26 December 2008

Grow Your Own Zombie Monkeys at Home!

The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself...Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering... _LAT
A lot of things are becoming possible for home hobbyists. You can build your own computers, brew your own beer, make your own lathes and mills, set up home sound and video recording studios, build your own rapid prototypers... But have you considered building your own genetic engineering lab at home -- and the things you might be able to grow in it?
In her San Francisco dining room lab, for example, 31-year-old computer programmer Meredith L. Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.

...In Cambridge, Mass., a group called DIYbio is setting up a community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive.

Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow.

Cowell said such unfettered creativity could produce important discoveries.

"We should try to make science more sexy and more fun and more like a game," he said. _LAT
One thing that home hobbyists may possess, is an unfettered imagination, without the need to publish peer-reviewed papers or to submit grant applications to brain-dead foundations and funding agencies. Humans enjoy playing games, from the earliest age. Making science and learning more like a game may bring astounding results.

Of course, growing your own army of zombie-monkeys to take over the world, is a bit beyond current technology. We cannot all be like the narcissist elect -- at least not yet. But soon. Study your biology, join your local "home brew" club, play life as a game. Imagine what you might achieve.

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Blogger Loren said...

This only pushes resilient communities even more. When you can fit a few machines that allow you to practically build a car from scratch in your garage, it changes trade dynamics. If every small town had a geneticist who creates genetically modified crops tailored to that specific location, the diversity would be enormous. That diversity would be one of the best defenses against agricultural diseases.

On the other hand, this will lead to problems. Provided the field isn't too politicized, such as climate science, a peer reviewed paper is known to have certain levels of quantity and quality of information in them. A number of people will probably not record as much information as they should, and/or not have as much quality in that data as you need to have a reliable source. I doubt that online forums and bulletin boards will be able to adequately guarantee that the information published is complete enough to be useful, and not dangerous.

Friday, 26 December, 2008  
Blogger Bob said...

This post made me think of the old "Sea Monkey" ads you'd see in the back of comic books.


Friday, 26 December, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Right, Loren. No guarantees. Life is an extremely big risk!

Yep, Bob. Those kinds of things are still around. Imagine when a bit of DNA and a home incubator can let you grow real sea monkeys!

Consider it a race to see who will come up with the best artificial humans first: the home biohackers, or the home robot builders.

Friday, 26 December, 2008  

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