In a breakthrough effort for computational biology, the world’s first complete computer model of an organism has been completed, Stanford researchers reported last week in the journal Cell. A team used data from more than 900 scientific papers to account for every molecular interaction that takes place in the life cycle of Mycoplasma genitalium, the world’s smallest free-living bacterium.
Why is this a whole lot more than your run of the mill bioscience breakthrough? Until now, knowing the ways and means of a bazillion sub-reactions and gears and wheels did not combine into a clear model of a whole organism. This is a true Frankenstein moment… in the best meaning of the term! In that before, all we had were countless non-living pieces on the work bench.
Now… we know how to put them together. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha.
No, seriously. Bwa-haha.
In related news: Caltech researchers have created an artificial jellyfish from rat cells and sheets of silicone polymer. It can mimic the swimming motion of natural jellyfish via electrical stimulation which causes rapid contraction of the rat heart muscle cells.
“A powerful demonstration of engineering chimaeric systems of living and non-living components,” says Joseph Vacanti of Massachusetts General Hospital. The team hopes to reverse-engineer other marine lifeforms.
==Science forges on! (Now to get politics to come along)==
Do you wish it were possible to transform American politics enough to calm down the “war on science” and transform it – instead – into a debate about science?
That’s one goal of the good folks at Science Debate, who urge that matters of science and technology and the future be put on the agenda of candidates for high office, especially during the looming presidential debates. If we could get just one evening when the focus would be on the very forces — from energy to innovation, climate change to the internet — that drive change and propel so many challenges? Front and center? Exposing the intelligent cogency – or lack – in the men seeking to guide us into uncharted waters? Please visit the site. Even better, sign the petition and viral it.
Barring that brilliant – but alas, unlikely, event – the folks at ScienceDebate.org have polled dozens of top scientific groups to come up with The Top American Science Questions in 2012 — the most important science policy issues facing the United States. Whatever your affiliation, this year do spend the time to look them over and then do send them on to your local candidates for Congress and assembly and so on.
Try it. Then note who actually bothers to answer.
==On the Transparency Front==
BikeCams: Cyclists have long had a rocky coexistence with motorists and pedestrians. Now some cyclists are wearing helmet-mounted cameras to record their encounters, exactly as portrayed in The Transparent Society.
From baby monitors to closed circuit television, 2.4 GHz video transmitters are in many consumer products these days. And yet, most owners of these video devices don’t realize they’re transmitting an unencrypted video signal that can be picked up by anyone.
See how one activist is offering these feeds on lamp post boxes to increase public awareness… in stunning correlation with scenes in my new novel EXISTENCE. In a project, From Surveillance to Broadcast, Benjamin Gaulon has posted boxes on street corners, recording video feed that can be accessed, to increase public awareness of the capabilities of this technology.
No more hiding behind anonymity? YouTube is fighting against idiotic and often nasty/racist/sexist commenters by calling for full names when you upload or comment on videos. We seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place. Anonymity protects free speech… and unleashes the most vicious instincts from truly awful people. Is there any way we could get to hold onto some accountability and feedback loops that encourage maturity and decency… while still keeping the most important benefits of anonymity?
=== A Miscellany of Science News ===
Two shock waves in space, intersecting, might create a “regularity singularity” – interesting general relativity.
The National Ignition Facility completed a 500 terrawatt laser fusion shot. Wow.
Move to Kansas City right now! Google announced plans to build the gigabit network back in February of 2010 and thousands of municipalities competed to be the future home of the planned network. In March, it selected Kansas City as the first test of a network running fiber-optic cables directly to homes, and delivering Internet speeds roughly 100 times faster than the national broadband average. Watch for details next week. (In Existence I briefly describe a completely unused, potentially fecund “right of way” into nearly every home!)
Watch an impressive and inspiring film about cetaceans and research into whales – with unbelievable photography – by Fabrice Schnoller and a team of French researchers.
Yes… science marches on. Let’s stay worthy of it.