Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Synthetic" Life

Most of us have heard in school, of life starting in a primordial soup from the inanimate - Abiogenesis. Then there was the experiment where they tried to recreate the conditions of how this happened billions of years ago - the Miller Urey experiment. It did not succeed in creating living cells but, it did succeed in showing that many essential items to produce life can be synthesized from non living things. It was only a matter of time when an actual living cell was created from the non living in a laboratory. Well, this is it. Not, exactly the same as recreating the conditions of the primordial soup - that would also need lots of time maybe billions of years to evolve. This - a shortcut by creating an artificial DNA and transplanting it into a new cell.

They call it synthetic life. But, I think this blurs the line between natural and synthetic.

An interesting aside - When studying Computation Theory, there was one thing that intrigued me then. When discussing about machines producing machines. There was an argument something like this -A machine that produces another machine is supposed to be more complex than the machine it creates. Because, a machine cannot be more complex than itself it cannot reproduce. But, then we went about discussing how a machine can get a description of itself and use that description in any way it pleases - to replicate or to adapt etc. The gist - the assumption ,that, a machine cannot reproduce is wrong. To think about it - imagine if we had a world of robots, what would the robots term as artificial or natural. For that they would have to have some absolute machine from which all other machines were derived. The most complex machine. But then, that is what had to be a wrong assumption.

Another digression - consider relative velocity - There is no absolute velocity. This is relative and is measured in reference to something else. I mean, if one measures one velocity against the other, to find the absolute, one has to measure that velocity against another. Eventually, hoping to find something that is at stillness or in motion in the absolute sense. Then one looks at light hoping to find the absolute - and the most amazing weirdness follows. Its speed in vacuum being constant in the absolute sense. But, no matter on which planet or moving body you measure it or from which "inertial" frame of reference you view the light on the moving body, this speed remains the same. And, no matter what its source an incandescent lamp or a star this speed remains the same. Now how do you measure the absolute velocity, when you cannot measure it against the speed of light.

Some thoughts to ruminate over.



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