Genetics – Origins 🧬

29 minute read

Science-fiction has always been fascinating. Growing up watching Sci-fi has ensured that I am always excited about the future. From Smartphones to Smart homes, voice-enabled AI to driverless cars. While not all of Science fiction has come true, at least not yet, we seem to be making progress.

An area of Science fiction that has seen relatively much less action in real life, the superheroes. Is that never going to be possible? So it got me interested to read more about what is currently going on in the world of Genetics.

Genetics is the study of genes. Genes are the software that runs a biological organism. Genetic engineering has indeed made progress over the last 2 decades, we have just not seen superhumans yet. But we are on the path.

Given my fascination with the future, I wanted to understand, what lies ahead. I have been keeping an eye on the developments over the last few years. And suddenly it seems we are very close to a major shift in what we know about Genes and what can we do with them.  ..... 

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Exponential Growth

8 minute read

Exponents are counterintuitive. When we measure change, in common life we are more often than not, looking at absolutes. We rarely in daily life, except some professional use cases track the rate of change. The difference in looking at linear and exponent is the difference between looking at absolutes and relatives.

During the current Coronavirus spread, this term has been going around. Yet the world seems to have not been able to comprehend the speed or scale of the spread of the virus. Most countries have underestimated the danger and the extent of the virus. In the initial days, when the numbers were low the intuitive sense had not imagined how the numbers will grow. A graph that now most people are familiar with

People who were able to plot these numbers and had done the research, including credible people like Bill Gates, were ignored. The reason for this still remains that exponential growth is counterintuitive.

This is not to say, that we don’t understand exponents. We look at exponents all the time. Everything big happening at the world scale is generally happening at an exponential rate.  ..... 

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Letter #5 – COVID-19 Test, Cure, and Vaccine

16 minute read

The last letter covered what is a virus, more details on how coronavirus impacts the body, common symptoms and how to slow down the spread. If you have not read the last letter, this should be a good starting point before you get further.

From some time scientists have feared and run simulations on how bad disease like this can be. It has all the elements of making it one of the hardest epidemics to fight against.

  • It’s respiratory which means it can be transferred through respiratory droplets not just when you are in contact with people but even if you are close.
  • The virus can sustain on surfaces for a few hours to days.
  • R the constant that describes how many people does a single infected person infect is anywhere between 2-5 in different conditions.
  • Asymptomatic people can transmit this disease, so people who believe are healthy, feel no health issues or a minor cold are going to spread it. This also makes it difficult to trace.
  • Mortality is high. Currently, while not a final figure the mortality rate lies between 1-4%.
  • Symptoms can take up to two weeks to show and till then the virus has spread to many more people and places.

We discussed the SEIR model and the goal. The first goal is to slow down the spread of this epidemic so that we can buy time to create better test kits, find a cure and in the end find a vaccine.

What individuals can continue to do

Hygiene which includes washing your hands with soap multiple times and use of sanitizer. The virus is basically inside a shell of fat which breaks down when soap is rubbed on it. Soap also makes hands slippery and the motion removes the virus from your hands.
Masks ensure that the virus does not spread from respiratory droplets. This is essential as it covers the face and protests the nose and mouth of the healthy ones, and keeps it from spreading if you have actually caught the virus.  ..... 

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Letter #4 – COVID-19

10 minute read

Read Part 2 – Test Kits, Cures and Vaccines.

The virus that managed to jump from animal to human sometime back in November / December last year, has managed to bring the entire world to a halt in a matter of weeks. There are just so many aspects to look at this spread that it requires a newsletter in itself.

What is a Virus

Walter Reid was one of the first people to discover a virus back in 1901. Viruses are present across the world, in every species and in the air. We take in and throw out thousands of viruses every day. They are like bacteria but so tiny that if bacteria could see, they would also not be able to see them.

Viruses are not living but they have organic matter than can self replicate. A virus is a shell made of protein that contains genetic material either DNA or RNA. The problem is it cannot replicate alone. It needs to infect another living cell to replicate itself. And as is true for all life around, the only thing every genome is looking to do is replicate.

Cell the smallest living unit whose job is to make DNA, manufacture protein and store resources. Once a virus has overtaken a cell, it uses it to create its genetic material and a protein shell, in essence, creating a new virus. Aim of the virus is the infect a cell and get the replication going.  ..... 

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