Nerd’s Digest is a blog series where I share anything from science to health to philosophy that has captured my interest and curious mind.
Every once in a while, I come in contact with stuff that amazes me in all possible ways imaginable.
Yet people don’t seem to appreciate the recent discoveries and technological advancements. Well, not until they know the possible applications these will have in the future.
Like I always say, keeping one’s self constantly informed is a way to redirect a mind away from ignorance. It’s not just about keeping up with the latest on science or technology but also with information that requires no methodology to learn and understand it.
An acronym for “Clusters of Regularly InterSpaced Palindromic Repeats”.
Now let that sink in for a few seconds.
Palindromic means a sequence that can be read backward or forward like the words racecar or Eve. Repeat these in a regular interval and bunch it up into a cluster: you have a CRISPR.
There’s a specific part of the DNA, even of small bacteria and viruses, that has this “configuration” where nucleotides (basic block of a DNA) are in this set-up.
This technology, in summary, allows genetic editing of the DNA through the process involving CRISPR and a protein called CAS9; applications range from viral and bacterial infection immunity, cosmetics, and what we have fictionally conceptualized on biology (well most of them but not all)
The science behind this would require advance biology and biochemistry. I had a hard time understanding the whole process as my mind is not wireframed to understand anything about biochemical processes (for which I tried to for the sake of knowledge). BUT, the whole picture is quite easy to understand.
If you want to read and understand more about it, you can read more about it HERE.
I will, however, enumerate a few possible applications and some issues about this technology.
ENDING A HEREDITARY DISEASE
By manipulating how the cell uses the CRISPR and CAS9, scientists can edit a portion of the DNA that’s linked to diseases passed down to generations.
This means that we will be able to finally secure a future for our offspring where they can live without diseases that are possibly handed down through genetics.
Also, it’s also possible for scientists to get rid of possible genetic defects for the unborn.
FORCIBLY PASSING DOWN A HEREDITARY TRAIT
Since it allows genetic editing, it’s possible to use the CRISPR as a way to deliberately let the unborn develop into a person that’s mostly made of genes from either one of its parents.
So, this also means that we can manipulate how any organ in an organism develops. In case of deadly virus-spreading animals, it can help stop the spread by making the baby-maker unable to make babies by making them sterile.
HUMAN TESTING AND ETHICAL DILEMMAS
In the history of medical practice, ethics have always been one of the topics greatly discussed because believe it or not, there were methods back then that are more gruesome than a typical case of mutilation.
So, as far as human testing is concerned, there are certain things needed to be considered before actual application of CRISPR happens and like all other scientific breakthroughs, this technology will face many criticisms and skepticism.
While tampering with human or any living creature’s supposed “nature” has always been an ethical issue for the churches that don’t support it, others question the effects it will have to future generations alongside the question of whether we have the right to tamper with their genes.
Political, economic, and sociological matters are also discussed to avoid a crisis that can possibly happen when CRISPR is made available commercially.
This may be a great advancement ideally speaking but CRISPR is not yet a hundred percent efficient and unintended mutations can occur. So, it’s best to have it tested on those pesky mosquitoes first.
Despite the limits this has right now, it is unarguably a promising innovation.
NEW QUANTUM COMPUTING ARCHITECTURE
If you’re a seasoned reader of Nerd’s Digest, and by “seasoned” I mean has been reading this humble yet slightly lacking-from-the-attention-it-needs series, you’d probably remember this article:
In this installment of Nerd’s Digest, I answered a question about teleportation and I may have disappointed PMG because it’s possible but very very very difficult to transport a living being from one place to another.
Also, it raises a lot of philosophical questions about existence and on personhood but we’ll leave that to the philosophers.
Anyway, I mentioned in that post that practical applications of Quantum Entanglement are relatively easier and efficient in electronics (without the hard philosophical questions, too)
THIS DEVELOPMENT is all about creating a computer architecture based on the physics of quantum particles.
It basically has turned entangled pairs of atoms as flip-flop switches in a microchip. The best part: the flipflops are spaced only 50 atoms apart or 10-20 nanometers apart.
Similarly, IC’s today have the same distances between transistors but works by letting electrons travel through these very tiny switches.
So what’s so special about it? Don’t conventional computers do that? 1’s and 0’s are relatively easy to create using the transistors.
Well, traditional computing machines use a sort of sequential way to solve rather large and complex tasks required in AI’s and large-scale simulations wherein determining the best possible solution takes quite a lot of time and space (in memory).
Quantum Computing takes this capacity to a whole new level. I’d rather refer you to a video so you can understand it even more.
But long story short, quantum computers harness the strange phenomenon of superimposition – a property of quantum particles where you can’t exactly tell in what state it is until you measure it.
Superimposition means that a qubit is 1 and 0 at the same time while not being measured and will either be 1 or 0 when we measure it.
As someone who’s studied 5 years about electronics, it’s exciting to see advancements such as this because it makes engineering more flexible in terms of size and applications.
But I have to say if this technology is proven to be a lot better than what we have today PLUS further enhancements in computer architectures, the world will never be the same.
These advancements are still very young but like all young things, these have great potential.
The thing that’s unsure by the time these technologies have transformed into their own respective greatness is how the future generations will use these.
Unlike the people who have used Einstein’s great work for total annihilation, I am hopeful that the future would use these gifts for better and righteous purposes.
Afterthoughts? Comment away! 🙂