Topic: Biology

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1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack

United States Medicine Oregon Crime Religion Biology Terrorism

The 1984 Rajneeshee bioterror attack was the food poisoning of 751 individuals in The Dalles, Oregon, through the deliberate contamination of salad bars at ten local restaurants with Salmonella. A group of prominent followers of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known as Osho) led by Ma Anand Sheela had hoped to incapacitate the voting population of the city so that their own candidates would win the 1984 Wasco County elections. The incident was the first and is the single largest bioterrorist attack in United States history.

Having previously gained political control of Antelope, Oregon, Rajneesh's followers, who were based in nearby Rajneeshpuram, sought election to two of the three seats on the Wasco County Circuit Court that were up for election in November 1984. Fearing they would not gain enough votes, some Rajneeshpuram officials decided to incapacitate voters in The Dalles, the largest population center in Wasco County. The chosen biological agent was Salmonella enterica Typhimurium, which was first delivered through glasses of water to two County Commissioners and then, on a larger scale, at salad bars and in salad dressing.

As a result of the attack, 751 people contracted salmonellosis, 45 of whom were hospitalized, but none died. Although an initial investigation by the Oregon Public Health Division and the Centers for Disease Control did not rule out deliberate contamination, the agents and contamination were only confirmed a year later. On February 28, 1985, Congressman James H. Weaver gave a speech in the United States House of Representatives in which he "accused the Rajneeshees of sprinkling Salmonella culture on salad bar ingredients in eight restaurants".

At a press conference in September 1985, Rajneesh accused several of his followers of participation in this and other crimes, including an aborted plan in 1985 to assassinate a United States Attorney, and he asked state and federal authorities to investigate. Oregon Attorney General David B. Frohnmayer set up an interagency task force, composed of Oregon State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and executed search warrants in Rajneeshpuram. A sample of bacteria matching the contaminant that had sickened the town residents was found in a Rajneeshpuram medical laboratory. Two leading Rajneeshpuram officials were convicted on charges of attempted murder and served 29 months of 20-year sentences in a minimum-security federal prison.

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Artificial Photosynthesis

Environment Biology Physics Guild of Copy Editors Energy Chemical and Bio Engineering

Artificial photosynthesis is a chemical process that biomimics the natural process of photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen. The term artificial photosynthesis is commonly used to refer to any scheme for capturing and storing the energy from sunlight in the chemical bonds of a fuel (a solar fuel). Photocatalytic water splitting converts water into hydrogen and oxygen and is a major research topic of artificial photosynthesis. Light-driven carbon dioxide reduction is another process studied that replicates natural carbon fixation.

Research of this topic includes the design and assembly of devices for the direct production of solar fuels, photoelectrochemistry and its application in fuel cells, and the engineering of enzymes and photoautotrophic microorganisms for microbial biofuel and biohydrogen production from sunlight.

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Closed-eye hallucination

Medicine Biology

Closed-eye hallucinations and closed-eye visualizations (CEV) are a distinct class of hallucination. These types of hallucinations generally only occur when one's eyes are closed or when one is in a darkened room. They can be a form of phosphene. Some people report closed-eye hallucinations under the influence of psychedelics. These are reportedly of a different nature than the "open-eye" hallucinations of the same compounds. Similar hallucinations that occur due to loss of vision are called visual release hallucinations.

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Belyayev's Fox Experiment

Biography Soviet Union Russia Biology Biography/science and academia Russia/science and education in Russia Genetics Russia/physical geography of Russia

Dmitry Konstantinovich Belyayev (Russian: Дми́трий Константи́нович Беля́ев, 17 July 1917 – 14 November 1985) was a Russian geneticist and academician who served as director of the Institute of Cytology and Genetics (IC&G) of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Novosibirsk, from 1959 to 1985. His decades-long effort to breed domesticated foxes was described by The New York Times as “arguably the most extraordinary breeding experiment ever conducted.” A 2010 article in Scientific American stated that Belyayev “may be the man most responsible for our understanding of the process by which wolves were domesticated into our canine companions.”

Beginning in the 1950s, in order to uncover the genetic basis of the distinctive behavioral and physiological attributes of domesticated animals, Belyayev and his team spent decades breeding the wild silver fox (Vulpes vulpes) and selecting for reproduction only those individuals in each generation that showed the least fear of humans. After several generations of controlled breeding, a majority of the silver foxes no longer showed any fear of humans and often wagged their tails and licked their human caretakers to show affection. They also began to display spotted coats, floppy ears, curled tails, as well as other physical attributes often found in domesticated animals, thus confirming Belyayev’s hypothesis that both the behavioral and physical traits of domesticated animals could be traced to "a collection of genes that conferred a propensity to tameness—a genotype that the foxes perhaps shared with any species that could be domesticated".

Belyayev’s experiments were the result of a politically motivated demotion, in response to defying the now discredited non-Mendellian theories of Lysenkoism, which were politically accepted in the Soviet Union at the time. Belyayev has since been vindicated in recent years by major scientific journals, and by the Soviet establishment as a pioneering figure in modern genetics.

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DNA Computing

Computing Computer science Biology Chemistry Genetics

DNA computing is a branch of computing which uses DNA, biochemistry, and molecular biology hardware, instead of the traditional silicon-based computer technologies. Research and development in this area concerns theory, experiments, and applications of DNA computing. The term "molectronics" has sometimes been used, but this term has already been used for an earlier technology, a then-unsuccessful rival of the first integrated circuits; this term has also been used more generally, for molecular-scale electronic technology.

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DNA origami

Biology Molecular and Cell Biology Genetics

DNA origami is the nanoscale folding of DNA to create non-arbitrary two- and three-dimensional shapes at the nanoscale. The specificity of the interactions between complementary base pairs make DNA a useful construction material, through design of its base sequences. DNA is a well-understood material that is suitable for creating scaffolds that hold other molecules in place or to create structures all on its own.

DNA origami was the cover story of Nature on March 16, 2006. Since then, DNA origami has progressed past an art form and has found a number of applications from drug delivery systems to uses as circuitry in plasmonic devices; however, most applications remain in a concept or testing phase.

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Biology Physics Economics Philosophy Systems Philosophy/Philosophy of science Philosophy/Epistemology

In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence occurs when an entity is observed to have properties its parts do not have on their own. These properties or behaviors emerge only when the parts interact in a wider whole. For example, smooth forward motion emerges when a bicycle and its rider interoperate, but neither part can produce the behavior on their own.

Emergence plays a central role in theories of integrative levels and of complex systems. For instance, the phenomenon of life as studied in biology is an emergent property of chemistry, and psychological phenomena emerge from the neurobiological phenomena of living things.

In philosophy, theories that emphasize emergent properties have been called emergentism. Almost all accounts of emergentism include a form of epistemic or ontological irreducibility to the lower levels.

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Har Gobind Khorana

United States Biography Medicine Biology Biography/science and academia India Molecular and Cell Biology Medicine/Medical genetics United States/Asian Americans

Har Gobind Khorana (9 January 1922 – 9 November 2011) was an Indian-American biochemist. While on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for research that showed the order of nucleotides in nucleic acids, which carry the genetic code of the cell and control the cell's synthesis of proteins. Khorana and Nirenberg were also awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in the same year.

Born in British India, Khorana served on the faculties of three universities in North America. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1966, and received the National Medal of Science in 1987.

HeLa, the oldest and most commonly used human cell line

Viruses Biology Philosophy Philosophy/Contemporary philosophy History of Science Molecular and Cell Biology Philosophy/Ethics Genetics Evolutionary biology Science Policy Molecular Biology/Molecular and Cell Biology

HeLa (; also Hela or hela) is an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line. The line was derived from cervical cancer cells taken on February 8, 1951 from Henrietta Lacks, a patient who died of cancer on October 4, 1951. The cell line was found to be remarkably durable and prolific, which gives rise to its extensive use in scientific research.

The cells from Lacks's cancerous cervical tumor were taken without her knowledge or consent, which was common practice at the time. Cell biologist George Otto Gey found that they could be kept alive, and developed a cell line. Previously, cells cultured from other human cells would only survive for a few days. Scientists would spend more time trying to keep the cells alive than performing actual research on them. Cells from Lacks' tumor behaved differently. As was custom for Gey's lab assistant, she labeled the culture 'HeLa', the first two letters of the patient's first and last name; this became the name of the cell line.

These were the first human cells grown in a lab that were naturally "immortal", meaning that they do not die after a set number of cell divisions (i.e. cellular senescence). These cells could be used for conducting a multitude of medical experiments—if the cells died, they could simply be discarded and the experiment attempted again on fresh cells from the culture. This represented an enormous boon to medical and biological research, as previously stocks of living cells were limited and took significant effort to culture.

The stable growth of HeLa enabled a researcher at the University of Minnesota hospital to successfully grow polio virus, enabling the development of a vaccine, and by 1952, Jonas Salk developed a vaccine for polio using these cells. To test Salk's new vaccine, the cells were put into mass production in the first-ever cell production factory.

In 1953, HeLa cells were the first human cells successfully cloned and demand for the HeLa cells quickly grew in the nascent biomedical industry. Since the cells' first mass replications, they have been used by scientists in various types of investigations including disease research, gene mapping, effects of toxic substances on organisms, and radiation on humans. Additionally, HeLa cells have been used to test human sensitivity to tape, glue, cosmetics, and many other products.

Scientists have grown an estimated 50 million metric tons of HeLa cells, and there are almost 11,000 patents involving these cells.

The HeLa cell lines are also notorious for invading other cell cultures in laboratory settings. Some have estimated that HeLa cells have contaminated 10–20% of all cell lines currently in use.

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Hypothetical types of biochemistry

Biology Science Fiction Chemistry

Hypothetical types of biochemistry are forms of biochemistry speculated to be scientifically viable but not proven to exist at this time. The kinds of living organisms currently known on Earth all use carbon compounds for basic structural and metabolic functions, water as a solvent, and DNA or RNA to define and control their form. If life exists on other planets or moons, it may be chemically similar; it is also possible that there are organisms with quite different chemistries—for instance, involving other classes of carbon compounds, compounds of another element, or another solvent in place of water.

The possibility of life-forms being based on "alternative" biochemistries is the topic of an ongoing scientific discussion, informed by what is known about extraterrestrial environments and about the chemical behaviour of various elements and compounds. It is of interest in synthetic biology and is also a common subject in science fiction.

The element silicon has been much discussed as a hypothetical alternative to carbon. Silicon is in the same group as carbon on the periodic table and, like carbon, it is tetravalent. Hypothetical alternatives to water include ammonia, which, like water, is a polar molecule, and cosmically abundant; and non-polar hydrocarbon solvents such as methane and ethane, which are known to exist in liquid form on the surface of Titan.

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