Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Open Source, Genetically Engineered Machines From a Kit?

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the quite-a-kit dept.

Biotech 157

An anonymous reader writes "Students in an MIT competition are helping to build a dev-kit for cells. Together with synthetic biologists, they're building a Registry of Standard Biological Parts called BioBricks. They aim to do for cells what open source software has done for computers. 'The competition is a showcase for the burgeoning field of synthetic biology. Knight and his colleagues Randy Rettberg and Drew Endy, who created the contest in 2004, want to make biological systems easy to build by applying the tools of computer science and engineering: using standard parts and modular design to simplify complex systems. The goal is to create "genetic Legos" that could produce any chemical, from ethanol to pharmaceuticals.'"

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Any chemical? (3, Funny)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369505)

Sweet. I can think of a few.

Re:Any chemical? (1)

Lije Baley (88936) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369521)

Homeland Security says, "Noooooo."

Re:Any chemical? (3, Insightful)

rrohbeck (944847) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369595)

My first thoughts would have been more in DEA territory.

Glub, glub (1)

monkeyboythom (796957) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369857)

Hmmm...

I was thinking CH3CH2OH

Re:Glub, glub (1)

dfetter (2035) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369901)

If you want to make EtOH, it's easy. There's almost certainly a homebrewer's club near you, and they'll be delighted to show you how.

Re:Glub, glub (2, Funny)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370057)

Oh please. They already have microbes that do that. They're called "yeast".

I'd be more interested in a more complex molecule...like, say, C20H25N3O. ^_^

Re:Glub, glub (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370367)

Now they can create perfect yeast.
They can have better controls, yeast that stops or accelerates at certain points. A new vector for subtle flavors.

Cue the Irony Maiden: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21371543)

Sick, sick, sick...
the Number of the Yeast...




OK, that was st00p3d.
Going anonymous with this one. ;)

Re:Any chemical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21369925)

GP is right, but I think you might be wrong.

Homeland Security, whatever else, is also about security.
DEA will probably see this and be like "Woot! Budget increase! Golden pens and clipboards for all!"

Weird Science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370055)

So, can I use this to make my very own Kelly LeBrock?

Ha! I love it (2, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369509)

I had a genetics prof in 2002/2003 some time, that said this kind of thing was at least 40 years off...

I would love to stick this web page in his face.

Re:Ha! I love it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21369923)

Is your prof the kind of guy who needs a face stickin'?

Re:Ha! I love it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370069)

That's okay, it won't be long now before you can grow a copy of his face to stick this paper into.

Re:Ha! I love it ; (you cannot be serious) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370601)

I am close to this field of "synthetic biology", but unfortunately BioBricks (and other such efforts) are not as impressive as some might believe them to be. They are not 'serious biology', yet. What they are excellent for is recruiting more students to biology, which is really great! Really, a lot of these "bricks" came from DNA plasmids people have been using for years. Some of them are just being rounded up and rebranded (as "genetic Legos" with names like BBa_J06504, or BBa_J06505). Think about it for a moment. There is nothing truly groundbraking here. This effort is sort of like rounding up all the crumbs on the table, throwing in some skittles, and then with your recipe being able to bake your own unique fruitcake. The end product may or may not be palatable. (And if you choose to invite Chef Ramsey for a tasting, first he'll ask you if you're serious - then he'll smack you over the head).

I think your genetics prof had something else in mind when he was looking 40 years into the future.

P.S. BTW - I am not your genetics prof. I do believe, however, that 40 or even 20 years from now, biology will be even more exciting than it is now.

Re:Ha! I love it ; (you cannot be serious) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370753)

I too work in this field, and 20-40 years off isn't a bad guess for when we will be able to start doing really cool stuff.

And like the other anon said, these bricks aren't that amazing yet.
Expressing fusion proteins off a plasmid is not new.

What about (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21369535)

the already patented parts?

anyone else wnat to sign up... (1)

non (130182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369571)

for 'Shaping 101'?

BioBrick? Please... (2, Funny)

theRhinoceros (201323) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369587)

BioBricks? But 'Plasmid' and 'tonic' have such nicer rings to them...

Re:BioBrick? Please... (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369607)

BioBricks?
Soon to be marketed under the LEGO Mindstorms product line.

Re:BioBrick? Please... (1)

Ngarrang (1023425) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369711)

Or maybe Genetix (play on Magnetix)

Re:BioBrick? Please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21369983)

Only if your Daddy is stronger than Hercules.

Re:BioBrick? Please... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21371033)

Yeah, but those words already have real meanings.

Re:BioBrick? Please... (1)

sgt_doom (655561) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371481)

Wow...built like BioBricks, huh? Does this mean I could put together Paris Hilton....or Lindsey Lohan??

Basic Programming Blocks? (3, Funny)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369619)

I just hope that these basic "programming" blocks do not turn out to be Windows.

Re:Basic Programming Blocks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21369833)

Well if Microsoft made it the only thing that would happen is that the flower would turn blue and die... ...unless it dropped a seed pod and carpeted the earth as an invasive noxious weed....

Re:Basic Programming Blocks? (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369997)

THis is MIT they are talking about.

They kindof look down on Unix around there. I vaguely remember a friend who went there mentioning they used some OSS variant of Unix that she was fairly sure not to be Linux. She said it developed there and didn't have a huge base.

Just what we need (2, Insightful)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369643)

A biowarfare construction kit distributed to the masses.

Re:Just what we need (1)

kars (100858) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369831)

Brings a whole new meaning to the term "root"-kit...

Re:Just what we need (1)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369841)

meh... movable type has been around for ages and that's far, far more dangerous.

Re:Just what we need (2, Insightful)

dfetter (2035) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369867)

A biowarfare construction kit distributed to the masses.
Do you realize that you're making the argument for taking away everything from "the masses," which most emphatically includes you, that might conceivably be misused to harm someone. Are you ready to give up your car? Your computer? Your kitchen utensils?

Re:Just what we need (4, Interesting)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369987)

My computer, my kitchen utensils, and my car can't kill tens of millions of people.

This is simply a probability function. The more people that have the ability to create a biowarfare agent, the higher the chances that you'll have one released into the wild.

Consider this. The DNA sequence for the 1918 avian flu virus is public domain. You can buy base pair sequences online. It's not that difficult to add 1 and 1 to get 2. This isn't really technology you want to democratize to the masses. The number of angst ridden hate the world biochemists is much smaller than the number of angst ridden pimple faced teenagers. Given the ability, sooner or later one of them is going to think it's a cool idea to wipe out half the human species and will try.

Re:Just what we need (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370339)

Here it comes, alarmist without a clue of the field there worried about. At least your on the band wagon early with this one.

Re:Just what we need (3, Interesting)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370739)

Here it comes, alarmist without a clue of the field there worried about. At least your on the band wagon early with this one.
Actually, I majored in biology and have done a fair amount of research into biowarfare agents. So I do, in fact, have a clue about what I'm talking about.

If I'm being alarmist about this, why not let anyone buy weapons grade plutonium or uranium and publish functional weapons designs along with the CAD/CAM instructions? After all, using your logic it's alarmist to think anyone would actually go to the trouble of actually constructing and using a bomb.

After all, the technical and monetary investment needed to build a nuclear bomb is several orders of magnitude greater than what is required to build a biological agent. If we don't have anything to worry about with biological agents, then obviously our nuke fears are overblown as well.

Re:Just what we need (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371269)

the tools used for terrorism are not the problem, the underlying cause of terrorism in the first place *is* the problem and its consistently ignored in favor of restricting the advances of technology for "safety" and it's absolute bs.

Re:Just what we need (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370425)

Reminds me of the periodic scares that we got in the 1980s when the media would report on how a chemistry grad with some household chemicals could easily produce a chemical weapon capable of wiping out all life in a mile's radius from one drop.

It really hasn't happened very often. I think some Japanese terror group once killed people on the Tokyo subway using chemical weapons, but that was one of the few times such a thing happened. We certainly haven't seen humanity wiped out by angry chemistry graduates.

The human body has an immune system capable of learning about new threats and creating antibodies to tackle them. In cases where that system has failed on a dramatic level, such as the plague, there have been multiple factors at work, not just really special microbes or virusses. For a system to survive, it also cannot be ridiculously successful.

I'm not saying there's no threat, but we need a lethal combination of angry biologists and a design for an unbelievably successful virus. The success of conventional warfare as opposed to chemical on both the battlefield and the terrorist's cities suggests that few attempts would ever be made to use such a technique.

Re:Just what we need (1)

Xonstantine (947614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370885)

I'm not saying there's no threat, but we need a lethal combination of angry biologists and a design for an unbelievably successful virus. The success of conventional warfare as opposed to chemical on both the battlefield and the terrorist's cities suggests that few attempts would ever be made to use such a technique.
You don't really need a combination of angry biologists, and you don't need an unbelievably successful virus or bacterial agent. You just need a modestly successful one. Non-weapons grade anthrax may not kill you as fast or in as small doses as weapons grade anthrax, but it'll still kill you. And live bacteria and viral agents are the gift that keeps on giving.

Re:Just what we need (1)

dfetter (2035) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370741)

My computer, my kitchen utensils, and my car can't kill tens of millions of people.
If you're going to say that someone could create a nasty biological strain with this that they couldn't have constructed without it, you'll have to provide some evidence. For example, if you simply take a stack of petri dishes, expose the first one to air, pick the fastest-growing strain, then lather, rinse and repeat 20 times, the resulting strain will be lethal.

What really bugs me is the automatic assumption that anything people can use their curiosity on will be so misused that we have to ban it in advance of any evidence that it will actually cause any harm.

Re:Just what we need (1)

Assassin bug (835070) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371031)

Your being paranoid. It is easy to add 1 and 1 to get 2. It is not currently possible to order the entire genome of Influenzavirus, strain H1N1, and create an epidemic. You don't really know what your talking about. Just for giggles say you could mastermind such an endevour and order your virus "to go". You could order a giant 200-base oligo from IDT [idtdna.com] and it would cost you about $5,435.20(US) and it would come in about 68 chucks that you would then have to reconstruct into its original multipartite genome. This would not be easy. This would require a very large lab with people and resources. Also, as with many other viruses, many of the base sequences are estimates and, additionally, may not represent the most virulent genome from the quasispecies population. I don't think the world needs to worry about pimple-faced teenagers ravaging the world with influenza. I think the human species should be more concerned (especially in the "developed nations") with pimple-faced teenagers doing nothing.

Not the copyright holders. (5, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369645)

Now that they've released it under open source, God is going to sue them for copyright infringement.

These people are obviously terrorists (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369677)

Imagine creating toothpaste that when combined with mashed up peanuts (salted) becomes an explosive?

On a lighter note, do you think they can turn lead into gold? I hear Ron Paul would like to have some more of it to back the dollar?

Re:These people are obviously terrorists (1)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369739)

On a lighter note, do you think they can turn lead into gold?

Lead can be turned into gold. It's just prohibitively expensive.

Re:These people are obviously terrorists (1)

Grimholtt (1189625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369807)

That would completely crash the world economy.

Re:These people are obviously terrorists (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369879)

no it wouldn't. mThe current economy is based on faith in little pieces of paper.

The store says milk is worth 2 pieces of paper, you pay two pieces of paper, you say from you employer, I need 2000 piece of paper to do work, your landlord says you can stay for 200 pieces of paper.

Gold isn't needed. Yes, it's based on a non tangible. So what?

Re:These people are obviously terrorists (1)

Anonymous Crowhead (577505) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370001)

Paper? More like bits and bytes these days.

US Currency is more than a piece of paper (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370053)

Money is a piece of paper backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the United States.

I'm not saying it's worth more than a piece of paper, only that it is more than a piece of paper.

Re:US Currency is more than a piece of paper (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370305)

really? so what would happen if everybody says it's no good? It would be no good. The government can hoot and holler all it wants, but if nobody accepts those little bits of paper they're worthless.

The illusion that the government can somehow do something about it is a needed one though.
Don't get me wrong, I like the fact that it's little bits of paper and thing the system is one of the best for continue progress and civilization.

People who want to bring gold back seem to have forgotten the problems it caused.

Re:US Currency is more than a piece of paper (1)

cromar (1103585) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370655)

The thing that gets me is that gold is just about as arbitrary a currency as paper. You can't eat it. You can't get enough of it to build a shelter. It's not great for making basic tools. It's kinda pretty, but so what?

Re:US Currency is more than a piece of paper (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371101)

It's not about being arbitrary. Creating more gold to debase the currency is very expensive and slow. Turning on a printing press is just the flick of a button. And the button is mostly controlled by two groups who are perpetually in debt, the government and the banks.

A pure paper currency would idealy better than gold, but in the real world, someone always controls the printing press.

Re:US Currency is more than a piece of paper (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371207)

Such as?

Re:US Currency is more than a piece of paper (1)

Grimholtt (1189625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370709)

Technically speaking all paper currencies are backed by the gold reserves. Therefore, most currencies are dependant on the gold. If anyone could actually create their own gold, it would no longer be a precious metal and just be shiny stuff. The paper currencies that used it for strength would then pretty much be less useful than toiletpaper. Hence, crashed economy.

This is not correct (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370917)

US Currency has not been backed by gold or any other metal since the '30s.

From The US Treasury Web Site [treasury.gov] :

Federal Reserve notes are not redeemable in gold, silver or any other commodity, and receive no backing by anything This has been the case since 1933. The notes have no value for themselves, but for what they will buy. In another sense, because they are legal tender, Federal Reserve notes are "backed" by all the goods and services in the economy.
They are backed by collateral, some but not all of which are gold certificates:

Congress has specified that a Federal Reserve Bank must hold collateral equal in value to the Federal Reserve notes that the Bank receives. This collateral is chiefly gold certificates and United States securities.

Re:This is not correct (1)

Grimholtt (1189625) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371143)

Well there ya go... I blame it on my government school eductation. Thanks for the correction.

Re:US Currency is more than a piece of paper (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371117)

Your information is significantly out of date. No major paper currencies are currently backed by anything but tradition. A few minor ones are, at best, "pegged" to other paper currencies.

In order to be "backed" by something you must be able to take the note or bill to the issuer and receive the indicated goods in exchange. With e.g. a Federal Reserve Note ("dollar" bill) this is not possible -- the indicated goods (one dollar, legally defined as a specific quantity of gold or silver) are not offered in exchange by the Federal Reserve or the Treasury, and in fact cannot be offered at the indicated exchange rate due to the enormous discrepancy between the number of notes on the market (paper and electronic) and the available reserves.

Re:US Currency is more than paper, it's food (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371339)


But what if we use our Bio Block Building Set to create a paper-eating organism?

Than it would be based on a rapidly consumed mythical piece of paper and your currency would truly devalue in a very organic kind of way.

Have to engineer something so it can handle those little metallic strips, tho.

And now it's time for Frank Talk with a Frankie (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370881)

Angel: This is Angel.
Angel: This is Angel.
Angel & Angel: We are the Android Sisters. What is your question?
Caller: All of reality exists in our minds. Is that true?
Angel: What is your intelligence rating?
Caller: I'm classified as a 5.5555.
Angel: You understand we only speak to you on the level you can comprehend.
Caller: I appreciate that.
Angel: For those of you watching out there, adjust your I-T rating to...
Angel & Angel: 5.5555. What is your question?
Caller: I already asked it.
Angel: What is your question?
Caller: I said, I already asked it.
Angel & Angel: What is your question?
[beat]
Angel & Angel: What is your question?
Caller: All right, I want to know if reality is in my mind or is it out there? I mean, what if it's all in my mind? I mean, change my mind I could change reality: right; wrong; what? I'm confused.
Angel & Angel: Dear Confused.
Angel: Briefly, reality is merely what everyone agrees is real.
Angel: What everyone agrees is not real does not exist.
Caller: Who programmed you?
Angel & Angel: Who programmed you?
Caller: How should I know? Everyone. I don't know. I'm still confused.
Angel & Angel: Dear Still Confused.
Angel: You are confusing the symbol for reality.
["Reality"]
Angel: Money is a good example.
["Money"]
Caller: What about money? I like money.
["Money money"]
Angel: I will use two pieces of paper as an example.
Angel: Can you see this?
Caller: I see one piece of paper. The other is money.
Angel & Angel: Two pieces of paper!
Caller: What?
Angel: Here are two pieces of paper.
Angel: Both the same size.
Angel: Both just paper.
["Paper"]
Angel: Humans are obsessed with money.
["Money money money money"]
Caller: Not all humans, just some of us. Most of us.
Angel: One piece of paper is worth 500 Solar Credits.
Angel: The other is worthless. Not even worth a Solar Centavo.
Angel: Do you know why?
Caller: Sure. One is a piece of money, the other is a piece of paper.
Angel & Angel: They are both paper.
Caller: Yeah. Right.
Angel: One has been...
Angel & Angel: ...Blessed...
Angel: ...by the Treasury Wizards.
Angel: The other has not.
Caller: That's it?
["That's it."]
Angel: The symbol is controlling your mind.
Caller: Mmm. I see.
Angel: Oh, our time is up.
Angel: This is Angel.
Angel: This is Angel.
Angel: We are the Android Sisters. Until next time.

Hrmmmmm... (1)

Steauengeglase (512315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369701)

So the old 2 horny boys and a chemistry set scenario can finally come to pass.

Re:Hrmmmmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370051)

The new line of LegoLisa, eh? I just can't decide though, so I'll just have to get one of the brunette models and one of the blonde ones too.

New License on Life (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369729)

A consortium of universities will release the first draft of the BioBrick Public License in 2008. It will allow anyone to use the biological parts -- essentially a cellular dev kit -- for free.

What is this crap about a license taking months to produce and release? They should just release it with a license saying everything made with the kit is in the public domain, with the single exception to that disclaimer of all rights that any derivative must also come with that license. Why would it take more than 5 minutes to agree to release that license, and release it?

When some university comes after me for metabolizing glucose as part of my job (moving a muscle during business hours, just like you sometimes do), I don't want to have to argue about some license they've got on some DNA they synthesized.

All these patents on discovered genes are the purest BS violation of prior art. Any complexity in this BioBrick Public License will create more problems than it could ever solve.

Re:New License on Life (1)

Raindance (680694) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371383)

What is this crap about a license taking months to produce and release? They should just release it with a license saying everything made with the kit is in the public domain, with the single exception to that disclaimer of all rights that any derivative must also come with that license. Why would it take more than 5 minutes to agree to release that license, and release it?


You know, you'd think it should be that simple. But to actually build legal code that would implement those protections in enough jurisdictions is a huge undertaking. Setting aside that "public domain" would no longer be an apt description of the license once the "share-alike" provision is attached, I could see how bio-oriented licenses could take that long and more.

See e.g., how much work has gone into the relatively simple Creative Commons licenses in order to make them legally solid, clearly understandable, and inter-compatible. And that's for text, a medium with lots of 'legal infrastructure' to draw from.

Legal stuff takes time, sadly. And an intended licensing result that can be described simply may involve a very complex legal document.

Re:New License on Life (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371507)

Nah, the CC licenses are complex. There's no reason the license can't read "this software/dataset/whatever is hereby released from any rights or obligations by either the recipient or anyone from whom they receive it, except the obligation to include this notice is required".

Even if that needs tweaking by a lawyer, any lawyer who can't make that sound, given all the knowledge of existing contracts, isn't worth their own license.

Besides, that contract isn't even necessary. They can just release it with "this thing is hereby placed in the public domain". If they want to ensure that any changes or derivations are forced to be published, which I don't see as necessary, they can publish it under the GPL, which is easier to defend precisely because it's not new. If it's content, not code, they can publish it under an existing CC.

A delay of several months to release a new license is only a way to reserve some other rights to themselves. Which is crap.

i swear i'm not a luddite (5, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369753)

upside: any elicit drug, or pharmaceutical intellect property drugs, can be made

downside: hello nerve gas

results: all of the pluses and minuses of free computer code manipulations we are familiar with (intellectual property meltdown, hackers, etc.), replicated in the world of biochemistry. except this time, the script kiddies are playing with petri dishes

what took an entire universy research department, with all the pcr machines, southern blots, grad students, etc. 10 years ago, will 10 years from now be on the workbench of high school students

i'm all one for the relentless march of technology, and there is no putting pandora back in the box, but this leaves me feeling queasy

maybe it's just the GM wasabi in my sushi

Re:i swear i'm not a luddite (2, Informative)

LionMage (318500) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370465)

Wow... Normally, I'd let this stuff slide, but...

upside: any elicit drug [...]
Emphasis added. The word you want to use here is "illicit," as in illegal. "Elicit" is a homophone, but means something entirely different.

[...] and there is no putting pandora back in the box [...]
OK, Pandora was never in the box, you dig? The box (actually a jar in better translations) contained a whole host of blessings (at least in some versions), but also many curses besides (from the versions of the myth that have persisted in popular culture), and it was the opening of the box that released these ills into the world. Most of the versions I've read say that hope was the only thing left in the box after it was carelessly opened, something humanity was allowed to hang onto in order to make up for all the evilness that was let loose, and to compensate us for the good things that were lost. There's a pretty good retelling of the story here [pantheon.org] .

Maybe a mixed metaphor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370545)

It occurred to me that maybe this is a classic case of a mixed metaphor, and that circletimessquare meant "putting the genie back in the bottle" instead of "putting Pandora back in the box."

dude, i don't even capitalize or use periods (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370895)

why the hell do you think your spelling/ grammar/ greek mythology nazi ways are going to impress me?

why the hell do you grammar nazis try so hard?

Re:dude, i don't even capitalize or use periods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21371171)

why the hell do you grammar nazis try so hard?

Because idiots like you communicate poorly, and we are trying to help you to communicate better. It is a Quixotic mission in your case, but we are selfless and tireless.

that was a rhetorical question (2, Informative)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371525)

i understand the answer already

the truth is, your mind is brittle and inflexible

the average person on the street can decipher text messages, slang, etc., without any trouble or mental fuzziness

however, there exists a certain inflexible segment of small-mined, petty, and mediocre people who believe it is somehow more important to focus on the color of the wrapping paper rather than gift

that's a metaphor for valuing cosmetics over content. it means i think your mind is shallow. can you comprehend a metaphor dear autistic turd? or not until i rigidly adhere to strunk & white's elements of style will your dim mind whir and click the meaning into place?

in which case, it is with PLEASURE that my poor formatting trips up such brittle minds. consider it a useful filter on my part: when i confront grammar nazis, i am ENCOURAGED to format poorly based on your brittle reactions. i would choose not to continue communicating with minds that work like yours. and my poor formatting achieves that. magical, huh?

your feeble mind's inability to get over that which normal folk have no trouble digesting mentally is a loud and clear signal for me to ignore you, continue on my way, and be happy brittle feeble minds like yours are tripped up and sent packing from the conversation

you'll notice that was a run on sentence. you'll notice i don't fucking care, and am happy not to care, considering the type of person who does care. i feel liberated from mediocrity by ignoring your concerns

capisce, you useless feeble dim bulb? oh, and by the way, if you're still reading at this point: IF YOU GOT THROUGH THAT MUCH NEGATIVE BULLSHIT, AS BADLY FORMATTED AS IT WAS, AND YOU'RE STILL READING, WHY. THE. FUCK. DO. YOU. FUCKING. CARE. SO. MUCH. ABOUT. GRAMMAR. YOU. FUCKING. BRITTLE. MINDED. TURD?

xoxoxoxoxoxox

Re:i swear i'm not a luddite (1)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370713)

what took an entire universy research department, with all the pcr machines, southern blots, grad students, etc. 10 years ago, will 10 years from now be on the workbench of high school students


I don't know. Is there any huge reason FOR High School students to be practicing this stuff?

PCR is surprisingly easy to do (albeit sloppily). Looking back, my high school probably had most of the necessary equipment. However, I can't really think of the educational value of performing a PCR reaction, given that although the mechanisms may be somewhat complex, the end result is more or less analogous to a photocopier.

Practical hands-on work is important for science education, but there's no reason why things need to be kicked up a notch in this case. I did a few labs on gel electrophoresis in HS, and that did a fantastic job of explaining the mechanics of DNA matching.

The old fashioned chemistry and biology labs taught in High School are more or less going to be just as valid and applicable as they are now for the foreseeable future.

power, man (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370855)

there's no reason to make bottle rockets

there's no reason to make napster

there's no reason to master electronic sampling in music

do you really think a teenager finds nothing compelling about a quick and easy way to make any chemical he wants in his gym locker?

Re:i swear i'm not a luddite (3, Insightful)

Upaut (670171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371179)

downside: hello nerve gas

No. No. You are not going to use that argument here. That is the argument that is killing science. You want to stop someone making deadly gas? Here, not even using the classic "Chlorine" form household chemicals one. How about some phosphene gas? Colourless, odorless, tasteless, kills with low concentration. Can be made with urine (collected, aged, and distilled with charcoal to extract phosphorus), and a some natural gas from a line. Want to ban the action of urination?

Yes, the knowledge and ability to make some deadly compounds have always existed. Its the blight of the scientist; no one trusts us. Scientists are not the heroes, we are always portrayed as either bumbling and accidentally unleashing a horror onto the world, or a megalomaniac bent on global conquest. But the benefit of being able to learn at home far outweighs one or two people that accidently injure themselves. The best way of combatting these accidents? Promoting more science at home. With knowledge instilled at a young age, then its less likely that someone will get hurt, and with learning responsibility at a young age, less likely to hurt others. Its kinda like taking karate, no mater how pissed you get, you don't whip out the years of honed skills for revenge. Its just not polite.

As a young lad I had seven layers of shit beaten out of me, almost on a daily basis. What did I do? Did I take my gun and shoot everyone? Did I make explosives and take everyone out with me? Did I gas my tormentors? Did I use my historical knowledge of poisons craft a unique death? Nope. Wouldn't. Because all life is important, even the life of the dick that is kicking you in the skull. On the other hand, my former tormentors might have notice they went through tires and cars in general faster then their classmates... Never said I was above all forms of petty vengeance...

skunkopotamus? (1)

david_bonn (259998) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369789)

I'm just thinking of the applications for household pets...

Dwarf elephants the size of kittens. Basselopes. Maybe even unicorns...

Re:skunkopotamus? (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369869)

Snipes... Don't forget snipes.

Re:skunkopotamus? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369943)

OMG, if my daughter reads that I'm doomed.
"Daddy can I have a Unicorn"

OTOH, it would be a great test of her virginity in a bunch of years.

"Sweatheart, Why won't Uni let you pet him? nN an unrelated note, I will need to find my gun before your boyfriend arrives to pick you up...and my shovel."

Saw a talk by Tom Knight recently (5, Interesting)

Mr.Ned (79679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369835)

I saw a talk by Tom Knight recently about BioBricks. It's a cool concept.

Some interesting points I remember from the talk:

- His lab and others like it are trying to take the craft out of manipulating cells and make it an engineering discipline.

- They've got ready-made kits of cell building blocks that you can piece together like Legos, and are adding thousands of new ones each year.

- Cells are enormously more efficient at storing information that we can in silicon - 5 or 6 orders of magnitude more dense - but most cells aren't good at writing new data, just reading it.

- Cells are really good at making precise structures at the atomic level, but our mechanical processes rely on statistics and probabilities to get things right. The smaller the structures get, the more a small statistical variation can really mess things up. Carbon nanotubes are much-hyped, and guess what's really good at making carbon structures?

- Another useful critter that was created for the last competition detected arsenic in water. The best manufactured/chemical solution costs is tens of dollars per test; using these kits, undergraduates from Edinburgh created something over a summer that is so cheap the bottles to put it in are the dominate cost.

Re:Saw a talk by Tom Knight recently (1)

Mr.Ned (79679) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371229)

Few other things I forgot to mention:

- They're working with BSL-1 critters, which he described as "don't eat them, but if you do, nothing bad will happen"

- The critters they create are not as fit as the ones they created them from, so even if they did get out, they're not likely to survive. He's in the business of making them more simple so they're easier to understand and build, and by simplifying, they're losing functionality. Apparently a e. coli can act completely differently depending on its environment - dirt or your stomach - and by simplifying, they lose some of that ability.

Re:Saw a talk by Tom Knight recently (1)

waveclaw (43274) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371403)

They've got ready-made kits of cell building blocks that you can piece together like Legos, and are adding thousands of new ones each year.


So the race is on. Who will win?

The backyarders [orionsarm.com] who try to grow their own Stage Trees [wikipedia.org] and escape into orbit?

Or the href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamist_terrorism"Terrorists with super-Sarin [wikipedia.org] on their suddenly glowing, long-blonde [wikipedia.org] minds?

Cells are enormously more efficient at storing information that we can in silicon


Has Microsoft heard about this? It could be useful for Backing Up Your Brain [slashdot.org] . Maybe with something cellular...

But the most important question is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21369881)

Would these open source cells run linux.

Slashdot Needs An Engineered Calendar (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21369953)



to prevent dupes [slashdot.org] .

Zzzz.

Mod parent informative (1)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370077)

I can't mod this thread.

This is old news. (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369973)

I read about this... what? A couple of months ago?

Just in time for Christmas! (5, Funny)

davidwr (791652) | more than 6 years ago | (#21369979)

Announcer: Hey kids! How would you like a chemistry set for Christmas?
Kids: BOR-ING!
Announcer: A ray gun?
Kids: BOR-ING!
Announcer: How about the new amazing Bio-Bricks!
Kids: COOL!!!!!

Announcer voice-over with kids in background hunched over a petri dish full of Bio-Bricks: With Bio-Bricks your kids will have hours upon hours of enjoyment creating new life forms. Bio-Bricks are available at fine genetic research supply stores everywhere.

Announcer reading legal disclaimer:
Neither the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition, MIT, Bejing University, or the government of China is responsible for improper use of Bio-Bricks. Serious injury, mutations, illness, death, or the end of life on Earth may result from improper use of Bio-Bricks. Using Bio-Bricks to create dangerous life forms is not recommended. Adult supervision required.

Re:Just in time for Christmas! (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370285)

Is it anything like Aqua Dots?

I want to be the first... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370067)

to create an Orc. So please include the pig and human modules please...

Scares me (1, Interesting)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370095)

I don't think about it a whole lot, but back in my mind, I've thought that this is what will kill off all humans on the planet before the end of my natural life. Once you have cheap, easy engineering of microbial life, then all it takes is exactly ONE maniac to design a transmittable disease that will wipe out everyone.

Don't think anyone would do that? Look at some of the more rabid environmentalists who think the worst thing that ever happened to Earth was humanity. Theodore Kaczinsky was a genius, and with only a slight modification of his psychosis, he would've been a guy who would've thought about wiping everyone out.

Designing a disease like this would be almost pathetically simple with the right tools. Design it to be extremely infectious, but with an incubation period of 10 years before it starts killing. By the time people start dropping dead, it will be everywhere. 99% of everyone would be dead within months.

I honestly don't see how it could NOT happen -- eventually. Yet another reason why we need to get people into space habitats.

If any technology should be tightly controlled, this is it.

Re:Scares me (3, Funny)

squiggleslash (241428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370287)

I wouldn't worry too much about that. While most of humanity would be wiped out, Bruce Willis would survive, enabling the scientists to send him back in time to find the origin of the virus. They'll then be able to create a vaccine and we'll be able to live on the surface again.

We should probably check with him that he didn't see anyone get shot dead at an airport when he was a kid though, as it might mean something tragic.

Re:Scares me (1)

i.r.id10t (595143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370429)

I'm more worried about an accident... I mean, as many of us learned to program, who hasn't accidentally created a unending loop, etc?

Re:Scares me (1)

E++99 (880734) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371267)

this is what will kill off all humans on the planet before the end of my natural life.

Are you saying... you're not human? Or are you planning on dying off-planet?

Re:Scares me (2, Interesting)

iaminthetrunk (945825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371549)

Once you have cheap, easy engineering of microbial life, then all it takes is exactly ONE maniac to design a transmittable disease that will wipe out everyone.
Once you have cheap, easy engineering of microbial life, you also have thousands of people competent to work on cures, genetic enhancements, immune system upgrades, rapid turn-around vaccines, and so forth. Computers and programming languages didn't just produce script kiddies, they produces all the other benefits of computers and programming languages, from security researches to flash games to robotic assembly lines to the pending promise of hand-held real-time universal translation widgets. Genetic engineering brings extension of lifespan, curing of disease, creation of new life forms, preservation of extinct species, etc. Not that bio-bricks silver bullet such stuff, anymore than the first room-sized ENIAC instantly snapped universal translation into existence. Just that your alarmism sees a narrow range. If you can't keep the technology contained, one of the most rational things to do is make a large pool of benevolent people competent in the technology, to counteract the impact of the nutty minority who will attempt to misuse it.

Designing a disease like this would be almost pathetically simple with the right tools. Design it to be extremely infectious, but with an incubation period of 10 years before it starts killing.
The bio-bricks will make it easy to test that it works on humans, incubating for 10 years, eh? Or will you be testing it in a petri dish and presuming you can mod it defect-free to both work in humans and incubate for 10 years, setting aside the hilarity of how difficult such an incubation effect would be. Not even influenza or ebola kills 99 percent of people, incidentally, but don't let that stop your alarmist hyperbole. 10 years from now, I definately expect your genome will be decodable on the cheap inside a day, and we'll be well along in decoding a whole host of symbiotic gut bacteria and bloodstream chemicals and so forth. Most probably we'll be busy working on tech to monitor your blood chemistry real-time, and thinking about regularly, say, decoding the state and composition of your internal fauna on routine doctor visits. Remaining undetected 10 years from now seems to be more challenging than you breezily think it will be. A majority of script kiddies attacks from 10 years ago are negligible now, security layers and techniques advanced.

If any technology should be tightly controlled, this is it.
Technologies should be appropriately regulated with a judicious rational eye, as we do with dozens of technologies already. There's a delicious irony in yourself or someone you like dying from some variant flavor of disease years hence, because you were too alarmist to let me study the proteans and genetics of those cells as an intellectual hobby and contribute something worthwild, and I programmed flash games instead. If anything ought to be more tightly regulated, incidentally, it's parenting. I could do with less nutty people in the world to misuse technology in the first place. -evoke

whoooaa (1)

kyc (984418) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370135)


  When you read it, it seems like some genious kid could be able to create dinasour like creautures out of a bunch of fundamental molecules.

  I think open-source like genetic engineering must be much more different. Though being no expert on this, I really don't believe what they can synthesize is not much more than the simple (and boring) organic molecules, I needed to memorize in high-school. ( Yeah, they were teaching organic chemistry in high-school back then)

If they were so cabaple of playing with the source code of biology, I bet they could have beaten the little, evil, less than a bacteria-sized virus called the HIV.

Re:whoooaa (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370229)

Of course they taught it when you were in high school...it was still new!

A biohazard waiting to happen. (2, Insightful)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370169)

What happens when someone uses the wrong block in the right spot by accident? Giving the tools to people that aren't able to understand the possible side effects could be dangerous. Not everyone has a containment level 3 facility in their basement.

It was just a joke! (2, Funny)

greg_barton (5551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370173)

My daughter was born three months ago. My wife jokes, "She won't be allowed to date until she's 25!" I always add, "Yeah, and not until after she gets a PhD in Programmable Genetics..."

I was only half kidding. Now I'm not kidding at all. :)

SDK (1)

garlicbready (846542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370291)

cool when can we expect the human SDK?

will I be able to upload my own designs for a new Leg to the git tree
hey for that matter build your own git
(english reference there)

Re:SDK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370475)

Your statement just doesn't "gitter done" for me could you please explain. (Southern American reference there)

Re:SDK (1)

Alotau (714890) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370841)

cool when can we expect the human SDK?
I came pre-packaged with half of the human SDK. Luckily my wife has the other half. The tools are crude and the development cycle is quite long.

Yeah... (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370413)

...this will stay legal for what? Five minutes? As soon as they're successful, this is going to be locked up tighter than a drum (as an old employer used to say). There won't be any namby pamby warm and fuzzy open community feelings for long. I see the end result being collusion by big pharma and their de-balled government lackies to outlaw this. Especially if it would mean "illegitimate" alternatives to big pharma. The companies that make medicine today aren't here to cure you. They're here to make a profit. And it that means making you and keeping you just sick enough to keep coming back for more, you can bet they won't want competition from people who actually might have your best interests at heart.

About time too... (2, Funny)

syrinje (781614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21370627)

...I, for one, welocme our synthetic Bio-Lego-lical overlords!

Ethanol?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21370745)

Don't they already have cells that can produce ethanol? I believe they are called "yeast"...

Sorry Guys, This Is NOT a Threat (5, Informative)

Pugio (816116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371037)

I don't often post, but most of the comments here are completely wrong. I'm a bioengineer and have been following this project since its inception. Some points:

- This technology is NOT any more effective or dangerous than "traditional" genetic engineering. You will not be able to make a unicorn, dragon, or some unholy dog/cat combination.

- Building an Über Death Virus from this takes just as much skill, equipment, and knowledge as it would using standard tools. First, the BioBricks are made for use inside of a living bacterial organism. They will not work without a cell to operate in. A virus, by contrast, is just a specialized collection of proteins that is not in any way alive - something very very different from BioBricks.

"But what about a killer bacteria?" I hear you ask. Well, while technically possible, it's not easy to make something that can live comfortably in our bodies. To a foreign bacteria, our bodies are a fortress crawling with guards and death traps. It has taken nature millions of years to develop microbes capable of harming us (as our immune systems have also grown to combat each new threat.) The key point here is that, to create a NEW bacterial threat, one would have to be very well versed in biology and genetic engineering. What's more, for someone of this skill level, it would be much easier to create such a bacteria using standard biological techniques, not BioBricks.

These BioBricks are incredibly cool and powerful, within their problem domain. Making bacteria do things is very different from giving them the ability to successfully harm our bodies and spread to other hosts.

I for one welcome our new biological overlords (1)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371307)

Well, I would just like to say that I for one welcome our new biological overlords, and the people who created them from easy to use kits to wipe out our human species.

Learn to spell. (0, Flamebait)

skrolle2 (844387) | more than 6 years ago | (#21371429)

It's "lego" not "legos" you stupid colonials.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?