—October 18, 2007
THE WORLD QUESTION CENTER
IS YOUR FORMULA? YOUR EQUATION? YOUR ALGORITHM?"
FORMULAE FOR THE 21st CENTURY - NEWS
THIRD CULTURE NEWS
THE NEW YORK TIMES
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
THE BOSTON GLOBE
THE SUNDAY TIMES
THE NEW REPUBLIC
NEW YORK TIMES
IS YOUR FORMULA? YOUR EQUATION?|
FORMULAE FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
Anderson, Scott Atran, Mahzarin R.
Banaji, Simon Baron-Cohen, Samuel
Barondes, Gregory Benford, Susan
Blackmore, Paul Bloom, Stewart Brand,
John Brockman, Rodney A. Brooks,
Sean Carroll, George Church, M.Csikszentmihalyi,
Leda Cosmides, Paul Davies, Richard
Dawkins, David Deutsch, Keith Devlin,
Chris DiBona, Freeman Dyson, George
Dyson, Drew Endy, Brian Eno, Dan
Everett, J. Doyne Farmer, Richard
Foreman, Howard Gardner, David Gelernter,
Steve Giddings, Daniel Gilbert, Marcelo
Gleiser, Alison Gopnik, Joshua Greene,
John Gottman, Jonathan Haidt, Judith
Rich Harris, Marc D. Hauser, Donald
D. Hoffman, Gerald Holton, John Horgan, Nicholas
Humphrey, Marcy Kahan, Danny Kahneman,
Dean Kamen, Kevin Kelly, Rem Koolhaas,
Bart Kosko, Kai Krause, Ray Kurzweil,
Lawrence M. Krauss, Janna Levin,
Seth Lloyd, Benoit Mandelbrot, Geoffrey
Miller, Marvin Minsky, Oliver Morton,
David Myers, PZ Myers, Tor Nørretranders,
Mark Pagel, Irene Pepperberg, Steven
Pinker, Jordan Pollack, Ernst Pöppel,
William Poundstone, Eduardo Punset,
Martin Rees, Lisa Randall, Matt Ridley,
Carlo Rovelli, Rudy Rucker, Doug
Rushkoff, Dimitar D. Sasselov, Gino
Segre, Michael Shermer, Neil Shubin,
George Smoot, Dan Sperber, Maria
Spiropulu, Linda Stone, Leonard Susskind,
Nassim Taleb, Timothy Taylor, John
Tooby, Max Tegmark, Craig Venter,
Alexander Vilenkin, Shing-Tung Yau,
The walls of Obrist's office were covered with single pages of size A4 paper on which artists, writers, scientists had responded to his question: "What Is Your Formula?" Among the pieces were formulas by quantum physicist David Deutsch, artist and musician Brian Eno, architect Rem Koolhaas, and fractal mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot.
Within minutes we had hatched an Edge-Serpentine collaboration for a "World Question Center" project, to debut on Edge during the annual Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon, the weekend of October 13-14. The plan was to further the reach of Obrist's question by asking for responses from the science-minded Edge community, thus complementing the rich array of formulas already assembled by the Serpentine from distinguished artists such as Marina Abramovic, Matthew Barney, Louise Bourgeois, Gilbert & George, and Rosemarie Trockel.
Edge Live in London
Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon
In addition to the online publication of "Formulae for the 21st Century," Edge was invited to program four hours of the twenty-four hour Serpentine Gallery Experiment Marathon. The event, which took place October 14th, was held in The Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2007, commissioned by Serpentine Director Julia Peyton-Jones and designed by Olafur Eliasson and Kjetil Thorson.
The session session featured live presentations of "table-top" experiments from zoologist Seirian Sumner (A Cooperative Foraging Experiment — Lessons From Ants), archeologist Timothy Taylor (The Tradescant's Art Experiment), physiologist Simon Baron-Cohen (Do Women Have Better Empathy Than Men), biologist Amrand Leroi (The Songs of Songs), geneticist Steve Jones (Some Like It Hot), physicist Neil Turok (What Banged? and The Morning Line), biologist Lewis Wolpert (How Our Limbs Are Patterned Like The French Flag), and playwright Marcy Kahan in conversation with psychologist Steven Pinker.
[Click On Images Below]
Reviewing Jim Watson's The Double Helix, Erwin Chargaff dismissed scientific autobiography as "a most awkward literary genre", arguing that most scientists lead monotonous and uneventful lives. This certainly does not apply to Craig Venter, whose autobiography is fittingly well-written, fast-paced and full of interesting data, gossip — and score-settling.
Little introduction is necessary for the man who is possibly the celebrity scientist of the modern era. Venter's name has rarely been out of the headlines for the past 12 years. Most recently, on the publication of his own genome sequence, his portrait occupied one-third of the front page of the New York Times's science section. His fame peaked at the beginning of the millennium at the celebrations for the first release of the human-genome sequence. Inspired by Darwin's Beagle voyage, he then set sail in his yacht Sorcerer II to catalogue the oceans' bacteria and viruses. ...
...I have interacted with Venter over the years since our first meeting in 1990, and have heard many strong opinions of his character. A Life Decoded is a fair representation of the man. It may even be more revealing than he thinks.
But the differing published accounts of the Drosophila and human-genome sequencing projects are reminiscent of the fable about the blind men who described an elephant by touch. Reading the books by John Sulston and Georgina Ferry (The Common Thread: A Story of Science, Politics, Ethics and the Human Genome), James Shreeve (The Genome War: How Craig Venter Tried to Capture the Code of Life and Save the World), Michael Ashburner (Won for All: How the Drosophila Genome Was Sequenced) and now Venter's contribution, it is scarcely credible that the protagonists lived through the same events. Robert Cook-Deegan's The Gene Wars: Science, Politics, and the Human Genome provided an authoritative, inside-the-Beltway account of the early days of the Human Genome Project, but what we need is a record of the whole project by a team of historians with no axe to grind.
Such an endeavour should begin with a comprehensive collection of material, along the lines of Thomas Kuhn's Sources for History of Quantum Physics. Kuhn and his colleagues interviewed the participants in, and found primary documents relating to, the greatest change in our view of the physical world since Isaac Newton. The greatest project in biology so far deserves to be similarly documented. The principals are still with us, as are their e-mails.
called the heroes of The Double Helix "a
new kind of scientist, one that could hardly have been
thought of before science became a mass occupation, subject
to, and forming part of, all the vulgarities of the communications
media". Four decades on, our infinitely more vulgar
media has called Venter many things: maverick, publicity
hound, risk-taker, brash, controversial, genius, manic,
rebellious, visionary, audacious, arrogant, feisty, determined,
provocative. His autobiography shows that they are all
on all fours
The photographer, our Iraqi bodyguards and I watched in amazement. We had been told to expect this, but still we were stunned. Four million years after humans learnt to walk on two feet we were watching men reverting to a primeval gait. We were witnessing a phenomenon so rare that there was, until three years ago, no known case anywhere in the world.
story really started in 2004 with the discovery of a
family with five quadrupedal children living in a remote
village in southern Turkey.
Professor Nicholas Humphrey, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics who has been studying hand-walking among humans, is aware of five families around the world with children who walk on all fours. The first to come to scientific attention was the Ulas family, from southern Turkey, who were the subject of a television documentary last year. Of 16 siblings, five were hand-walkers.
They were depicted as evolutionary throwbacks to a time when our ancestors crawled around on hands and feet. This dramatic theory – that hand-walking was caused by a gene that had somehow reawakened after lying dormant for millions of years – underpinned worldwide media coverage.
By Henry Fountain
Languages evolve just as species do, and just as with organisms, the rate of evolution is hardly uniform. Some words evolve rapidly, with a result that there are many different word forms, what linguists call cognates, for meanings across languages. "Bird," for example, takes many disparate forms across other Indo-European languages: oiseau in French, vogel in German and so on.
But other words, like the word for the number after one, have hardly evolved at all: two, deux (French) and dos (Spanish) are very similar, derived from the same ancestral sound.
you study evolution, you immediately ask why is that
the case?" said Mark
Pagel, a professor at the University of Reading
in England. Now he and colleagues Quentin D. Atkinson
and Andrew Meade have come up with a mechanism to
answer that question. Put simply, the more a word
is used, the less it evolves.
My car pulled up in front of the Oval Room restaurant on Connecticut Avenue, a few blocks from the White House.
of this sort could be devastating if it fell into
the wrong hands'
Joining us was John H Marburger III, science adviser to the President, and Lawrence Kerr, director of Bioterrorism, Research and Development for the Office of Homeland Security, among others.
This high-powered gathering had been arranged only two hours before. The group was keen to discuss a breakthrough in the project that their department was funding, a $3 million initiative to "develop a synthetic chromosome". It was the first step towards making a self-replicating organism with an artificial genetic make-up, or genome.
the J Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland,
my team - principally the Nobel laureate Ham Smith
and Clyde Hutchison - had made a leap forward in
our ability to ''make" DNA.
...Simon Baron-Cohen, a professor at Cambridge University and one of the world's leading experts on autism, had an intriguing hypothesis. Autism is far more common in males than females. Those afflicted with the disorder, including those with normal or high IQ, tend to be socially disconnected and clueless about the emotional states of others. They often exhibit an obsessive fixation on objects and machines.
Sound like anyone you know?
Mr. Baron-Cohen suggests that autism may be the far end of the male norm -- the "extreme male brain," all systematizing and no empathizing. He believes that men are, on average, wired to be better systematizers and women to be better empathizers. He presented a wide range of correlations between the level of fetal testosterone and behaviors in both girls and boys from infancy into grade school to back up his belief.
Harvard cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Spelke, another speaker, noted that Mr. Baron-Cohen's theory is not settled science. She is right, of course.
Yet the current configuration of the workplace fits Mr. Baron-Cohen's theory: Women dominate in empathy-centered fields such as early childhood education, social work and psychology, while men are over-represented in the "systematizing" vocations such as car repair, oil drilling and electrical engineering.
By Heather Wax, Globe Correspondent
..."The strength of Martin's work is that he's gifted in considering very complex processes and then going to the very core of the problem and formulating, in very simple mathematical terms, a framework that can be easily understood," said Christoph Hauert, a research associate on the theology project. "He's been instrumental in proposing models that lead to new interpretations and insights."
Humans, Nowak believes, evolved to cooperate; and he's come up with the mathematical formulas to prove it.
most competitive scenario of natural selection, where
everybody competes with everybody else, can actually
lead to features like generosity and forgiveness," he
said. "That I find great."
By Steve Paulson
I've always been obsessed with the mind-body problem," says philosopher Renee Feuer Himmel. "It's the essential problem of metaphysics, about both the world out there and the world in here."
Renee is the fictional alter ego of novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein. In her 1983 novel, "The Mind-Body Problem," Goldstein laid out her own metaphysical concerns, which include the mystery of consciousness and the struggle between reason and emotion. As a novelist, she's drawn to the quirky lives of scientists and philosophers. She's also fascinated by history's great rationalist thinkers. She's written nonfiction accounts of the 17th-century Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza and the 20th-century mathematician-philosopher Kurt Gödel.
Perhaps it's not surprising that Goldstein would end up living with Steven Pinker, a leading theorist of the mind. He's a cognitive psychologist at Harvard; she's a philosopher who's taught at several colleges. Although they come out of different disciplines, they mine much of the same territory: language, consciousness, and the tension between science and religion. If Boston is ground zero for intellectuals, then Pinker and Goldstein must rank as one of America's brainiest power couples.
...Robotics researcher Hans Moravec originated the argument that we are probably already living in VR: If it is possible to build virtual realities sophisticated enough to give rise to sentient residents, it's likely there would be many such VRs. After all, once we built the first car or the first laptop computer, millions upon millions more followed. (And even if humanity never builds superlative VR machines, some alien civilization somewhere will do it, if it is possible.) If you are a self-aware creature, then, there are two possibilities: You live in natural reality, or you live in one of these super-VRs. Since there is only one of the former and a lot of the latter, the chances are quite strong that you, and indeed all of us, are living in a simulated world...
Moravec first made his case back in the 1980s, the
popular way of thinking was that there is one and only
one natural reality. These days, that answer is becoming
less popular all the time...
Pinker knows what’s going on inside your
By Bryan Appleyard
...Famously good-looking with his blade-like jawline, equally famously rock’n’roll with his long, curly hair and his cowboy boots, Pinker is, along with Richard Dawkins and a handful of others, a global science celebrity. In a series of books – notably The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate – he has provided in pacy prose with autobiographical anecdotes and pop cultural references a layman’s guide to the science involved in being human, conscious and verbally adept. Above all, he has been science’s leading spokesman for the view that we are made by nature as well as nurture, an idea that can still enrage students and left-wing intellectuals.
"Their anger is weakening but it’s
still there," he says.
years after Lawrence Summers made the fateful remarks
about women and science that got him pushed out of
the Harvard University presidency, some still treat
him like a pariah: A recent instance involved female
faculty members at the University of California (UC)
who led a successful petition to have Summers disinvited
as a dinner speaker at the September meeting of the
UC Board of Regents. But the controversy has earned
Summers the sympathy of some of his erstwhile critics.
Exceptional intellect and creativity made Ernst Mayr the last century's greatest evolutionary biologist.
Returning from an expedition to New Guinea in 1965, John Terborgh and I laid out our hundreds of bird specimens in the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology for Ernst Mayr to identify. Ernst had made only one collecting trip to New Guinea 36 years previously, and his last publication on New Guinea birds had appeared in 1954. Nevertheless, as he walked along the shelf and glanced at one specimen after another, he quickly identified each by its Latin species name and then by its subspecies name; he told us which zoologist had described it, in what year and in which journal; gave the alternative names under which other zoologists had discussed it; and explained its broader biological significance (for example, "Check that one for altitudinal hybridization"). He hesitated only at one obscurely mottled specimen: "See if that's a female Rhagologus." We found later that it was indeed a female Rhagologus, a whistler whose relatives are usually banded black and gold.
incident illustrates some of what made Ernst Mayr
the greatest evolutionary biologist of the twentieth
century. He is known especially for having woven
together field studies of natural history, museum
studies of taxonomy, and laboratory studies of population
genetics to solve problems of the origin of species.
He is also known for his syntheses of modern evolutionary
biology and for contributions to understanding biology's
distinctiveness within the history and philosophy
of science. He released the last of his 21 books, What
Makes Biology Unique?, on his hundredth birthday,
after which he published the last seven of his 856
papers. He died five months short of turning 101.
These achievements, plus his distinctive intellect
and personality, make him an interesting subject
for a biographer and historian of science. ...
images suggest one of Saturn's moons may host water.
The Cassini spacecraft took seven years to reach Saturn. But for Carolyn Porco, who leads the Cassini imaging team at the Space Science Institute (SSI) in Boulder, Colorado, the images it sent back were well worth the wait. Most exciting of all was the revelation that one of the planet's moons may have the essential ingredients to support life.
veteran of the 1980s Voyager space mission, Porco was
well aware that the outer Solar System is not the barren
wasteland it was once thought to be. Images from Voyager,
for example, had shown some of Jupiter's and Neptune's
moons to be geologically active. But this knowledge
didn't dampen the thrill of Cassini's discovery that
Enceladus, one of Saturn's 60 moons, spews jets of
vapour containing organic material and tiny, icy particles
from its south pole. This spectacular finding demonstrates
present-day geological activity on a small, cold moon.
Quantitative relationships between how frequently a word is used and how rapidly it changes over time raise intriguing questions about the way individual behaviours determine large-scale linguistic and cultural change.
...Elsewhere in this issue, two papers revisit these issues from a fresh perspective. Both concern language change, and come from laboratories of well-established evolutionary theorists. Both analyse historical linguistic data to show that patterns of change depend strongly on the frequency with which words are used in discourse, as measured from large contemporary databases. Lieberman et al. (page 713) consider the cultural evolution of the English past-tense marker '-ed'. In Old English, this was just one of many different rules used to indicate times gone by. Today, the other once-widespread rules remain only as irregular residues, such as 'fly/flew/flown'. By tracing their disappearance, the authors derive an exact quantitative relationship between the frequency of verb use and the speed of this pruning process: a verb used 100 times more often than another will regularize 10 times more slowly.
al. (page 717) take a broader approach, quantifying
the rate at which related words (such as 'water' in
English and Wasser in German) have been replaced by
other forms (such as the French eau) during the cultural
evolution of 87 Indo-European languages. Using frequency
data from four different language corpora — sets
of texts representing patterns of usage in English,
Spanish, Russian and Greek — and sophisticated
tree-based statistical methods over the whole glossogenetic
tree, Pagel's group derives a relationship holding
over millennia. The relationship explains 50% of the
variation in replacement rates between different words — a
level of statistical power rarely observed in the social
sciences, particularly across a wide range of cultures.
language is based on grammatical rules1, 2, 3, 4. Cultural
evolution allows these rules to change over time5.
Rules compete with each other: as new rules rise to
prominence, old ones die away. To quantify the dynamics
of language evolution, we studied the regularization
of English verbs over the past 1,200 years. Although
an elaborate system of productive conjugations existed
in English's proto-Germanic ancestor, Modern English
uses the dental suffix, '-ed', to signify past tense6.
Here we describe the emergence of this linguistic rule
amidst the evolutionary decay of its exceptions, known
to us as irregular verbs. We have generated a data
set of verbs whose conjugations have been evolving
for more than a millennium, tracking inflectional changes
to 177 Old-English irregular verbs. Of these irregular
verbs, 145 remained irregular in Middle English and
98 are still irregular today. We study how the rate
of regularization depends on the frequency of word
usage. The half-life of an irregular verb scales as
the square root of its usage frequency: a verb that
is 100 times less frequent regularizes 10 times as
fast. Our study provides a quantitative analysis of
the regularization process by which ancestral forms
gradually yield to an emerging linguistic rule..
of word-use predicts rates of lexical evolution
throughout Indo-European history
speakers say "__", Germans "schwanz" and
the French "queue" to describe what English
speakers call a 'tail', but all of these languages
use a related form of 'two' to describe the number
after one. Among more than 100 Indo-European languages
and dialects, the words for some meanings (such as
'tail') evolve rapidly, being expressed across languages
by dozens of unrelated words, while others evolve much
more slowly—such as the number 'two', for which
all Indo-European language speakers use the same related
word-form. No general linguistic mechanism has been
advanced to explain this striking variation in rates
of lexical replacement among meanings. Here we use
four large and divergent language corpora (English,
Spanish, Russian and Greek) and a comparative database
of 200 fundamental vocabulary meanings in 87 Indo-European
languages to show that the frequency with which these
words are used in modern language predicts their rate
of replacement over thousands of years of Indo-European
language evolution. Across all 200 meanings, frequently
used words evolve at slower rates and infrequently
used words evolve more rapidly. This relationship holds
separately and identically across parts of speech for
each of the four language corpora, and accounts for
approximately 50% of the variation in historical rates
of lexical replacement. We propose that the frequency
with which specific words are used in everyday language
exerts a general and law-like influence on their rates
of evolution. Our findings are consistent with social
models of word change that emphasize the role of selection,
and suggest that owing to the ways that humans use
language, some words will evolve slowly and others
rapidly across all languages. ...
...Gadgetoff was the brainchild of two brothers, Daniel and Michael Dubno, and friend Greg Harper. Their goals are unabashedly patriotic: They care deeply about quickening the pulse of American innovation and keeping the U.S. in the race with Asia for engineering prowess. Five years ago, they decided that one way they could spice up the idea flow was to invite some of the smartest tinkers and thinkers they knew for a throw-down of idea...
...Turns out the Dubnos and Harper knew some smart folks--Dan had been CBS News' technology guru for years; Mike was chief technology officer at Goldman Sachs. Together with Harper, who runs a technology consulting firm, they came up with a list of invited contributors, asking each to bring an invention--useless or practical--an idea or at least good conversation...
..Other conference goers, many of whom are Gadgetoff regulars, also shone: including Amazon's Jeff Bezos, TED conference founder Richard Saul Wurman, computer engineer Danny Hillis, polymathic inventor Dean Kamen, sly literary agent John Brockman and Creative Good's Mark Hurst...
Fucking became the subject of congressional debate in 2003, after NBC broadcast the Golden Globe Awards. Bono, lead singer of the mega-band U2, was accepting a prize on behalf of the group and in his euphoria exclaimed, "This is really, really, fucking brilliant" on the air. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is charged with monitoring the nation's airwaves for indecency, decided somewhat surprisingly not to sanction the network for failing to bleep out the word. Explaining its decision, the FCC noted that its guidelines define "indecency" as "material that describes or depicts sexual or excretory organs or activities" and Bono had used fucking as "an adjective or expletive to emphasize an exclamation."
Cultural conservatives were outraged. California Representative Doug Ose tried to close the loophole in the FCC's regulations with the filthiest piece of legislation ever considered by Congress. Had it passed, the Clean Airwaves Act would have forbade from broadcast
the words "shit", "piss", "fuck", "cunt", "asshole", and the phrases "cock sucker", "mother fucker", and "ass hole", compound use (including hyphenated compounds) of such words and phrases with each other or with other words or phrases, and other grammatical forms of such words and phrases (including verb, adjective, gerund, participle, and infinitive forms)...
As you read this, Ayaan Hirsi Ali sits in a safe house with armed men guarding her door. She is one of the most poised, intelligent and compassionate advocates of freedom of speech and conscience alive today, and for this she is despised in Muslim communities throughout the world.
The details of her story have been widely reported, but bear repeating, as they illustrate how poorly equipped we are to deal with the threat of Muslim extremism in the West..
...This all sounds immensely precious, I know, except for the fact that Boing Boing is, by some definitions, one of the leading media sites for young technologically aware folks. And that’s a lot of folks. Since going online in 2000 — it began as a paper ’zine conceived by Mr. Frauenfelder in 1989 — Boing Boing has become one of the five most visited blogs on the Web, according to Comscore, with a monthly traffic of about 7.5 million page views a month. According to Google, more than 600,000 sites link to the site, making it a maypole for technologists around the world.
Co-edited by Cory Doctorow, Xeni Jardin, David Pescovitz and Mr. Frauenfelder, the self-described "directory of wonderful things" is the kind of place where a link to pictures of a two-headed turtle can come right behind a serious learned screed about the folly of digital rights management.
As the site bloomed, various networks approached the editors about a reality television show, which caught no one’s fancy. But as the amount of video on the Web and Boing Boing has grown, discussion began among the editors about what a branded television program might look like. They came up with a five-day a week program, three to five minutes in length, that is being produced in partnership with DECA, a Santa Monica digital entertainment company. The broadcast platform, naturally, is the Web.
Xeni Jardin is the face of Boing Boing TV. With a shock of white, almost architectural, hair, she looks like a siren from some lost episode of"The Jetsons." Ms. Jardin, who also contributes to Wired and other publications, as well as National Public Radio, serves as a muse and screen-saver for fanboys everywhere.
Ms. Jardin had been in negotiations with Fox Business Network about a contributing role, but she said that it became clear that they were not interested in sharing her with Boing Boing.
Craig Venter announced that he was going to unravel
the human genome, it sparked one of the most bitterly
contested races in the history of science. Here,
in an extract from his new memoir, he describes
the acrimonious sprint to the finish
...My working assumption was that my data would be essentially the only real data from the human genome for several years to come: the government-led competition was advancing at a crawl. But by September 1999, the pressure was on us. The public programme had announced that it had already sequenced about a quarter of the genome. In another change of direction, my rivals announced they would produce just a crude version of the genome and finish this "first draft" by the following spring, no doubt accompanied by a media event. The key differences in what we were doing at Celera and the altered publicly funded approach came down to standards and strategies: the whole-genome shotgun technique versus the clone-by-clone traditional approach [see Venter versus the establishment below]. I knew that we had the winning strategy with the shotgun technique, and that even with the same or even greater sequencing capacity, the government-funded labs could not compete unless they abandoned their standards and changed their plan to match ours.
In place of their original plan of publishing high-quality data over the course of a decade, my self-proclaimed rivals - the five surviving genome centres, which had nicknamed themselves the G5 - were now making an effort to dump as much raw sequence into the public databases as quickly as possible. They had convinced themselves that, by doing so, they were blocking me from both patenting the genome and getting credit for finishing first. I was baffled by the silliness and immaturity of their thinking. While my many critics were obsessed with the release of the Celera data, the public-funded labs were heedlessly dumping sequences into the public databases that the pharmaceutical companies were gleefully downloading nightly so they could file patents on them. This naive policy by all those opposed to patenting of the human genome therefore had precisely the opposite effect: gene patents were filed sooner and faster, and almost all were based on the government data, not Celera's. ...
am creating artificial life, declares US gene pioneer
Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.
The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.
Mr Venter told the Guardian he thought this landmark would be "a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it. That gives us the hypothetical ability to do things never contemplated before".
Guardian can reveal that a team of 20 top scientists
assembled by Mr Venter, led by the Nobel laureate Hamilton
Smith, has already constructed a synthetic chromosome,
a feat of virtuoso bio-engineering never previously
achieved. Using lab-made chemicals, they have painstakingly
stitched together a chromosome that is 381 genes long
and contains 580,000 base pairs of genetic code. ...
Any day now Craig Venter – geneticist, yachtsman and Vietnam veteran – will announce that he has achieved one of the greatest feats in science: the creation of artificial life. He talks to Ed Pilkington
For a room in which one of the most astonishing experiments in modern science is being conducted, the laboratory in the J Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, is understated. It is divided into wooden workstations reminiscent of a school science lab. There are stacks of glass test tubes and pipettes, and one wall is lined with air-controlled boxes containing Petri dishes. Petri dishes! The mere sight of them sparks memories of interminable, soporific biology lessons.
But there is nothing soporific about what is going on inside these Petri dishes. If all goes according to plan — and the full expectation is that it will — their surface will bloom imminently with an array of small white spots that will herald a giant leap in scientific and human potential. Each spot will contain up to 10m bacterial cells, and in each cell there will be a chromosome that has been painstakingly stitched together by humans from lab-made chemicals.
short, those schoolboy Petri dishes will contain the
first artificial life form ever created. ...
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