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Scientists Developed Artificial Structures That Can Self-Replicate

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the what-could-possibly-go-wrong? dept.

Science 127

First time accepted submitter mphall21 writes "New York University scientists have developed artificial structures that can self-replicate, a process that has the potential to yield new types of materials. In the natural world, self-replication is ubiquitous in all living entities, but artificial self-replication has been elusive. The new discovery is the first steps toward a general process for self-replication of a wide variety of arbitrarily designed seeds."

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Another step (3, Interesting)

mysidia (191772) | about 3 years ago | (#37708364)

Towards Grey goo. [wikipedia.org]

Or big nations making mechanical viruses as weapons, and ultimately... those creations at risk of being turned against their creator through malfunction, hackers, or worse.

Re:Another step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37708634)

My initial reaction was, "How many comments before a grey goo mention?" Well met, sir.

Re:Another step (4, Insightful)

ihaveamo (989662) | about 3 years ago | (#37709404)

Already happened. Except it's pink goo. And it's us.

Re:Another step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37710814)

I suppose it could be said that we've turned against evolution. Kinda. If you twist things around a bit. Evolution's not really a creator, though, it's more of a process.

Re:Another step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37711054)

Being outbred by people you regard as inferior does not mean we've turned against evolution.

Evolution, like you say, is a process. It doesn't have an opinion. It doesn't have a goal. Humans will keep evolving, and each generation will be a little bit better adapted to survive and breed than the last. Your opinion on the way that happens is irrelevant.

Re:Another step (0)

goarilla (908067) | about 3 years ago | (#37711860)

Evolution, like you say, is a process. It doesn't have an opinion. It doesn't have a goal. Humans will keep evolving, and each generation will be a little bit better adapted to survive and br ed than the last. Your opinion on the way that happens is irrelevant.

This is not completely true, evolution doesn't have an endgoal like your reply seems to imply.

Re:Another step (1)

hvm2hvm (1208954) | about 3 years ago | (#37713078)

It has a rule that describes the way it works, not a purpose

Re:Another step (1)

skids (119237) | about 3 years ago | (#37713256)

Kind of a leap from the OP. Also pretty wrong, in that a species that can edit its own genome in a conscious process has surpassed evolution, and we are pretty much there.

Re:Another step (2)

EdZ (755139) | about 3 years ago | (#37711550)

Or rather, it's green goo (with life by volume being predominantly chlorophyll-using). Note how the entire planet has not become a single lump of homogeneous cells. Considering why this is will quickly tell you why the Grey Goo scenario is rather silly. If there is any danger from unrestricted replication, it would be more akin to the introduction of a foreign species into an ecosystem. However, unless whoever builds aforementioned unrestricted (and pointless: unless the replicator itself is useful, why would you design it to only replicate more of itself rather than making something useful?) replicator designs it almost entirely out of Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen and Nitrogen, it would either be bought to it's knees without freely available Silicon and rare-earths, or simply not compete with organic life and form a parallel ecosystem.

Re:Another step (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37711654)

"Already happened. Except it's pink goo"

Racist!

Re:Another step (2)

ericartman (955413) | about 3 years ago | (#37712480)

Ugly bags of mostly water

Re:Another step (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37712840)

Go fuck yourself. This is not funny.

Re:Another step (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 3 years ago | (#37709614)

And you getting a better computer is just one more step toward skynet [wikipedia.org] .

Or big nations making artificial intelligence as weapons, and ultimately... those creations at risk of being turned against their creator through malfunction, hackers, or worse.

Slashdot: news for technophobes. Lay off the LSD. Every technology can be abused. You're suggesting we shouldn't look into self-replicating structures because one day far down the road, some evil government agency MIGHT use it to unleash a horde of nanobots which will destroy the world? That's absurd.

Re:Another step (3, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#37710472)

The greater concern is that the technology will be used without understanding of the consequences. The Replicators in Stargate, for example, emerged from an experiment in which a childlike intellect taught its toys to make more of themselves. Research into self-replication, while reasonable, is not without nightmare scenarios or significant potential drawbacks.

The cockroach is one example of such an experiment. Who is to say that in time, we will not create an example capable of out-competing us for some natural resource? So it is not without risk to experiment in self-replication. You can limit the risk, of course. Until someone makes the wrong kind of mistake at the wrong time. Kind of like researching Level 4 biohazards in a major population zone. If nobody does something dumb or protocols require fifty dumb things to happen at once for a problem and no massively unexplained events occur, it works just fine.

Re:Another step (2)

ancienthart (924862) | about 3 years ago | (#37712234)

Except that StarGate is fiction.
It'd be a pretty shitty story that went "Thousands of years ago, a civilisation created a self-replicating machine. It escaped into the environment. And was promptly turned back into raw silicon dioxide by the first bacteria that found it tasty."

Re:Another step (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 3 years ago | (#37710566)

This is the same as the story of the Golems [wikipedia.org] , so nothing new.

Re:Another step (1)

satuon (1822492) | about 3 years ago | (#37710470)

Hate to disappoint you, but they're using DNA for the self-replication part, so no mechanical viruses, only organic.

Should be modded up. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37712546)

Above post is relevant, and the opening clause is funny. This article != grey goo, but it does = another advancement in our genomic/biomechanical technology.

Project Genesis (1)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | about 3 years ago | (#37708368)

And no doubt it will be called (wait for it) Project Genesis. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Project Genesis (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 3 years ago | (#37708542)

Prior Art [scripturetext.com]

Micheal Behe is sobbing (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 3 years ago | (#37709766)

Poor poor micheal Behe. Irrefutably refuted by construction of a mouse trap from itself.

Good news... (5, Funny)

GuJiaXian (455569) | about 3 years ago | (#37708390)

...they've created an artificial structure that can self-replicate. The bad news is that it's Ice-9.

Re:Good news... (1)

Ihmhi (1206036) | about 3 years ago | (#37710556)

Quick, somebody call Colin Farrell!

replicators (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37708402)

This did not work out well on SG-1

stock up on bullets (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 3 years ago | (#37709258)

stock up on bullets

Re:replicators (1)

Culture20 (968837) | about 3 years ago | (#37709780)

This did not work out well on SG-1

They're rather benign on DS-9, except when they malfunction and your "tea, earl grey, hot" is replaced with its gotee'd evil twin.

Uh oh (2)

Hsien-Ko (1090623) | about 3 years ago | (#37708422)

If this thing self-replicates to resemble a Robert Patrick, we're all screwed.

Re:Uh oh (1)

Circlotron (764156) | about 3 years ago | (#37708592)

I for one would like to welcome our self-replicating overlords.

Re:Uh oh (3, Funny)

Fnord666 (889225) | about 3 years ago | (#37708788)

I for one would like to welcome our self-replicating overlords.

Especially if they look like Kristanna Loken [wikipedia.org]

Re:Uh oh (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 3 years ago | (#37709646)

Especially if they look like Kristanna Loken

The Academy snubbing her for an Oscar for her amazing performance in Uwe Boll's 2006 epic In the Name of the King (Dungeon Seige) is a travesty that I still have not gotten over. They gave it to that boring Helen Mirren for The Queen that year, and while Helen Mirren is decent, and certainly bangable, she doesn't have Kristanna Loken's acting chops. However, I understand Mirren can pick up quarters with her...you know, so I can see how the Academy might be swayed.

Regarding the self-replicating structures, affiant sayeth not.

Re:Uh oh (1)

tehcyder (746570) | about 3 years ago | (#37713944)

The Academy snubbing her for an Oscar for her amazing performance in Uwe Boll's 2006 epic In the Name of the King (Dungeon Seige) is a travesty that I still have not gotten over.

That film's got Jason Stathan, Ray Liotta and Burt Reynolds in it too. Seldom can so much ham have been gathered together in one place.

self-replication is easy... (2)

catbutt (469582) | about 3 years ago | (#37708488)

...if you are allowed to have complex raw materials.

Fire self replicates. Fallen-down dominoes self-replicate. The line between "chain reaction" and "self replication" is very blurry.

Re:self-replication is easy... (3, Interesting)

Co0Ps (1539395) | about 3 years ago | (#37708720)

Yes.. your argument applies to literally everything though... so dismissing anything as "just a chain reaction" is basically saying that "this is just a subset of the universe." In other words your argument is true but pointless. Disclaimer: I assume that the universe is a deterministic state machine.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

vajorie (1307049) | about 3 years ago | (#37709254)

a deterministic state machine.

which is in all honestly quite pointless.

Re:self-replication is easy... (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37709382)

"which is in all honestly quite pointless."

What's your point?

Re:self-replication is easy... (4, Informative)

Kozz (7764) | about 3 years ago | (#37709226)

...if you are allowed to have complex raw materials.

Fire self replicates. Fallen-down dominoes self-replicate. The line between "chain reaction" and "self replication" is very blurry.

I don't think it's as blurry as you'd make it out to be. Fire and falling dominoes are instances of entropy , quite the opposite of what these scientists are after, I believe.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about 3 years ago | (#37709266)

Everything is entropy. Self-replicating machines included.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

Kozz (7764) | about 3 years ago | (#37709474)

Everything is entropy. Self-replicating machines included.

Really? Everything? So then, order and disorder are just a matter of opinion [wikipedia.org] ? Well, let's put down our books and get in line for the local megachurch.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

benjamindees (441808) | about 3 years ago | (#37709690)

Even self-replicating machines can only represent local order. So what you view as "self-replicating" or not depends on the scale at which you examine it.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about 3 years ago | (#37710020)

I don't know what church has to do with anything. The laws of thermodynamics are abso-fucking-lutely clear that no process can decrease the total entropy in a system. That includes self-replication. The machines will inevitably give off waste heat or break down complex materials. That's grade school level stuff. Perhaps next you'd like to bitch at me for asserting that the world is round?

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

radaghast (1672864) | about 3 years ago | (#37710392)

delta(G) = delta(h) - Tdelta(S) is the equation you are talking about I guess.

Clearly the entropy of a system can be decreased during a spontaneous process if it is exothermic enough. I see you do refer to it giving off waste heat, which is necessary, but that's not the same. As far as I know cosmologists have not determined the source of order in the universe, and so you cannot say that heat is just an abstraction of entropy.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37710614)

Yes, but self-replicating machines (and life) increase the _local_ order of the system (e.g. the number of states in which a self-replicating machine exists is much smaller than all possible states of components) while increasing the entropy of the surrounding environment.

The end-products of fire, falling dominoes, etc., are _locally_ less ordered than the fuel consumed. E.g. carbon ash and smoke are less ordered than pieces of wood or not-fallen dominoes. That's easy to see -- there are more ways to arrange fallen dominoes than there are to arrange standing dominoes.

That's what separates simple chain reactions from li

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

astar (203020) | about 3 years ago | (#37711104)

Contemporary science has various sources of truth. A common one is experiment. Now the way thermodynamics is demonstrated experimentally, well, half a century ago, is to put the test system in a box, let it get to stable equilibrium and measure whatever goes in and out. So far so good?

Okay, the other thing science gets its truth from is some sort of religious thingy. If you say the universe is going to some sort of heat death hell, then just how are you going to talk about putting the universe in a box and then standing outside it? I am not sure that this even a issue of practice, but of meaning.

And time scale issues are wonderful. Do you really want to say the surface of Earth is in stable equilibrium?

Oh, I know, there is always someone fiddling with "almost, but not quite" stable equilibrium. That has been going for a long time. Looks like it is an intractable problem.

What else. You recall I mentioned measuring "something" going in and out. If you change the meaning of "something", then you are making a deep change in the meaning of the inviolate thermodynamic laws. And applying the laws to themselves, did this just violate the laws? Of course not, except most scientist types like to think funny things about the domain of applicability of that with which they work. See "religion". And realizing that, yes, the thermo laws just got heavily violated. :-) Of course, if the universe is a deterministic state machine I retreat off stage! I really do personally think that machines obey these sort of laws. And the question of whether you, part of the universe, are a machine or not is, of course, religious, which ever side you chose.

Ah, I am using a broad definition of "religious" Who was it who said "I am really very spiritual, but I am not a believer ..."? And I am using an odd definition of machine too.

but enjoy as you can

enjoy

Re:self-replication is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37713788)

Perhaps next you'd like to bitch at me for asserting that the world is round?

Round? No
Oblate Spheroid? Yes

/pendantic

Re:self-replication is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37714032)

Citing Prof. M.C. Hawking [youtube.com] , it is only in a closed system that the entropy must rise.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

YouDieAtTheEnd (2471718) | about 3 years ago | (#37714160)

I believe he was taking issue with you saing that everything is entropy, not that systems tend towards entropy. Using your second assertion 'the world is round'; if we put your first assertion into the same terms, it is as if you said 'everything is round' rather than 'matter tends towards roundness'.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

mooterSkooter (1132489) | about 3 years ago | (#37713848)

re: order/disorder/opinion

I've often wondered about this: If a pile of stones are randomly thrown on the ground, they have a high entropy yes? What I place them carefully in a pre-determined (but identical to the 'random' version earlier) configuration directly on the ground? Surely one has high entropy and the other has low entropy - yet they're identical!

Replace stones with some tiny molocules if you want.

I'm obviously missing something obvious.

Re:self-replication is easy... (2)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37711958)

Life is an example of negative entropy, i.e. a process that absorbs free energy from its environment and uses it to work against entropy by making a small section of that environment more ordered. That the absorbtion of energy creates more entropy than the localised reduction is given, but it doesn't detract from the usefulness of this observation. I imagine any realistic self-replicating machinery will have the same attributes. Fire and falling dominoes, however, don't.

Re:self-replication is easy... (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37709410)

What the other poster said. Exactly. Self-replication, the seeming creation of greater complexity out of less complexity, is only possible in open systems, that can get information or energy from elsewhere.

The universe, being (as far as we know) a closed system, therefore, can only allow it in relatively small and isolated regions, precisely because of entropy. Local entropy can go down (self-replication) but inevitably it adds to the overall entropy of the universe.

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

johanatan (1159309) | about 3 years ago | (#37710964)

The universe, being (as far as we know) a closed system

The problem is that we don't know very far. There is convincing evidence that the cosmos is a house of mirrors and thus finite and closed. See: 'topological lens effect.'

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 3 years ago | (#37713048)

My words:

"The universe, being (as far as we know) a closed system..."

Your words:

"There is convincing evidence that the cosmos is a house of mirrors and thus finite and closed."

I fail to see where there is disagreement here.

It's not blurry at all. WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37709370)

'Self-replication' has a very specific definition, including having a coded representation. I forget the list of very specific properties you need to be considered a 'replicator' but it's more than just 'an ongoing chemical or physical reaction'. Neither of the things you mentioned have all of the properties sufficient to be considered 'self-replication'

Re:It's not blurry at all. WTF? (1)

znerk (1162519) | about 3 years ago | (#37709620)

'Self-replication' has a very specific definition, including having a coded representation. I forget the list of very specific properties you need to be considered a 'replicator' but it's more than just 'an ongoing chemical or physical reaction'. Neither of the things you mentioned have all of the properties sufficient to be considered 'self-replication'

By that argument, is human reproduction "replication"?

Re:self-replication is easy... (1)

GerryHattrick (1037764) | about 3 years ago | (#37711310)

Those examples increase entropy. 'Self-replication of materials' must DEecrease enrtopy. Ergo, you need an energy input to a process designed or evolved to do the replication. It won't just 'go out there and do it'.

re: incoming replicators (0)

bobmajdakjr (2484288) | about 3 years ago | (#37708594)

i hope we have enough zpm's to power the shield before the replicators get here.

Artificial? (5, Insightful)

Hentes (2461350) | about 3 years ago | (#37708608)

They took DNA, a natural structure that can replicate, and modified it without breking that property. I wouldn't call it artificial self-replication.

WTF? DNA does NOT self-replicate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37709236)

DNA does NOT self-replicate, it's just a polymer.

          It is (relatively) easy to use it as a template to make copies using PCR, and of course a variety of enzymes use it as a template to make copies. But it doesn't just "copy itself", no.

Re:Artificial? (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | about 3 years ago | (#37709528)

At what point will we have a text based programming language that will compile the results into a DNA sequence? Coding the next plague wouldn’t be such good idea. Because you know, there are assholes in this world that would do just that.

Re:Artificial? (2)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about 3 years ago | (#37710322)

At what point will we have a text based programming language that will compile the results into a DNA sequence?

Automated production of short sequences is a well-established technology; Google on "custom oligonucleotide synthesis" and "custom gene synthesis" and you'll get links to a bunch of companies that will be happy to manufacture just about any sequence you want. Assembling an entire genome is harder, but not that much. So the answer to your question is pretty much "we're already there."

Nobody's built any superplagues base pair by base pair yet, and honestly, I think it's not particularly worth worrying about. If unleashing a killer epidemic were your goal, it would probably be easier to take some common, virulent but not terribly dangerous pathogen (say, a rhinovirus) and screen mutants for morbidity and mortality; or alternately, take one of the great plagues of the past (say, smallpox) and alter it to slip past current vaccines.

Re:Artificial? (2)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 3 years ago | (#37709820)

Fair enough. That's true, but they modified it a lot, creating a structure that as far as we know doesn't exist in nature. It replicates without any of the normal cellular chemistry that makes it happen naturally including enzymes, which separates this from the Polymerase Chain Reaction technique for DNA amplification someone mentioned below. It also allows them to replicate structures other than proteins composed of amino acids defined by the normal base pairs.

They even fabricated the DNA they used, so it's technically artificial. In a more meaningful sense, maybe it's not completely artificial. Not to the extent of things we might make in the future. Still, I don't think it's complete hyperbole for a headline about a significant step.

Re:Artificial? (2)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37711998)

Erm... no. They took DNA, a natural structure which is half of a system that can replicate (the other half being a collection of enzymes that can transcribe the DNA to RNA, and a ribosome that can take RNA templates and make enzymes, some of which can produce more DNA or ribosomes) and rearranged it into an entirely new structure that doesn't require the assistance of a ribosome to replicate itself.

Abiogenesis (1)

snowgirl (978879) | about 3 years ago | (#37708624)

Look, it's a watch that self-assembles!

From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fine (5, Interesting)

RobinEggs (1453925) | about 3 years ago | (#37708628)

I see the first five responses were about science fiction scenarios in which nanomachines destroyed human life.

All that's really necessary to prevent the machines from getting out of control, however, is to design them with some chemical dependencies. If it needs gold or it can only incorporate carbon from certain uncommon molecules to grow then it can't get very far. Plus, natural selection will be true in part with any self-replicating thing. If they get out they'll have to struggle for resources just like any other form of life. There isn't any reason to automatically assume they'll be better at it simply because they're artificial.

There are even scenarios in which it might be nice to design nanomechanical organisms with the express purpose of setting them free; I'd sure like an organism that got along by fixing the carbon in carbon monoxide, the ozone in smog, and the nitrogen in nitrogen dioxide to replicate itself. It could make Los Angeles habitable again, and its reproduction would be limited to the rate at which we produce pollutants.

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37708796)

Until we scorch the skies and they find a new fuel to power themselves!
(Moral: Perhaps always a way that we don't think about something happening, happening)

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (1)

russotto (537200) | about 3 years ago | (#37709018)

All that's really necessary to prevent the machines from getting out of control, however, is to design them with some chemical dependencies.

That assumes your machines don't mutate, ala Jurassic Park.

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (4, Interesting)

erktrek (473476) | about 3 years ago | (#37709088)

I've also heard that the "grey goo" scenario is a bit overstated given that:

Organisms have already evolved optimal survival strategies over the millennia and if nanobots were made of organic material they would be "prey" to some of these.
- and -
The energy requirements for taking on such a task is unlikely to be satisfied in the current environment (especially if made of non organic materials)

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37712934)

if nanobots were made of organic material

Malicious entities will make sure that is not the case. I know I'd see fit to eliminate that aspect of any weapon.

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (2)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 3 years ago | (#37713066)

Remember though, there is no animal on earth that is superior to a simple rifle. We're quite capable of building a bionuke, intelligence goes to places evolution never would or perhaps could.

Probably Fine? (1)

lister king of smeg (2481612) | about 3 years ago | (#37709146)

Until the organism gets tired of smog and goes to the ozone layer. or the carbon monoxide eating one mutate to dioxide and the plants starve then when all suffocate. "but it would be limited by the amounts of pollutants we create"? no it would go after that small but very necessary amount needed. humans are notorious for screwing up there own environment because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (1)

geekmux (1040042) | about 3 years ago | (#37709170)

...Plus, natural selection will be true in part with any self-replicating thing. If they get out they'll have to struggle for resources just like any other form of life. There isn't any reason to automatically assume they'll be better at it simply because they're artificial.

You're absolutely right, except you're not taking into account the very mechanism that has allowed almost all current species to survive over the eons; mutation. And unless that is kept in check, then any new self-replicating "organism" will likely follow those same evolutionary lines. Chaos theorists will have a field day with this.

Personally, I'm a little more concerned at whatever targeted resource is identified to "feed" these...our planet isn't exactly thriving these days with options...perhaps we'll be smart about it and "feed" it human waste. We seem to be damn good at making a shitload of that.

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (1)

cstacy (534252) | about 3 years ago | (#37710502)

Make sure the machines have a lysine dependency (but cannot manufacture it themselves).
Also, just make them all female.
That should do it!

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (1)

Kjella (173770) | about 3 years ago | (#37710652)

Until it mutates into something that's not so restricted, and if it then has huge food sources it can devour alone it'll spread like wildfire. On a much less sci-fi note, a true global pandemic is still one of those really scary scenarios despite all the hype. If it first spirals out of control and you have people fleeing everywhere breaking quarantine it could get really, really nasty.

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (1)

Alef (605149) | about 3 years ago | (#37710846)

You mean they will struggle like rabbits and foxes did in Australia when Europeans brought them there? Introducing new species into an existing ecosystem quite commonly screw things up, and then we are still talking about life forms that are rather similar to what is already there. I imagine that some sort of artificial life form, that the existing species have no "evolutionary experience" defending themselves against, could do a lot more harm.

Re:From a Biological Perspective We're Probably Fi (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37710974)

That will just make them want to fight for the rare material.

No big deal (1)

Megahard (1053072) | about 3 years ago | (#37708652)

They're basically doing PCR-like reactions to clone DNA-like polymers. Same as DNA amplification has been done for years.

Re:No big deal (1)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37712022)

Except, at least as I read the press release, it appears to be self-catalyzing.

Carter! (1)

scorpivs (1408651) | about 3 years ago | (#37708870)

Does General Hammond know about this?

Re:Carter! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37709478)

probably not, he's dead.

Scrabble? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37708906)

"BTX's seed consists of a sequence of seven tiles -- a seven-letter word."
Bingo!

Stargate references (1)

bgibby9 (614547) | about 3 years ago | (#37708922)

Wow, totally didn't see that coming :)

I for one... (1)

thatkid_2002 (1529917) | about 3 years ago | (#37708948)

Welcome our Replicator overlords.

First application: catalog item 2418-B (4, Funny)

ConsistentChaos (594109) | about 3 years ago | (#37708986)

The Remote Self-Replicating Robot Explorer Probe. Be afraid.

Re:First application: catalog item 2418-B (2)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | about 3 years ago | (#37709078)

We'll be fine as long as we don't set replication's priority at 999, we should be fine.

Benderama (1)

surement (1660259) | about 3 years ago | (#37709248)

Professor Farnsworth: "Bad news, everyone! Look at this infinite series representing the mass of successive generations of Benders. It's nonconvergent!"

How soon before (2)

flyonthewall (584734) | about 3 years ago | (#37709300)

Moya?

Self replication of artifices (self repairs..) is what is going to be needed to long term voyages.

Self replication (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37709316)

Self replication is masturbation. Now self destruction...

Grey goo or something else? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | about 3 years ago | (#37709432)

Alright, grey goo has the first comment, so how about evolution [imdb.com] ?

great bachelordoom... (2)

ThorGod (456163) | about 3 years ago | (#37709482)

Just when I thought I couldn't get any lower as a bachelor...machines go and gain the ability to replicate - I can't even do that!

ep.?! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37709516)

han3y, you are free

Skeptical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37709714)

I'm very skeptical which this whole self replicating artificial DNA

A brief rant on scientists and terminology (1)

subreality (157447) | about 3 years ago | (#37709880)

Scientists have developed...

OK, I have something that's been bugging me for a while.

Scientists discover things. Engineers develop things. Frequently someone can do both, but they're two different processes.

There's this terrible societal misconception that "scientist" means someone who works with technology. It leads to the mistrust of scientists because they're perceived as some ivory tower loonies who're lording technology over the populace.

Scientists are people who apply the scientific method to acquire knowledge. I don't expect CNN to get it, but please, let's at least try to get it right here.

Re:A brief rant on scientists and terminology (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about 3 years ago | (#37710056)

I think you're thinking of theorists. Experimental scientists run experiments. Those experiments involve developing prototypes and running tests on them. Engineers also develop prototypes and run tests. The difference is the goal: scientists do it to learn, engineers do it to create a product to sell.

Re:A brief rant on scientists and terminology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37710590)

Scientists discovered how to make artificial structures that can self replicate...

Re:A brief rant on scientists and terminology (1)

kwikrick (755625) | about 3 years ago | (#37711098)

A scientists ask the question: can it be done? and then starts tinkering. If it works, the answer is yes. If he doesn't succeed, the question is still open.
Ask an engineer the same question, he will either say yes, and then build it, or say no, and move on. Or in the worst case, the engineer says yes, and then fails.
The scientist of course can never fail - only get negative results. Cheap trick.

Sound suspiciously like PCR to anyone else? (1)

BillX (307153) | about 3 years ago | (#37710236)

From the article:

DNA replication process involves complementary matches between bases -- adenine (A) pairs with thymine (T) and guanine (G) pairs with cytosine (C) -- to form its familiar double helix. By contrast, the NYU researchers developed an artificial tile or motif, called BTX (bent triple helix molecules containing three DNA double helices)

In order to achieve self-replication of the BTX tile arrays, a seed word is needed to catalyze multiple generations of identical arrays. BTX's seed consists of a sequence of seven tiles -- a seven-letter word. To bring about the self-replication process, the seed is placed in a chemical solution, where it assembles complementary tiles to form a "daughter BTX array" -- a complementary word. The daughter array is then separated from the seed by heating the solution to ~ 40 oC. The process is then repeated.

"While our replication method requires multiple chemical and thermal processing cycles,

I think Megahard above has it right, it sounds like they reproduced the well-known PCR [wikipedia.org] chemistry on some fake DNA. I will admit having fake DNA itself is mildly interesting, but not exactly novel (folks like DIYBio [diybio.org] do this at the hobbyist level - or at least buy made-to-order DNA sequences from labs - and I've seen hackerspace Bio'ers doing PCR literally in a kitchen sink). "Self-replicating" a DNA sequence via a PCR-like reaction is kind of like gluing a row of magnets to a board, dipping it into a bucket of more magnets and being surprised to find that your original magnets now have an exact copy of the N/S pole arrangement stuck to them. Self-replicating structure? Technically maybe, but not exactly the gray-goo scenario it's cracked up to be.)

Re:Sound suspiciously like PCR to anyone else? (2)

julesh (229690) | about 3 years ago | (#37712040)

Also FTFA:

no biological components, particularly enzymes, are used in its execution

So no, not PCR or PCR-like, as such processes require enzymes.

I claim prior art! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37710884)

Another artificial structure that can self-replicate:

while( fork() );

Past tense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37711840)

Is Slashdot finally admitting that their stories are hopelessly out of date by writing their headlines in the past tense?

Sephirot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#37711868)

The image reminds me of the Kabbalah Sephirot:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot

This is not a big deal (1)

NichardRixon (869899) | about 3 years ago | (#37712262)

Run-away replication has already happened over forty years ago when the Starship Enterprise was overrun with tribbles. All it takes is a great intellect like that of Capt. James T. Kirk to deal with the problem.

What's that? Star Trek was a work of fiction?

That's different.

Never mind.

----NR

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