An open source future for synthetic biology


Synthetic biology is an emerging area that threatens to become as controversial as GMOs.

It’s indisputable that genetically modified organism (GMO) food products from corporations like Monsanto are suspected to endanger health. But on the other hand, an individual’s right to genetically modify and even synthesize entire organisms as part of his dietary or medical regimen could someday be a human right.



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Era of cyborgs has begun

Combining technical devices with organisms have a fascinating potential.

Recent developments in technology such as medical implants, complex interfaces between brain and machine or remotely controlled insects, that combine machines and organisms have great potentials, but also give rise to major ethical concerns. In their review entitled “Chemie der Cyborgs – zur Verknüpfung technischer Systeme mit Lebewesen” (The Chemistry of Cyborgs – Interfacing Technical Devices with Organisms), KIT scientists discuss the state of the art of research, opportunities, and risks.



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Synthetic biology holds global promise and perils

Synthetic biology is about making DNA from scratch.

What if you could turn a bread machine into your personal pharmacy? Or fill your gas tank with fuel made from grass clippings? Or light your home with glowing houseplants? While radical in concept, these ideas are startlingly practical and already in the works.



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34,000-Year-Old Organisms Found Buried Alive!


Salt, is that you?

It’s a tale that has all the trappings of a cult 1960s sci-fi movie: Scientists bring back ancient salt crystals, dug up from deep below Death Valley for climate research. The sparkling crystals are carefully packed away until, years later, a young, unknown researcher takes a second look at the 34,000-year-old crystals and discovers, trapped inside, something strange. Something … alive…

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Dr. Yan’s Time Lapse Video of Rotting Food


I’m always amazed by the life cycle of everything on our Earth.  It’s so incredible how every organism seems in perfect harmony (no matter how big or small).  OK, sometimes it can be a bit gross to see (this video is icky and interesting at the same time).


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Scientists Developing A Better Microbe For Biofuel


Scientists are engineering Rhodococcus bacteria to boost production of lipids, which can be converted into biodiesel.

While most attempts to engineer biofuel-producing microbes have focused on well-known organisms such as yeasts and E. coli, scientists also hope to co-opt the unique metabolic functions of some of the microbial world’s less-studied creatures. Anthony Sinskey and his team at MIT have been cataloguing the genomic secrets of Rhodococcus bacteria, soil-dwelling microbes known to eat a variety of toxic compounds. The goal is to make a biodiesel-producing organism that can use a variety of sources as fuel. “We have done a lot of the basic chemistry and biology,” says Sinskey. “Now we need to figure out how to maximize yields.”


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Robot Moves Across Sea Floor Monitoring Impact Of Climate Change On The Deep Sea


The Benthic Rover

Like the robotic rovers Spirit and Opportunity, which wheeled tirelessly across the dusty surface of Mars, a new robot spent most of July traveling across the muddy ocean bottom, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) off the California coast. This robot, the Benthic Rover, has been providing scientists with an entirely new view of life on the deep seafloor. It will also give scientists a way to document the effects of climate change on the deep sea. The Rover is the result of four years of hard work by a team of engineers and scientists led by MBARI project engineer Alana Sherman and marine biologist Ken Smith.


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How Megacities Mimic Life


Smog in Cairo, Egypt, one of the world’s megacities

A scientific trend to view the world’s biggest cities as analogous to living, breathing organisms is fostering a deep new understanding of how poor air quality in megacities can harm residents, people living far downwind, and also play a major role in global climate change. That’s the conclusion of a report on the “urban metabolism” model of megacities presented here today at the 238th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS).


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How Microbes Can Fuel America In The Future

How Microbes Can Fuel America In The Future 

Scientists Use Tiny Organisms to Create Fuel, Viruses to Make Batteries

For millenniums, microbes have been a staunch technological ally. They have leavened our bread and cured our cheeses. Now, engineers are asking them to convert carbon dioxide into fuel and to build a new generation of batteries. Some of the smallest life forms with which we share the planet are helping us cope with the energy challenges of the 21st century.

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World’s Hardiest Organisms In Space


Bugs In Space. Eww

According to new sources, later this year a Russian spacecraft will set its sights on the Martian moon Phobos, where it will scrape samples for further study. At least ten of the world’s toughest organisms will be going along for the ride in this pioneering experiment sponsored by the nonprofit Planetary Society. In a project specifically designed to determine whether life can tolerate the deadly hazards of space for three years, three of each of the 10 chosen organisms will ride inside individual polymer containers. Continue reading… “World’s Hardiest Organisms In Space”


Tiny Microhabitat To Study Marine Organisms


Tiny Abode

MIT researchers have built a tiny microhabitat to study the food chain of marine microbes. The microbial ecosystem is about the size of a piece of chewing gum, or microscope slide. From the MIT News Office:

The MIT study is one of the first detailed explorations of how sea creatures so small — 500,000 can fit on the head of a pin — find food in an ocean-size environment…

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Time’s Top 10 Scientific Discoveries

Time’s Top 10 Scientific DiscoveriesTime’s Top 10 Scientific Discoveries 

1. Large Hadron Collider

Good news! The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) – the massive particle accelerator straddling the Swiss-French border – didn’t destroy the world! The bad news: The contraption didn’t really work either. In September, the 17-mile collider was switched on for the first time, putting to rest the febrile webchatter that the machine would create an artificial black hole capable of swallowing the planet or at least a sizeable piece of Europe – a bad day no matter what. No lucid observer ever thought that would really happen, but what they did expect was that the LHC would operate as advertised, recreating conditions not seen since instants after the Big Bang and giving physicists a peek into those long-vanished moments. Things looked good at first, until a helium leak caused the collider to shut down after less than two weeks. Repairs are underway and the particles should begin spinning again sometime in June.

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