Getting Goats to Produce Spider Silk

Nexia Biotechnologies has managed to genetically modify goats to express the proteins for spider silk in their milk. Spider silk has a lot of advantages, but as the Nexia page notes isn’t used very much because it’s a bit hard to effectively manage spiders in large enough numbers to get decent yields.

A major application of this technology is military, of course — think on the order of military vests that are more bullet resistant than kevlar while only weighing a fifth to a tenth of current vests.

The big question now is whether there is anything from science fiction novels that isn’t going to become reality over the next few years (okay, FTL travel isn’t going to happen, but aside from that, it looks like smooth sailing).

Register Clears Up Stephen King Figures

Unlike CNET and other online news sources, The Register makes it clear exactly how Stephen King’s “The Plant” fared.

King took in US $721,448 and scored a net profit of $463,832. His normal publisher’s take? $0.

King says that the profit isn’t the point, but of course it is. It demonstrates that if done correctly there is indeed an audience for selling books electronically and cutting out the publishing companies completely.

This Is Your Brain on Anti-Drug Ads

In case you don’t read Seventeen or any number of other teen magazines you might have missed the latest anti-drug ad from the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The government’s full page ad tries to discourage kids from smoking marijuana by linking it with another dangerous and uncool activity — mathematics.

Above a teenage girl’s head is the tag line, “No way. I’d rather go to math camp than smoke a joint.”

Judy Franz of The American Physical Society wasn’t pleased with that ad saying it was “…awful. Ads like this, that make math drudgery, are the exact opposite of what we want to do. It seems like there are plenty of genuinely yucky things they could have picked.”

Please don’t give them any ideas Ms. Franz. How long before we see the “I’d rather read a whole book than smoke marijuana” ads?


Anti-drug ad miffs mathematicians. Karen Thomas, USA Today, February 5, 2001.

Guest Choice Network Quote of the Year

The Guest Choice Network is a coalition of restaurants and taverns that “stands up against the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, vegetarian activists and meddling bureaucrats who ‘know what’s best for you.'” It recently released its 3rd annual Nanny Awards given to those individuals and groups going to any extreme to protect people against themselves.

The group awarded its “Most Outrageous Quote of the Year” Award to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals‘ European campaign coordinator Toni Vernelli. According to Vernelli, “Serving a burger to your family today, knowing what we know, constitutes child abuse. You might as well give them weed killer.” (Or perhaps give them PETA propaganda).

It also gave the “Spoilsport of the Year Award” to United Poultry Concerns for that group’s campaign against the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.


2000 Nanny Awards. Guest Choice Network, Press Release, 2001.

India Expecting Dramatic Increase In Diabetes Cases

The rate of type II diabetes is rising fast in India — so fast that Dr. Vikram Seshaiah, who specializes in diabetes, estimates that by 2005, there will be 30 to 35 million diabetics in the country meaning that one out of every five diabetics will live in India. Why the explosion in diabetes? Largely because of the explosion in food.

India is light years removed from the early 1970s when doomsters such as Paul Ehrlich predicted it would never be able to grow or buy enough food to feed its people. Now India faces the opposite problem. Its level of malnutrition hasn’t been lower at any point in the last century and as a result it faces the problem of dealing with obesity. Obesity, not by coincidence, just happens to be a major risk factor for type II diabetes.

The incidence of type II diabetes is rising in urban areas where food is now relatively cheap by historical standards. As Indian dietician Dr. Rekha Sharma told the BBC, “Before people at less fattening food and got more exercise. Now it’s the reverse and Indians are getting fat.”

On the one hand, the rise of diabetes will strain the Indian health system, but on the other hand getting diabetes late in life sure beats dying of malnutrition before the age of 5.


India predicts diabetes explosion. The BBC, February 6, 2001.