View Full Version : Hi-Tech at Westminster

20th Feb 2015, 13:33
WSJ: A Week in the Life of Matt Ridley (http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-week-in-the-life-of-matt-ridley-1424366734?mod=WSJ_hp_Europe_EditorsPicks)

......Pre-13th-century technology trips up the House of Lords a few days later. When a vote is called, members have eight minutes to get to our voting lobbies. But on this day, seven of my colleagues are left stranded when the door is closed after six minutes, and we lose the vote by three. It turns out that officials use two hourglasses to time the votes, one of which runs for five minutes and one for three—but this time, they turned over the three-minute one twice.......

....Back in London that night, I have to give an after-dinner speech to the Goldsmiths’ Company, one of the city’s ancient livery guilds, now a rich philanthropic foundation. I give them eight minutes of rational optimism, but the bit that goes down best is a tale about the ancient baroness in the House of Lords who was recently heard to say in the tea room, “The trouble with reaching my age is that all the men you slept with are dead”—only to be interrupted by a quavering voice from the other end of the table: “I’m not.”......

20th Feb 2015, 15:37
I was more enthralled by this excerpt in the life of Matt Ridley: To Oxford, where my son is a graduate student. Before taking him to lunch, I meet Greger Larson, an expert on ancient DNA. I’m trying to help scientists resurrect an extinct species of bird called the great auk by reading its genome from cells in museum specimens, then editing the genome of a related species to make a baby great auk. So rapid have advances been in genomics that this crazy idea just might work soon.

Great auks went extinct after their down was turned into pillow-filling in the early 1800s and a volcanic eruption sank their last breeding colony on an island off Iceland. There is every reason to think they could still thrive in the North Atlantic. My expert friend fills me in on the latest science and, just as important, the latest scientific gossip. I never cease to be amazed at how competitive and Machiavellian the world of science is.