6 Dec 2002 jfleck   » (Master)

The Open Source Mouse
I had the intution, but cannot claim credit for the phrase "open source mouse". That credit goes to Annalee Newitz, who seemed to flash on the idea about the same time I did. We were sitting in the auditorium yesterday afternoon at the Whitehead Institute, listening to Tyler Jacks talk about his woes in working with oncogenic mice.

Jacks works with mice genetically engineered to have tumors, which is a useful model for cancer research (since introducing tumors in a mouse has fewer downsides than introducing tumors in humans). This is a limited but useful research technique, but it has one big drawback. For historical reasons involving work done at Harvard back in the 1980s, DuPont owns the patent to the idea of the oncomouse. Not any particular implementation, but the general idea.

Jacks doesn't have an agreement with DuPont - he just uses oncogenic mice. This is apparently common in the university research community. You can see the potential for mischief here, which is already playing itself out.

Free/open software offers another model for all this. Actually, to be fair, what free software is doing is conceptually borrowed from academia, where the "products" of research are freely shared and one builds on the work of one's predecessors. Perhaps the mouse people should get together and open-source their critters.
The postmodern is sorta like pornography - difficult to define with precision, but one knows it when one sees it. Here goes: a real bar, I'll call it the "Bull and Finch", serves as backdrop for a wildly popular television series - I'll call it "Cheers". Then the real bar is renamed "Cheers". The TV series runs its course, but the real bar stays named "Cheers" and becomes some sort of tourist destination.

I stumbled on Cheers this evening while walking 'round Boston in the snow. I did not go in.

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