O.K. not the answer to the Puzzle Fantastica puzzle, but the answer to the "This is soooo fricking cool" query.

I felt bad not putting up the answer to the Puzzle Fantastica in the previous post, so to compensate, I'm prepared to give out the answer to a previous question I had concerning a mysterious looking contraption. In fact, here it is at this link specifically, and as well, it pertains to this picture below.

i-80e8482a3ee0431527e3fa3bd030c0be-handy.gif

Basically, it's an attempt to provide info on how to perform polymerase chain reactions, but on the cheap so to speak. Which involved building your own thermal cycler and fortuitously led to an opportunity to publish the article at MAKE (which BTW has thrilled my engineering colleagues to no end).

Anyway, the issue is out in about a week or so. We still haven't got it matching the efficiency of a commercially bought machine, but we are sooo close, so close. Besides, a commercially bought PCR machine will run in the $2500 and up category, whereas our MacGyver homage dings in at under $300. In fact, our experimental comparisons have been done with a $7000 machine.

What's especially interesting is that when first contemplating doing this, it struck me as being an ethical quagmire. I mean, this is the same experiment that can lead to a Huntington's test for example, maternity/paternity testing, and that's really much too heavy an insight for a kitchen countertop science experiment. Of course, the MacGyver set-up shouldn't be used for that sort of thing, first and foremost because it's just not the sleekest and trouble-free of machines (which you really need when doing that sort of thing), but there you have it - if you know what you're doing, you could potentially tweak it so that it's a pretty functional DNA fingerprint system. This is the reason why I got a colleague from Applied Ethics to weigh in and write a little blurb on this nuance.

What I'm hoping, ultimately, is that this project might prove useful for high school scenarios, or perhaps in circumstances where science infrastructure is seriously hurting. I know, for instance, my Nigerian experiences showed that a coveting a PCR machine was like gold, like pirate's gold.

Anyway, you'd have to buy the magazine if you're interested in constructing the apparatus, but do check out the supplemental link (http://scq.ubc.ca/MAKE/) we've put up at the SCQ. Starting next week, we'll also create a post at the SCQ, where updates, tweaks, improvements, etc can be added on a routine basis.

As well, my buddies at Eng Phys are pumped generally. If you got any other ideas to pass along, then that would be wunderbar.

More like this

Science scout twitter feed I'm doing a bit of research for book chapter, and one of the things I was looking into, was how much exactly would it take for a layman to set up a functional molecular biology lab. With respect to this query, there are a few things to keep in mind: 1. Most molecular…
As a Director of a science teaching facility, who sees maybe close to 2000 high schoolers in my lab each year, I'm hoping we can have a good showing in this great DonorsChoose challenge that Janet set up. There's certainly a lot of incentive, ranging from the simple act of promoting science within…
Here presented is the final clue in our little experiment. It being the start of a story, a novel to be precise. In fact, we're getting tingles just thinking how lovely it all comes together, and the challenge, of course, is to see whether you can break our mystery. We will present the answer…
So... the SCQ is back from its summer hiatus, and needs to get rid of a 30G 5th generation video iPod. Sort of like this one: And it actually couldn't be easier to win. Here are the details: After a much need hiatus over the summer, the SCQ is back for it's third volume. We thought we would…

wow. you're right. that IS so frickin' cool.