Tag Archives | BioDesign

Living In A Biodome In The Arizona Desert

USA_SCI_BIOSPH_01_xs_FINALCabinet Magazine looks at one of the strangest experiments in American history, the Biosphere, a Lord of the Flies-style misadventure in utopian scientific overoptimism that spawned a terrible Pauly Shore movie and a fad diet:

At 8:15 am on 26 September 1991, eight “bionauts,” as they called themselves, wearing identical red Star Trek–like jumpsuits (made for them by Marilyn Monroe’s former dressmaker) waved to the assembled crowd and climbed through an airlock door in the Arizona desert. They shut it behind them and opened another that led into a series of hermetically sealed greenhouses in which they would live for the next two years.

The three-acre complex of interconnected glass Mesoamerican pyramids, geodesic domes, and vaulted structures contained a tropical rain forest, a grassland savannah, a mangrove wetland, a farm, and a salt-water ocean with a wave machine and gravelly beach. This was Biosphere 2—the first biosphere being Earth—a $150 million experiment designed to see if, in a climate of nuclear and ecological fear, the colonization of space might be possible.

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DARPA Wants to Override Evolution to Make Immortal Synthetic Organisms

800px-DARPA_LogoBy Jeremy Hsu for PopSci:

Death-resistant synthetic beings? Don’t worry, there’s a genetically encoded kill-switch

It’s been a long time since a Pentagon project from the DARPA labs truly evoked a “WTF DARPA?!” response, but our collective jaw dropped when we saw the details on a project known as BioDesign. DARPA hopes to dispense with evolutionary randomness and assemble biological creatures, genetically programmed to live indefinitely and presumably do whatever their human masters want. And, Wired’s Danger Room reports, when there’s the inevitable problem of said creatures going haywire or realizing that they’re intelligent and have feelings, there’s a planned self-destruct genetic code that could be triggered.

Unsurprisingly, molecular biologists have weighed in with huge caveats and raised fingers of objection. First, they say that DARPA has the wrong idea about hoping to overcome evolution’s supposed randomness, and that evolution really represents a super-efficient design algorithm. Then there’s the problem of guaranteeing immortal life for any biological creature in the first place — just look here and here at some really smart people who have yet to find that fountain of youth.

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