Skepticism About Biotechnology Isn’t Anti-Science

By Tess Doezema

“Keep Frankenfish off my Dish!” a protester’s sign read. Another, adorned with six red hearts, suggested that “real people love real salmon.” A couple of years ago, protests against the approval and sale of genetically modified salmon targeted the Food and Drug Administration and supermarket chains across the country, attempting to halt the approval and sale of the AquAdvantage salmon—an Atlantic salmon modified with DNA from the Chinook salmon and the ocean pout. The borrowed genetic material lets the fish grow year-round and reach market size in half the time as its natural counterpart, but it’s also spurred passionate public debate.

In November 2015, the FDA approved the AquAdvantage salmon as the first genetically engineered animal for human consumption. According to the hype, the AquAdvantage salmon could help with reducing global hunger, decreasing the carbon footprint of aquaculture (the cultivation of fish and other aquatic life), and shoring up dwindling wild fish stock. The regulatory process behind the approval of the AquAdvantage salmon took almost 20 years.

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In Praise of Self-Driving Cars and Fender-Benders

By Elizabeth Garbee and Andrew Maynard

Two weeks ago, a driver failed to yield to another vehicle making a turn at a cross street just minutes away from my office in Tempe, Arizona. The two cars collided, causing the one making the turn to roll on its side. Sadly, this kind of thing happens all the time. A colleague who lives in the neighborhood in which the crash happened told us, “That intersection has crashes weekly—and not just fender-benders. … [T]wo weeks ago, there was a car in our yard.”

So why did this particular crash make the national news? It just so happened that one of those vehicles was driving itself.

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Keeping an Eye on Climate Change

By Tanya Harrison and Daniel Bednar

You may not think about it, but space is critical to your daily life. Weather forecasts, GPS navigation systems, environmental monitoring, and synchronized time for banking and electricity grids are the most typical ways we interact with space resources daily. Gone are the days where the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union–dominated Earth orbit. Modern space politics and economics involve complex networks of dozens of governments, private companies, and research entities. We have entered an era known as New Space.

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How Frankenstein’s Monster Became Sexy

By Joey Eschrich

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Future Tense—a partnership of Slate, New America, and Arizona State University—will hold an event called “The Spawn of Frankenstein” in Washington, D.C., to discuss the novel’s legacy. For more information and to RSVP, visit the New America website.

Perhaps the best-remembered aspect of Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel about scientific creativity and its consequences is the gruesome visage of Victor Frankenstein’s creation. His “hideously deformed and loathsome appearance” animates the novel’s central narrative arc of violent retribution—the monster isn’t inherently enraged or vengeful, but rather made that way through a series of rejections and abuses by people (including his creator) repelled by “a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived.”

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Is Pluto a Planet? Who Cares!

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Science isn’t about facts. It’s about process.

Is Pluto a planet?

It seems like a significant scientific question, especially as the New Horizons spacecraft’s encounter with Pluto this week reminded everyone of the distant, icy world’s demotion in 2006.

But to most scientists, it’s not. In the words of Jim Green, who directs NASA’s planetary science program, “That’s nomenclature. To me, that’s unimportant.”

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