For more than a decade, synthetic biologists have promised to revolutionize the way we produce fuels, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals. It turns out, however, that programming new life forms is not so easy. Now some of these same scientists are turning back to nature for inspiration.
Google’s ambitious book-scanning program is foundering in the courts. Now a Harvard-led group is launching its own sweeping effort to put our literary heritage online. Will the Ivy League succeed where Silicon Valley failed?