As my work in lab continues, so do my travels. Last weekend a few friends and I flew to Singapore for the three day weekend. I would recommend a visit to anyone! It’s the cleanest city I ever seen, and the small city-state is packed with delicious food and spectacular sites. Many cultures collide here, as a short subway ride can take you from Little India to Chinatown. I appreciated not only the preservation of distinct cultures, but also the willingness of people to experience other cultures. In other words, there was little segregation despite Singapore’s diversity. At an Indian restaurant in Little India, for example, people of all ethnicities could be found.
One thing Singapore is famous for is their bans and fines. Chewing gum is not allowed anywhere, water is not even allowed on the platform of the subway, and eating durian in some public places is punishable by almost a 500 dollar fine. All these restrictions are how Singapore remains so clean, however. Below is a picture of a nightly light show put on over the bay with the city skyline in the background, and a view down one of Chinatown’s main streets.
As I mentioned above, the food alone is reason pay Singapore a visit. To take street food off the street, the city is scattered with Hawker food centers, or pavilions filled with small food venders. Grabbing a bite to eat has never been easier, and there is no shortage of selection. Just a few noteworthy foods are kuya (coconout jam) toast for breakfast, chili crab only found in Singapore, or their Michelin star rated chicken and rice.
I think what I may have enjoyed most was the priority given to sustainable living. Over five to ten years ago, the city government completed a large project in city center that is not only scenic, but also environmentally friendly. Gardens by the Bay includes a large indoor cloud forest, flower dome, and plant-covered “super trees,” which were all strategically planned to generate hydro, solar, and wind power to not only keep these attractions running, but have some energy left over for part of the city. An explanation of this system is diagrammed in a photo below. Overall, Singapore was very green. The effort to incorporate nature in a concrete jungle was obvious, as well as an effort to combat, or a least prevent contributing to pollution and global climate change. I believe other parts of the world can take a lesson from this proactive thinking.
We also visited the Art and Science museum while we were there–which ties into the research I am doing at IRRI. There was an exhibit including biotechnology and I thought the tie to art was an interesting perspective. Featured were pictures and an explanation of the Beamer Bee thought project. This idea was motivated out of the drastic disappearance of pollinating bees. Put simply, the concept is that genes responsible for better adaption, like flight endurance found in large birds, would be incorporated into the genome of bee embryo. The predicted result was a larger, colorful super-bee that looks like it comes straight out of a science fiction novel.
While science is not yet there, and some may find this controversial, genetic engineering is already happening in order to ensure a future for all. This past week on the biofortication project, I have been extracting DNA from transgenic rice plants on a large scale in order to screen for TALENs left in the rice genome. Use of TALENs is just one method of targeted gene insertion that the world may see more of in the future.