Friday, December 28, 2012

We can assume that Craig Venter missed Jurassic Park

Craig Venter is an interesting guy.  He's one of the first people to sequence the human genome.  If that isn't interesting (and, as an aside, incredibly cool), you might need to reevaluate your definition of the word.  Mapping is only part of the deal, however; as if that isn't good enough, Venter moved from cartography to construction.  He started Synthetic Genomics which has a pretty great concept.  The company is "creating genomic-driven commercial solutions" which is pretty great, if you think about it.  New methods to establish energy, but take us away from our dependence on foreign oil, and even fabricate vaccines that can be spread with more ease.  I might need to start mentioning the guy in the Olympus Union series for all he's doing.  Venter even has a plan to email vaccines around the world using biological printers.  This is absolutely the stuff of science fiction... except that, it's turned into reality by a man with an incredibly interesting past.  How'd he map the genome, by the way?  He used his own DNA. Oh, and started creating new life (a "synthetic cell") by using homemade genes.  Read that again and let it sink in a bit.  Pretty amazing, right?

So, what could I possibly have issue with?  This guy is nothing short of incredible!  He could be responsible for curing blindness, growing new organs for cancer victims (or soldiers, or anyone else), and extending human life past the century mark.  What in the world might my subject be talking about?  Could I have an issue with printable life forms?  Well, it's not really that.

Venter wants to rebuild Martian DNA here on Earth.  Now, listen, I'm fine with him sending machines to Mars.  The man wants to get into the practice of sending things to Mars, I'm on board.  More private industry heading into space, and heading out to actually do something of value, can only help the efforts for man's jump to the next level.  We can improve from competition, learn from mistakes, and create new jobs.  This is something I've been talking about continuously.  That part I'm on board with, but the fact that he wants to take that DNA, and then try to rebuild Martians here on Earth... I'm sorry, but that's where I draw the line.

Did you see the movie Jurassic Park?  I sure did.  Now, apparently, scientists said it isn't possible to bring that to reality.  Their supposition is based on the fact that the samples wouldn't survive to the point that DNA would be usable.  Fair enough.  Venter isn't using existing DNA; he's creating brand new material from scratch.  Not expired milk, but freshly squeezed.  This, my friends, is a problem.  You ever seen a Martian?  Me neither.  Any idea what a creature that lived on Mars would act like?  Again, me neither.  Any clue on how our body chemistry would react to them?  Anything excreted that might be a problem for humans?  How the breeding would work?  Assurances that it wouldn't kill off necessary plants or animals to introduce something of that nature? Nah, I have no idea.  You know who else doesn't?  Mr. Venter.  Listen, I'm all about science for science's sake, but I'm not so certain about this idea.  Maybe I've seen too many movies... or maybe I just have witnessed the reality of our lives.  Let's just say that I'm in no hurry to see this particular project succeed.

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