Friday, May 21, 2010

Life, 2.0

If you're tuned into the world of geeky science, you probably already know about this because let's face it, anything older than a day on the internet is Old News, but yesterday Craig Venter announced that his institute had created the first synthetic cell. You can read about the announcement and future plans here and here.

You can also listen to him talk about the fifteen-year path leading up to the announcement, and what they've done to prove it's synthetic DNA, by clicking play on the video below.

Venter and his team have already put forward ideas for using this achievement to create hydrocarbons, clean water, manufacture vaccines and the like, and have said this will give us a better understanding of "life". If that isn't science fictional enough for you, here are some other ideas:

  • synthetic epidemics (zombie plagues, etc.)
  • ways to combat epidemics (Can't get a vaccine or antibiotic fast enough? Infect the population with a bacteriophage!)
  • seeding moons and planets to initiate terraforming (bacteria could turn CO2 or CO4 into O2, or start aerating and fertilizing the soil, hundreds of years before human touchdown)
  • escaped synthetic eukaryotes disrupting an ecosystem
  • space-adapted food 
  • synthetic higher organisms (in a few hundred years, though)
  • quicker recycling
  • quicker decomposition of garbage
  • grey goo scenarios
  • better understanding of "life" leads to discovery of alien lifeforms (finally)
  • Maker culture goes wild, a.k.a. build a new lifeform in your living room (see bullet #1)
  • synthetic life that acts like coral and builds houses organically
  • synthetic life that does your mining for you by eating through rock
Further suggestions in the comments are welcome. 

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