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The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new discoveries is exceedingly remote.... Our future discoveries must be looked for in the sixth place of decimals. physicist Albert. A. Michelson, 1894

5. LIFE Previous | Next

Are you more than just a bag of chemicals?

THIS might seem like a strange thing to label as an anomaly, but no one knows what life is. Researchers have even given up trying to define it. Now they are just trying to understand it by making it from scratch. It sounds like an audacious, ridiculously ambitious project, but it isn’t really. After all, what makes you so special? You are made up of lifeless chemicals; what makes you alive?

Craig Venter is one person trying to find out. He is stripping out a bacterium, and then refilling it with a synthesised genome to create what he considers to be artificial life. But others say he’s just tinkering, re-engineering. A project at Los Alamos, headed up by Steen Rasmussen, is looking to create something that’s alive from a collection of chemicals, most of which you could buy at the supermarket. Will it come alive? After having a nervous lunch in Los Alamos with Rasmussen (the place spooked me out), I’m not convinced it will be something I would ever call life. But maybe that’s because it’s too worrying. What would it mean for our concept of ourselves if we created life?

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Subject User Posted No of Posts Last Post
Possibilities Reyajh 14/08/2008 07:48 2 09/04/2009 01:54
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