Want to Make Genes Tell Secrets? Silence Them.

Dr. Gregory Hannon’s lab may be a place of "organized chaos," but the work coming out of it is revolutionizing medical science. By manipulating the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway that functions as a defense mechanism within cells, Hannon's team "silences" individual genes in order to understand their biology better. The genes they're most interested in? Those that play a role in the development of cancer.

In his Big Think interview, Dr. Hannon describes the barriers that currently stand between RNAi manipulation and new cancer therapies, and predicts how they will ultimately be overcome. He also tells the story behind his research into a particularly exotic form of cancer: the transmissible facial tumor currently devastating Tasmanian Devil populations. (The tragedy was first brought to his attention by a conservation-minded Tasmanian grad student.)

Speaking of grad students, Hannon believes their training should be shorter. Curtailing academic education in favor of hands-on learning, he says, helps keep science "young and full of fire." Youthful energy, in turn, comes in handy in a profession whose members must battle constant frustration...at least until the rare moment of discovery that makes it all worthwhile.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less