Monday, March 2, 2009

LIFE!!!!!...of a Sort

When scientists began searching for life beyond our planet, they had to come up with a definition for what exactly life is. Simply looking for a creature that can eat, breathe, and procreate wouldn’t do, since those criteria describe Sarah Palin, which obviously isn’t a life form. So, they decided that life is any self-sustaining chemical system capable of evolution. By that definition, synthetic life has already been created. Well, almost. The Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, which you can call FAME only if you accompany the name with jazz hands, has a beaker full of something called Artificially Expanded Genetic Information System, or AEGIS. They claim this is the first synthetic genetic system capable of evolution. The only problem is that it isn’t self-sustaining, but that’s something that the creator, Steve Benner, believes is only a temporary problem. Obviously AEGIS isn’t a direct analog to how life originally began on earth (we were created in beakers by aliens, not scientists), but its development does show how tenacious life probably is around the universe. It’s also a huge step forward in the field of synthetic biology, which promises to use artificially engineered organism for a variety of helpful applications in science, medicine, and industry. Also, this means I’m one step closer to being able to grow my own oversized flying amoeba for personal transportation. More details here.

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