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16 Reviews
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science at the Kitchen Table
This is a great book for anyone who has an interest in science, or wants to see advances in medicine at greater rates that we've seen them so far. You don't have to know science to read this book. It is written so that people with no scientific background can understand the science. If you've got a teenager with an interest in science, you should have them read this...
Published on April 16, 2011 by Rachel Berbiglia

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great raw material but could have been organized and written better
For a full-length review, please see my blog entry on the 5AM Solutions web site. Excerpts:

"I was excited to read this book since I am very interested in bioinformatics and punk (although the book has nothing to do with punk music). Although I wouldn't call myself a practitioner of do-it-yourself (DIY) biology, I do work for a very entrepreneurial...
Published on June 2, 2011 by wimufi


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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great raw material but could have been organized and written better, June 2, 2011
This review is from: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life (Hardcover)
For a full-length review, please see my blog entry on the 5AM Solutions web site. Excerpts:

"I was excited to read this book since I am very interested in bioinformatics and punk (although the book has nothing to do with punk music). Although I wouldn't call myself a practitioner of do-it-yourself (DIY) biology, I do work for a very entrepreneurial bioinformatics and software company. The general theme of Biopunk by Marcus Wohlsen, is that we are arguably reaching a point in biotechnology similar to where computing technology was in the 1970's. That is, where the germ of successful companies can grow out of innovations by a handful of people working on a shoestring in garages and basements. Think about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak starting Apple in their garage, or Bill Gates and Paul Allen starting Microsoft while barely 20 years old. The point, echoed by many of the people who show up in the book, is that until recently biotechnological innovation has been only accessible to scientists at commercial companies or in academic labs.

Biopunk has tons of good raw material and no end of interesting stories (bridges made of trees, a lab engineering bacteria to produce malaria medicine, etc.) but not all of them seem relevant to the main thrust of the book (that malaria lab is a commercial ones, not DIY). If Wohlsen had expanded his book to cover more territory and taken more care to weave these stories together, it could have been a powerful summary of current trends and future predictions in biotechnology."
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Science at the Kitchen Table, April 16, 2011
This review is from: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life (Hardcover)
This is a great book for anyone who has an interest in science, or wants to see advances in medicine at greater rates that we've seen them so far. You don't have to know science to read this book. It is written so that people with no scientific background can understand the science. If you've got a teenager with an interest in science, you should have them read this book. It will inspire them to broaden their horizons beyond the typical research lab.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous Introduction, April 15, 2011
This review is from: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life (Hardcover)
A tremendous introduction to one of the most exciting branches of individual superempowerment emerging today. The book is structured around the key figures in this movement today, and tells their stories quite well. It's not an exhaustive academic tome and doesn't try to be (appropriately so). I started out pretty familiar with this subject matter (having done much of the same research myself, including interacting with some of the people in the book), but learned a few things and `met' some very interesting people along the way.

Marcus Wohlsen does a great job laying out the contours of the movement. You get the culture, the philosophy they build on, the historical backing for their work, where they currently stand (without some major leaps, there's not a big chance of anyone solving cancer in their home wetlab) and where they're possibly headed. He also addresses the security threat (of course there is one, but the problem is social deviants, not these DIY garage hackers of living things).

Overall, it becomes clear that the most interesting times for biopunk are ahead. They're limited by a lack of cheap toolkits, good enough processes, funding, and knowledge. As they accomplish more over the coming years, they're going to have to deal with regulation and taking things to market. It's an interesting frontier and Wohlsen does this justice.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bio Revolution, October 10, 2011
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This review is from: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life (Hardcover)
This book was well written and contains some fascinating anecdotes from the field. The DIY (Do-it-yourself) bio revolution shouldn't be confused with the biotech work that is going on in laboratories. Wholsen draws back the curtain on a field that is still in its infancy, where people without a biology background are tinkering with biology and come up with some cool creations. Many people liken being involved in hacking biology to hacking primitive computers in the '70s garage scene, which is where the likes of Steve Jobs and Hewlett Packard got their starts. This book will open up your world and show you that, even without a biology background, you can get involved in the infancy of this incredible revolution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive research...but one sided, July 7, 2011
This review is from: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life (Hardcover)
This book definitely has an interesting premise in its theme of do-it-yourself biohackers championing open-sourcing of intellectual property in an effort to pool research regarding DNA. Don't let the science scare you; author Marcus Wohlsen makes biology and the blueprint of life very accessible. In essence, this work deals with young, bright individuals who set up biology wet labs in their garages and kitchens and attempt to do for DNA what Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did for computers. They are driven by the belief that free access to one another's findings, as opposed to the strict confidentiality of the major biotech companies, will lead to major discoveries and medical cures. A pooling of intellectual resources, so to speak.

My first thought was concern that while this group is earnestly seeking cures and diagnostic avenues, there is bound to be another group bent on using the same technology with the opposite in mind. While the ethical argument is raised, Wohlsen does not spend any ink on how real and present that threat is-information which I would have appreciated in this age of global terrorism.

A number of interesting people are introduced who are involved in various forms of research and who have a variety of world views. While some have smaller, more attainable goals in mind, such as finding a less expensive early detection test for which insurance companies might be more willing to pay. Others see the end goal as being able to engineer life itself.

Within the narrow scope of those choosing to use their kitchen sink research for what most would view as positive goals, Wohlsen's research is impressive. As I said, the flip side-those who are intent on evil-is not covered at all. However, the book could use a good editor to help with organization (mine was a pre-editing galley, so that issue might well be ironed out) and the ending was rambling with odd, inconsequential references to punk music.

Ranking: I would give this book four stars for the excellent job it does presenting the good side of bio hacking, but I really felt that the opposite side needed to be told as well to lend balance to the ethical questions. So...

'''' I will round to four stars in those venues which do not allow for 1/2 star rankings, but my true rating is '''1/2 stars for lack of balance. I am assuming the organizational issues and ending were worked out in the editing phase.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written but offers few details regarding how to actually DO do-it-yourself biology, October 18, 2011
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Doxycycline (Modesto, California, United States) - See all my reviews
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This is a well-written, well-researched, and thoughtful book that's a pleasure to read. The focus of the book, however, is on the people who are working on DIY biology (mostly work on genetics and genetic modification) and what attracted them to work on this problem and what they're working on. There's also quite a bit of consideration on what the downstream implications (both positive and negative) would be of this movement.

I was hoping for more description of the nuts and bolts details of how people are actually doing the work but this was not the focus of the book. I did glean a few web resources that were quite useful but overall the book focuses on the people and the movement and not actually on how to do DIY biology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expertly written!, May 27, 2011
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This review is from: Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life (Hardcover)
This book is wonderfully written; Wohlsen has very natural way of raising provocative ideas about the implications of genetic manipulation without sounding like a science textbook. I'm not an expert on biology or genetic engineering, so I was initially worried about the accessibility of the material for me, but his profiles of prominent biohackers are entertaining and keep a fast pace, and his explanations of complex topics achieve the difficult task of being succinct and nuanced at the same time. I found this book to be a very accessible introduction to a very complicated topic, and I especially liked that Wohlsen was able to get inside the heads of these biohackers while maintaining enough journalistic distance to also convey the criticism of their work when appropriate. As a novice in this area, that kind of perspective is very helpful in framing my thinking about this issue. I got a lot of new ideas from this book and I highly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Overall, an Encouraging Survey, May 11, 2014
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The title refers to aspiration versus achievement, and, consequently, illustrates the content of the book. A collection of extended anecdotes, my main take away was that there is a growing community of people who, for a wide variety of reasons, earnestly want to forge ahead at a personal level into biological research. At best, the stories are inspiring, and wonderful examples of resourcefulness and determination. At the very least, one is left with character studies of invariably quirky people involved to differing degrees with something that is both scientific and fringy.

If you are sympathetic to the Open Source/DIY/Maker movement, it is worth the read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What fun!, May 1, 2014
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This book was fun to read and inspiring! It really presents a good argument for bringing science out of the ivory tower and increasing its accessibility to all of us who may be interested. I admire the citizen scientists described in the examples, and their dedication to the pursuit of knowledge. Best line in the book (referring to Gregor Mendel): "He didn't need a PhD... It was enough that he was a geek." Love it!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Democratizing bioinformatics - the next Internet revolution?, February 2, 2014
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After having my DNA sequenced by 23andme and reading Biopunk, I'm left feeling that this area is poised to become the personal computing/Internet of the next twenty years. The book covers bio-hackers who are hacking biology in their garages following in the footsteps of telephone hackers from the 1970's that turned into the computer hackers. Their mantra: "Biology is software". These do it yourself wetlabs are rapidly moving to DNA software engineering using mail order analysis and DNA construction. Interesting websites related to this DNA hacking movement mentioned in the book:[...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...] [...]
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Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life
Biopunk: DIY Scientists Hack the Software of Life by Marcus Wohlsen (Hardcover - April 14, 2011)
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