What is life? This question was posed in 1944 by physicist Erwin Shrödinger in his book for the non-scientist, “What is life”.
What makes us alive? What makes us believe in living and enjoying the beauty of nature? Are all of us simply reducible to DNA and a cellular system? Can all of us be rewired by a software scientist to think and love and argue differently? Are our random and unique thoughts controllable by a master switch that can be engineered by remote a software person? Is that a vision in the future? We present below the thoughts of two great scientists of our generation, both past TED speakers.
Is life only a DNA software system or is it more?
There are the majority who believe that each one of us is unique and contributes our energy, thoughts and actions to create this intangible living mass of life on earth. Then, there is a minority of biological scientists who believe that every organism can be reduced to genomic software. By simply rewriting the genome of the organism, you can rewrite the software and life itself.
Synthetic biologist and Nobel winner, Craig Venter, says “Life is a DNA software system”, and has proved his viewpoint by announcing in 2010 “the world’s first synthetic life“. He created a synthetic genome in the lab and “booted it up” by inserting it inside a living single-celled bacterium, and observed the cell replicate into a colony of synthetic genome containing cells. He says this is a whole new concept of life.
Dr. Venter has always asked big questions. He absolutely believes life can exist in outer space. He asked can we come up with a smaller genome to yield a living cell to ask fundamental questions? His team has created the largest molecule ever made by humans. You can see his TED talk by clicking here where he discusses how various approaches can be used to create new life by pairing down from 100s of genes and by synthesizing a chromosome. Will chemistry permit making these incredibly large molecules not tried before?
Our ability to write the genetic code is increasing on an exponential curve. He began with an ethical review. A new error – free method was created. A DNA molecule of 5000 letters was created. The exciting part began when these letters were put inside a bacteria, created a viral molecule, which went ahead and killed that bacteria. They believe software can build it’s own hardware, the actual components of a living cell. The digital information has to be really accurate. Next they used varying sizes of such “cassettes” containing larger and larger digital information. Unique elements were put into this. Massive new speciation can be created. What might this mean? A massive number of new species will be created. Speeding up evolution and changing the evolutionary tree. Ways away from improving people, with more immediate goals.
Why do this? Dr Venter says we are not dealing with evolving people. His team is working at surviving long enough to manage this increasing population growth. Within 40 years we will have trouble feeding 9 billion people. How will we clothe and feed them, and fulfil their energy challenges when we have trouble doing this for the six and a half billion people living today?
These are the design components of the future limited only by our biological reality and our imagination he says. We can do combinatorial genomics. A robot exists to produce new vaccines, therapies, and fuels etc. Corn to ethanol is now just a bad experiment. His team has a “modest” goal of replacing the entire petrochemical industry. He is designing cells to come up with the first fourth generation of fuel.
Are humans 90% bacteria and can human cells “talk” to bacterial cells?
Dr. Bonnie Bassler, at her TED talk (you can see this popular TED video by clicking here) says that she thinks of humans as 90% humans. Also, she adds that most of these bacteria do not live by themselves but with thousands of all kinds of bacteria which communicate among themselves.
Using molecular biology they found that these bacteria are “multi-lingual”. The trade language of bacteria is an inter-species bacteria and they can discuss using a social behavior called quorum sensing using a universal molecule. The logic is that bacteria talk to each other using this universal inter-specific and intra – specific chemical language. Understanding this bacterial chemical language, which her team is just now starting to understand, will lead to new antibiotics.
She believes that by studying bacteria we will be able to understand the multicellularity of the human body – how does it say this is “me” and this is “you”. How do your heart cells and your kidney cells know that they are different? She believes bacteria invented that system of community or social language and the human simply targetted such ancient bacterial systems, beefed up the conversation and make the human cells “talk” beter to each other, and also to the bacteria living inside them to make the humans healthier.
What is your concept of life?
Do share with our readers your experiences and views of what you consider life.
It is so wonderful to be alive! Enjoying this world of wondrous diversity, nature and beauty.
Watching the sunrise in different countries is fascinating.
They are always the same – simply gorgeous, with their gentle hues of pink, yellow and orange turning into a blinding blazing gold. The white ball shape of the moon against the ink – black sky at late evening, is exactly the same anywhere in the world. Makes one feel a little less homesick when traveling in another state or another country with a totally different time zone. All of us share the same moon, the same earth and the same blazing, glorious sun which somehow sustains us all and feeds us, and helps us breathe and stay alive.
In certain parts of our world, we learn to live with the fury of the sun.
We, as an advanced civilization, are learning to take advantage of the serenity of nature.
Yet, there is diversity in all living things.
People from all over the world may look different, speak a foreign language, believe in a unique faith and have varying levels of education. However, in the pursuit of happiness, humans have similar needs.
The diversity of plant life is simply astonishing!
Parenting comes in all shapes, colors and sizes and in every form of living being.
Look around and see the smile and shape of the lips of the people around you, in the same room, same street, same town, or same train or plane. Each smile is unique. The lips may be thin or thick, and may frame a little shy smile or a huge smile, which might be deligthfully sardonic or completely sublime. The lips might part to show pearly white teeth or be completely toothless. However, there is one thing in common all over the world. These lips cannot be shut tight to laugh. Yes, if you notice, for the act of laughter in which a hearty sound is emitted from the deepest regions within a human being of any age, the lips cannot be shut tight. That’s true and simply amazing. A human being who is truly alive and happy, in any part of the world will laugh in exactly the same way in the “act of laughter”, although the sound emitted might range from a giggle through a pleasant laught to a guffaw.
“My mother was my first country; the first place I ever lived” by Nayyirah Waheed was posted by blogger Paula Freesoulbeing. Do visit this beautiful cartoon depiction of parenthood by blogger Jenna Dee 222. In “Messenger from the sea” the author of blog Heartbeat describes the indescribable beauty of the ocean.
Here, Pursue Natural will select those wonders of nature and the little things that make a person feel alive. Some make us feel sad occasionally, but those hard days are only to appreciate and realize how wonderful and precious is this cycle of life.
Selection of beauty and diversity
Aloe: the elixir of internal health and a balm after sunburn; has more than 26 varieties around the world.
Ginger: Ginger – 5 reasons why you should include it in your daily diet; in all it’s glorious diversity
Selections that make us sad
The Flu virus, has variations that keep scientists busy – Tracking the seasonal flu, The History of the Flu Vaccine and The Flu Vaccine of 2011
12 LeRoy, NY high school girls with sudden, similar symptoms -Tackling the issue with scientific methodology
Why would twelve LeRoy New York school girls suddenly develop Tourette syndrome – like symptoms?
Autistic child or severely Allergic child with Multiple Sclerosis parent
Do Anorexics and Autism Spectrum Disorder share any common characteristics?
The Red pea pod fungus that became a deadly meningitis causal agent
Selections that give us hope
26 Awesome inventions in 2012