Books : reviews

Milton Muldrow Jr.
Synthetic Biology: life's extraordinary new worlds.
Great Courses. 2022

rating : 3.5 : worth reading
review : 20 November 2023

This is the course guidebook that accompanies the 18 lecture “Great Course” of the same name. It is essentially an abbreviated transcript of each lecture, a few pictures, and some related reading. (I watched the lectures, which is what I am reviewing here, and am using the book simply as an aide-memoire.)

This covers many aspects of synthetic biology, that is, genetic engineering, including the technologies of reading, writing, and editing DNA, and of using directed evolution and AI in the process. It also covers a host of applications, including food, medicine, bio-fuels, pest control, and saving endangered species. It briefly touches on risks, and some more exotic areas including xenobiology and quantum biology.

This is a vast range of things to cover in only 18 half-hour lectures, so is necessarily just a surface skim in many cases. It is also a bit of a sales pitch, of how it is going to change the world. Maybe we need a follow-up in a decade or so, to see how some of the ideas have panned out.