|It’s really just a very simple bacteria.
Scientist have recently created the very first “synthetic” organism. Meaning man-made. It’s a very simple bacteria. I read about this achievement first in The Economist. That’s right I read The Economist. Anyway you can find the article here.
What most struck me about the article was not the fact that we have finally created a brand new organism, that was coming and we all saw it. But, it was this little piece of information in the article,
To make the new bacterium recognisably different Dr Venter and his colleagues deleted 14 genes they thought unnecessary from M. mycoides, and added some DNA designed from scratch in a process Dr Venter refers to as “watermarking”.
This was an opportunity for some fun. The watermark, Dr Venter says, includes a cipher which contains the URL of a website and three quotations, if you can work out how to decode it. The plaintext part of the watermark brands the bug as Dr Venter’s own, encoding its serial number as JCVI-syn1.0. (A plan to refer to the result as Mycoplasma laboratorium and have it recognised as a completely new species seems to have been abandoned for the moment.)
The watermarking is not just a fancy signature. It means that if, despite precautions, the Frankenbug does get out, its entirely harmless presence would be detectible in any given sample by straightforward DNA amplification technology of the sort used in genetic fingerprinting. It might also trap thieves. Dr Venter has offered his invention for patenting—an action that is sure to be controversial—and the watermark will thus stake out what he hopes will become the property of his firm, Synthetic Genomics.
They basically put a secret message into the DNA. Now this struck me because there are many people that beileve that in our DNA is a code from the extraterrestrial life that created us. Or that extraterrestrial life could create a virus that they would spread through out the universe that would contain a message in it’s DNA. Professor of physics at Arizona State University,
One idea I’ve had is that maybe the bottles are living cells, terrestrial organisms and that the message is encoded in DNA. Viruses are continually infecting organisms on Earth and uploading their DNA into the genomes of those organisms, so there is a well understood pathway for getting information into DNA. We’re littered with it. Our own genomes have got huge amounts of this junk that has climbed onboard from viruses over evolutionary history, so if viruses can to it ET can do it and it seems to me that we could in addition to scouring the skies for radio waves with a message encoded we could scour terrestrial genomes, which are being sequenced anyway, to see if there is a message from ET encoded in it.
This idea used to seem crazy. Now it seems entirely likely. Considering that the very first organism we have created we already did it too. The world is getting too crazy.