Sunday, November 04, 2012

Science & SF Tidbits: Presidential DNA Biohacking, Alien Jellies, Non-fruity Dragons

Recent links of interest:

• The Lovely Lobed Comb Jelly (YouTube)
This video from the Monterey Bay Aquarium is an artful display of beautiful and eerily alien-looking bioluminescent comb jellies.

Image: "Frolicking" comb jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium by Steve Jurvetson (jurvetson) on Flickr, shared under a CC-BY-2.0 (Creative Commons Attribution) license.

• Hacking the President’s DNA (The Atlantic)
"So, in November of 2016, when a first-time visitor with the handle Cap’n Capsid posted a challenge on the viral-design site 99Virions, no alarms sounded; his was just one of the 100 or so design requests submitted that day"
This article in The Atlantic begins with a detailed scenario describing the rise of amateur biohacking that spins out of control into outright terrorism. With today's technology that is pretty much just science fiction. But the potential current threat that that the relatively straightforward molecular manipulation of viruses and bacteria and the ease of genome sequencing represents is taken very seriously by the government.

There are claims that the DNA of the President of the United States is carefully being protected, while DNA from other world leaders is being collected. And reports of the creation of synthetic organisms has added to the fear that genetically manipulated bugs could cause unstoppable pandemics. With the spread of "biohacking" culture, there is fear that even amateurs could become bioterrorists. While all of that sounds alarmist, the article does take a more realistic look at what bioscience is capable of today.

• ‘The Hobbit’: Peter Jackson’s unexpected journey to three films (Hero Complex at the LA Times)
Peter Jackson was interviewed about his upcoming film version of Tolkien's The Hobbit. When asked about the design of Smaug the dragon, he explained why he wanted a traditional look:
"The trouble with redesigning dragons is that if you really get fruity with it, it suddenly starts to look like some sort of monster from another planet — you very quickly can go into science-fiction territory,” Jackson said. “I don’t want to do that. I mean, people expect a dragon. ‘The Hobbit’ is one of the most famous dragon stories in the world, really. So I’m not trying to step away from the dragon. I just want to present the most venal, scary, decrepit, nasty dragon that I possibly can.”
I'm looking forward to see what they come up with. The greatest adventure indeed!

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