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The Chemists’ War

WASHINGTON — Under a canopy of poplar and oak trees, a team of geophysicists surveyed the forest floor for century-old wartime relics. They positioned an electromagnetic scanner atop the carpet of leaves while the delicate instrument harvested data about objects in the soil beneath.In 1918, mortars and artillery shells arched toward this spot near the Dalecarlia Reservoir, one of the main water sources for the nation’s capital. But no armies fought here and no soldiers charged up the embankment. Rather, the shells were launched from the wartime research campus to the east at American University, where scientists developed chemical weapons, explosives, bombs and gas masks to use…

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As D.I.Y. Gene Editing Gains Popularity, ‘Someone Is Going to Get Hurt’

WASHINGTON — As a teenager, Keoni Gandall already was operating a cutting-edge research laboratory in his bedroom in Huntington Beach, Calif. While his friends were buying video games, he acquired more than a dozen pieces of equipment — a transilluminator, a centrifuge, two thermocyclers — in pursuit of a hobby that once was the province of white-coated Ph.D.’s in institutional labs.“I just wanted to clone DNA using my automated lab robot and feasibly make full genomes at home,” he said.Mr. Gandall was far from alone. In the past few years, so-called biohackers across the country have taken gene editing into their own hands. As the equipment becomes…

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