DailyDirt: Love Will Find A Way…

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Biology is almost never as simple as it appears, and studying how animals evolve is an endless task filled with unanswered questions. Life begets life in a multitude of ways — sometimes with strange or unexpected results. Scientists are conducting a few unnatural breeding experiments with plants and animals that sound like science fiction, and here are just some examples.

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: Love Will Find A Way…”

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mudlock (profile) says:

so do plants living in pure oxygen still breed?

One, it’s the low oxygen level in certain interior parts of the plant that triggers the change, not the level of oxygen in the air.

Two, this talks exclusively about pollen. The plant will still reproduce if other plants pollinate it, it just won’t be pollinating any other plants.

(Fun fact: each kernel of corn has its own thread of silk, which caught one grain of pollen and carried its genetic material down into the kernel.)

Beta (profile) says:


“Cosmic rays are difficult to shield away from astronauts…”

This is very old news. And whoever thinks this is what will stop us from traveling to other star systems hasn’t been reading enough science fiction. Here are a couple of devices that can solve the problem.

A vault containing thousands of frozen embryos, very heavily shielded. Women sterilized by radiation can still be surrogates, so the habitable part of the ship is lightly shielded (life expectancy about forty) and the crew is entirely female (with lots of sedatives in the water supply to prevent violent mayhem). There are only so many embryos, so if the trip takes longer than expected, the crew may have to stretch the time by reducing their own numbers or developing the technology to go to invent something else on the list…

The artificial womb, and robots good enough to raise a human child to sane adulthood. Add this to the embryo vault, and biological continuity is no longer needed, so the ship can get by with no living crew for long periods. Some smart-alecky robots might start to wonder why the meaties are necessary at all.

The digital race bank. If you can construct a DNA strand to order, and build a human egg from chemicals, you can conceive a child ex silico. Sequence a couple of million human genomes, and you’ll have a lot of diversity to choose from (especially if they’re African). Then you can protect the data from cosmic rays by means of redundant storage and cross-checking, error-correcting codes, and so on. No more embryo vault, no more time limit.

Radical genetic engineering. Why are we so vulnerable to radiation? Because we evolved without it. There’s no physical reason why we couldn’t be a lot better at repairing molecular damage, it’s just that it’s never been a priority. And even if blind evolution couldn’t do it, we can be clever. (And it appears that animals with large bodies and long generation times, like elephants, are much better at it than we are, so significant improvements are easy.)

More shielding. Much more shielding. So NASA has had trouble with radiation? NASA has a tight budget, and has to lift everything into orbit, so hulls must be light. One centimeter of aluminum is extravagant. But if we start manufacturing things on the moon, or in the asteroid belt, or on the Jovian moons, the economics are different. How about a meter of rock? Or ten meters of ice? Crude but effective.

That’s enough for a few good novels right there.

Jim G. says:


These are interesting speculations regarding far-future technologies, but I disagree with you that this is “old news” True, it’s known by anyone who studied the issue seriously, but it’s still relatively unknown to the space-happy people who think we are all about to live in orbital hotels.

Here, I just googled “space colonization” and this is a typical sentence from a typical site: “These space settlements could be wonderful places to live; about the size of a California beach town and endowed with weightless recreation, fantastic views, freedom, elbow-room in spades, and great wealth.”

This is so out-of-touch with reality that it’s hard to know where to start.

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