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Former Navy Seal
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International Poker Champion
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Former CIA Clandestine Operative
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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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Craig Venter Is a Great Marketer

Question: Is Craig Venter a great biologist or a great marketer?

James Watson: Well, he’s certainly a great marketer.  He’s highly intelligent and he certainly pushed us toward completing the human genome project sooner than we would have otherwise, and it was a very good thing he existed.  Though, at the time, I feared his winning because then the human genome project would belong to... the data belong to his company.  And I thought that was just going to slow things down.  So normally I’d like, you know, data to be obtained as fast as possible, but not if it went into private hands.  You know, some DNA sequences have been patented and monopoly situations which have basically slowed down research and have made medical testing more expensive.

Question: Is Venter’s creation of synthetic life as game-changing as he has painted it to be?

James Watson: I don’t think about it at all.  To me it’s not.  But I’m not a chemist, and I’ve been so focused on getting enough knowledge so we can cure cancer that I’ll just stay focused on that and let other people... I don’t think we’re going to, you know, this idea of creating a new form of life, we’re just making a very close mimic to what already exists.  So I wouldn’t say it’s a new form of life at all.  It’s just a very... but always a question is, could there be a life form, you know, basically in some inaccessible place.  You know, like deep in the oceans where a form of life which is totally dependent on RNA exits.  That would be, you know, a bombshell of unbelievable proportions. 

And so if someone said they found that, I would just say: "Wonderful."  But I don’t expect them to find it.  And so, and then you’d know if you could be in another solar system there might be other forms of life, but again, I only like to think about things which I know we’ll have a chance of knowing whether we’re right or wrong.  I never could read science fiction.  I was just uninterested in it.  And you know, I don’t like to read novels where the hero just goes beyond what I think could exist.  And it doesn’t interest me because I’m not learning anything about something I’ll actually have to deal with.  So, where you would put Frankenstein, I don’t know, but he never intrigued me, I must confess.  You know, in a movie you can make up those sort of things, but... well a lot Steven Spielberg just turns me... and the whole Harry Potter thing, I just don’t want to watch it because to me it’s not reality. 

Recorded on September 28, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman

Synthetic life is just a close mimic to what already exists—it isn’t a truly new form of life, Venter’s human genome rival says.

The “new normal” paradox: What COVID-19 has revealed about higher education

Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?

Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
  • It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
  • COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
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The biology of aliens: How much do we know?

Hollywood has created an idea of aliens that doesn't match the science.

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  • Ask someone what they think aliens look like and you'll probably get a description heavily informed by films and pop culture. The existence of life beyond our planet has yet to be confirmed, but there are clues as to the biology of extraterrestrials in science.
  • "Don't give them claws," says biologist E.O. Wilson. "Claws are for carnivores and you've got to be an omnivore to be an E.T. There just isn't enough energy available in the next trophic level down to maintain big populations and stable populations that can evolve civilization."
  • In this compilation, Wilson, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Bill Nye, and evolutionary biologist Jonathan B. Losos explain why aliens don't look like us and why Hollywood depictions are mostly inaccurate.
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Live on Tuesday | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

Masturbation boosts your immune system, helping you fight off infection and illness

Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?

Image by Yurchanka Siarhei on Shutterstock
Sex & Relationships
  • Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
  • The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
  • Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
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How DNA revealed the woolly mammoth's fate – and what it teaches us today

Scientists uncovered the secrets of what drove some of the world's last remaining woolly mammoths to extinction.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Every summer, children on the Alaskan island of St Paul cool down in Lake Hill, a crater lake in an extinct volcano – unaware of the mysteries that lie beneath.

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