David Rotman, who wrote this issue’s cover story (“Can Technology Save the Economy?”), interviewed some of the world’s leading experts on innovation and economic growth to learn how technology investments in this year’s stimulus bill might affect the economy. “Economists generally agree that innovation is in fact the leading factor in creating a wealthy nation,” says Rotman. “But I found a huge amount of disagreement on whether the stimulus spending on technology is a great way to help the economy and lay the foundation for future growth or a wrong-headed conflation of fiscal and technology policies. I don’t know which position is correct, but I was left with a couple of conclusions. The increase in federal funding for technology and R&D was long overdue. And it is now up to the nation’s engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to make sure the money is well spent.” Rotman is the editor of Technology Review.
David Deamer has written an essay that is part detective story–recounting his efforts to figure out how life on Earth began–and part thriller: a look at what might be possible if the origins of life were better understood (“First Life and Next Life”). “My research interest is about how cellular life arose on Earth nearly four billion years ago,” says Deamer. “I particularly focus on the self-assembly processes that produce protocells, which have some of the properties of life. As a reality check on my laboratory findings, I’ve traveled to volcanic sites in Russia, Hawaii, Iceland, and northern California, where I test whether the self-assembly processes that are studied in the laboratory can also work under conditions similar to the prebiotic environment on a hot, early Earth.” Deamer, who spent his childhood exploring caves in Kentucky, is a research professor in the Department of Biomolecular Engineering and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Michael Rosenwald reviews a new procedure that enables remarkably nimble use of a prosthetic by rewiring arm nerves into chest muscles (“A Lifelike Prosthetic Arm”). “Growing up, I always obsessed about my left arm–my throwing arm,” says Rosenwald. “I dreamed that that arm would lead to a career as a major-league baseball player. I iced my arm. Used Bengay. Heating pads. I wore a jacket to keep it warm even in the summer. But I never became a major-leaguer and pretty much stopped thinking about my arm until I learned about Todd Kuiken’s research. When I saw video of amputees using their prostheses to cook dinner or just put on a belt, I was tremendously moved, and I felt lucky to have two working arms, even if they couldn’t get me a pro-baseball career. It was also an example of the kind of technology I find most fascinating to write about: leaps of ingenuity or discoveries that change lives dramatically.” Rosenwald, who is based in Washington, DC, has written about the world’s most famous bird-flu hunter, a psychiatrist who believes that cats cause schizophrenia, and a doctor trying to regrow body parts with pig bladders. His work has appeared in Esquire, the New Yorker, Popular Science, and Smithsonian. He is a staff writer at the Washington Post.
Gérard DuBois illustrated a feature by Emily Singer, TR’s senior editor for biomedicine, on how a pill could dim the emotional distress of our worst memories (“Manipulating Memory”). DuBois, who lives in Montreal, is working on two books of illustration, preparing for an exhibition in Paris, and illustrating a regular column in Time magazine. He has received numerous awards for his work, including two gold medals from the Society of Illustrators.