The origin of all life on Earth is an endlessly interesting question, at least for those who don't claim "because someone spoke and then it happened." Some scientists are moving beyond discussing the question with the incredibly awesome, and obvious, idea of "Let's just build our own and see what was needed!" Researchers are developing their very own proto-life, from scratch, and they've already learned an incredible amount.
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Scientists, including Harvard Medical School's Jack Szostak, expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life" that they have created the first cell of synthetic life — made from the basic chemicals in DNA.
Meanwhile at the J. Craig Venter Institute , a team of scientists has refined its method for building a synthetic genome. In a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers demonstrate that they can assemble dozens of snippets of DNA into a complete Mycoplasma genitalium genome in just one step in yeast.
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There is ongoing debate about what constitutes life.
Synthetic bacteria for example, are created by man and yet also alive.
Some go so far as to say that robot “emotions” may already have
occurred—that current robots have not only displayed emotions, but in
some ways have experienced them.
“We’re all machines,” says Rodney Brooks author of “Flesh and
Machines,” and former director of M.I.T.’s Computer Science and
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, “Robots are made of different
sorts of components than we are — we are made of biomaterials; they are
silicon and steel — but in principle, even human emotions are
mechanistic.” A robot’s level of a feeling like sadness could be set as
a number in computer code, he said. But isn’t a human’s level of
sadness basically a number, too, just a number of the amounts of
various neurochemicals circulating in the brain? Why should a robot’s
numbers be any less authentic than a human’s?
Continue reading "“What is Life?” Evolution of Robots is Causing Scientists to Question" »
Activists and researchers alike are concerned that patents involving the new technology of creating synthetic life could lock up exciting new avenues of bio-research solely for commercial gain. J. Craig Venter, a pioneer of such research, is praised as an innovator and criticized as an arrogant egomaniac. But hey, if you’ve created life, wouldn’t it be tempting to see yourself as a God?
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[Editors note: Well folks, it seems as if we couldn't even get the Venter piece out before the controversy started. Daily Galaxy has learned that ETC Group, a Canadian bioethics organization whose eagle-eyed spotters noticed the publication of patent 20070122826 last week, has asked Dr Venter to withdraw the patent—and, on the assumption that he will not, have asked the patent office to reject it on the grounds that it is contrary to public morality and safety. ETC's main objection is that Venter's patent claims are too widely
drawn and that there are areas where mankind should not meddle. As Pat
Mooney, the group's boss, put it, "For the first time, God has
Continue reading "Craig Venter to Announce 1st Artificially Created Life" »