Who Was the Breakfast Cereal Innovator?

(p. A15) . . . , it turns out that the turn-of-the-last-century origin and evolution of the cereal industry was a very nasty and unpleasant bit of business, as Howard Markel chronicles in “The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek.”
. . .
The Kelloggs (and others) thought that an easily digestible corn cereal might solve all the problems. The birth of breakfast cereal is a tortured tale. Both Kellogg brothers would insist on having made the crucial innovations, as would others, including the most successful copycat, C.W. Post, who moved to Battle Creek to make his new Shredded Wheat. Shredded Wheat became a top seller after John failed to conclude a deal to buy Post’s company and, worse, refused to aggressively sell the Kellogg cereal because he thought it unseemly for a medical doctor, and his increasingly famous sanitarium (“the San”), to sell a commercial product.
Through it all, John’s younger brother, Will–a plump, colorless, diligent numbers man–served as his long-suffering factotum. “The doctor was the San’s showman and carnival barker,” Mr. Markel writes, “while Will kept the place running smoothly and served as a brake to his brother’s tendency to make poor and costly business decisions.” Mr. Markel’s portrayal of the sibling dynamic edges a bit into a Scrooge-and-Cratchit stereotype, though it is amply backed up by anecdotes, such as the many times poor Will was obliged to take dictation while John sat on the toilet.
In 1905, after 25 years of this, Will said “enough.” He made a deal with John to leave the San and start a cereal company of his own, which in time became a global conglomerate.

For the full review, see:
Bryan Burrough. “BOOKSHELF; The Battle of Battle Creek.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Aug. 14, 2017): A15.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 13, 2017, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; The Birth of a Cereal Empire.”)

The book under review, is:
Markel, Howard. The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek. New York: Pantheon, 2017.

Gene Editing of Embryos Promises to Cure Inherited Diseases

(p. A13) For the first time in the United States, scientists have edited the genes of human embryos, a controversial step toward someday helping babies avoid inherited diseases.
. . .
The Oregon scientists reportedly used a technique called CRISPR, which allows specific sections of DNA to be altered or replaced. It’s like using a molecular scissors to cut and paste DNA, and is much more precise than some types of gene therapy that cannot ensure that desired changes will take place exactly where and as intended. With gene editing, these so-called “germline” changes are permanent and would be passed down to any offspring.
The approach holds great potential to avoid many genetic diseases, . . .
. . .
One prominent genetics expert, Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute in La Jolla, California, said gene editing of embryos is “an unstoppable, inevitable science, and this is more proof it can be done.”
Experiments are in the works now in the U.S. using gene-edited cells to try to treat people with various diseases, but “in order to really have a cure, you want to get this at the embryo stage,” he said.

For the full story, see:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. “U.S. Scientists Edit Genes in Human Embryo.” The New York Times (Fri., JULY 28, 2017): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 27, 2017, and has the title “In U.S. First, Scientists Edit Genes of Human Embryos.”)

Global Warming Would Increase Access to Arctic’s “Natural Beauty”

(p. A1) When the Crystal Serenity, a 1,000-passenger luxury liner, sails in August on a monthlong Arctic cruise through the Northwest Passage, it will have a far more utilitarian escort: a British supply ship.
The Ernest Shackleton, which normally resupplies scientific bases in Antarctica, will help with the logistics of shore excursions along the route from Alaska to New York through Canada’s Arctic Archipelago.
. . .
As global warming reduces the extent of sea ice in the Arctic, more ships — cargo carriers as well as liners like the Serenity taking tourists to see the region’s natural beauty — will be plying far-northern waters.

For the full story, see:
HENRY FOUNTAIN. “As Liners Ply Arctic, Worry Tempers Thrill.” The New York Times (Mon., JULY 24, 2017): A1 & A10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JULY 23, 2017, and has the title “With More Ships in the Arctic, Fears of Disaster Rise.”)

Rising Hurricane Costs Due to More Rich People Choosing to Live on Coast

(p. A15) “An Inconvenient Truth” promoted the frightening narrative that higher temperatures mean more extreme weather, especially hurricanes. The movie poster showed a hurricane emerging from a smokestack. Mr. Gore appears to double down on this by declaring in the new film’s trailer: “Storms get stronger and more destructive. Watch the water splash off the city. This is global warming.”
This is misleading. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change–in its Fifth Assessment Report, published in 2013–found “low confidence” of increased hurricane activity to date because of global warming. Storms are causing more damage, but primarily because more wealthy people choose to live on the coast, not because of rising temperatures.
Even if tropical storms strengthen by 2100, their relative cost likely will decrease. In a 2012 article for the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers showed that hurricane damage now costs 0.04% of global gross domestic product. If climate change makes hurricanes stronger, absolute costs will double by 2100. But the world will also be much wealthier and less vulnerable, so the total damage is estimated at only 0.02% of global GDP.

For the full commentary, see:
Bjorn Lomborg. “Al Gore’s Climate Sequel Misses a Few Inconvenient Facts; Eleven years after his first climate-change film, he’s still trying to scare you into saving the world.” The Wall Street Journal (Fri., July 28, 2017): A15.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 27, 2017.)

Inventor Haber and Entrepreneur Bosch Created “an Inflection Point in History”

(p. C7) . . . , Mr. Kean’s narrative of scientific discovery jumps back and forth. The first episode narrated in detail is Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch’s conversion of nitrogen into ammonia, the crucial step in producing artificial fertilizer, which Mr. Kean characterizes as “an inflection point in history” that in the 20th century “transformed the very air into bread.” The process consumes 1% of the global energy supply, producing 175 million tons of ammonia fertilizer a year and generating half the world’s food. Haber and Bosch both won Nobel Prizes but were subsequently tainted by their involvement in developing chlorine gas for the German military.
The book’s middle section turns back the clock to steam power, the technology that launched the Industrial Revolution. James Watt was its master craftsman, though Mr. Kean confesses that, as “a sucker for mechanical simplicity,” he regards Watt’s pioneering engine, with its separate condenser, as “a bunch of crap cobbled together.” A more elegant application of gases was Henry Bessemer’s process for making steel, which used blasts of compressed air to make obsolete the laborious and energy-hungry mixing of liquid cast iron and carbon.

For the full review, see:
Mike Jay. “Adventures in the Atmosphere.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., July 22, 2017): C7.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 21, 2017.)

The book under review, is:
Kean, Sam. Caesar’s Last Breath: Decoding the Secrets of the Air Around Us. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2017.

Artificial Technology Can Make Food Safer

(p. A11) . . . the wider food-handling community increasingly is calling for a “kill step” in handling raw vegetables and produce.
Cooking (properly) is a kill step that works for food that is cooked.
. . .
After the 2015 disaster, Chipotle hired Prof. James Marsden of Kansas State University’s renowned food safety program. By the details released so far, the company has indeed begun experimenting with kill steps. These include blanching–dipping produce in boiling water–or spritzing with “natural” pathogen-neutralizers like lemon juice. Certain tasks have also been shifted to a central, McDonald’s -style kitchen and away from the local restaurant, though the company says certain steps were reversed when customers complained about the taste or appearance of their meals.
. . . Many in the food-safety camp are already keen on more-energetic kill steps, such as irradiation, chemical treatment with ozone or chlorine compounds, or the use of high-barometric-pressure systems.
. . .
A 2007 KSU study put volunteers in a test kitchen to see if they could follow directions safely to prepare frozen, uncooked, breaded chicken products. Many couldn’t. Among the findings: 100% of adolescents (the kind that work in fast-food restaurants) claimed they washed their hands when video monitoring showed they hadn’t.

For the full commentary, see:
Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. “Chipotle Seeks a ‘Kill Step’; America’s growing taste for fresh greens is a challenge to food-handling practices.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat.., July 29, 2017): A11.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 28, 2017.)

Russian Regulators Jail Entrepreneur for Innovating “Too Fast and Too Freely”

(p. A1) AKADEMGORODOK, Russia — Dmitri Trubitsyn is a young physicist-entrepreneur with a patriotic reputation, seen in this part of Siberia as an exemplar of the talents, dedication and enterprise that President Vladimir V. Putin has hailed as vital for Russia’s future economic health.
Yet Mr. Trubitsyn faces up to eight years in jail after a recent raid on his home and office here in Akademgorodok, a Soviet-era sanctuary of scientific research that was supposed to showcase how Mr. Putin’s Russia can harness its abundance of talent to create a modern economy.
A court last Thursday [August 3, 2017] extended Mr. Trubitsyn’s house arrest until at least October, which bars him from leaving his apartment or communicating with anyone other than his immediate family. Mr. Trubitsyn, 36, whose company, Tion, manufactures high-tech air-purification systems for homes and hospitals, is accused of risking the lives of hospital patients, and trying to lift profits, by upgrading the purifiers so they would consume less electricity.
Most important, he is accused of doing this without state regulators certifying the changes.
It is a case that highlights the tensions between Mr. Putin’s aspirations for a dynamic private sector and his determination to enhance the powers of Russia’s security apparatus. Using a 2014 law meant to protect Russians from counterfeit medicine, investigators from the Federal Security Service, the post-Soviet KGB, and other agencies have accused Mr. Trubitsyn of leading a criminal conspiracy to, essentially, innovate too fast and too freely.
. . .
(p. A9) Irina Travina, the founder of a software start-up and head of the local technology-business association, said Akademgorodok was “the best place in Russia,” with “outstanding schools, low crime and a high concentration of very smart people.”
But she said Mr. Trubitsyn’s arrest had delivered a grave blow to the community’s sense of security.
“In principle, anyone can fall into this situation,” Ms. Travina said, praising Mr. Trubitsyn as a patriot because he had not moved abroad and had invested time and money in science education for local children. “It can happen to anybody,” she added. “Everyone has some sort of skeleton in their closet. Maybe nothing big, but they can always find something to throw you in jail for.”

For the full story, see:
ANDREW HIGGINS. “Russia Wants Innovation, but Jails Innovators.” The New York Times (Thurs., AUG. 10, 2017): A1 & A9.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date AUG. 9, 2017, and has the title “Russia Wants Innovation, but It’s Arresting Its Innovators.”)