Now, the first living organisms to thrive with an expanded genetic code have been made by researchers in work that paves the way for the creation and exploitation of entirely new life forms.Scientists in the US modified common E coli microbes to carry a beefed-up payload of genetic material which, they say, will ultimately allow them to program how the organisms operate and behave.The work is aimed at making bugs that churn out new kinds of proteins which can be harvested and turned into drugs to treat a range of diseases. But the same technology could also lead to new kinds of materials, the researchers say.In a report published on Monday, the scientists describe the modified microbes as a starting point for efforts to “create organisms with wholly unnatural attributes and traits not found elsewhere in nature.” The cells constitute a “stable form of semi-synthetic life” and “lay the foundation for achieving the central goal of synthetic biology: the creation of new life forms and functions,” they add.
Quote from: Star One on 01/23/2017 09:18 PMSpringing out of this article on a breakthrough in this area, I would imagine terraforming planets such as Mars could be an important use of this technology. Any thoughts?My first thought is that level of control over an organism could be used first to clean up our own atmosphere.But there's no free ride, where does the synthetic lifeform get its energy and resources, and what is the chemical output you wish to see?Finally, how do you shut it off? This sort of thing would have to be released into the wild to have any appreciable impact at a terraforming scale. How does it know when to stop?BTW, this sort of concept has been popular with sci-fi for ages. James Corey's "Expanse" series and Neal Asher's "Polity" series are good examples, as is the Alien series prequel "Prometheus".
Springing out of this article on a breakthrough in this area, I would imagine terraforming planets such as Mars could be an important use of this technology. Any thoughts?
My first thought is that level of control over an organism could be used first to clean up our own atmosphere.
Finally, how do you shut it off? This sort of thing would have to be released into the wild to have any appreciable impact at a terraforming scale. How does it know when to stop?
Do you think there may not be enough of the right kind of things on Mars to start with for even a synthetic organism to get anywhere no matter how highly manufactured?
Carl Sagan has a reply to that. Break down the carbon dioxide and you are left with a planet covered with a thick layer of carbon dust and a dubious future. "if the scheme worked, the result would be a surface buried in hundreds of meters of fine graphite, and an atmosphere made of 65 bars of almost pure molecular oxygen. Whether we would first implode under the atmospheric pressure or spontaneously burst into flames in all that oxygen is open to question. However, long before so much oxygen could build up, the graphite would spontaneously burn back into CO2, short-circuiting the process."
Yeah, that 'synthetic life' is not a big difference from current earth life. Earth life is carbon, nitrogen, and water based, which limits the conditions it can exist under. It can go a bit below 0 celsius in salt water. I guess the upper limit could be around 150 celsius, where biomolecules cook here on earth. The actual upper limit is probably going to be lower than that. Now if 'synthetic life' was something weird, like carbon, and ammonia based, or silicon based, there could be real applications.I guess much of the carbon dioxide could be sequestered on Venus into carbonate rocks, but Venus still needs lots of hydrogen. As for Mars, life on Earth requires a lot of water. The Sahara desert technically has life, but only a small fraction of its surface is covered with plants.
Everyone keeps talking about teraforming Mars. What about Venus? Easy to get to, thick atmosphere, plenty of water vapor. Why not send an organism to Venus to break down the CO2?
How about doing the reverse of proposed Mars magnetic field generator? Could we create a magnetic field that, interacting with Venus magnetic field would maximize the effect of solar wind, ripping the upper atmosphere?This could be combined with an organism that would break down the atmosphere into lighter gas, so it would expand.