they've got god...
January 17, 2003 12:39 PM   Subscribe

they've got god... world's first completely artificial lifeform created. ethical, spiritual, and social implications a-go-go, via blogdex.
posted by moonbird (37 comments total)
Brilliant. Go homo sapiens sapiens!
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:46 PM on January 17, 2003

Minutes after the discovery, a team of Monsanto lawyers stormed the lab and forcibly patented the bacterium.
posted by gottabefunky at 12:47 PM on January 17, 2003

I wouldn't say completely artificial, it was manufactured, and was man made, but read the steps carefully. They started with an E-coli and spliced in genes, evolved a second E-coli and did more splicing.

Very impressive, and it is a man-made organism, but I can't call it completely artificial. I reserve that for when somebody starts from organic and inorganic chemicals and creates life without resorting to already existing life forms.
posted by substrate at 12:50 PM on January 17, 2003

substrate, good point, and well taken.
posted by moonbird at 1:07 PM on January 17, 2003

Engineered. Not created.
posted by tomorama at 1:15 PM on January 17, 2003

I, for one, welcome our new bacterial overlords.

Now we have that out of the way, carry on.
posted by Verdant at 1:15 PM on January 17, 2003

It seems to me that the first 'artificial' life created by humans will be a virus.
the link is nearly a year old, anybody seen anything more recent?
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:16 PM on January 17, 2003

my link is nearly a year old....
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:17 PM on January 17, 2003

Isn't the key accomplishment here the creation/modification of a life-form to produce a non-natural amino acid that up until now could only be produced chemically? Sort of like altering a cow to produce chocolate milk or Tang?
posted by cardboard at 1:20 PM on January 17, 2003

or beer . . .
posted by cinderful at 1:25 PM on January 17, 2003

Chocolate milk cows?
Now we're talking!
posted by grum@work at 1:26 PM on January 17, 2003

And not only produce, cardboard, but use. In a specific, coded way that the other "natural" amino acids are used as well.
It's very cool, and another sign that our understanding of the molecular mechanics of the genetic code is very advanced.
posted by nprigoda at 1:27 PM on January 17, 2003

The first completely artificial lifeform, you say? I believe we're all forgetting about this guy.
posted by jonson at 1:43 PM on January 17, 2003

They are special research strains that cannot live without the nutrients supplied in the lab.


why do I think we will later hear that same phrase prefixed by something like
But how could this happen?!!

dammit, how come no one ever frelling learns from watching anime?

that said, I will happily wait in line to pay for some of these little guys engineered to live in my mouth and keep my teeth white and my breath minty-fresh.

(well, as long as it's not that evil green spearmint flavor. blech)
posted by dorian at 1:45 PM on January 17, 2003

Wow. This is amazing.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:50 PM on January 17, 2003

OMG automan! i completely forgot about automan, thanks! like it's up there with the last electric knight :D
posted by kliuless at 1:56 PM on January 17, 2003

I look forward to the day when delicious steaks can be made without having to imprison and kill a sentient animal.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 1:57 PM on January 17, 2003

P-G - you mean, when science develops non sentient cattle, or merely self healing cattle that can yield multiple sirloins, if given the appropriate healing period in between visits to the butcher?
posted by jonson at 2:10 PM on January 17, 2003

No, when they develop cattle that are free of wanderlust and suicidal.
posted by vraxoin at 2:15 PM on January 17, 2003

no he means when you can grow steaks on a vine... like eggplants...
posted by techgnollogic at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2003

Mmmm. Steakplants.
posted by wanderingmind at 2:27 PM on January 17, 2003

I would like something that thinks like a plant and tastes like an animal.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:29 PM on January 17, 2003

I want an animal that happily displays its choicest cuts, and begs you to eat them. Apologies to Douglas Adams.
posted by Galvatron at 2:36 PM on January 17, 2003

P_G: how about this?

dorian: "using only natural food sources such as sugar and water." ... "special research strains that cannot live without the nutrients supplied in the lab."

posted by nickmark at 2:40 PM on January 17, 2003

elwood-- Virii are not alive, per se. They cannot reproduce outside of a cell's machinery. They do not have metabolic processes. They're really just strands of genetic material in a protein shell who can do nothing other than shoot their little wads of nucleotides into a host, where they get translated into proteins and more genetic stuff which then self-assembles into more copies of the lil' bugger. Which makes them more alive than a shoelace or a coffee maker (or the Pope), but not by much.

Although the media reaction to the "first artificial life form" is highly overblown (they didn't make the entire thing outta scratch), I think this is a landmark development. If there is going to be a nanotechnology revolution, it will be based upon organisms engineered like this. The universal assemblers of the future (at least the first ones, if there will be such a thing at all) will be cellular. If they succeeded in doing so, maybe they'll figure out a way to modify the E.coli which resides in our colon in such a manner that we will be able to poop just about anything imaginable--diamonds, very small computers, OLED screens, Enchiritos, etc.

Welcome to the future.
posted by LimePi at 2:52 PM on January 17, 2003

I would like something that thinks like a plant and tastes like an animal.

I humbly submit this.
posted by jonson at 3:03 PM on January 17, 2003

LimePi - how long before we can grow Popes to eat?

jonson - excellent work
posted by Pretty_Generic at 3:04 PM on January 17, 2003

Not man made, or Alien.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:11 PM on January 17, 2003

nickmark: maybe some super-snazzy kind of sugar, you know like that nice turbino stuff we buy at the health-food store, except way more expensive -- so those of us who can't afford to shell out the big bucks, won't be harmed.

but it has a happy ending; only irritating scientologist hollywood stars will be devoured. that'll teach the punks to keep expensive sugar and imported water in their house.

as for the growing-flesh-in-a-vat...if you use your own genetic material to bootstrap the process so that your meat is not derived from any animal, doesn't that give a new meaning to the whole soylent green bit?

I do look forward to artificially grown steaks (or Popes as custom may be), but for now it seems like they need to use an awful large amount of hormones for the fish and other proteins being successfully grown.
posted by dorian at 3:21 PM on January 17, 2003

posted by cookie-k at 4:05 PM on January 17, 2003

Eating your own cloned flesh sounds great. Can any biologists out there say whether it would be safe and healthy?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:20 PM on January 17, 2003

how many years ( I say 10 years) before we can make terminators and send them on missions to shoot down skinny little black rebels with AK-47s in Africa without sacrifiyng American lives.

posted by bureaustyle at 5:02 PM on January 17, 2003

P_G: my favorite plif ever.
posted by dorian at 5:18 PM on January 17, 2003

As a biologist, i would say that eating the flesh of your own clone would be absolutely wonderful, and safe too! That is, of course, assuming your clone is not infested with some pathogenic microorganism, virus or prion.
posted by shoos at 5:20 PM on January 17, 2003

"The bacterium makes an amino acid that no other organism uses to build proteins."

...could have used a comma or two, imo. Unless of course, this wonderful new bacteria makes an absolutely useless amino acid that no other oragnism uses.

Which would be nice.
posted by armoured-ant at 6:22 PM on January 17, 2003

Thanks, cookie-k, that's exactly what I was thinking! And there's a lesson here for us:
According to Shmoo legend, the lovable creature laid eggs, gave milk and died of sheer esctasy when looked at with hunger. The Shmoo loved to be eaten and tasted like any food desired... The Shmoo satisfied all the world's wants. You could never run out of Shmoon (plural of Shmoo) because they multiplied at such an incredible rate. The Shmoo believed that the only way to happiness was to bring happiness to others.

Ironically, the lovable and selfless Shmoos ultimately brought misery to humankind because people with a limitless supply of self-sacrificing Shmoos stopped working and society broke down. Seen at first as a boon to humankind, they were ultimately hunted down and exterminated to preserve the status quo.
Oh, and great first post, moonbird!
posted by languagehat at 6:58 AM on January 18, 2003

the cut close to the adamantium please! /images of harvesting wolverine :D
posted by kliuless at 8:07 AM on January 18, 2003

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