Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Adrian Tchaikovsky recreates a fascinating world of intelligent arachnids in the novel "Children of Time"

I really liked Adrian Tchaikovsky's sci-fi novel "Children of Time". It is not just "another" science fiction novel. It is a masterpiece. Actually, I would rather call this novel a philosophical essay about inter-gender and inter-species relationships.
The novel describes unintended consequences of biotechnological experiments with terraformed planet in far away galaxy. In this far future Earth is in control of highly advance technologies. Planets in alien galaxies are subjected to terraforming to recreate Earth-like habitats. One such planet is about to be populated with monkeys expressing gene drive virus designed to accelerate their development. However both this experiment and soon Earth itself with all of its colonies and space stations undergo violent collapse. 

But not every live form is destroyed. Virus will escape and attaches itself to the arachnids. All these events are described within first few pages of the novel. The main part of story is about how gene drive virus will influence its host, a spider world. Arachnids are chosen for a reason. In spider world gender roles are reversed [compared to mammals], so its society is dominated by females and males have no power or status. The author provides a deep analysis of gender imbalance and how it affects spider's societal development and progress as their intelligence is increasing.

In the end, intelligent spiders and remaining humans from old lost Earth will clash for survival and for the right to live on this new Earth.

This is a fascinating book. I will highly recommend it. 

posted David Usharauli  

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review of sci-fi novel "Leviathan wakes" by James S.A. Corey

I read this book after I saw the first episode of syfy TV series "The Expanse" that is based on this novel. That TV episode was very good. 
I had not heard about this author or about these novels until I saw it on a syfy YouTube channel, free to watch [~ 35 min episode]. I will highly recommend to watch it. Also I think it is for the first time, if I am not mistaken, that I read a book after I saw its TV adaptation [not exact adaptation but close]. 
The novel itself was also quite satisfying, at least its first half was really good. I really liked the idea of dividing humankind that colonized solar system into three subcultures: Earth, Mars and Belt. 
The novel starts with destruction of two Belt space ships. Initially Belt people suspect that it is Martian fleet that attacked them. However, it turned out that Earth corporation was behind it to cover up the discovery of alien life form.
The alien story is too unscientific to be believable but sub-cultural relationship, including inter-personal relationship like between Miller and Holden or Naomi are well described and interesting to read. 

posted by David Usharauli   

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"Handbook of Bioentrepreneurship" - How Kirin founded La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology

This book named "Handbook of Bioentrepreneurship" was available so I decided to read it. Now, I am a research scientist who wants to learn the structures that allows initiation of biotech ventures. 

I read few biotech-related books and absolute majority of them have one major issue that completely makes the book worthless: they are just filled with generic nonsense numbers and theoretical discussions no one needs. 

This book was not different in this regard. It had 12 chapters, I believe, and only one chapter was really engaging to read and you know why? Because it had analysis of real events that happened  to a company in Japan when it decided to enter biotech field.

Actually it was really fascinating story. In late 70's, an Japanese brewery company, called Kirin, decided to diversify their product line by entering into biotech industry. This chapter in book described how mid-level Kirin managers showed entrepreneurial alertness that allowed Kirin, in collaboration with Amgen, to develop FDA-approved recombinant erythropoietin, one of the first biotech drug. 

Interestingly, this collaboration with Amgen was so successful that Kirin later founded wellknown La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology in San Diego to develop treatments and cures for immune system disorders. This is not well publicized story because even La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology website does not mention it in their "history" page. Only by noting that Dr. Makoto Nonaka, the Institute's founding President, and Dr. Kimishige Ishizaka, the Institute's first Scientific Director were of Japanese origin  one could make connection between this premier American scientific institution and Japanese brewing company Kirin.

posted by David Usharauli