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Young Geoffrey

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It's official: our world is science fiction [May. 20th, 2010|04:55 pm]
Young Geoffrey
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Apparently a team of American researchers have created life.

That's right. Create life, out of its constituent bits, like building brand new house of building blocks. Or so I understand it.

Nature has an article about it here and to the best of my understanding that's exactly what they're claiming to have done.

"With this approach we now have the ability to start with a DNA sequence and design organisms exactly like we want ... We can get down to the very nucleotide level and make any changes we want to a genome." (Emphases mine.)

This isn't to say that scientists (or your a-social cousin Mary) are going to be churning out designer pets or new diseases next year, but the door first pushed ajar by Watson and Crick sure as hell looks wide open to me.

In honour of this potentially [insert adjective of choice] world, a poll:

Poll #1566999 Scientists have created life out of information

Life-In-A-Lab (tm) means ...

The rapture is nigh!
0(0.0%)
The rapture is night!
0(0.0%)
The singularity is nigh!
0(0.0%)
The singularity is night!
0(0.0%)
Young Geoffrey misunderstands basic genetics
0(0.0%)
Young Geoffrey misunderstands basic genetics and I will explain why in a comment
0(0.0%)
When can I purr like a tiger?
1(25.0%)
I don't have a clue but wish to discuss Saturday's Doctor Who episode in the comments
0(0.0%)
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: davegodfrey
2010-05-21 08:22 am (UTC)

Young Geoffrey doesn't misunderstand it.

There's a bit of overhyping going on. Possibly a bit from Venter, and certainly from the media. The cell was already existing, and the artificial genome was put inside, and then successfully took over. The species of bacteria they used only has 500 genes.

So very hard to do, (creating the genome artificially). But not "creating life in a test-tube".

There's a nice interview with a biologist on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme

Oh, and Amy's Choice was really rather good.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2010-05-22 07:37 am (UTC)

Re: Young Geoffrey doesn't misunderstand it.

I was hoping you, in particular, what correct me if I was wrong. Thank you.

The nurse interview was very helpful, but Nurse's scepticism did kind of remind me of Clarke's(?) line about how when an elderly and respected scientist says something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Granted that I now have a better understanding of the limitations of what Venter accomplished, it still seems like a much more significant bit of work than what nurse is suggesting.

As for "Amy's Choice", I liked it quite a lot, but am still feeling kind of upset by the "suicide". As I said elsewhere, it reminded me of how I simply refused to believe the Doctor would have abandoned Rose and Mickey to the tender mercies of killer clock-work robots for the love of Mme de Pompadour. I admit I don't know Amy well enough for it to be "out of character", but I still don't like it.

But yeah, rather good despite all that. And very well-paced.
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[User Picture]From: bukabe16
2010-05-21 11:29 am (UTC)
Nah, they can't create new life yet.
See, as far as I understood it, they "just" developed a way of building themselves a genome from scratch. They haven't been able to do that beforehand, they always had to rely on DNA extracted from some other cell. This means that they can now try to design DNA segments that don't occur in nature.

So they are manipulating the "blueprint" of the cell, but they still need a cell in which they can put the DNA. They can't design a completely new cell, but only cause a "normal" cell to produce daughter cells with the changed DNA.

Does this explanation make sense to anyone but me?

Do you think we will be seeing more of the Dream Lord in this series?
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2010-05-22 07:42 am (UTC)

I'm glad you used quotation marks on the word, just

Thanks for the explanation, it was very clear. It makes sense to me and I think it parses with the explanation provided by davegodfrey, above as well as with that offered by a Nobel-winner over on the BBC. Though I don't think he would put the word, only, in quotes.

Being able to synthesize DNA in and of itself still sounds like a fairly big deal to me.

Dream Lord? I dunno. It's probably wishful thinking, but I'm still kind of wondering if that wasn't actually The Trickster in disguise.
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[User Picture]From: mijopo
2010-05-21 03:40 pm (UTC)
Well, apparently the Catholic Church is worried about it:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100521/ap_on_re_eu/eu_catholic_church_synthetic_cell
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2010-05-22 07:45 am (UTC)

They would be, wouldn't they?

I quite enjoyed the somewhat nervous-sounding repetition that "only God" can create life, as if repeating that assertion often enough will make it so.
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