Researchers Test Hotter, Faster And Cleaner Way To Fight Oil Spills

Researchers at the Coast Guard’s Joint Maritime Test Facility on Little Sand Island, in Mobile Bayoff the Alabama coast, fit the Flame Refluxer with coils for a test burn.

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

On a cold and windy day off the coast of Alabama, a team of researchers from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts gathers, conducting the first test outside a laboratory for a potential new solution to a challenging problem: cleaning oil spills from water.

The invention, the Flame Refluxer, is “very simple,” says Ali Rangwala, a professor of fire protection engineering: Imagine a giant Brillo pad of copper wool sandwiched between layers of copper screen, with springy copper coils attached to the top.

“The coils collect the heat from the flame and they transmit it through the copper blanket,” Rangwala explains.

The goal is to make a hotter, faster and more complete burn that leaves less pollution.

Cleaning oil from water is a challenge, especially on the open sea. That was dramatically evident seven years ago, when a massive oil spill during the BP disaster polluted the Gulf of Mexico.

The Flame Refluxer after a test burn.

Debbie Elliott/NPR

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

Responders typically use three cleanup methods in an oil spill: skimmers and oil booms to soak it up, dispersants to break it up, and fire to burn it up. That’s called in-situ, or in-place, burning.

The federal government is backing research on the Flame Refluxer, which supporters hope will provide an effective and ecologically sound alternative.

For the test — at the U.S. Coast Guard’s Joint Maritime Test Facility on Little Sand Island in Mobile Bay — workers place the blanket inside a ring-shaped floating protective barrier, or fire boom, in a concrete pool. Oil is pumped from a nearby tank, and a long torch-like lighter sets it afire.

Before long, the fire is roaring with flames up to 12 feet high.

Rangwala monitors by video in a nearby research shed. “It’s looking very good,” he observes.


Source: Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Credit: NPR

Engineers are tracking the fire’s heat and the emissions that are being captured by a strategically placed windsock downwind of the test burn.

The device potentially could reduce air pollution, as well as the layer of tar that remains after oil burns and sinks to the ocean floor, threatening marine life.

Rangwala says the copper blanket was designed to capture any remaining residue, but they’re finding that the tar is burning off as well.

He says the test indicates a hotter, quicker, cleaner burn.

“Currently it’s about three times faster than baseline,” he says. “And the smoke is also grayish in color, compared to black.”

The gray smoke, with less soot, is one of the things that Karen Stone is looking for.

“The lighter it is, the cleaner it is,” says Stone, an oil spill response engineer with the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.

Workers at the Coast Guard’s Joint Maritime Test Facility fit the Flame Refluxer with coils for a test burn.

Debbie Elliott/NPR

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Debbie Elliott/NPR

The agency has invested $1.5 million to develop the Flame Refluxer, and is also paying for other new technology.

It’s an effort to be better prepared to respond, after the 2010 BP disaster in the Gulf revealed some major gaps. For example, the country didn’t have enough fire boom on hand and had to scramble to borrow supply from other countries.

Black smoke billows from a controlled burn of surface oil during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

U.S. Coast Guard

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U.S. Coast Guard

“Once you have a spill, it really gets the attention,” says Stone. “We realize, wow, we really need to advance it and make it better, improve it, for when it happens again.”

Stone says the technology that is working in the Gulf environment also shows promise for responding to oil spills in the Arctic. But it is likely 5 to 10 years from being used in an actual disaster.

The next step is finding the best way to deploy and test it in open water.

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German City Accepts Karl Marx Statue From China, But Not Everyone's Happy

A model of a Karl Marx statue was briefly on display in central Trier earlier this month.

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City of Trier Press Office

The German city of Trier has never been particularly fond of its most famous son, Karl Marx, who helped turn communism into an ideology that changed the course of history.

Conservative and Catholic, the picturesque city on the French border took an ambivalent view of the radical revolutionary, born into a Jewish family in 1818.

But now, as Trier prepares for the bicentennial of Marx’s birth, the city plans to put up a monument to the bushy-bearded thinker. Last week, Trier’s city council overwhelmingly voted to accept a 20-foot bronze statue of Marx as a gift from China — which, at least in name, is still a communist country.

Marx, co-author of The Communist Manifesto, cannot be held responsible for the distortion of his ideas after his death in 1883, says Trier’s mayor, Wolfram Leibe.

Wolfram Leibe, Trier’s mayor, supports the Karl Marx statue as a way of furthering international understanding.

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Lucian Kim/NPR

“Karl Marx acted in the historical context of the 19th century,” Leibe said. He didn’t participate in any atrocities or commit any crimes. He was a philosopher.”

Reiner Marz, one of a handful of dissenting voices in the city council, says there’s nothing wrong with honoring Karl Marx with a statue. The problem, he says, is the Chinese connection.

“The Chinese regime tramples on human rights,” he said. “I don’t want to receive any presents from that kind of regime.”

What’s telling is that not a single city council member from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union voted against the Marx monument. Ideological clashes are a thing of the past, and Merkel has moved her conservative party considerably to the left.

China wields enormous clout in Europe. The country is the largest single foreign investor in Germany, according to GTAI, the German government’s economic development agency.

China is also one of the biggest sources of tourists for Trier.

At Karl Marx’s birthplace — a stately, three-story townhouse with creaky wooden floors — a quarter of all visitors come from communist China.

More than 40,000 tourists flock to Karl Marx’s birth house every year, a quarter of them from China.

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Lucian Kim/NPR

The city receives up to 150,000 Chinese tourists a year — more than Trier’s entire population — and Marx’s fame in China as a founding father of communism is a big part of the draw.

Trier also has become younger and more liberal as its university has grown, says Michael Schmitz, editor of the local section of the Trierischer Volksfreund newspaper.

“Many who talk about Karl Marx today didn’t experience the Cold War themselves and know the Berlin Wall only from history books,” he says.

Small Karl Marx sculptures can easily be found in Trier shops.

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Lucian Kim/NPR

Schmitz says that what bothers most people about the statue is its size and proposed location near the town’s main attraction, a 2nd century Roman gate called the Porta Nigra.

At the wine stand on Trier’s main square, residents open up over glasses of local Riesling.

Thorsten Domeier, who moved to Trier from the former East Germany almost 20 years ago, says he is against the statue. Domeier laughs, saying he just can’t get away from Marx — in Soviet times, he grew up near a town called Karl Marx City.

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Debate Over Silencers: Hearing Protection Or Public Safety Threat?

Legislation would loosen restrictions on gun suppressors, with proponents saying quieter guns protect shooters’ hearing. But opponents say easier-to-get silencers are a risk to the public.

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Niki Chan Wylie for NPR

There’s a wall-long mural in the manufacturing area of SilencerCo, in West Valley City, Utah, that shows a crowd of people with muzzled mouths. One’s holding a sign that says, “Fight the Noise.” Another says: “Guns don’t have to be loud.”

As a leading manufacturer and seller of gun silencers — or suppressors, as they’re more accurately called — SilencerCo wants to quiet guns. Congress may soon help in the effort.

Silencers are one of the most heavily regulated products in the gun industry. Lawmakers are pushing legislation that would loosen those long-standing federal regulations, making silencers easier to buy for the general public.

The silencer industry, gun-advocacy groups and some shooting-sports groups are backing the legislation, saying that quieter guns preserve and protect shooters’ hearing. The gun accessory, they argue, is unfairly regulated and vilified.

Gun-control groups and congressional Democrats are fighting against the legislation, evoking recent mass shootings and assassinations of police as examples of why guns should be loud and their sound recognizable.

Both argue that it’s a matter of public safety.

A muffler for a gun

There are nearly a million registered silencers owned by people in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But Jason Schauble, the chief revenue officer at SilencerCo, says they’re largely misunderstood.

“Most people know what they see in movies,” he says. “And they see, oh, it’s always a spy, you know, somebody who’s involved in some sort of combat scenario [using them]. And then also, the sound that it makes is very, very quiet compared to what really happens.”

A silencer doesn’t silence a gunshot. “It’s essentially a muffler for a gun,” Schauble says.

It gives the explosive flash of gas and pressure that propels a bullet space to expand into and dissipate. The result is a dampened or suppressed sound, and less-jarring recoil — both perks for a shooter.

“It’s still loud enough to hear,” Schauble says. “It’s just not loud enough to do permanent damage to your hearing, which is what most people who shoot and hunt are looking for.”

There are more than 10 million hunters in the U.S., an estimated 20 million recreational shooters and many more people who own guns. Schauble and gun advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association say that many of them don’t, or aren’t able, to use proper hearing protection. Some hunters will choose not to wear earplugs because they don’t want to sacrifice their ability to hear in the backcountry while stalking prey; gun owners might use a gun in self-defense without hearing protection readily available.

“It’s about — I don’t have to wear hearing protection while I shoot; I don’t have to damage my ears,” Schauble says. “So we think of it as a public health issue.”

The Hearing Protection Act

Lawmakers are taking a similar tact. The legislation, proposed in the House by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., is called the Hearing Protection Act.

“This legislation is about safety — plain and simple,” Duncan said, in a statement after the bill was introduced. “I can’t tell you how better off the shooting sports enthusiasts would be if we had easier access to suppressors to help protect our hearing.”

Silencers are currently regulated under the National Firearms Act, legislation that was passed by Congress in 1934 to address mob violence and the spread of new or modified firearms like sawed-off shotguns and machine guns.

Various silencers on display at SilencerCo, a Utah-based company that sells silencers.

Niki Chan Wylie for NPR

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Niki Chan Wylie for NPR

That law didn’t prohibit the ownership of silencers, but it did make them harder to buy or trade by adding a $200 fee, creating a federal registry and making a longer registration process. Gun owners say that it currently takes about 9 months to buy a silencer.

The Hearing Protection Act would eliminate that fee and make buying a silencer similar to buying a hunting rifle, which has no federal waiting period. Instead, it’s dependent on the state.

Crime and silencers

“This act is reckless,” says David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at Americans for Responsible Solutions and a retired 25-year veteran of the ATF. “And it’s a threat to public safety.”

Chipman describes himself as a sportsman and gun owner. And he says that guns don’t sound like guns when a suppressor is being used. They also reduce the flash at the end of a muzzle.

In combination, he says, a silencer could confuse the police or the public during a shooting and allow “an active shooter to not give away their location.”

Chipman points to the case of Christopher Dorner, a former Los Angeles police officer who used silencers during a two-day killing spree in 2013.

Statistically though, Dorner was an outlier. Data from the ATF show that silencers are seldom used in crime. From 2012-15, 390 silencers were recovered from crime scenes where an ATF trace was requested. During that same period, more than 600,000 pistols were recovered.

Chipman and gun-control advocates say the reason silencers are so rarely used in crime is because they’ve been so strictly regulated since the 1930s.

“Right now the system seems to be working,” Chipman says. “It’s allowing for [silencer] sales to go up and we’re rarely seeing cops killed with these things, so why fix what’s not broke?

NPR reached out to a number of law enforcement associations and individual police officers to see if they shared Chipman’s concern.

The National Sheriffs’ Association said it would review the Hearing Protection Act “assiduously.” The International Association of Chiefs of Police did not respond for comment.

Sid Heal, a leader at the National Tactical Officers Association and a retired SWAT commander for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said he doesn’t support the easing of regulations around silencers and that the risks outweigh the gains.

Steve Ijames, a former Missouri police chief and current SWAT trainer, felt differently.

“I don’t think there’s any way to escape the reality that if any particular product that could be misused or abused is more readily available, it’s just simply an increased statistical probability [that it will],” he says.

But Ijames does not believe there would be widespread abuse and as a recreational shooter, he says, he sees the benefits of shooting with a suppressor.

The silencer industry, for its part, has been on a marketing tour. Knox Williams, the president and executive director of the American Suppressor Association, has been visiting statehouses around the country and giving demonstrations to state lawmakers, showing what silencers do.

He’s planning a similar demonstration for national lawmakers later this spring. And while he knows that the Hearing Protection Act might not be a legislative priority, given issues like health care and tax reform, Williams says he’s optimistic that silencer regulations will soon change.

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Strand Of Oaks On World Cafe

Strand Of Oaks performs at WXPN’s Free At Noon concert at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

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Tiana Timmerberg/WXPN

  • “Hard Love”
  • “Cry”
  • “Radio Kids”

Timothy Showalter is the band called Strand of Oaks. Originally from Indiana, Showalter now lives in Philadelphia, where he’s reimagined himself as a rocker after releasing a couple of quieter albums. This latest phase of his career started with his well-received 2014 album Heal; he recently released the follow-up, Real Love.

The never-reticent musician joins World Cafe to talk about the volatile relationship that has provided fodder for songs on both Heal and Hard Love. In this interview, Showalter says he’s beginning to get a handle on the pull between domesticity and the call of the wild. He also discusses reconnecting with his rock ‘n’ roll adolescence via an anthem on Hard Love called “Radio Kids,” which he says had an ecstatic birth. “I knew it was good because I was, like, sweating with excitement after it was done,” he says. “My wife would get home from work and she would be like, ‘What is the matter with you?’ and I would just be like pacing manically and being like ‘I did something today.’ “


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South X Lullaby: DakhaBrakha

To call what DakhaBrakha does “folk music” completely misses a world of inspiration and sound, both here on Earth and perhaps elsewhere. The mostly-acoustic, utterly unique Ukrainian band mixes traditions from its homeland, but goes wide too, with West African rhythms and Indian drones to create a wild, thrilling texture (especiallylive).

Late at night, we asked DakhaBrakha to bring its cello, keyboard, accordion – and tall, wool hats! — to the balcony of a hotel overlooking Austin, Texas. They played “Kolyskova” from 2010’s Light, but the band only ever calls it “Lullaby.” It’s a quiet, contemplative song that the band says is a “connecting of several lullabies” with “philosophical lyrics that [say] we have time for everything — time to laugh and cry, time to live and die.”

  • “Kolyskova”

Producers: Bob Boilen, Mito Habe-Evans; Director/Videographer: Nickolai Hammar; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Photo: Nickolai Hammar; Executive Producer: Anya Grundmann.

Support for NPR Music comes from Blue Microphone.

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Nevada On Cusp Of Ratifying Equal Rights Amendment 35 Years After Deadline

Spectators look down on the Nevada Assembly on the opening day of the legislative session in Carson City, Nev., in February. On Monday, members of the Assembly voted to adopt the Equal Rights Amendment.

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Lance Iversen/AP

Nevada has taken a crucial step closer to ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment — roughly 35 years after a deadline imposed by Congress. The state’s Assembly approved the long-dormant measure in a largely party-line vote on Monday, sending it back to the state Senate for a final blessing.

Earlier this month, state senators approved the ERA, which among other things guarantees that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Now they they are expected to sign off on the minor technical changes added to the resolution since it left their chamber.

It has been a long, twisty path for the ERA, which was first passed by Congress in 1972 and last approved by a state (Indiana) in 1977. Since then, the amendment has teetered just three states short of the threshold necessary to see it adopted into law nationwide — a threshold it failed to achieve by the time Congress’ deadline came and went.

But for ERA supporters such as Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman, that deadline is little more than a paper tiger.

“It was in the resolving clause, but it wasn’t a part of the amendment that was proposed by Congress,” she tells KNPR. “That’s why the time limit is irrelevant.”

After all, Spearman and others argue, Congress’ original ratification deadline was 1979, and national lawmakers already bumped that forward to 1982 — so what’s stopping them from bumping it forward again?

“The Equal Rights Amendment is about equality, period,” says Spearman, the Nevada bill’s chief sponsor. A former Army lieutenant colonel and one of two openly gay senators in the Legislature, she says that regardless of timing, the goals of the amendment endure.

“We have delayed passage long enough,” she says. “Now is the time to show the country, and the global neighborhood, we as Nevadans lead when it comes to equality for all.”

Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, who fought for women’s suffrage, rests after marching with supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment in Washington, D.C., in 1977. The last state to ratify the ERA, Indiana, did so that same year.


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The measure’s Republican critics aren’t convinced.

Many of them argue the ERA would be a detriment to families and a boost to abortion rights activists, while still others find the exercise useless, given the lapsed deadline. They say the more laudable aspects of the amendment have been rendered obsolete by the enactment of separate laws that fulfill the same function.

And then, there’s the matter of that deadline, which Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus is far less inclined to dismiss. She says she was “deeply disturbed by the theatrics” of ratifying an overdue amendment, according to the Los Angeles Times. As she tells the newspaper, “I don’t believe my constituents sent me to cast symbolic votes with no chance of success.”

“I would argue that this chamber is full of symbolism,” Jill Tolles, the sole Republican assemblywoman who voted for the measure, tells the Reno Gazette-Journal, adding:

“On my left hand, I wear a ring that symbolizes my promise to love and respect and be faithful to one man for the rest of my life. We stand underneath a seal that reminds us that we are a battle born state and home means Nevada. We pledge allegiance to a flag every single day to celebrate the freedom that was so hard fought for.”

For pro-ERA groups such as the National Organization for Women, the matter is more than simply symbolic. After Indiana became the 35th state to ratify the amendment, in 1977, the group pursued what it called a “three-state strategy” — a plan to identify and persuade the states it needed to put it over the threshold.

That plan didn’t succeed, but Nevada has given NOW President Terry O’Neill new cause for hope.

“Now it’s a two-state strategy,” she tells the Times. “It’s very exciting. Over the past five years, Illinois and Virginia have come close. I think there is clear interest in this.”

For now Nevada lawmakers — who don’t need GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s signature but have his support — still aim to finish what they started this month. The final state Senate vote is expected to take place Wednesday, 45 years to the day since Congress passed the ERA.

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Scientists launch campaign to restore Pluto to the planet club

FILE PHOTO – Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. Courtesy NASA/Handout via


A team of scientists seeking to restore Pluto to planethood launched a campaign on Tuesday to broaden the astronomical classifications which led to its demotion to a “dwarf planet” a decade ago.

Six scientists from institutions across the United States argued that Pluto deserves to be a full planet, along with some 110 other bodies in the solar system, including Earth’s moon.

In a paper presented at an international planetary science conference at The Woodlands, Texas, the scientists explained that geological properties, such as shape and surface features, should determine what constitutes a planet.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, struggling with how to classify a newly discovered icy body beyond Pluto, adopted a definition for a planet based on characteristics that include clearing other objects from its orbital path.

Pluto and its newfound kin in the solar system’s distant Kuiper Belt region were reclassified as dwarf planets, along with Ceres, the biggest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The decision left the solar system with eight planets.

But this definition sidelines the research interests of most planetary scientists, said the paper’s lead author, Kirby Runyon, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University.

Runyon said he and other planetary scientists are more interested in a planet’s physical characteristics, such as its shape and whether it has mountains, oceans and an atmosphere.

“If you’re interested in the actual intrinsic properties of a world, then the IAU definition is worthless,” he said by phone.

Runyon and colleagues argue that the IAU does not have the authority to set the definition of a planet.

“There’s a teachable moment here for the public in terms of scientific literacy and in terms of how scientists do science,” Runyon added. “And that is not by saying, ‘Let’s agree on one thing.’ That’s not science at all.”

Runyon’s group advocates for a sub-classification system, similar to biology’s hierarchal method. This approach would categorize Earth’s moon as a type of planet.

That idea irks California Institute of Technology astronomer Mike Brown, who discovered the Kuiper Belt object that cast Pluto out of the planet club.

“It really takes blinders to not look at the solar system and see the profound differences between the eight planets in their stately circular orbits and then the millions and millions of tiny bodies flitting in and out between the planets and being tossed around by them,” he wrote in an email.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Leslie Adler)

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Harvard Scientists Call For Better Rules To Guide Research On 'Embryoids'

Embryoids like this one are created from stem cells and resemble very primitive human embryos. Scientists are studying them in hopes of learning more about basic human biology and development.

Courtesy of Rockefeller University

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Courtesy of Rockefeller University

How far should scientists be allowed to go in creating things that resemble primitive human brains, hearts, and even human embryos?

That’s the question being asked by a group of Harvard scientists who are doing exactly that in their labs. They’re using stem cells, genetics and other new biological engineering techniques to create tissues, primitive organs and other living structures that mimic parts of the human body.

Their concern is that they and others doing this type of “synthetic biology” research might be treading into disturbing territory.

“We don’t know where this going to go,” says John Aach, a lecturer in genetics at Harvard Medical School. “This is just the beginning of this field.”

Aach helped write a paper in the journal eLife, published Tuesday, calling for an international effort to establish guidelines for this provocative area of research.

While all this may sound like something out of Frankenstein, the goal is to find new ways to decipher the mysteries of human biology and to discover novel treatments for health problems ranging from infertility to aging.

“We want to understand biology of natural human development and disease and come up with ways of addressing the problems of disease,” Aach says. “The more precisely you can make something that is like a tissue or a system of tissues in a dish, the easier it is to experiment on it.”

But in the process of conducting their experiments, Aach and his lab colleagues realized scientists might cross disturbing ethical lines.

For example, scientists could create primitive beating hearts and primordial brains.

“How much moral concern should we have for these things? If it has a brain that doesn’t look like a human brain, but it operates like one, it could still feel pain,” Aach says.

Some scientists have already started creating entities that resemble the very early stages of human embryos. Scientists use different names to describe them. They’re sometimes called “embryoids,” but Aach’s group has dubbed them “SHEEFs” — synthetic human entities with embryo-like features.

In some of these experiments, researchers have seen early signs of the formation of the “primitive streak,” which is the beginning of a central nervous system and, potentially, the ability to sense pain.

That work raises the prospect that the experiments might violate the 14-day rule, which has been in place for decades to avoid raising too many ethical concerns about experimenting on human embryos. Two weeks into embryonic development is usually when the primitive streak begins to appear.

But Aach and his colleagues argue that the 14-day rule, which is a guideline in the United States and law in some other countries, has become outdated by this latest generation of experiments.

It’s based on the predictable, linear development of a normal human embryo. But the new synthetic biology techniques do not necessarily follow that road map.

“The primitive streak was like a stop sign,” Aach says. “If you stopped there you would never get a brain. You would never get a heart. You would never get something that would be morally concerning.”

“But now with these tissue engineering and stem cell techniques you can simply go around that,” Aach says. “You could create something at a point beyond that. It might become sentient.”

It’s also possible that some day these embryoids could become so much like a normal human embryo that they could actually be used to create a baby.

So, in essence, “you’ve gone off-road,” Aach says. “With these synthetic tissues there’s no longer one highway of development. A stop sign is no longer good enough.”

The ethical concerns are not just limited to structures that resemble embryos, Aach says.

As a result, he and the co-authors of the report say new guidelines are needed to replace that clear stop sign with something that’s more like a guardrail or fence that will keep scientists from inadvertently steering into ethically troubling terrain.

“What we’re proposing is, instead of doing stop signs, we get these perimeter fences — where there’s an agreement that there’s an area of concern,” Aach says.

For example, scientists, philosophers, bioethicists and others may reach a consensus that “we can’t make a brain that will allow it to feel pain” or “we can’t make something like a heart — but we can make up to it,” Aach says, “as long as it doesn’t start beating.”

Others scientists praised the researchers for raising these tough issues early.

“I absolutely support this,” Magdelena Zernicka-Goetz tells Shots in an email; she is doing similar research at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “The time is right to begin discussion of these issues in a forum that includes scientists and has a wide representation of society,” Zernicka-Goetz says.

Some bioethicists also welcomed a debate about these issues.

“I really have to give them credit for raises these issues proactively,” says Insoo Hyun, a Case Western Reserve University bioethicist. “Our current standards for oversight and ethics are not adequate to capture this new area of science.”

But it could be difficult to draw the line in some cases, Hyun notes, such as in experiments aimed at developing treatments for pain or those aiming to understanding the heart better.

“Those types of experiments may be exactly the point of why you’d want to create a synthetic entity that does have some kind of pain sensation, or that has some sort of neural network, or has some sort of heart beat, if that’s actually the body system you want to study,” Hyun says.

And, he says, there may be some experiments people find disturbing on a visceral level.

“Some people may just find that the experiments are just kind of creepy,” Hyun says. “There may be some people concerned about scientists taking the research too far, creating entities in the dish that are quasi-human — and [that they] de-value life in the process.”

Ali Brivanlou, an embryologist at the Rockefeller University who is conducting some of the most advanced work in this area, also says he welcomes a debate. But worried about putting too many limitations on the research.

“We have to dive into this carefully, but I think we really need to move forward,” he tells Shots. “I think it’s important that we don’t somehow let religion or political conviction be a guiding force in this argument. The truth has to come from science.”

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Martin McGuinness, A Former IRA Leader And A Peacemaker, Dies At 66

Martin McGuinness, seen here arriving at 10 Downing Street in central London last October for meetings in his role as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, has died at age 66.

Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

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Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

Former Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness, who left violence behind to choose peace — and eventually meet Queen Elizabeth II — has died at age 66. For nearly a decade, McGuinness served as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister.

From London, NPR’s Frank Langfitt reports:

“McGuinness retired from politics in January, suffering from a rare genetic disease. Today, he was lauded for his crucial role in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland.

But he was also remembered for his early days as a ruthless commander of the IRA, notorious for bombings and responsible for 1,800 killings during the so-called Troubles.”

In many ways, the unusual arc of McGuinness’s public life culminated in his 2012 meeting with the queen. The two smiled and looked each other in the eye as they shook hands; both of them said it was an important moment for peace.

McGuinness met Queen Elizabeth at least one other time: in November, the pair again shook hands and exchanged pleasantries during the unveiling of a large portrait of the monarch in London.

The encounters were an extraordinary development for a former senior leader of the IRA, the group that in 1979 used a bomb to kill Lord Louis Mountbatten, the uncle of Prince Philip and a distant cousin to the queen who had also held leadership posts in the British armed forces.

Discussing that sort of violence in 2013, McGuinness said, “regrettably the past cannot be changed or undone.” As reported by The Irish Times, he added, “Neither can the suffering, the hurt or the violence of the conflict be disowned by Republicans or any other party to the conflict.”

Responding to the death of his longtime ally, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said:

“Throughout his life Martin showed great determination, dignity and humility and it was no different during his short illness.

“He was a passionate republican who worked tirelessly for peace and reconciliation and for the re-unification of his country. But above all he loved his family and the people of Derry and he was immensely proud of both.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said:

“I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Martin McGuinness today. His passing represents a significant loss, not only to politics in Northern Ireland but to the wider political landscape on this island and beyond.

“Martin will always be remembered for the remarkable political journey that he undertook in his lifetime. Not only did Martin come to believe that peace must prevail, he committed himself to working tirelessly to that end.”

Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement saying in part:

“While we certainly didn’t always see eye-to-eye even in later years, as deputy First Minister for nearly a decade he was one of the pioneers of implementing cross community power sharing in Northern Ireland. He understood both its fragility and its precious significance and played a vital part in helping to find a way through many difficult moments.

“At the heart of it all was his profound optimism for the future of Northern Ireland – and I believe we should all hold fast to that optimism today.”

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