Sunday, 23 May 2010

Synthetic Life Breakthrough

Picture Credit: jscreationzs

This weeks story that geneticist Craig Venter has created an organism with man made DNA will no doubt raise some questions. Some of them scientific, some philosophical, some moral and some just down right insane (see the comments section on this scaremongering piece from the Daily Fail). However one thing is for sure this is something that we should all be taking an interest in and dare I say getting that little bit excited about.

Now my scientific knowledge is somewhat limited to the environmental sector, so please forgive me if I don't go into the details fully here, I'd only do it an insult (think Amanda Holden and Dani Minogue being asked to judge other people's talent and you'll get what I mean). Instead I'll direct you to PZ Myers blog which gives a far superior insight into anything that I could muster.

However, one thing I will go on to champion is the potential this has for the environmental sector. One area of potential use that particularly caught my attention in Ian Sample's article in The Guardian was this;

Venter has secured a deal with the oil giant ExxonMobil to create algae that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into fuel — an innovation he believes could be worth more than a trillion dollars.

 I mean how great would that be? That coupled with the teenager in Canada who worked out at way to accelerate the decomposition of plastic bags to a mere three months, it looks as though science is well on the way to playing a huge part in the fight against our own self made destruction. We can only imagine what the similar applications could have meant for the current Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill were they available today, or how the after effects of disasters both natural and man made could be helped through the innovations that will one day come as a result of these finding.

Now I'm not so naive to say that these things won't be without their problems, be they ethical or practical (how does one ensure that any bacteria or the like that may be one day introduced into the atmosphere can be regulated and controlled?) And of course ownership of these new technologies will probably be as hotly contested as that of any weapon. However that is some point in the future and in the meantime leaves the subject open to educated, intelligent and reasonable debate - I'm looking at you Daily Fail commenters (by the way if you have a spare hour, I suggest reading through them, it's hilarious, though don't be surprised if you feel the sudden urge to start kicking things afterward).

For further insight into how Dr Venterstein made it happen check out the following video link:

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