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Oct 5, 2012

Want to Get 70 Billion Copies of Your Book In Print? Print It In DNA

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, chemistry, futurism, information science, media & arts

I have been meaning to read a book coming out soon called Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves. It’s written by Harvard biologist George Church and science writer Ed Regis. Church is doing stunning work on a number of fronts, from creating synthetic microbes to sequencing human genomes, so I definitely am interested in what he has to say. I don’t know how many other people will be, so I have no idea how well the book will do. But in a tour de force of biochemical publishing, he has created 70 billion copies. Instead of paper and ink, or pdf’s and pixels, he’s used DNA.

Much as pdf’s are built on a digital system of 1s and 0s, DNA is a string of nucleotides, which can be one of four different types. Church and his colleagues turned his whole book–including illustrations–into a 5.27 MB file–which they then translated into a sequence of DNA. They stored the DNA on a chip and then sequenced it to read the text. The book is broken up into little chunks of DNA, each of which has a portion of the book itself as well as an address to indicate where it should go. They recovered the book with only 10 wrong bits out of 5.27 million. Using standard DNA-copying methods, they duplicated the DNA into 70 billion copies.

Scientists have stored little pieces of information in DNA before, but Church’s book is about 1,000 times bigger. I doubt anyone would buy a DNA edition of Regenesis on Amazon, since they’d need some expensive equipment and a lot of time to translate it into a format our brains can comprehend. But the costs are crashing, and DNA is a far more stable medium than that hard drive on your desk that you’re waiting to die. In fact, Regenesis could endure for centuries in its genetic form. Perhaps librarians of the future will need to get a degree in biology…

Link to Church’s paper

Source

Sep 6, 2012

GENCODE Apocalypse

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, open source, policy, space, supercomputing, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120905134912.htm

It is a race against time- will this knowledge save us or destroy us? Genetic modification may eventually reverse aging and bring about a new age but it is more likely the end of the world is coming.

The Fermi Paradox informs us that intelligent life may not be intelligent enough to keep from destroying itself. Nothing will destroy us faster or more certainly than an engineered pathogen (except possibly an asteroid or comet impact). The only answer to this threat is an off world survival colony. Ceres would be perfect.

Sep 1, 2012

Christian Astronomers

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, open source, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

“The more anxiety one produces, the more the discussion there would be about how real and how possible actual existential threats are.”

John Hunt recently queried me on what steps I might take to form an organization to advocate for survival colonies and planetary defense. His comment on anxiety is quite succinct. In truth the landing on the moon was the product of fear- of the former Soviet Union’s lead in rocket technology. As we as a nation quelled that anxiety the budget for human space flight dwindled. But the fear of a nuclear winter continued to grow along with the size of our arsenals.

Interestingly, at the height of the cold war, evidence of yet another threat to human existence was uncovered in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico in 1981; Chicxulub. But even before the dinosaur killer was discovered, perhaps the greatest threat of all to humanity was born in 1973 when Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen created the first genetically modified organism. The money to answer both of these threats by going into space continues to be expended by the military industrial complex.

Mile wide rocks in space and microscopic organisms on earth are both threats to our existence, but the third and undoubtedly greatest threat is our own apathy. Why do we expend the tremendous resources of our race on everything BUT keeping it from going extinct?

Continue reading “Christian Astronomers” »

Aug 28, 2012

The Truth about Space Travel is Stranger than Fiction

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, cosmology, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, neuroscience, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency, treaties

I have been corresponding with John Hunt and have decided that perhaps it is time to start moving toward forming a group that can accomplish something.

The recent death of Neil Armstrong has people thinking about space. The explosion of a meteor over Britain and the curiosity rover on Mars are also in the news. But there is really nothing new under the sun. There is nothing that will hold people’s attention for very long outside of their own immediate comfort and basic needs. Money is the central idea of our civilization and everything else is soon forgotten. But this idea of money as the center of all activity is a death sentence. Human beings die and species eventually become extinct just as worlds and suns also are destroyed or burn out. Each of us is in the position of a circus freak on death row. Bizarre, self centered, doomed; a cosmic joke. Of all the creatures on this planet, we are the freaks the other creatures would come to mock- if they were like us. If they were supposedly intelligent like us. But are we actually the intelligent ones? The argument can be made that we lack a necessary characteristic to be considered truly intelligent life forms.

Truly intelligent creatures would be struggling with three problems if they found themselves in our situation as human beings on Earth in the first decades of this 21st century;

1. Mortality. With technology possible to delay death and eventually reverse the aging process, intelligent beings would be directing the balance of planetary resources towards conquering “natural” death.

Continue reading “The Truth about Space Travel is Stranger than Fiction” »

Aug 26, 2012

BEO-HSF again

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

This essay was posted last year, removed, and is back with small changes. Enjoy.

I became interested in Beyond Earth Orbit- Human Space Flight by way of a college paper I helped my wife research some years ago. Her project for an ethics class was nuclear weapons. I stumbled upon the book “Project Orion, the true story of the atomic spaceship” by George Dyson and was hooked. I had been a science fiction fan in my youth but like most people I thought space operas were only to be realized in the far future. Project Orion changed my worldview. Since then my made up mind has been unmade several times concerning most of the “common knowledge” floating around about space flight in this 21st century. Much of what is generally believed to be true about our space program is made up of recent hearsay used to hype products that further a business plan. When I read these infomercials endlessly repeated as fact I get pretty upset, mostly because exposing these “facts” as false advertising almost always results in vicious attacks. The private space cult fanatics disgust me and I will not apologize for my hard feelings about these people. They mislead, obfuscate, and insult and dogpile anyone who disagrees with their dogma.

It was a slow step by step process but I came to realize the path to the stars is a narrow one. I found the U.S. space effort, described as being on “the flexible path”, to be going nowhere. There is no Flexible Path. The path to colonizing the solar system is narrow indeed due to the laws of physics and materials science. Science fiction movies have conditioned the public to believe such natural laws can be violated and technology that breaks these laws is possible and immanent. This attitude has led to much waste and many tragedies in the past decades and there is soon to come great disappointment over breakthroughs that are far easier said than done. By way of political contributions and backroom deals, the flexible path scheme came into existence as a way of making money for a small group of investors looking to cash in on public ignorance of technology through influence peddling. It is a convoluted and confusing story and perhaps the best way to make the truth clear is to start at the desired end and work backwards.

Continue reading “BEO-HSF again” »

Aug 24, 2012

How to Build a Spaceship again

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, habitats, human trajectories, life extension, lifeboat, media & arts, military, nuclear weapons, physics, policy, space, sustainability, transparency

This essay was originally posted last year and is now back with small changes. Enjoy.

The first decade of the 21st century ended with human space flight nowhere near to fulfilling the predictions made at the beginning of the space age. Not even close. Just as the Vietnam war robbed the space exploration budget, the end of the century found vast public funds, a truly mind boggling amount of treasure, spent on the cold war toys that have yielded guaranteed huge profits for the military industrial complex. Many of these incredibly expensive weapon systems do not work as advertised and very few of them have any application in the present war on terror. 911 did not stop the money flowing to new super fighter planes and missiles designed to shoot down other missiles. The promise of space was in truth sacrificed for the profits of the weapons industry. The expected moon bases and colonies on Mars were never funded and no human being has escaped earth orbit since the last Apollo mission. The underfunded space shuttle completely failed to provide the cheap lift and multi-mission capability that was never really possible to achieve. The showpiece International Space Station is little more than a 100 billion dollar collection of tin cans flying in endless circles.

Over a quarter century wasted and the human race seems in large part to have accepted the end of the space age. Despite a collection of old and new inferior lift vehicles incapable of accelerating a spacecraft to escape velocity, there is endless hype concerning the privatization of space and the bright future these for profit enterprises will bring about. The single point of failure in these schemes is the false miracle of fuel depots in space. These orbital gas stations will supposedly enable all the missions that previously could only be accomplished by a Heavy Lift Vehicles like the Saturn V. Cryo fuel storage and transfer is at this time a myth and has never even been attempted due to the extreme difficulties involved. It is simply a smoke screen to disguise defeat. We are not going anywhere if we stay on this path. The only hope for human space flight is the realization that deep space travel may at any time mean the difference between humankind surviving or disappearing forever. If this truth cannot unlock the vast resources required then we are sealing our collective fate. The Spaceship is the only insurance against extinction. Safeguarding the entire human race is the ultimate military mission, yet is completely ignored by our leaders and the defense industry. The inevitable asteroid or comet impact and the threat of a 100 percent lethal plague are with us right now. We as a species are playing a game of Russian roulette. We truly do not know when, but we know what is coming.

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief when it is explained that disastrous impacts only occur an average of once every several million years. The key fact never discussed is impacts are random. An impact could occur tomorrow, and again the next day, and it would just be a blip on a curved line representing the immensity of geologic time. No one would be left to exclaim, “WOW! What were the odds of that happening?” In the same way the threat of engineered pathogens is ignored, overlooked, or scoffed at in the hopes it will just go away. Just as there is little than can be done to stop seasonal flu, there is very little that could be done to stop such an airborne plague once it begins. Naturally evolved pathogens always leave a certain percentage of survivors but an engineered virus does not follow that rule. We are led to believe there is no defense, but we are being decieved and there is nothing further from the truth.

Continue reading “How to Build a Spaceship again” »

Aug 16, 2012

GMO Armaggedon

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, existential risks, finance, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, media & arts, military, open access, open source, policy, transparency

http://www.newsdaily.com/stories/bre87f15x-us-california-gmo/

Filthy Lucre will certainly destroy us all if we cannot even pass a law that makes food companies tell us what they are feeding us.

Aug 15, 2012

Approaching the Great Rescue

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, complex systems, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, life extension, media & arts, neuroscience, philosophy, policy, singularity, sustainability, transparency

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815131137.htm

One more step has been taken toward making whole body cryopreservation a practical reality. An understanding of the properties of water allows the temperature of the human body to be lowered without damaging cell structures.

Just as the microchip revolution was unforeseen the societal effects of suspending death have been overlooked completely.

The first successful procedure to freeze a human being and then revive that person without damage at a later date will be the most important single event in human history. When that person is revived he or she will awaken to a completely different world.

Continue reading “Approaching the Great Rescue” »

Aug 13, 2012

The Electric Septic Spintronic Artilect

Posted by in categories: biological, biotech/medical, business, chemistry, climatology, complex systems, counterterrorism, defense, economics, education, engineering, ethics, events, evolution, existential risks, futurism, geopolitics, homo sapiens, human trajectories, information science, military, neuroscience, nuclear weapons, policy, robotics/AI, scientific freedom, singularity, space, supercomputing, sustainability, transparency

AI scientist Hugo de Garis has prophesied the next great historical conflict will be between those who would build gods and those who would stop them.

It seems to be happening before our eyes as the incredible pace of scientific discovery leaves our imaginations behind.

We need only flush the toilet to power the artificial mega mind coming into existence within the next few decades. I am actually not intentionally trying to write anything bizarre- it is just this strange planet we are living on.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120813155525.htm

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120813123034.htm

Feb 6, 2012

The runaway greenhouse reversal: Cooling Venus

Posted by in categories: chemistry, existential risks, futurism, habitats, space

As we all know, Venus’s atmosphere & temperature makes it too hostile for colonization: 450°C temperatures and an average surface pressure almost 100 times that of Earth. Both problems are due to the size of its atmosphere — massive — and 95% of which is CO2.

The general consensus is that Venus was more like that of the Earth several billion years ago, with liquid water on the surface, but a runaway greenhouse effect may have been caused by the evaporation of the surface water and subsequent rise of greenhouse gases.

It poses not just a harsh warning of the prospects of global warming on Earth, but also a case study for how to counter such effects — reversing the runaway greenhouse effect.

I have wondered if anyone has given serious thought to chemical processes which could be set in motion on Venus to extract the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The most common gas in the Universe is of course hydrogen, and if sufficient quantities could be introduced to the Venusian atmosphere, with the appropriate catalysts, could the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere be eventually reversed back into solid carbon compounds, water vapor and oxygen? The effect of this would of course not only bring down the temperature, but return the surface pressure, with 95% of its atmosphere removed, to one more similar to that of Earth. Perhaps in adding other aerosols the temperatures could be reduced further and avoid a re-runaway effect.

Continue reading “The runaway greenhouse reversal: Cooling Venus” »