Fear of brave new worlds, or uninspired headline writing?

capek_rurSummer 2016 marked the 85th anniversary of novelist Aldous Huxley completing his manuscript for Brave New World. The widely read novel, a dystopia of happiness-led oppression (in contrast to the fear-controlled populace in Orwell’s 1984), anticipates global adoption of advances in science and technology such as subliminal learning and reproductive medicine. Published in 1932, the book is still a popular read, ranking fifth in Modern Library’s list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.  Unsurprisingly its title, along with Orwell’s, has also become a stock phrase in headlines, used to signal a new direction for advances in science and technology.

“Test-Tube Babies: The ‘Brave New World’ of Human Pregnancy Is Coming!” The Evening Independent, July 22, 1978 Designer babies, grow a baby in a bottle and more.

“Brave New World: Will gene editing rewrite the future of medicine?” Genome, n.d. Engineering disease (and other things) out of humans with CRISPR.

“The Brave New World of Three-Parent I.V.F.” The New

Around town: Operation Med School

Medical students learning from professor.This one’s for you if you have a high school student around the house who is thinking that med school could be a good option for post-secondary.

A group of enterprising Grade 11 and 12 students is putting on a one-day pre-medical conference for high school peers. Run as an annual event, Operation Med School exposes attendees to many aspects of working in health care by giving them a chance to meet medics, biomedical researchers and other professionals in the field of medicine. The Vancouver event takes place on Saturday, February 18, at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre of the University of British Columbia. (The team also runs similar events in Toronto and Calgary.) Admission includes a lunch card as well as networking opportunities with people who can help guide a future medical career.

Dear reader, I’m sure if you cast your mind waaay back (or even waaaay-er back for some), to those intense days of career planning for high school graduation, you will no doubt remember the heady mix of giddy excitement at the prospect of adulthood mixed with a good dose of

In case you were wondering, part II

Lake_Shalla_LandscapeWhat’s the helium situation? …and other updates on stories we covered last year.

Helium

Although we’re still not comfortable with the frivolous use of helium gas in party balloons, a recent discovery certainly gives MRI fans, astronauts and the boffins at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, reason to celebrate.

At the end of June this year, scientists from the University of Oxford and Durham University announced success in a helium hunt collaboration with Norwegian exploration firm Helium One. By combining traditional prospecting with seismic imaging and helium geochemistry, the team located the gas bubbling out of the ground in the Tanzanian East African Rift Valley. They estimate that this reserve might be as large as 1.5 billion cubic metres, or enough to fill around 1.2 million medical MRI scanners.

It may not look much, but it helped find enough helium for 1.2 million medical MRI scanners: https://t.co/WVkIGS8n1f pic.twitter.com/RCRb0oOMLA

— Oxford University (@UniofOxford) June 28, 2016

Around town: All creatures, great and small

vet_students_clinical_training_2006-08This weekend will see a gathering of the province’s veterinarians and staff in downtown Vancouver for the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the Society of British Columbia Veterinarians (SBCV) Chapter Fall Conference and Trade Show. The program seems predominantly small animal–oriented, but in reality, vets across BC handle all sizes of patient, quadruped and biped, skin, scales, fur and feather in their daily working lives.

Have you ever wondered just how oddly varied a day’s work must be for a veterinarian?

While your local GP will open the surgery door to see only one species waiting in line, anything goes in the veterinarian’s waiting room—mammal, reptile, avian…fish?

For an example of the oddness routinely encountered by veterinarians, the first time I met with a chinchilla on the consult list, something that looked like a gremlin popped out of the pet carrier onto the table—not quite the fluffy cat I was expecting. Luckily the practice library (pre-Internet days, oh

Boo! Zombies are real!

512px-placid_deathWith Halloween just around the corner, how about a little creepy science for the season?

Zombies are real.

Yes, you read that one right. The undead do exist, and not just in fiction…but maybe I should clarify before you dive right back behind the sofa. Relax; it’s not a whole-body reanimated dead-to-alive apocalypse, just a finding from a group of researchers who saw that in death, a whole series of genes come to life.

What?

Researchers Peter Noble, Alex Pozhitkov and colleagues at the University of Washington found that for a short period after death, certain cell activities seemed to rev up—a