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Mars Earth Science

Craig Venter Wants To Rebuild Martian Life In Earth Lab 142

Posted by timothy
from the stacking-up-the-if-thens dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Karen Kaplan reports in the LA Times that Craig Venter is making plans to send a DNA sequencer to Mars. Assuming there is DNA to be found on the Red Planet – a big assumption, to be sure – the sequencer will decode its DNA, beam it back to Earth, put those genetic instructions into a cell and then boot up a Martian life form in a biosecure lab. Venter's 'biological teleporter' (as he dubbed it) would dig under the surface for samples to sequence. If they find anything, 'it would take only 4.3 minutes to get the Martians back to Earth,' says Venter, founder of Celera Genomics and the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR). 'Now we can rebuild the Martians in a P4 spacesuit lab.' It may sound far-fetched, but the notion of equipping a future Mars rover to sequence the DNA isn't so crazy, and Venter isn't the only one looking for Martian DNA. MIT research scientist Christopher Carr is part of a group that's 'building a a miniature RNA/DNA sequencer to search for life beyond Earth,' according to the MIT website 'The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Genomes.' SETG will test the hypothesis that life on Mars, if it exists, shares a common ancestor with life on Earth. Carr told Tech Review that one of the biggest challenges is shrinking Ion Torrent's 30-kilogram machine down to a mere 3 kg – light enough to fit on a Mars rover."
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Craig Venter Wants To Rebuild Martian Life In Earth Lab

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  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:37AM (#41714639)
    Hasn't the guy read A forAndromeda?

    We know what dangers this sort of thing can lead to

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It is completely ridiculous to think that life on Mars would use "DNA" and even "cells." Both are just coincidences of life on earth. There are an infinity of different ways to encode genetic information and assemble living organisms. Did these people also write the scene in Independence Day where Jeff Goldblum takes over the alien computer with his Mac?

    • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:44AM (#41714683) Journal
      That's the big question - is it a coincidence? It's entirely possible that, just as the CNO cycle is a common method of fusion in stars, that DNA, RNA or close analogues (eg Si or As based) are common ways of producing self-replicating molecules. We've only got a single data point, any speculation on the molecular basis of ET life is just that, pure speculation, until we have a second point.
      • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @11:25AM (#41714961) Homepage Journal

        We're not that blind. We can study the chemical fitness of different atoms by looking at the amount of energy it takes them to undergo various chemical reactions versus other counterparts. Silicon, despite science fiction's love for it, is an extremely inflexible atom: it can't form bonds with any of the major non-metals we use (oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, and phosphorus), and it can't form bonds with a number of the coordinating metal ions we use, either. You may say "oh, well, it can just use other stuff and have a big ol' alternative party," but there aren't many alternatives. Carbon is useful not only because it forms many bonds, but because it can form them with these atoms in particular, which are biochemically equivalent to tools. No tools, no catalyst, no enzyme, no metabolism, no life.

        If I were a god-fearing scientist, I would tell you that we live in an experiment designed to see how frequently RNA, DNA, and polypeptide-based life evolves. (And I'm starting to worry I may eventually become one, simply because of how perfectly our biochemistry falls out of the periodic table. If there is an alternative way of doing things, it's not something obvious like swapping out one chemical.)

        • Silicon, despite science fiction's love for it, is an extremely inflexible atom: it can't form bonds with any of the major non-metals we use (oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur, and phosphorus)...

          Are you [wikipedia.org] sure [wikipedia.org] about [wikipedia.org] that [wikipedia.org]?

          • by Sique (173459)

            Those aren't molecules, but ionic crystals. Not what we are looking for if we want to create livings.

        • by StripedCow (776465) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @02:39PM (#41716253)

          If I were a god-fearing scientist, I would tell you that we live in an experiment designed to see how frequently RNA, DNA, and polypeptide-based life evolves.

          Nah, the experiment is about creating silicon life. The hydrogens, carbons, nitrogens, oxygens and phosphors are merely catalysts.

        • by Velex (120469) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @05:33PM (#41717445) Journal

          You'll also note that if things didn't work out so perfectly, you wouldn't be here to invent god.

          How did god evolve? Where did god come from? Why does god exist? Watches don't self-assemble or evolve from grandfather clocks; a watch implies a watchmaker. A being with the power to precisely calculate an asymmetrical space-time manifold where physical laws can come into being that allow something like stars and galaxies to even work must be much more complex than a watch. Who is god's watchmaker?

          But as we know it was probably four elephants on the back of a turtle, and then it's a sequence of turtles, each more elaborate than the last to be the watchmaker for the next turtle.

          Religion is fun and all until somebody gets hurt. I don't know where things are going with the religious right, but just keep in mind that if religion tells you that the only way to avoid hell and go to heaven is to kill somebody like me, that person might just be carrying concealed.

          Probably best to stick to the real world. Fewer people get killed and fewer families get torn apart when there aren't sky wizards involved.

          • I don't think you and I are talking about the same kind of deity. The origin of the big bang is beyond our ability to know anyway (at least, it was the last time I checked); all the hypothesis says is "gee, these conditions sure are lucky; what if they're part of deliberate permutations"? There's no need to get into recursive "where did it come from?" problems just because one has proposed a watchmaker; if anything, the question stands anyway. It's just a silly conjecture; nothing more, and quite honestly d

            • by Mashdar (876825)

              Not to mention that I'm pretty sure I have a proof for the existance of watchmakers. So GP's logic is begging the question....

            • by kesuki (321456)

              the big bang theory is as bad as any religion. we cannot and never could detect see or monitor the compression of water. without water compression the big bang theory is impossible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redshift [wikipedia.org] redshift however can be measured and explained. radio telescopes can do some pretty cool stuff too. the hubble found so many galaxies that the big bang is further tested...

              my point? don't mix politics with religion or religion with science or science with politics. why? because religion is u

              • by Anonymous Coward

                I can't fathom what the point of your post is. First, you claim that Big Bang theory is as bad as any religion, by which I presume it's all based on faith. Then you make some statement about water compression - in what way is that related to the Big Bang?? Moreover, if you believe that water is completely incompressible, you are very much mistaken. Sure, in our undergraduate Thermodynamics classes we presume that liquids are incompresible as it greatly simplifies the analyses; however, water is most def

              • For your edification, the human body contains (very roughly) 10,000,000,000,000 human cells and ten times that in bacterial cells and other symbiotes. Sixty-five billion is a drop in the bucket unless you've killed off your microbiome with antibiotics.
            • by Velex (120469)

              I don't think you and I are talking about the same kind of deity.

              We are.

              What other predictions does your religion make? Does it predict that evolution would never produce homosexuality? Maybe we're talking about some pagan goddess. In that case, is it the goddess that says all homosexuality is evil because the universe was made in a cosmic orgasm, or is it the goddess that says that male homosexuality (whatever a male is) is evil and female homosexuality is perfection (whatever a female is) because the cosmic orgasm was actually cosmic rape?

              In either case, it's i

              • I am saying "Hey, ha, it looks like the universe's parameters have a high probability of self-replicating molecules! Wouldn't it be funny if the universe's parameters were deliberately tuned that way? Or if someone was randomly selecting parameters just to see what would happen?"

                That is all I am saying. Everything—everything—you are trotting out as an example of religion is a byproduct of misguided social planners and self-interested scoundrels. Your view of the world is profoundly coloured by y

                • by Velex (120469)

                  I didn't claim speculation led to religion. I claimed that religion leads to violence. There's a difference.

                  Religion and science are speculation both, but the difference is that religion accepts things that merely make us feel better about ourselves. In science, speculation that's wrong gets rejected.

                  In religion, it's perfectly ok to kill, maim, or harm somebody who is or says something that makes one feel uncomfortable. In science, it's a bit different. The recommended approach in science is to c

                  • I would have trouble believing you can't name a religion that doesn't have a history of violence.

                    An organized religion (not religion as a whole, but just any given religion) is nothing more than a set of tools for social control based on irrational beliefs. Whether that gets used for good or evil is the decision of whomever holds the reins. It is not a guarantee that religion will inevitably be used to exclude or harm.

      • That's the big question - is it a coincidence? It's entirely possible that, just as the CNO cycle is a common method of fusion in stars, that DNA, RNA or close analogues.

        I think that amino acid chains aren't the only way to form life, but amino acids do form and form chains when you take an environment that is like Earth's early history, and blast it with electricity (and cosmic rays).

        However, If we find viable DNA on Mars it makes it much more likely that we share a common ancestor.

        My concern with bringing DNA here from a now "lifeless" world is that we may find out what made that world lifeless, first hand...

        • I've never heard of a nucleic acid based life-form that reduces the total amount of life. OK, so it's possible that a big viral outbreak will kill all 7-billion-odd humans, but that results in several billion-billion-billion new viruses, so that's even more life (if you accept virii are "life"). What we could theoretically find is adaptations to protect against high levels of UV or similar, which would give us an idea of why life is non-existant or very rare on Mars, but I doubt we'd end up with an Earth
    • by the gnat (153162)

      There are an infinity of different ways to encode genetic information and assemble living organisms.

      False - there are a finite number of stable elements, and a finite number of possible covalent chemistries. Moreover, while it is in theory possible for other types of biochemistry to exist, it is most probable that life on Mars would follow similar rules to life on Earth, i.e. CNOH-based chemistry. (Additionally, as another commenter pointed out, we have no evidence for other mechanisms.) What Venter hasn

    • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @11:15AM (#41714893) Homepage Journal

      It's not as flexible as you might think. We have reason to believe that ribose and the nucleotides are inherently more common in the universe, and the chemical behaviour of DNA and RNA both are extremely convenient and flexible by comparison with the alternatives we've synthesized. These are artefacts of quantum physics, universal constants, and how stars die. If the universe is an experiment designed to see what conditions cause life to arise, current astrophysics would posit that we are about as standard as it gets.

      The same goes for enclosing the self-replicating material in a membrane made out of lipids: some propose that the presence of lipids was required for life to start in the first place. Without some kind of solvent-filled (i.e. water-filled or ammonia-filled) cell, the only way to protect sensitive inner workings from the outside is by having a thick layer of solid material with no flexibility, which is extremely bad for evolution.

      Moreover, a lot of the theories about life on Mars depend on it either (a) being cognate with life on Earth (perhaps even the cradle), or (b) having a comparable biosphere to Earth's billions of years ago. And that's without considering panspermia. Given that it's from roughly the same mix of nebula as Earth, we've already got a lot in common.

      That all being said, however, Venter is once again vastly overambitious. 'Booting up' synthetic chromosomes only works in sufficiently similar chassis, and for very simple organisms (true Martian life would be radically different in terms of cell configuration and structure); an environmental sample of Ion Torrent reads is most likely not sufficient to clearly resolve specific genomes; any life on Mars is not likely to be near the surface within a rover's reach; any life near the rover's reach is probably a Terran contaminant. If anything comes out of this, it will be a new upper bound on "how many people can roll their eyes at Craig Venter."

      • by mikael (484)

        There are some life-forms which can only live in the high pressure environments of ocean sea-beds. Attempts to raise them to the surface (even with identical salinity, temperature, chemical mix) have just led to their death - they simply disintegrate. The high pressure that would crush a human, hold various chemical bonds together.

        • That's a fair cop, but keep in mind that "life can survive here" is not the same as "life can start here." I believe it's broadly agreed that the surface of the Earth as it is today would be completely inappropriate for abiogenesis, even though we run around on it routinely.
      • That all being said, however, Venter is once again vastly overambitious. 'Booting up' synthetic chromosomes only works in sufficiently similar chassis...

        If you dig into this story just a little bit (look at the short piece from the Los Angeles Times linked in the summary, and follow its link to Technology Review's article [technologyreview.com]), you will find what you should have suspected in the first place - this stuff about recreating Martian life on Earth is just the most sensationalistic footnote in a story that is really about detecting DNA on Mars.

        The purpose of the sequencer is to find out if there is any DNA on Mars, the only way to do that in a convincing, scientifical

        • Unfortunately, of course, as someone else noted, DNA on Earth really doesn't fare well in the face of exposure. We only have extremely old pieces because of exceptionally calm environments (trapped in amber, frozen deep in permafrost) that either don't really exist on Mars or would require a lot more digging than your average probe can handle. Not that it wouldn't be totally awesome...
          • Two points.

            First, there are actually caves on Mars [wikipedia.org], some of which look like subsidence craters (caused by subsurface erosion). A life seeking probe (or a sample gathering minion) would likely be dispatched into one of these natural tunnels where the environment is perpetually sheltered from the sun and wind erosion. Drilling into the wall of the subsurface tunnel seems feasible and is getting rather deep into the Martian soil.

            I am pretty sure that the most sensitive test in existence for the presence of lif

            • Personally, I'd put my money on detecting RNA. Harder to catch, obviously, but also more general. (And in tongue-in-cheek mode, why not send a protein sequencer to search for novel RNases? It's hard to fathom anything more likely to survive.)
      • by Whiteox (919863)

        Recently I read that DNA has a half-life of only a few thousand years. Seems a bit pointless sending up a sequaencer if that's true.

        • I tend to agree; at best they'd find free nucleotides, which would be useless to an Ion Torrent machine. They'll probably end up sequencing some contaminant like E. coli and we'll all have a good laugh about it.
        • That can't be quite right, because some spores on Earth are viable after hundreds of thousands of years. What makes a difference is that they have self repairing DNA, some claimed to still be viable even after millions of years. If there is life on Mars now, it might remain dormant most of the time in spores of some form or other, and waken when conditions are better even just every few hundred thousand years - or could germinate when good conditions are encountered on present day Mars. Both are reasons to
    • I think some sort of cell would be common to most life. It's difficult to imagine how advanced life could evolve without some sort of semi-permeable membrane.

    • by AC-x (735297)

      The same organic molecules that Earth life uses have shown to form under a number of conditions [wikipedia.org] and membrane forming lipids [science20.com] are also common so while there's very little chance it would be identical it's likely that extraterrestrial life would still have many things in common biochemically, but yeah you'd need more than just an earth life-tuned DNA sequencer to be able to read and recreate it.

      Unless the theory that Earth and Mars seeded each other with life via meteorite ejecta is true, in which case Earth l

    • by mikael (484)

      A "cell" simply consists of a number of "membranes" (outside world/cell, inside cell/nucleus), some scaffolding to keep everything in place, receptor units to send/receive messages from other cells (the biological equivalent of UNIX "sockets"). Then you have the "nucleus" which is like the kernel, and there are the mitochondria areas which convert nutrients into energy as well as pores to dump waste and take in nutrients. We already know that the cell nucleus will actually "cache" genes that are in use. Th

    • It is completely ridiculous to think that life on Mars would use "DNA" and even "cells." Both are just coincidences of life on earth. There are an infinity of different ways to encode genetic information and assemble living organisms.

      Illustrate your point with at least two other examples.

    • It is completely ridiculous to think that life on Mars would use "DNA" and even "cells."

      I would say it's completely ridiculous to close your mind to such possibilities. There was a time when people thought it was ridiculous to think the Earth revolved around the sun. You would have been one of those numbskulls, had you been born a while earlier... Stop presuming to know everything.
    • by dudpixel (1429789)

      unless we share a common ancestor, which is what they're trying to find evidence for...

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      It is completely ridiculous to think that life on Mars would use "DNA" and even "cells." Both are just coincidences of life on earth. There are an infinity of different ways to encode genetic information and assemble living organisms. Did these people also write the scene in Independence Day where Jeff Goldblum takes over the alien computer with his Mac?

      Mac viruses are dangerous.

    • insightful and funny, no i think he works at SETI trying to find alien patterns with human algorythms. I'm a huge fan of that project tho don't get me wrong
  • DNA Half-life (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:40AM (#41714659)

    Except the half-life of DNA is only 521 years. I don't know, but I would be highly skeptical of there having been life on the planet within that time period.

    • It's conceivable that with a large enough sample size you could find common protein encoding sections which would allow you to, for example, discover whether photosynthesis was in operation and which chemicals were involved, giving a rough idea of the types of plant life, if not Jurassic Park style examples of individual species.
    • You didn't even read the Nature abstract on the DNA degradation story [nature.com]. Not everywhere on Earth is like a New Zealand swamp. The researchers estimated that a bone at an ideal preservation temperature of 5 C would be readable out to 1.5 million years. And this is in the "almost ubiquitous" presence of ground water. On a very dry planet which has dry ice glaciers (average Martian surface temp -63 C) DNA and an oxygen-free atmosphere DNA should be preservable for very long times. And if there is still biologic

  • by Dzimas (547818) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:44AM (#41714685)
    Morten et al recently examined DNA in 158 bone fossils and determined the half-life of DNA to be 521 years in their sample. Even if Martian DNA functioned in the same manner, the idea that environmental conditions on Mars were suitable to sustain life as late as the year 1491 is ludicrous. http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/10/05/rspb.2012.1745.abstract?sid=abb89d94-00f1-431b-8863-c62996e35478 [royalsocie...ishing.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      But that's under Earth conditions, with the limited atmosphere on Mars perhaps the time would be much longer. Just a guess, but I don't think there's anything in DNA that is actually radioactive in a traditional half-life sense, so I'm assuming that is due to environmental conditions.

      • Less atmosphere would mean more radiation, so if anything, the DNA would degrade faster.

        • Depends where you mean. There's tons of simple life deep below the surface of the Earth, so why not below Mars where it'd be protected from raduation?
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      I don't believe it does. They only determined that the half-life of a particular animal in a particular location has been 521 years. The study specifically point out that it was for a specific location. It also specifically points out that environmental factors play a role in how long DNA lasts.

      It looks like the study point to the idea that DNA degrades exponentially, but it does not pin that degradation to a specific rate.
      • Sure, but even if you assume a half life of 10,000 years, there's not going to be much left after a few billion years. And Mars looks like a nasty place for DNA to survive, so it's more likely that 521 years is overly optimistic.
        • by Belial6 (794905)
          I don't know why you say that. If it is water that makes DNA degrade, Mars seems like a better place than Earth.
    • by poity (465672)

      This is going to be a layman's attempt at grasping "half-life" as applied to large molecule strands, but if we assume that no two strands decay in the same way, would it not be possible to increase the sample size so that what's missing from one could be found in another?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You can but like optimistic estimate, 10000 year half life and 100 000 000 years time, you would have 10000 half lives which would leave you with (1/2)^10000 of the original material which is zero to I think even floating point precision (5x10^-3011 according to wolfram). So you'd need to start with 10^3000 molecules of DNA to find even one remaining now.

        • by mikael (484)

          Perhaps there are oil fields in Mars. What used to be trees and dinosaur snacks on Earth is now large pools of hydrocarbons or Kerogen [wikipedia.org].

          The only way you could tell something was DNA, would be through the ratios of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and oxygen:

          Kerogen from the Green River Formation oil shale deposit of western North America contains elements in the proportions carbon 215 : hydrogen 330 : oxygen 12 : nitrogen 5 : sulfur 1.[2]

    • by mbone (558574)

      Why? What happened in 1492? (Assuming Columbus didn't secretly go to Mars.)

      You are assuming that there is no current life on Mars. If there ever was life on Mars, it is highly likely to be extant now. The deep biosphere on Earth shows this.

      Now, will you be able to find it on the surface landing in some random spot ? That is another matter; I suspect that just having a 3 kg sequencer may not be enough. A rover with an oil derrick attached is going to weigh a bit more...

    • I guess you don't really understand the concept of a half life [wikimedia.org], do you? But I agree that there wouldn't be any DNA to be found on Mars, since it is pretty much sterile for over a billion years already.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:45AM (#41714691) Homepage Journal

    What could possibly go wrong?

    P.S. UUULLLAAAAAA

  • As long as we're making movie pitches, they may as well have titles.
    • What if advanced extraterrestrials have already done this to us, and there's a "Jurrasic Earth" somewhere with cloned humans running around for them to study? *gasp* What if Earth is their "P4 spacesuit lab" equivalent, and we began as laboratory clones of an organism from another system?

  • I don't think any traces of amber have been found on Mars. And we all know you can't get preserved DNA unless you can find some amber.
  • by hmbcarol (937668) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:55AM (#41714761)
    Having the exact stream of bytes of an ARM program will do you no good if you place it in an x86 CPU and expect it to run. Or even one variant of an ARM to another with different I/O, timers, etc. Simply transferring entire genomes between far distant organisms on Earth won't work. When the organisms are distant enough from each other there is variance in the code itself (stop codons, etc) and the machinery the specific code will be manipulating must be there to be controlled. Ribosomes vary, organelles certainly vary. In fact it's rather presumptive of us to assume the genetic mechanism must be DNA or RNA when there are probably all sorts of other mechanisms that would work suitably. Even presuming life had a common origin and there was some event that seeded Mars with Earth bacteria (or the other way around) a few billion years ago, doesn't mean there is the slightest chance it's in any way compatible with anything that could be found on Earth today. Very different environments will select for very implementations over those billions of years.
    • by tbonefrog (739501)

      Mars life has about as much chance of surviving in an earth bacterium in an earth lab as we have surviving in the Martian environment. Either that or it will go all andromeda strain, so make sure to have some alcoholics around to trigger the self destruct switch before it escapes.

  • dumb (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slashmydots (2189826) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @10:56AM (#41714769)
    Yeah, with little if any magnetic field and barely any atmosphere so tons of radiation reaching the surface, and an unlikely chance that alien life has DNA as we know it, that sounds like a great idea.
  • Bring back sample at any cost. Quarantine LT. Ripley Crew Expendable
  • ... Natasha Henstridge.

  • Didn't I just read on this very site (or possibly Gizmodo; they all run together) that Jurassic Park was impossible because DNA degrades too fast? So how is this going to work? Because I'm pretty sure DNA (if that was how Martian life worked) would be subject to conditions that were even more harsh.

  • by Ranger (1783) on Saturday October 20, 2012 @11:36AM (#41715069) Homepage
    We've been exploring Mars for 40+ years now and so far we've not found evidence of life. We are much closer answering the question if it did or does, and I won't be surprised if we find microfossils and even life, but the parameters are very narrow. Now if we send a DNA sequencer to a icy moon of Jupiter or Saturn that has an ocean under it's ice, the odds of finding life go up dramatically. Europa would have been my first choice but we have to get through that thick crust. Enceladus would be even better. It's spewing liquid water into space. So we know where the crust is thinnest. And it does have the ingredients for life. [discovermagazine.com]
  • Biological material has been interchanged back and forth between the Earth and Mars [arxiv.org] for billions of years. Based on that, I would bet that there is Martian life, and that it and terrestrial life evolved together.

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      Biological material has been interchanged back and forth between the Earth and Mars [arxiv.org] for billions of years. Based on that, I would bet that there is Martian life, and that it and terrestrial life evolved together.

      That is incredibly unlikely. Biological material != life, and by all accounts actually making that transition requires very specific environmental conditions which it isn't clear were ever present on Mars (though we can't know that for sure, as we don't even know what the original conditions were, it's almost certain Earth-like life could never live there: oxygen content is too low, radiation is too high, planet is too cold, etc).

      • Biological material != life, and by all accounts actually making that transition requires very specific environmental conditions

        A lot can happen in billions of years. So much in fact that I would guess we really have no clue about what kinds of crazy shit has happened since the solar system formed, let alone the universe...
      • by mbone (558574)

        Why ? I don't consider it unlikely at all. We know that Mars in the early days had a thicker atmosphere and a fair amount of liquid water. (Note, BTW, that life, including spores and various forms of dormant life, is specifically what is meant by biological material.)

        Please don't forget that Mars has strong obliquity / orbit driven climate cycles. There are times when the atmospheric pressure (and probably even the humidity) are considerably higher than at present. We are talking about many tons of material

  • You're saying they can sequence a life form in one lab and reconstruct it in another lab w/o a physical template of any kind?

    Has there been a breakthrough beyond:

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/05/scientists-create-first-self-replicating-synthetic-life/ [wired.com]

    (which AIUI required the shell an existing cell)

  • I want to build a time machine so I can go back in time and meet the Martians when their society was at its peak. Why aren't the LA Times calling me?
  • Craig Venter should be close to be able to tailor an organism which can survive on Mars and start terraforming the planet, so in future it has more atmosphere and can help to heat the planet for future colonisation.

    Now that would be a worthwhile endeavor. This teleporting thing is just headline-grabbing and has no scientific merit.

    • Terraforming is that it would be expensive now but only offer a potential return after millenia have passed. Who thinks that long term nowadays?

  • Since Mars life would be greatly more different to Earth life, even if we assume the truth of "panspermia" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia), wouldn't it make more sense for Venter to trial his method first on extinct, preferably macroscopic life forms here? The bigger the better. Extinct germs would be more difficult to get rid of than a rampaging T-rex that any survivalist nutcase can gun down. My prime candidate would be those frozen Siberian mammoths, which he could clone into caveman steak.

    • by Shavano (2541114)

      Chances are a lot better with extinct microbes. Smaller genomes would be easier to repair and get working in a cell.

      And I doubt extinct microbes would be that much of a threat even if released in the wild. They'd be many generations behind in the ongoing biological arms race between infectious agents and macrobiota and quite possibly defenseless against what modern plants and animals can throw at them. Remember, we are all descended from the animals that made any resurrected bacteria extinct.

  • And you wonder how the Zombie Apocalypse began...
  • Here we go again, Venter is less of a scientist more of a salesman and self publicist. Take a vaguely interesting idea and throw in a good dose of hyperbole and voila instant headline. Mention Mars and recreating life from there and the news outlets slavishly snap it up no matter how stupid the idea is... Honestly, there's very little of interest to see here, not least because we're not even sure there's life to find and sequence yet. Tiresome.

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