BioCurious Cookbook: Ivory Tower Crumble

ivory_tower_crumblePaywalls for academic research, expensive reagents, million dollar DNA sequencers. Modern science is often called an ivory tower, high up in the sky where the secrets to truth lay inaccessible to everyday curiosity.

Today, the ivory tower is beginning to change, with low cost open source biotech equipment, biotech hackerspaces like BioCurious, and more scientists publishing their research in open-access journals like PLOS.

Now, like Godzilla, dash the Ivory Tower with your spoon and put it in your belly.

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Launching a Biotech Lab in a Library

Congrats to Cameron Clarke and everyone involved on launching the first biotech lab within a public library, the La Jolla Library in southern California.

If you’re in SD, check out the meetup group for The Wet Lab.

The Wet Lab at La Jolla Library

The Wet Lab at La Jolla Library

From La Jolla Light:

Wet Lab director Cameron Clarke said at one time, the equipment used by the La Jolla Library’s biotech lab cost thousands of dollars and was only available to labs and universities. “By putting a Wet Lab in a library, you give the public access to tools they would never have access to,” he said. “But this is not going to be full-blown lab, it’s designed to allow folks to come in and get their feet wet. It’s an exciting opportunity and we are going to crawl before we walk, and walk before we run.”

To introduce the scientific concepts available for exploration in the biotech lab, the Wet Lab will host a monthly workshop for all ages and a monthly lecture for adults. The workshop will be 3 p.m. Saturday, May 2 and will demonstrate how scientists extract DNA from living things, in this case, a strawberry. The lecture, called Citizen Science, will be 6 p.m. May 5, and continue the first Tuesday of the month, and focus on biological concepts.

How Do You Create a Makerspace/Hackerspace?

Mirrored from Quora, since they require an account just to read articles.

The first of many classes at BioCurious, in this case making glowing cells with Green Fluorescent Protein!

5 bio-enthusiasts and I co-founded BioCurious, a biotech hackerspace in Sunnyvale, California. Eri Gentry had nurtured an awesome meetup group of 500+ people into biotech over about 2 years, and we felt that no one had lab space but a lot of newbs and experts wanted to experiment.

The best Hackerspaces are created when an existing community needs a physical nexus. Here’s what I think are the 4 core steps of starting a successful hackerspace.

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How My Friend Achieved His Lifelong Dream

This summer I hiked 220 miles over 23 nights on the John Muir Trail. It runs all the way from Yosemite National Park to Mount Whitney near LA. 23 days out in the middle of nowhere.

It was my friend Matt’s dream. He’s a hiker, he’s a backpacker, he’s an Eagle Scout. He sells hiking gear online. He sells boots and backpacks and tents and sleeping bags. And he told me “Tito, my dream is to hike the John Muir Trail. I’ve thought about it for years. I want to make it happen before I go off to school. Before I start a family. Before I start a business. Before I buy a house. I want to make this dream happen now.”

Hiking the John Muir Trail is a big dream. I’ve talked to a lot of people who say “I’m planning to go, once I graduate”, or “That’s on my bucket list, once I retire”. People really want to hike this trail.

But it was never my dream. At all. I had no interest in hiking, hiking gear, spending lots of money to be out in a bunch of trees and dirt. Even spending a weekend outdoors sounds kind of boring.

But I said “yes”. And everything changed.

You know, hiking isn’t boring. On the first day, we’re hitting our first mountain, and we’re climbing up, and lightning is flashing in the background. Matt tells me that “the top of a mountain is the most dangerous place during a lightning storm”. And as we get to the top, I look around for the first time and there’s 3 fires caused by the lightning that are burning up the forest around us. After all the worry with the lightning, it doesn’t even matter! We take a bunch of photos, head down the mountain away from the fires.

I’m not some amazing hiker now. It’s not my true passion. What changed was my perception of how to accomplish my own dreams.

I’ve learned that 60% of American adults have some big amazing dream that they’re thinking about, and they don’t know why they’re not making progress on their dream. They have it clearly defined in their head. They’ve got a plan. But they’re not getting there and they don’t know why. That’s how I felt about my own dreams, about my own sense of accomplishment. How good could I be if I can’t make progress on my dreams?

What I’ve learned is that by helping my friend with his dream, I discovered my own sense of accomplishment, my sense of self, my sense of confidence. I’m even thinking of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, which is a 6 month hike. 6 months, that’s an incredible change for a guy who had no interest in the outdoors.

So help a friend of yours with their dream.

It’s easy. You pull out your iPhone, pull up your Favorites list, and you call the person at the bottom of the list. You say “Hey, what have you always dreamed of doing, but you’ve never done?”.

Maybe it’s a hike. Maybe it’s meeting Taylor Swift. Maybe it’s spending a month in Hong Kong, Paris, or Cairo. You can make a plan and and make it happen in the next year.

And after that year, your friend will have accomplished their dream, and you’ll have this massive self confidence in your abilities, and surprise that your dreams can change. That you can help other people achieve their dreams means you can help yourself accomplish your dreams. So call up your friend and ask them “What have you always dreamed of doing, but you’ve never done?”

How to: Rediscover Books You Abandoned

The book “Invisible Cities” has been sitting on my virtual Kindle bookshelf for months.

This morning, I came across a quote from its author in this amazing video about GPS tracking for trash, and was reminded of my abandoned book.

These days, I prefer listening to books to reading books. So, I went online to see the price of the audio book on Audible. Like most books on Audible, it’s listed as $20 :(

“I feel like a dummy, I don’t want to waste $20. Maybe I’ll make another feeble attempt with the Kindle book”

Redemption! Whisper Sync

Then I noticed this cool service Amazon has where I could buy the Audible book for just $3.95. It’s called WhisperSync.

This is a chance for redemption. “I want to read this book. I haven’t read it in six months. I repent. Give me audio”.

“Give It Another Try”

I imagine an option on my Amazon account where, if I haven’t finished reading a book in 6 months, Amazon automatically gives me a cheap/free copy of it on Whisper Sync. It’s called the “Give It Another Try” program :)

Screenshot 2015-02-26 09.40.04

Add Your Latest Blog Post to your Email Signature

Imagine if your signature automatically had a link to your latest blog post, like this:

Email Sig Screenshot

I’ve been trying to find a way to add my latest tweet, blog post, and “currently reading” to my email signature. After a lot of searching, I found a Safari/Chrome/Thunderbird plugin called WiseStamp.

You can automatically include your latest blog post to every email signature. Twitter and Facebook, and other RSS feeds too!

Here’s how to add your latest WordPress post to your email signature.

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