Would You Adopt an Embryo?

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E.C. Raff and R.A. Raff

1. Meet the "snowflake babies," adopted as embryos. 

"As the use of IVF grows, so, too, will the number of embryos in storage. Physicians and patients reduce costs and patient discomfort by minimizing the number of procedures performed and optimizing the results of each. Put simply, the physicians try to harvest as many eggs as possible, then create as many embryos as possible. At the same time, fertility specialists are moving toward a consensus that the optimal number of embryos to transfer is just one. Early recognition of these trends led to the emergence of embryo adoption. The year Louise Brown turned 20, another couple welcomed America’s first 'snowflake baby,' the term advocates of embryo adoption use to describe the children born from this practice."


2. 'Smart' guns exist. So why can't you buy one?

"The drama was over the Armatix iP1, a compact, .22 caliber, 10-round pistol made in Germany. The iP1 is a 'smart' gun, meaning it only fires in the hands of its owner. Or rather, it only fires if it’s within 10 inches of its companion iW1 watch, which is presumably on the owner’s wrist. It can also be disabled with a timer or a PIN code."


3. Inside the wacky world of DIY brain stimulation, and why you might not want to strap a 9-volt battery to your head just yet

"It’s been nearly two years since Williams cobbled together his first device, and he has been electrifying his brain two to three times a week ever since. Often he does it for about 25 minutes in the evening while reading on the couch. Sometimes it’s while he’s doing laundry or other chores. It’s become just another part of his routine, like brushing his teeth."


4. The knee-control system Douglas Engelbart tried out while developing the mouse.

"A preliminary model of a knee control was made for this research. It consists of two potentiometers and associated linkage plus a knee lever. The linkage is spring-loaded to the right and gravity-loaded downward. The user pushes the lever with his knee; a side to-side motion of the knee moves the bug edge-to-edge, while the top-to-bottom bug movement is controlled by an up-and-down motion of the knee (i.e., a rocking motion on the ball of the foot).


5. Gah! It might be harder to detect life on extrasolar planets than anticipated.

 "A strategy often suggested for searching for signs of life on exoplanets involves looking for ways that life might change a world’s appearance, such as how key chemicals might change the spectrum of light seen from those planets... One of the most promising biosignatures is the combined presence of two molecules that ordinarily would destroy each other in the atmosphere, such as oxygen and methane. Such an extreme 'disequilibrium' might suggest that life was present to generate large amounts of either or both of the molecules. However astrophysicist and planetary scientist Hanno Rein at the University of Toronto and his colleagues now reveal a scenario where the combined light of a lifeless exoplanet and its lifeless moon could lead to a seeming case of disequilibrium suggestive of life."


Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip:

Berkeley. Bishop Berkeley, pron. barkly; but Berkeley, Calif., pronounce burk-. Berkeleian, so spelled.

I propose that an Oakland resident should always be referred to as an Oaklandisher, so spelled. (Ok, fine, I won't try to make fetch happen.) 


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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