It's a rivotting topic to contemplate, and technology with the potential for unparalleled disruption and reallignment of global systems. However, it seems important to point out that Ms. Garrett may not be the right person to be collecting our attention as herald of this revolution.

About 20 years ago, Garrett wrote a widely acclaimed book called The Coming Plague. While undoubtable an attractive read, 20 years of history have shown that it has been quite off the mark in terms of tone and general predictions about the near future. We remain concerned about the potential emergence of new infectious diseases like flu pandemics caused by ducks and other viruses carried by bats. And some will say we dodged a disaster by controlling SARS before it got out of hand. But given the other challenges we have been facing, it seems the threats from emergence of naturally occurring infectious diseases was overhyped, not a balanced and dispassionate accounting. Similarly, her follow-up book Betrayal of Trust: The collapse of global public health seems premised on the fallacy that a global public health system was something that could ever have been maintained under Malthusian pressures.

Given the questionable track-record, I'd really like to hear some opinions from other writers and reporters.