[Paleopsych] re: bacterial engineering and our future in space

Steve Hovland shovland at mindspring.com
Sat Nov 26 14:52:45 UTC 2005

Some people think our DNA came here from space
encapsulated in bacteria...

  -----Original Message-----
  From: paleopsych-bounces at paleopsych.org [mailto:paleopsych-bounces at paleopsych.org]On Behalf Of HowlBloom at aol.com
  Sent: Friday, November 25, 2005 8:50 PM
  To: isaacsonj at hotmail.com; eshel at tamar.tau.ac.il
  Cc: paleopsych at paleopsych.org; jz at bigbangtango.net; sjlee at howardbloom.net; kblozie at yahoo.com; Jill Andresevic; idigdarwin at yahoo.com; BobKrone at aol.com; ohbeeb at yahoo.com
  Subject: [Paleopsych] re: bacterial engineering and our future in space

  Joel--The article you sent, the one below, is not only amazing.  It dovetails with a piece of poetry I wrote as a treatment for a short film in 2001.  

  As usual, the poem was inspired immensely by my interchanges with Eshel.  Take a look:

  Could swarms of robo-microbes

  Made by humans and biology

  The techno teams 

  That come from dreams

  The wet dreams of technology


  Could cyborg microbes by the trillions

  Launched as space communities

  Explore the dark beyond our skies

  Thrive on starlight, climb and dive 

  through wormholes and through nebulae?

  Could they re-landscape Einstein’s space 

  And tame time with phrenology?  


  Could they ride herd

  on mass stampedes 

  of x-rays and raw energy

  corralling flares spat by black holes 

  at the cores of galaxies?


  Could genes retooled

  In swarms of cells

  Become our new conquistadors?

  Could they explore

  Galactic shores

  And synapse reports

  To our brains?


  From global thinking

  Could we go

  To cosmos-hopping megaminds

  One small step for E. coli

  A giant step for human kind?

  The article:


  Retrieved November 25, 2005, from the World Wide Web  http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/24/national/24film.html?adxnnl=1&emc=eta1&adxnnlx=1132979630-umqKos8HcAa3U8FsuKGPrQ&pagewanted=print  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------  November 24, 2005 Live From the Lab, a Culture Worth a Thousand Words  By ANDREW POLLACK Your portrait in a petri dish? Scientists have created living photographs made of bacteria, genetically engineering the microbes so that a thin sheet of them growing in a dish can capture and display an image. Bacteria are not about to replace conventional photography because it takes at least two hours to produce a single image. But the feat shows the potential of an emerging field called synthetic biology, which involves designing living cellular machines much as electrical engineers might design a circuit. "We're actually applying principles from engineering into designing cells," said Christopher A. Voigt, assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, and a leader of the photography project, which is described in a paper being published today in the journal Nature. One team of synthetic biologists is already trying to engineer bacteria to produce a malaria drug that is now derived from a tree and is in short supply. And J. Craig Venter, who led one team that unraveled the human DNA sequence, has said he now wants to synthesize microbes to produce hydrogen for energy. The technology could also be used to create new pathogens or synthesize known ones. So far, however, most synthetic biology accomplishments have been like the bacterial film - somewhat bizarre demonstrations of things that can easily be done with electronics. Synthetic biologists have, for instance, made the biological equivalent of an oscillator, getting cells to blink on and off. To make the bacterial film, common E. coli bacteria were given genes that cause a black pigment to be produced only when the bacteria are in the dark. The camera, developed at the University of Texas, Austin, is a temperature-controlled box in which bacteria grow, with a hole in the top to let in light. An image on a black-and-white 35-millimeter slide is projected through the hole onto a sheet of the microbes. Dark parts of the slide block the light from hitting the bacteria, turning those parts of the sheet black. The parts exposed to light remain the yellowish color of the growth medium. The result is a permanent, somewhat eerie, black-and-yellowish picture. 

    Scientists involved in the project said they envisioned being able to use light to direct bacteria to manufacture substances on exquisitely small scales. "It kind of gives us the ability to control single biological cells in a population," said Jeffrey J. Tabor, a graduate student in molecular biology at Texas. Scientists, of course, have been adding foreign genes to cells for three decades, and the distinction between synthetic biology and more conventional genetic engineering is not always clear. Proponents of synthetic biology say genetic engineering so far has mainly involved transferring a single gene from one organism into another. The human insulin gene, for instance, is put into bacteria, which then produce the hormone.  Each project, they say, requires a lot of experimentation, in contrast to true engineering, like building a microchip or a house, which uses standardized parts and has a fairly predictable outcome. "We haven't been able to transform it into a discipline where you can simply and predictably engineer biological systems," said Drew Endy, an assistant professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "It means the complexity of things we can make and can afford to make are quite limited." Professor Endy and colleagues at M.I.T. have created a catalog of biological components, which they call BioBricks, which are sequences of DNA that can perform particular functions like turning on a gene. Still, since cells differ from one another and are extremely complex, it is open to question how predictable biological engineering can ever be.  M.I.T. has also begun holding a competition for college students to design "genetically engineered machines." The bacterial camera was an entrant in 2004 and was made in part using BioBricks. Mr. Tabor said the idea for bacterial photography came from Zachary Booth Simpson, a digital artist who has been learning about biology at the university. By chance, the Texas team learned that Professor Voigt in San Francisco and one of his graduate students, Anselm Levskaya, had already developed a bacterial light sensor. So the two groups teamed up. The E. coli bacterium was chosen because it is easy for genetic engineers to work with. But since E. coli live in the human gut, they cannot sense light. Mr. Voigt and Mr. Levskaya put in a gene used by photosynthetic algae to respond to light. The bacteria were also given genes to make them produce an enzyme that would react with a chemical added to the growth medium. When that reaction occurs, a black precipitate is produced. The scientists created sort of a chain reaction inside the bacteria. When the bacteria are in the dark, the enzyme is produced, turning the medium black. When the bacteria are exposed to light, production of the enzyme is shut off. Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company Home Privacy Policy Search Corrections XML Help Contact Us Work for Us Site Map Back to Top 


  Howard Bloom
  Author of The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From The Big Bang to the 21st Century
  Recent Visiting Scholar-Graduate Psychology Department, New York University; Core Faculty Member, The Graduate Institute
  Founder: International Paleopsychology Project; founding board member: Epic of Evolution Society; founding board member, The Darwin Project; founder: The Big Bang Tango Media Lab; member: New York Academy of Sciences, American Association for the Advancement of Science, American Psychological Society, Academy of Political Science, Human Behavior and Evolution Society, International Society for Human Ethology; advisory board member: Institute for Accelerating Change ; executive editor -- New Paradigm book series.
  For information on The International Paleopsychology Project, see: www.paleopsych.org
  for two chapters from 
  The Lucifer Principle: A Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History, see www.howardbloom.net/lucifer
  For information on Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, see www.howardbloom.net
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