100 Years To Launch – 1,000 Years To Know


There are plenty in the science community who believe mankind is the result of Anthropocene. They think that the biological materials that resulted in life as we know it on our home world arrived accidentally as hitchhikers on cosmic intruders like comets or meteors. There are even a few who consider the possibility of one of these comets or meteors being purposely seeded with the materials and then manipulated by an advanced civilization in outer space so that the celestial object’s newly adjusted path would cause it to collide with Earth.

Now there are scientists who want to do a bit of human-directed Anthropocene toward other planets throughout the Universe. However, they don’t intend to shoot comets or meteors their way. They plan to create automated laboratories that will arrive peacefully and set up shop to terra-form an inhospitable world into a place we humans can call home.

Frankfurt, Germany’s Goethe University has an ambitious professor, Claudius Gros, who is the mastermind behind The Genesis Project of the University’s Institute of Theoretical Physics. His plan is to create life on other planets with a fully-automated genetic laboratory. By being able to skip that pesky early-infant planet stage, scientists can jump ahead by nearly 4 billion years to a more higher developed stage where a planet can support at least a single-cell organism. Dead planets could advance billions of years as the laboratory creates the conditions of a Precambrian era, the earth age when animals began appearing.

The gringa finds this fascinating and is a bet envious of those scientists working on the project who get to choose what organisms will be introduced. I am certainly hoping there are no sadists on the team who would insist on adding to the list something like mosquitoes or cockroaches or fleas. Surely an ecosystem does not need such revolting creatures to be balanced and thriving.

It seems that there are millions of stars with suitable planets orbiting their systems. It is a formula of planet size and distance from its sun that will determine which planets to weed out and which ones are keepers. But what about oxygen? Water? Surely researchers aren’t just planning to make a deposit and hope for the best. With all the money invested in a project with a long-term goal of 100 years to launch, the gringa highly doubts they want to leave anything to chance. How will scientists know the planet’s environment will support the seeds of life? They send a probe.

The crazy thing about scientists, however, is that despite how most people see them as people locked into strict systems of yes or no, cause and effect, truth or fallacy, facts and absolutes, sometimes they are simply motivated by hope and inspired by a future achievement that they will never live to see realized. Although a Genesis laboratory may be ready to launch in about a century, even if we launch a probe today the results from its findings may not return to Earth for about one thousand years! So, the process would go something like this:

  • Launch a probe today that would analyze the environment of a potential Earth twin planet somewhere in the distant Universe.
  • 100 years later launch an automated Genesis laboratory to the same planet the probe was sent to analyze (hoping for the best).
  • Perhaps a few hundred years later launch another probe to analyze the progress of the Genesis project.
  • A thousand years after the 1st probe launch Earthlings receive its telemetry informing us if the planet would support the life contained within the Genesis laboratory.
  • A few hundred years later receive telemetry from the 2nd probe and see if any Earth life is flourishing on the other planet.

The gringa appreciates the faith and hope involved in such a prospect. It would be my hope that within the next 100 years, before the Genesis laboratories are completed, we would have developed the technology to render a one thousand year wait for planetary details obsolete. But, who knows if we’ll all even be here in another hundred or thousand years! So, why not launch? What does any of us have to lose other than a few kazillion dollars invested in a fancy automated Anthropocene space gadget?

Sources: www.goethe-university-frankfurt.de

uk.businessinsider.com

Image Credit: inspirescience.wordpress.com

 

What Does Your “SNIP” Say About You?


A team of researchers have been studying 17 “snips” and recently published their findings in Nature Genetics. “Snips” are known as genetic tweaks found in DNA. These scientists delved deep into the genetic material of thousands of humans who participated in the study, all hoping to contribute to the future of medicine by doctors and patients, alike, being able to discover reliable genetic markers that will indicate certain diseases.

One of the lead researchers involved in the project is a Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Roy Perlis, who serves as Associate Director of the Psychiatric Genetics Program for Massachusetts General Hospital. His greatest hopes have been realized in the findings of the research. Discovered were genetic variations that occurred consistently in people who suffered with depression. What is the potential of this discovery in providing relief for depression sufferers and possibly preventing its development in a person who is genetically marked as a potential candidate?

There exists private genomics companies where a client can basically spit in a cup, have their DNA analyzed and learn any number of secrets that may be hiding there, like the potential for developing depression. This type of information, long before the onset of an illness, can transform healthcare as we know it. Rather than show up at a psychiatrist’s office in a full-blown state of debilitating depression, a person can begin preventative measures far in advance, thus improving their chances for a depression-free life of the highest quality.  This could potentially save patients and health insurance providers thousands of dollars per patient throughout that patient’s lifetime (and this could possibly be the motive behind some of the loudest critics).

The findings of the research determined 17 DNA markers linked with Major Depressive Disorder. Some of these variations are also connected with other psychiatric disorders thus connecting depression as a role player in the development of other forms of mental illness. If depression is, say, step one down the road of developing schizophrenia, imagine how many lives can be saved from such suffering if that single step can be avoided altogether.

Because effective treatment of any mental illness depends on patients self-reporting their symptoms and cooperating with treatment measures, mental illness is often under-reported and under-treated as a natural result of the mentally ill not having the capacity to recognize symptoms, or in denial of what they indicate, and often inconsistently participating in the critical component of treatment. By establishing awareness and beginning preventative treatment long before a patient becomes symptomatic, the chances of long-term success are greatly increased because medical professionals are dealing with a psychiatrically healthy  individual from the beginning.

The gringa sees all the critics and naysayers have to say. They are worried about misdiagnosis. They are worried about genomics companies offering unauthorized medical advice. But the gringa is not a Negative Nellie. The gringa is a Positive Polly. I believe that any person who is seeking out the services of a genomics company, willing to pay their own hard-earned money to get an analysis of their DNA in order to better understand their health risks, is a person who is not going to make bad decisions such as exploring medical treatment and advice from non-professionals. I also don’t believe they will be the type of people to be hampered with a misdiagnosis. I believe they will be some of the best informed patients a doctor will ever deal with. So enough with the criticism and embrace an advance in medical science that will most certainly save lives, preserve lives and improve the quality of those lives, as well as the lives of the loved ones surrounding them.

Sources:

www.nature.com

http://chgr.org/index-faculty_perlis.html

www.businessinsider.com

www.theguardian.com

Image Credit: images.boomsbeat.com