My biotech petunia plants are dead.


Hodge says he got interested in the plants after reading an article about combating light pollution by using bioluminescent flora instead of streetlamps. As a biologist who studies how day and night affect life, he’s worried that city lights and computer screens are messing with natural cycles.

“I just couldn’t pass up being one of the first to own one,” says Hodge. “Once you flip the lights off, the glow is really beautiful … and it sorta feels like you are witnessing something out of a futuristic sci-fi movie!” 

It makes me tempted to try again. 

From the archives 

We’re not sure if rows of glowing plants can ever replace streetlights, but there’s no doubt light pollution is growing. Artificial light emissions on Earth grew by about 50% between 1992 and 2017—and as much as 400% in some regions. That’s according to Shel Evergreen,in his story on the switch to bright LED streetlights.

It’s taken a while for scientists to figure out how to make plants glow brightly enough to interest consumers. In 2016, I looked at a failed Kickstarter that promised glow-in-the-dark roses but couldn’t deliver.  

Another thing 

Cassandra Willyard is updating us on the case of Lisa Pisano, a 54-year-old woman who is feeling “fantastic” two weeks after surgeons gave her a kidney from a genetically modified pig. It’s the latest in a series of extraordinary animal-to-human organ transplants—a technology, known as xenotransplantation, that may end the organ shortage.

From around the web

Taiwan’s government is considering steps to ease restrictions on the use of IVF. The country has an ultra-low birth rate, but it bans surrogacy, limiting options for male couples. One Taiwanese pair spent $160,000 to have a child in the United States.  (CNN)

Communities in Appalachia are starting to get settlement payments from synthetic-opioid makers like Johnson & Johnson, which along with other drug vendors will pay out $50 billion over several years. But the money, spread over thousands of jurisdictions, is “a feeble match for the scale of the problem.” (Wall Street Journal)

A startup called Climax Foods claims it has used artificial intelligence to formulate vegan cheese that tastes “smooth, rich, and velvety,” according to writer Andrew Rosenblum. He relates the results of his taste test in the new “Build” issue of MIT Technology Review. But one expert Rosenblum spoke to warns that computer-generated cheese is “significantly” overhyped.

AI hype continued this week in medicine when a startup claimed it has used “generative AI” to quickly discover new versions of CRISPR, the powerful gene-editing tool. But new gene-editing tricks won’t conquer the main obstacle, which is how to deliver these molecules where they’re needed in the bodies of patients. (New York Times).

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