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Museum of Engineered Organisms Opens In Pittsburgh

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the it's-alive-alive dept.

Biotech 54

qeorqe writes "The Center for PostNatural History is a museum and research library about organisms that have been created either by genetic engineering or selective breeding. Included in the collection are Sea Monkeys and GloFish. From the article: 'One of the cool things about natural history museums is that they show you how nature has changed over time, adapting to volatile conditions and extreme challenges. And nothing is more volatile, extreme, or challenging than the human race, so it makes sense that there would be a museum to chronicle just how much we’ve messed with plants, animals, the climate, and in general the world around us. The Center for PostNatural History, opening this week in Pittsburgh, is that museum.'"

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Zoo not museum (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240591)

A zoo would be more fun than a museum.

WRT to selective breeding, isn't that like... practically everything?

Re:Zoo not museum (4, Insightful)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240631)

Yes. Post-nature began shortly after the invention of agriculture. Given that, I think that if they tried to build a zoo they'd... just have to point people to the nearest farm.

Re:Zoo not museum (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241067)

Yes. Post-nature began shortly after the invention of agriculture. Given that, I think that if they tried to build a zoo they'd... just have to point people to the nearest farm.

Or the nearest Erlenmeyer flask. Most petting zoos who feature microorganisms don't last all that long.

Re:Zoo not museum (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241135)

Well, not many engineered microorganisms are supposed to be pettable. (The running joke at iGEM is that if it doesn't find landmines or do soil detoxification, it's not even really an engineered microorganism.)

Re:Zoo not museum (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241455)

I would love to stick my microscope inside your petting zoo and see what sort of microorganisms frolic in it. I have a few spermatazoa that got too big for their britches and need a nice, big pen to play in. They are good ones, too - strong and virile.


Re:Zoo not museum (2)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241491)

What, changing tactics already?

Re:Zoo not museum (5, Informative)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241469)

Yeah, GloFish and Sea Monkeys are neat and all, but genetically speaking pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. You can find plenty of genetic changes in the produce aisle. Corn from tesointe, wheat with chromosomes from 3 other species, tetraploid potatoes (that won't make you sick), hybrid octaploid strawberries, all kinds of different shapes and colors of squash, eggplant, & tomatoes, seedless citrus, grapes, watermelons, & bananas, stonefruit hybrids, large sweet apples and other fruits bred away from their small sour ancestors, every single brassica, a rainbow of carrots, different speckled beans, and many others, and all the mutations behind these traits, including the less visible ones like altered photoperiod and disease resistance, would be good topics, each with their own history. Oh, and every breed of dog, chicken, cow, ect. I would hope they include these along with the newer genetic engineering examples like GloFish, Bt & HR crops, ect.. I don't think enough people appreciate, or are even aware, of the genetic history of their food and the genetic changes that occurred over the years, or even the changes being made today. I think it'd be kind of neat if they also included some oddities that you don't typically hear of, like white blackberries, pink blueberries, red & pink fleshed apples, citranges, shipova, ect,

I wonder if the concession stand takes the same theme, selling fruits and vegetables along with a little bit on their genetic changes. Triploid apples, papayas with papaya ringspot virus genes, nachos made from corn with the Bt gene...too bad there's no more Flavr Savr tomatoes but they can still use ones with broken lycopene biosynthesis pathways like Huge Lemon Oxheart or White Tomesol, or maybe source a nice dark one like Indigo Rose.

Re:Zoo not museum (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:Zoo not museum (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 2 years ago | (#39246861)

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Re:Zoo not museum (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39246365)

Are those really worth a mention?

Some of these crops, such as the parsnip, only require a decade of selective breeding from the wild variety. If you left them alone, they would return to their wild state in a similar timeframe.

I tend to favour growing "unnatural" hybrids. The extra costs is worth it in taste, disease resistant properties and yields.

Re:Zoo not museum (1)

thsths (31372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39245391)

Exactly. Wheat, apples, bananas, dogs, modern horses, hens that lay an egg every 22 hours... all man made. Man shapes the landscape to his usefulness, and animals and plants have been part of this system for a long time.

Re:Zoo not museum (1)

qwak23 (1862090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39245989)

I really don't like the word postnatural. The word "Natural" itself is confusing enough, why reinforce it even more?

(I'm referring to the fact that from a pedantic standpoint, there is nothing that exists that isn't natural - humans are natural. The products of humans are natural. I understand that many people like to somehow separate humanity from nature and therefore imply that "natural" means without those dirty humans getting their dirty hands on it.)

Re:Zoo not museum (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39246649)

Humans are unique amongst organisms in that we've gone through this fantastically elaborate arms race with ourselves—much moreso than any other genus on the planet. Yes, we've needed to kill off the occasional lion or mammoth, but for the most part we've been competing against other tribes of pink-skinned bipeds, at least for the past while. The difference between 'artificial' and 'natural' is, then, the result of that hyper-evolved arms race. There aren't too many other species that we know about with substantial levels of intelligence (predominantly, birds, cetaceans, and primates) and of them, only the chimpanzee has been caught teaching its children how to carve spears. Perhaps the rest know something we don't—like how to have a good time. (That being said, it seems that whenever someone decides to publish something on the topic, the bias seems to be [] toward breaking down the barrier [] . But it's not a bad one.)

In biology the definition of what is artificial versus what is natural is particularly obvious, but not where I placed it in the previous post; agriculture is natural (essentially random) processes responding to human pressures. Only when we start mucking around in a plant's genes and begin inserting chunks of DNA with the wrong GC content and sharp corners does the process become truly synthetic.

Re:Zoo not museum (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 2 years ago | (#39285369)

Yes. Post-nature began shortly before the invention of agriculture.


Accepting that the "invention" of agriculture took place multiple times in multiple places over periods of centuries, however there is also fairly good evidence that people were artificially selecting plant population properties for a considerable period before going about deliberately planting them. Particular plant types which were eaten at hunter-gatherer camps are relatively concentrated in middens and shit-piles, where they sometimes germinate, thus providing a ready-made stock of plant genotypes which previous members of this particular clan found edible, enticing or just simply available.

The shortest period of time between arrival of humans in a region and the development of agriculture in that region was probably in Central America, with a mere 5000-odd years between human arrival and the development of agriculture (which itself took thousands of years, before the European massacres started.)

The co-evolution of predator and prey is too well-known to need further description. Humans were probably significantly affecting their prey populations before they were human.

Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (5, Funny)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240623)

Postnatural. Postnatural is just a word. It is used in a sentence like this: "this bread sure is postnatural." What is this PostNatural business? Are we implementing a class for a non-artificial version of a post?

(I tried to join the local Grammar Nazi chapter, but they got upset when I pointed out that they were actually just garden-variety syntactic fascists.)

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (3, Funny)

clyde_cadiddlehopper (1052112) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240649)

"this bread sure is postnatural."

Whatever you do, don't say "this breakfast cereal sure is postnatural."

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (2)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242065)

Really. If it's "postnatural", it couldn't POSSIBLY have the taste of wild hickory nuts... []

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240911)


Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241139)

As someone who has two capital letters in his surname, and routinely has to nag people to honor his wishes to capitalize it that way, I am curious why you think it's any of your business how they choose to capitalize the name of their museum.

I am a strong advocate of standard grammar for the sake of clarity. Using the correct spelling of its or it's makes it clearer and easier to understand a sentence. It serves a useful purpose, and that's why we have it. However, that isn't applicable here; PostNatural is at least as clear in its meaning as Postnatural would be. Grammar for its own sake is just a hallmark of the insecure and uncreative. Kindly give it a rest.

Language evolves as surely as species do; intercaps are simply another instance of that phenomenon. If this particular mutation of the language has adaptive value, it will survive and become more commonplace (which it seems to be doing). If for some reason it did not, it would die out all on its own. We don't need a Grammar Goddess to declare which adaptations should live and which should die as part of some Intelligent Design.

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241373)

Language evolution, much like the evolution of species, is directed by the most prominent and immobile uses (such as prescriptivists and recorded history), and by the most common usages amongst the masses. I do believe that makes you a bit of a hypocrite. :)

About your last name—might I ask how "VerBeek" came about? Couldn't you just go with the slightly-rarer but less-likely-to-be-confused "Ver Beek"? I don't know that much about Dutch genaeology or nomenclature, but it appears to me that it's the more conservative form anyway.

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243387)

The decision IS intelligent, because it is made by humans, collectively.
If enough people argue to ignore intercaps, more than people like you who argue to spell your last name correctly, then intercaps will die off.
If not, then not.

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (1)

mosb1000 (710161) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241315)

In english, if you add the prefix "post" to an adjective, it means that the subject belongs a class which occurred immediately after the class described by that adjective. For example "postmodern" describes architecture and artwork which originated in the era after the modern era. Postfeminist literature originated after the feminist movement. Postpartum depression occurs after a woman has given birth. A post script occurs after a body of text.

This is in contrast to the prefix "pre" which means that a subject belongs to a class occurring before the class described by the adjective. For example prenatal care happens before a baby is born. A premature event happened before it should have. A prefix is written before the word it is added to.

Glad I cold be of help.

Postscript: I'm pretty sure the local Grammar Nazi chapter wouldn't take you because you don't seem to know much about grammar.

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241375)

I guess you didn't actually take the time to understand the post to which you replied. Hint: it isn't about the meaning of "postnatural".

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241443)

Please, tell me what planet you are from; I wish to learn more about what you believed you were responding to, and how it relates to what I wrote. While you're at it, I'd also like to know when English became a common noun, what exactly it means to be "cold of help", and why you didn't go the extra mile and point out that these prefixes are Latin and hence common to quite a few languages.

Re:Can we add InterCaps to the recent extinctions? (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242129)


Its one of those self referential things, postnatural itself is a postnatural mutation of the one true platonic form of the true grammar.

I'd love to visit (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240653)

the museum of engineered orgasms!

Re:I'd love to visit (1)

KendyForTheState (686496) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241439)

That's what I though when I first saw it too! Does that make us bad?

Re:I'd love to visit (2) (245670) | more than 2 years ago | (#39244833)

That's what I read. I was very confused by the article.

Re:I'd love to visit (1)

maple_shaft (1046302) | more than 2 years ago | (#39246279)

As a native to Pittsburgh, I can tell you that compared to other cities I have lived in, the women here are so frigid and uptight that nothing short of a team of Carnegie Mellon scientists and engineers working round the clock could engineer an orgasm in them.

So, simply said (3, Insightful)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240695)

they opened a farm.

Strandbeest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240783)

So will they display a family of Strandbeest?

t00t t00t

Misread Title (3, Funny)

bradorsomething (527297) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240789)

Oh... Orga-*nisms* bad, I don't want to visit any more.

How is it post natural? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39240799)

We were created 'by nature' how is anything we do not natural?

Re:How is it post natural? (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240923)

We are sentient.

Re:How is it post natural? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241085)

Speak for yourself.

Re:How is it post natural? (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241171)

Humans: The Nature's way of overcoming the limitations of human-free localized entropy reduction.

Re:How is it post natural? (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241239)

I call this the "Love and Rockets objection" [] : you cannot go against nature / because when you do / go against nature / it's part of nature too

It's useful as a rough organizing concept though, I think. The evolutionary mechanisms that led the black rat to diverge from the brown rat, and the mechanisms that led to the glow-in-the-dark rat, are probably worth studying separately.

Re:How is it post natural? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 2 years ago | (#39246967)

I think the thing that really trips people up is that there isn't a separating line. There most assuredly is still a difference between the ridiculous and highly abstracted antics of humans, and those of other animals, though. Culture is what makes us artificial; it is that from which we artifice (from ars + facio: to put/do through art and skill.) I would like to propose this be called the Love versus Rockets counter-objection.

Weird neighborhood for a museum. (3, Insightful)

solios (53048) | more than 2 years ago | (#39240927)

Garfield isn't exactly gentrified - in the 4900 block of Penn Avenue this place is a good distance from the Carnegie Science Center (north shore) or Natural History / Museum of Art in Oakland.

Out of the way of casual tourism, a couple of blocks from Garfield Artworks [] and two doors down from a really good Vietnamese restaurant.

Re:Weird neighborhood for a museum. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39246631)

It's a very small museum, not to be compared with any Carnegies, and the subject matter is quite different than what the average museum-goer would be interested in. That being said, the main corridor of Penn ave in Garfield houses many art galleries, thrift shops, a vegan pizza place, an independent bookstore, a glass-blowing center and museum, and a punk-rock venue(Of course, between totally vacant buildings and a Family Dollar).

The opening of this coincided with a gallery crawl through the neighborhood and the turnout at the museum was huge(ie, hard to move). I saw a few exhibits, though, and I thought the material was extremely interesting. Some of the notable ones for me were a floor-to-ceiling copy of the agreement you sign with Monsanto when you use their products, preserved lab animals, a piece on an open-air biological weapons testing site in NV, and listening stations on various famous organisms like E. coli and 'CBI'(Confidential Business Information, used in USDA documents in place of an item to protect trade secrets).

Re:Weird neighborhood for a museum. (1)

solios (53048) | more than 2 years ago | (#39250437)

Size-wise, you're right - it's definitely not in the same category as CMP. From google street view it seems more like the Toonseum [] .

I'll definitely have to check it out!

Oops (1)

kstahmer (134975) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241005)

Thought you meant Museum of Engineered Orgasms [] .

Re:Oops (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241333)

I just wonder whether a 4D scan of a brain during orgasm qualifies as pornography or not... :] (That could have some implications for presenting it in public - obscenity laws etc.)

Engineered Orgasms (0)

cosm (1072588) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241323)

Now I have another euphemism for rosie palm'in it.

Person X: "Why do we need so much conditioner?"
Person Y: "Engineering purposes."

Marvellous move from the GE shills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39241363)

Suggesting that Genetical Engineering is but the next step to selective breeding. In reality the two have very little to do with each other.

Yum (3, Funny)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241377)

And at the end of the museum, there's a cafeteria that demonstrates just how delicious these modified organisms are.

Interview with Curator (4, Informative)

qeorqe (853039) | more than 2 years ago | (#39241509)

The journal "Nature" has published an interview [] (pdf) with Richard Pell, the museum's curator.

Suggested exhibit: (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242585)

A dalmation kidney.

Maybe a geneticist could start looking into repairing the damage done by reckless selective breeding?

what? engineered orgasms? (0)

merxete (1965396) | more than 2 years ago | (#39242707)

Hmmm why do the words orgasm and organism look so similar? Now, that's a museum I'd be curious to check out. The Museum of Engineered Orgasms.

Re:what? engineered orgasms? (1)

merxete (1965396) | more than 2 years ago | (#39248843)

100% redundant my ass. I had a subtle hint there about the words "orgasm" and "organism" looking so similar. As if there's something eerily behind it. Maybe that's what makes us organisms. Being able to enjoy the orgasm of life. Okay, yea, fine, be that way. :P

Museum of Engineered Orgasms Opens in Pittsburgh (0)

_DangerousDwarf (210835) | more than 2 years ago | (#39243361)

Or at least that is what I thought it said at first. I was expecting to see a lot of /.'ers wives and girlfriends there....

Engineered organisms not to be confused with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39243379)

...not to be confused with the museum of intelligently designed organisms in Kentucky, the Creation Museum [] !

I suppose Monsanto.. (1)

vandamme (1893204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39249877)

...has a whole wing?

And if they check your shoe soles as you leave and find some pollen, they sue you?

sea monkeys (1)

CosaNostra Pizza Inc (1299163) | more than 2 years ago | (#39250247)

Apparently, Sea Monkeys are not as genetically engineered or selectively bread as advertisements in comic books lead me to believe. I expected to see a little civilization of humanoid "sea people" dancing around, smiling and frolicking just like in the pictures. Instead, I got brine shrimp. WTF?
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