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Author Topic: 'Artificial life' breakthrough announced by scientists
Juxtapose
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This is incredibly cool.
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Mucus
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^10
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aeolusdallas
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Impressive.
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0Megabyte
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I was wondering when somebody would post this. I was thinking of doing so tonight myself.
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mr_porteiro_head
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Basically, they flashed the firmware of a bacterium.

And it worked.

Scary and cool.

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Orincoro
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You're saying they voided the warranty?

I'll wait until Apple announces their ibacterium line.

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twinky
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Heh. The iBac.
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The Rabbit
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Intelligent Design

(Well actually not, they just "copy pasted" existing bacterial software.)

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Stephan
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:


(Well actually not, they just "copy pasted" existing bacterial software.)

The science students in my school would have failed their science fair project for copying and pasting.
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The Rabbit
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I hate to throw water on the fire but I'm not really sure what the breakthrough is here or why its important.

There are three basic parts to what they did. None of these steps is particularly novel.

1. They sequenced a bacterial chromosome. This is not novel. We've done this for hundreds of thousands of organism, including humans.

2. They replicated the chromosome synthetically. We've been making individual genes synthetically for a long time. Full chromosomes have also been made synthetically. This wasn't novel. You can buy equipment off the self to synthesize DNA sequences.

3. They transferred the chromosome into a cell (i.e rewrote the cells firmware). This is also not novel. We've been doing it with mammals (cloning) and I can't think of any reason that wouldn't be much simpler to do it with a bacteria than a sheep.

Furthermore, we (meaning scientists) having been putting truly synthetic genes in cells for a years. By truly synthetic, I mean genes that someone actually designed, not just genes copied from nature. People have even added letters to the genetic code by making t-RNAs that code for amino acids not used in nature.

I'm not saying there wasn't a lot of work involved, but "breakthrough" implies some major barrier has been overcome. I'm not seeing the barrier. It seems much more evolutionary than revolutionary. It may lead to a tool that makes it much easier to insert or remove genes from a cell, but until we have a better idea of how hard it is to do this process repeatably we really don't have any idea whether it will be harder or easier than the techniques currently being used for that purpose.

I think this is mostly hype to lure investors and boost stock prices.

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The Rabbit
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I should also add I think its something of a misnomer to call this a synthetic cell. They created the chromosome synthetically, but chromosomes aren't self replicating. There is a massive complicated biological machine that is required before it becomes a self replicating system. Synthesizing that machine from scratch is a far more daunting task than synthesizing the chromosome and transferring it to a natural machine.
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King of Men
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Yep, I agree with the Rabbit. This is an incremental advance, not a breakthrough. Nothing wrong with incremental advances, but no paradigms are being rocked here.
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scholarette
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Its Ventner- of course, his main goal is hype and investors. Ventner does that well. I read the article and went, ok, why is this a huge deal? From the title, I expected more.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
Ventner does that well.

And thats cool.

We had the pieces for nuclear power decades ago. It's still cool when the Chinese go ahead and build more nuclear power plants than the rest of the world combined. I'm all for celebrating solid steps forward in implementation, not just new discoveries. And getting people excited is cool too.

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scholarette
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It is good that he can build hype, but as a geneticist (well former- I've got a master's in biochem where I focused on genetics and micro), it is not that exciting. [Smile]
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Geraine
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I heard a quote on the radio from one of the scientists. He essentially put forth that if this information falls into the wrong hands it could spell the end of the world! Run for the hills!

+1 for science though. I am glad science is progressing. Hopefully one day soon they will have effective treatments for some of the uncurable diseases, as well as methods of extending life. And Somec. I want Somec.

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steven
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quote:
Originally posted by Geraine:


+1 for science though. I am glad science is progressing. Hopefully one day soon they will have effective treatments for some of the uncurable diseases, as well as methods of extending life.

I thought you believed that religion was more important than science.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
I thought you believed that religion was more important than science.
False dichotomy.
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MightyCow
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Religion is only more important than science until you want something from science. There are no theists on the operating table [Wink]
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The Rabbit
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Still a false dichotomy. Don't they teach basic logic for atheists any more?
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Geraine
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
I thought you believed that religion was more important than science.
False dichotomy.
This.

I believe that science is part of mankind's progression in becoming more like God. If God knows all, then everything mankind learns makes us one step closer to being like him.

I would say science is just as important as religion. You are basing what you think of my beliefs on a thread where I was discussing the creation of the universe. In that thread I thought I made it clear my belief that the big bang had to have a cause, and that I believed this was put into motion by God. KoM brought up some good points, and overall I enjoyed the discussion and learned quite a bit from him.

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aeolusdallas
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
I hate to throw water on the fire but I'm not really sure what the breakthrough is here or why its important.

There are three basic parts to what they did. None of these steps is particularly novel.

1. They sequenced a bacterial chromosome. This is not novel. We've done this for hundreds of thousands of organism, including humans.

2. They replicated the chromosome synthetically. We've been making individual genes synthetically for a long time. Full chromosomes have also been made synthetically. This wasn't novel. You can buy equipment off the self to synthesize DNA sequences.

3. They transferred the chromosome into a cell (i.e rewrote the cells firmware). This is also not novel. We've been doing it with mammals (cloning) and I can't think of any reason that wouldn't be much simpler to do it with a bacteria than a sheep.

Furthermore, we (meaning scientists) having been putting truly synthetic genes in cells for a years. By truly synthetic, I mean genes that someone actually designed, not just genes copied from nature. People have even added letters to the genetic code by making t-RNAs that code for amino acids not used in nature.

I'm not saying there wasn't a lot of work involved, but "breakthrough" implies some major barrier has been overcome. I'm not seeing the barrier. It seems much more evolutionary than revolutionary. It may lead to a tool that makes it much easier to insert or remove genes from a cell, but until we have a better idea of how hard it is to do this process repeatably we really don't have any idea whether it will be harder or easier than the techniques currently being used for that purpose.

I think this is mostly hype to lure investors and boost stock prices.

The real importance is as a "live test" They have shown that you can create custom genomes with available tools.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
The real importance is as a "live test" They have shown that you can create custom genomes with available tools.
No they haven't. First, they didn't create any custom genes. And second, people have been creating and expressing custom genes with commercially available tools for years.
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AchillesHeel
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Science is one of those things that confuses and entices me, I dont vividly understand alot of what this test is or what it means. I dont understand the large hardron collider either or why there was a possibility of it destroying the world... all I know is that they are creating genetic material themselves. I dont care how, where, or how long it will take but I do know why this should all lead to giant huskies that will re-define the term "dog races"
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Yep, I agree with the Rabbit. This is an incremental advance, not a breakthrough. Nothing wrong with incremental advances, but no paradigms are being rocked here.

Thirded.

Mildly cool, but not a breakthrough.

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scifibum
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Yeah, well, maybe all you scientists (+rivka) just don't realize how freaking AWESOME this stuff is because you've been desensitized.

[Wink]

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The Rabbit
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No Scifibum, I think its freaking awesome that we can manipulate DNA and change the function of cells in all kinds of interesting and useful way. If this tool ends up making that process easier, it will be really cool. But its also being seriously overhyped. It's not a breakthrough and its not really a "synthetic" cell.
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MightyCow
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I don't see how this is going to get me a jetpack, laser eyes, or an invisibility cloak, so it fails my "super awesome" test.
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MattP
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Isn't the novelty here that they assembled an entire functional genome from scratch (even if it's a duplicate of an existing one)? That seems pretty cool, even if it is just an incremental advance from assembling individual genes.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
Isn't the novelty here that they assembled an entire functional genome from scratch (even if it's a duplicate of an existing one)? That seems pretty cool, even if it is just an incremental advance from assembling individual genes.

No that isn't novel. It's been done before. I agree that it's cool, but this is not the first time it's been done.
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scholarette
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I think the scientist folks are less excited because we already did our excitement over the initial breakthroughs.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Yeah, well, maybe all you scientists (+rivka)

Wait, is this because I let my membership in the American Chemical Society lapse?

Doesn't my degree count for anything? [Cry]

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Still a false dichotomy. Don't they teach basic logic for atheists any more?

I know you are, but what am I?
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Still a false dichotomy. Don't they teach basic logic for atheists any more?

I know you are, but what am I?
Ad hominem attacks are bad enough when they make sense. What am I again?

Anyone else up to demonstrate that "superior" atheist reasoning ability.

Honestly, when a person outspokenly promotes a world view based on sound reasoning and logic, is it unreasonable to expect they might demonstrate the ability to identify and avoid the most obvious logical fallacies..

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MightyCow
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I think you're the one also making ad hominem attacks, but then again maybe I'm rubber and you're glue. [Taunt]
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Launchywiggin
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To the underwhelmed:

quote:
Venter says there were two enormous hurdles to accomplishing his goals. First, he needed to figure out how to make a very big piece of DNA. Most chemical synthesis techniques stop working when you get to a few thousand DNA letters. That means you can't copy a whole genome — you have to do it in parts.

But Venter says, "We wanted to make something close to a million." Solving all the chemistry has taken much of the past 15 years.

Venter and his colleagues eventually solved this problem by putting smaller fragments of synthesized DNA first into bacterial cells, where they assembled into large fragments, and then into yeast cells that stitched those fragments together.

The second hurdle was figuring out how to transfer that large chunk of DNA into a cell without breaking it. To begin with, he wanted to show he could transfer a working chromosome from one species of bacteria to another.

A few thousand to a million seems like a pretty exponential leap forward.
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fugu13
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An order of magnitude or two increase in practical capabilities is great, but not revolutionary. Certainly this is a nice scientific advance, but it is incremental.

Here's a response someone who knows what they're talking about made to the news: http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2010/05/ventners-not-all-that/57046/

They've managed to rewrite genetics to encode entirely new amino acids, then cause organisms to use those amino acids as part of their functioning! That's revolutionary.

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scifibum
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rivka - oops! I didn't know! [Smile]
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rivka
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No worries. I don't actually work in my degree field anymore. But it still counts! [Wink]
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Flaming Toad on a Stick
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Venter's press release.

He certainly does like to hype things up, but it's cool in that it's showing a lot of people "We can do this. This isn't impossible. Science is awesome."

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Originally posted by The Rabbit:
Still a false dichotomy. Don't they teach basic logic for atheists any more?

I know you are, but what am I?
Ad hominem attacks are bad enough when they make sense.
Then don't personally attack people.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Then don't personally attack people.
A strange recommendation from someone who just edited his thread title to make it a personal attack.


Not all personal attacks constitute the logically fallacy known as the "ad hominem attack". The "ad hominem attack" is the use of a personal attack to refute a claim. I don't see where I've done that.

My refutation to MC's out of the blue attack on genuine, was that he was applying a false dichotomy. The is a perfectly valid refutation and not an ad hominem attack.

Outspoken atheists who can't recognize and avoid the most basic logical fallacies are the secular equivalent of conservative Christians who want the 10 commandments posted in the court house but can't tell you what they are. They deserve to be ribbed about it.

Edited to add: I am aware that my first sentence might be interpreted as Ad Hominem Tu Quoque but this was not my intent. Samprimary's inability to follow his own recommendation is not evidence against the reliability of the recommendation. It is infact generally good advice and the environment at hatrack would likely be better if I avoided ribbing people (even when that ribbing is fully deserved).

[ May 24, 2010, 12:19 PM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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MightyCow
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Bah, I'm not making a false dichotomy, I'm making a snide remark about the commonly quoted "no atheists in foxholes" nonsense.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
Bah, I'm not making a false dichotomy, I'm making a snide remark about the commonly quoted "no atheists in foxholes" nonsense.

And that snide remark along with the one that preceded, only make any sense if you presume a dichotomy that does not exist.

[ May 25, 2010, 07:46 AM: Message edited by: The Rabbit ]

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
I don't see how this is going to get me a jetpack, laser eyes, or an invisibility cloak, so it fails my "super awesome" test.

QFT
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MightyCow
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The Rabbit: You're assuming that it was anything but a throwaway. Still, good job repeatedly pointing out how dumb I am because you didn't get the joke.
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The Rabbit
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MC, I got the joke. It didn't work. It didn't work because the humor in it assumes a false dichotomy.

But aside from that, "There are no theists on operating tables, isn't the only thing you said. First you said.

quote:
I thought you believed that religion was more important than science.
Which I pointed out was a false dichotomy.

Then you responded:

quote:
Religion is only more important than science until you want something from science.
Which you followed with your quip about no theists on operating tables and to which I responded.

"Still a false dichotomy" along with a quip about logic classes for atheists.

Your pretending now that it was just a joke I didn't appreciate, is just silly. You made two serious statements expressing the same idea before you made your not so witty quip.

The fact of the matter is that you entered this thread which had nothing to do with religion and in which people were having a friendly and civil discussion of a recent scientific advance and instead of joining in the discussion, you chose to attack one of the members for his religious views, which you by the way don't seem to understand in the slightest. Aside from demonstrating poor reasoning, it was totally uncalled for, unjustified and simply mean spirited. I wouldn't find that funny under any circumstances.

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MightyCow
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I didn't make the first statement.
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The Rabbit
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My mistake. Steven made the first statement. You just repeated his logical error.
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krynn
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Very cool article. Thanks for the post =)
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