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Synthetic Life

Paul Rothemund: Casting spells with DNA

Paul Rothemund writes code that causes DNA to arrange itself into a star, a smiley face and more. Sure, it's a stunt, but it's also a demonstration of self-assembly at the smallest of scales -- with vast implications for the future of making things.

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It is now possible to synthesise life:

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Joining 3.5 Billion Years of Microbial Invention featuring biologist J. Craig Venter

Biologist, author and businessman Craig Venter discusses his work mapping and synthesizing genomes. Venter recalls his work mapping the human genome and expands on his current work which includes categorizing new genes and species of microbes from ocean water. Venter also explains how microbial research can be used for metabolic engineering and alternative energy sources.

J. Craig Venter, PH.D. is regarded as one of the leading scientists of the 21st century for his contributions to genomic research and is one of the country’s most frequently cited scientists. He is Founder and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute and J. Craig Venter Science Foundation, not-for-profit research and support organizations dedicated to human genomic research, exploration of social and ethical issues in genomics, and alternative energy solutions through microbial sources. He is also the Founder and Chairman of the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR).

Dr. Venter began his formal education after serving as a Navy Corpsman in Danang, Vietnam from 1967 to 1968. After earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology, both from the University of California at San Diego and both in three years, he was appointed professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. In 1984, he moved to the National Institutes of Health, where he developed expressed-sequence tags (ESTs), a revolutionary strategy for gene discovery. In 1992, he founded TIGR, where he and his team decoded the genome of the first free-living organism, the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, using an original whole-genome shotgun technique. Since then, TIGR has sequenced more than 50 genomes using Dr. Venter's techniques.

Dr. Venter is the author of more than 200 articles and the recipient of numerous honorary degrees, public honors, and scientific awards, including the Financial Times Man of the Year Award, TIME Magazine Man of the Year (runner up), 2002 Gairdner Foundation International Award, and the 2001 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize. Dr. Venter is a member of numerous prestigious scientific organizations including, including the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and American Society for Microbiology. He was also one of the first 38 people to be selected by Desmond Tutu as part of the "Hands That Shape Humanity" world exhibition.

Dr. Venter's autobiography A Life Decoded was published in October of 2007

Craig Venter: On the verge of creating synthetic life, a TED Talk

"Can we create new life out of our digital universe?" asks Craig Venter. And his answer is, yes, and pretty soon. He walks the TED2008 audience through his latest research into "fourth-generation fuels" -- biologically created fuels with CO2 as their feedstock. His talk covers the details of creating brand-new chromosomes using digital technology, the reasons why we would want to do this, and the bioethics of synthetic life. A fascinating Q&A with TED's Chris Anderson follows (two words: suicide genes).

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Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

polymerase chain reaction animation.

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Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Song

An hymn to the technique widely used in molecular biology.

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