Ben Hammersley, from Wired UK, wrote up an excellent article on synthetic biology with a bit of diybio mixed in (link below). Of course, the Knight and Shetty Biobricks were the center of the article, and provides a nice background to explain the concept behind standardized parts.
Link: At home with the DNA hackers:
Tom Knight, often called the "father" of biohacking, tells a joke: "A biologist goes into the lab one day, does an experiment and finds something is twice as complicated as she thought it was. 'Great,' she says, 'I get to write a paper.' An engineer goes into another lab, does an experiment, and she too finds something twice as complicated as she was expecting. 'Damn,' she says, 'Now how do I get rid of that?'"
The author of that article then touches upon DIYbio, and the trend to kitchen science. Knight, as usual, was concerned, but clear that he'd support it if DIYbiologists showed any competency. Interesting way to put it (and a good spin for things I am planning).
I was listening today to a podcast from Science Friday (highly recommended) on "The Age of Wonder," an interview of a science historian who spoke about the late 18th-, early 19th-century, when "science," as a descriptive term, did not exist. Back then, folks of all sorts of background, explored the world as "natural philosophers."
One story in particular, that Ira picked up on, was one such dabbler who discovered the anesthetic qualities of Nitrous Oxide but failed to put it in use, even with all the suffering from amputations during the Napoleonic Wars. Ira quickly asked if maybe because these guys were dabblers, they were exploring rather than looking for a solution or aware of the possibilities of applying what they discovered.
Might this be what Knight is thinking about DIYbiologists? While it's cool to think that folks can dabble with biology in their kitchen, does that prepare them for the safety issues, the problem solving, and potential serendipity as with an experienced biologist (or any craft)?
Or does it really matter?