The Science of Sustainability

Dr. Barry Starr

Dr. Barry Starr

Dr. Barry Starr is a Geneticist-in-Residence at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, CA and runs their Stanford at The Tech program. The program is part of an ongoing collaboration between the Stanford Department of Genetics and The Tech Museum of Innovation. Together these two partners created the Genetics: Technology with a Twist exhibition.

Read his previous contributions to QUEST, a project dedicated to exploring the Science of Sustainability.

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Dr. Barry Starr's Latest Posts

Saved From Living Death: How Genetically Modifying Chestnuts Could Bring Them Back

Saved From Living Death: How Genetically Modifying Chestnuts Could Bring Them Back

The American chestnut was the king of the trees in forests in the eastern U.S. until a fungus from Asia brought them down. We are getting very close to making a resistant American chestnut. Now the question is whether or not we should plant it out in the wild.

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Scrounging for Research Dollars

Scrounging for Research Dollars

If you’re a scientist these days, getting the money to do your research is a lot like getting into Stanford or Yale. Assuming you aren’t rich or connected, being incredibly skilled, hardworking and accomplished isn’t enough. You need to get lucky too.

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Fund Basic Research, It’s For Your Own Good

Fund Basic Research, It’s For Your Own Good

The budget proposal by the Obama administration is a mixed bag in terms of funding for science.

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DNA Ancestry Tests: Simultaneously Powerful and Limited

DNA Ancestry Tests: Simultaneously Powerful and Limited

Don’t count on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) ancestry tests giving you a broad understanding of your own family history. They won’t.

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Resurrection Biology: The Reality of Bringing Back Extinct Species

Resurrection Biology: The Reality of Bringing Back Extinct Species

There has been a lot of buzz of late about bringing back extinct species like mammoths or passenger pigeons. While it might be a good idea to start thinking about these possibilities, we are years or even decades away from being able to actually pull this off with most long dead animals. The problem isn’t […]

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Engineering a Virus-Free Future

Engineering a Virus-Free Future

I have been reading a book called "Regenesis" where in one part the authors propose a way to re-engineer the human race so all people are resistant to all viruses, known and unknown. This will theoretically be possible in the next few decades (or even sooner) and, if done right, is predicted to make us resistant for a very long time and possibly even forever.

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Genetic Sleuthing, Or How To Catch The Right Identical Twin Criminal

Genetic Sleuthing, Or How To Catch The Right Identical Twin Criminal

There are unique DNA differences between identical twins that scientists can use to tell them apart. Why isn't law enforcement using these differences to catch their criminal? Because the cost is too high.

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Lighten Up, California: Why GloFish Can't Glow in the Golden State

Lighten Up, California: Why GloFish Can't Glow in the Golden State

One of the more popular exhibits at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose is the wetlab. The exhibit is getting a little long in the tooth so I was looking for ways to give it a bit of a refresh.

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Comments Do Matter (So Get Talking!)

Comments Do Matter (So Get Talking!)

Back in December I wrote a blog post asking scientists to comment online more often.

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Pregnancy and Paternity: New Fetal DNA Testing

Pregnancy and Paternity: New Fetal DNA Testing

Imagine you are a woman in a committed relationship. The worst happens and you are raped and become pregnant. What are your options?

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Should I or Shouldn't I? Wrestling with Giving Genetic Tests as Gifts

Should I or Shouldn't I? Wrestling with Giving Genetic Tests as Gifts

When 23andMe offered their DNA test for just $99, I started to think about giving it for Christmas presents.

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Knowing Neanderthals

Knowing Neanderthals

One of the more interesting things to come out of all the cheaper, more robust DNA sequencing technology has been our deeper understanding of human history.

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Wanted: Scientist Comments

Wanted: Scientist Comments

If you’ve ever talked to a scientist, you know they usually have pretty strong opinions that they are not shy about expressing. Except, apparently, in the comments section of general science blogs. Here the silence is scary and, depending on whether these comment sections matter or not, potentially dangerous.

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Turkey Trouble: Genetics Gone Too Far?

Turkey Trouble: Genetics Gone Too Far?

No, this isn’t a blog about genetically modified organisms — that has been argued enough lately! Instead, in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to talk about regular old selective breeding and the monsters it can create.

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Frankenstein vs. Godzilla:  What’s in Your Cereal Bowl?

Frankenstein vs. Godzilla: What’s in Your Cereal Bowl?

In all of the recent discussion about genetically modified (GM) foods here in California, we’ve overlooked regular foods and how new traits are found (or created) in them. There isn’t usually a monk lovingly breeding peas in the Austrian countryside somewhere. Instead, more often than not, there is someone blasting a seed with radiation and/or harmful chemicals.

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Be HEARD: A Rare Disease Science Challenge To Find Cures

Be HEARD: A Rare Disease Science Challenge To Find Cures

Curing or even finding treatments for rare diseases is hard. Not necessarily because these diseases are any more complex than more common ones. It has more to do with the fact that there is very little profit to be made in helping people with these diseases.

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Who is Qualified to Decide Scientific Matters?

Who is Qualified to Decide Scientific Matters?

In November, California voters need to decide whether or not GM foods should be labeled as such. They are making this decision even though a recent study shows that 49% of the people surveyed think that GM foods have genes whereas regular foods do not. Is this any way to run a democracy?

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Genome 3.0: ENCODE Takes Our DNA From Junk to Treasure

Genome 3.0: ENCODE Takes Our DNA From Junk to Treasure

New research is making us rethink how our DNA works – again.

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The Results Are In For My Genetics Quiz

The Results Are In For My Genetics Quiz

In my last blog entry, I wrote a quiz that tested some basic knowledge about genetics that experts have found the public struggles with. What I found from the responses I received is that the QUEST public doesn’t struggle with them or, more likely, people only answer quizzes like this if they are pretty confident […]

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Arm Yourselves for the Upcoming (Genetics) Revolution

Arm Yourselves for the Upcoming (Genetics) Revolution

As a nation, we aren’t teaching the right genetics in our schools. And for those of us out of school, the situation is, if anything, even worse. By and large we lack the fundamental knowledge needed to properly interpret the avalanche of data headed our way.

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