Grossology, Tolerant Taxis + Smart Bikes

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Genspace community biolab in Brooklyn

Experiments in the life sciences, taxi technology and bike sharing are helping regular people do DIY scientific research and transform the way they get around. 

This week on New Tech City, reporter Jessica Gould visits Genspace, a community biotech lab in Brooklyn where lay people can extract genes from strawberries, sequence DNA and play Bill Nye the Science Guy for a few hours. 

"The benefits of having a garage biology or amateur biology movement grow are that you get people thinking outside the box," said Art Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University.

Meanwhile, New Tech City producer Dan Tucker tests out a new model for bike share with no docks, no kiosks, just bikes. Unlike New York's Citibike program, tech startup Social Bicycles makes a self-locking bike with a bevy of tech-savvy features like GPS location and social media capability. 

"What we've done is put the communications technology onto the bike," said Social Bicycles co-founder Ryan Rzepecki. 

Also on this week's show, this is the first summer when New Yorkers can "e-hail" a taxi with a smartphone app like Uber or Hailo, and so far, it's caught on with only a very small slice of the population.

During June, the first month the apps were allowed, less that one-quarter of one percent of taxi rides originated with an e-hail. When the data came out last week, New Tech City host Manoush Zomorodi tweeted: "Old habits die hard. New Yorkers still prefer to hail cabs by hand."

When Stacy-Marie Ishmael, product manager at the social media startup Percolate, tweeted back "Brown people disagree," New Tech City called her up to hear her story. 

"One of the advantages of these kinds of apps is they remove the uncertainty that you face that a cab driver will pass you by because they're profiling you based on how you look," Ishmael said.

This is an extended podcast of New Tech City. You can listen to the broadcast version every Wednesday morning at 5:50 and 7:50 a.m. on WNYC 93.9 FM, AM 820 and New Jersey Public Radio or subscribe to the program on iTunes.