August 20th, 2007

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Good Morning!!

I woke feeling not so well, so am moving slowly this morning, contemplating and meditating and allowing this "bug" a quiet space to move on through.

My brother sends me this. 

Scientists Struggle to Define 'Life'

Posted: 2007-08-20 06:38:38
Filed Under Science News
WASHINGTON (Aug. 20) - Around the world, a handful of scientists are trying to create life from scratch and they're getting closer.

Experts expect an announcement within three to 10 years from someone in the now little-known field of "wet artificial life."

"It's going to be a big deal and everybody's going to know about it," said Mark Bedau, chief operating officer of ProtoLife of Venice, Italy, one of those in the race. "We're talking about a technology that could change our world in pretty fundamental ways, in fact, in ways that are impossible to predict."

That first cell of synthetic life, made from the basic chemicals in DNA, may not seem like much to non-scientists. For one thing, you'll have to look in a microscope to see it.

"Creating protocells has the potential to shed new light on our place in the universe," Bedau said. "This will remove one of the few fundamental mysteries about creation in the universe and our role."

And several scientists believe man-made life forms will one day offer the potential for solving a variety of problems, from fighting diseases to locking up greenhouse gases to eating toxic waste.

Bedau figures there are three major hurdles to creating synthetic life:

_ A container, or membrane, for the cell to keep bad molecules out, allow good ones, and the ability to multiply.

_ A genetic system that controls the functions of the cell, enabling it to reproduce and mutate in response to environmental changes.

_ A metabolism that extracts raw materials from the environment as food and then changes it into energy.

One of the leaders in the field, Jack Szostak at Harvard Medical School, predicts that within the next six months, scientists will report evidence that the first step, creating a cell membrane, is "not a big problem." Scientists are using fatty acids in that effort.

Szostak is also optimistic about the next step, getting nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, to form a working genetic system.

His idea is that once the container is made, if scientists add nucleotides in the right proportions, then Darwinian evolution could simply take over.

"We aren't smart enough to design things, we just let evolution do the hard work and then we figure out what happened," Szostak said.

In Gainesville, Fla., Steve Benner, a biological chemist at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution is attacking that problem by going outside of natural genetics. Normal DNA consists of four bases, adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine (known as A,C,G,T), molecules that spell out the genetic code in pairs. Benner is trying to add eight new bases to the genetic alphabet.

Bedau said there are legitimate worries about creating life that could "run amok," but there are ways of addressing it, and it will be a very long time before that is a problem.

"When these things are created, they're going to be so weak, it'll be a huge achievement if you can keep them alive for an hour in the lab," he said. "But them getting out and taking over, never in our imagination could this happen."

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.

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Peace -

Yesterday I read the book Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky.  It is another argument for peace and love.  The book is touching because it is well-written and also because the author was killed at Auschwitz in 1942, and yet, this book contains love, understanding and even praise for Germans as individuals.  She is a careful observer and creator, and it is amazing to read her words knowing that shortly after writing them she was taken away and killed.  She is pretty scathing on the "inert" response of the French, and those who continued to live in luxury, one of whom was her mother who lived in comfort in Nice.   She probably could have escaped, but she stayed and it was the French police who arrested her and handed her over to the SS.  She made no attempt to cooperate with the Nazis, and was aware of and prepared for her capture and death.

She was a successful novelist living and writing in Paris when the Germans came.  This novel is about that time period.  Her daughters only recently discovered the papers left to them were a novel and not some scribbled journal notes, so this book has recently come to light.  Irene is an astute observer of people, and once again, we see that when people are put together and allowed honest consideration and time to commune and share, there is love.  The problem seems to be with those who, unable to love, seize power, and create systems to destruct.   This is another must-read book.
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Peace -

Ravi Ravindra:

    Madame de Salzmann (G.I. Gurdjieff's foremost student) makes clear that the function and purpose of a human being is to become a link, a conduit, for higher energy to come down to the Earth - to bring Heaven down to Earth.  Our Father who is in Heaven may do His will here on Earth as He does in Heaven - but this is possible only if the River Ganga which flows in Heaven - above the head or on top of it - may flow down to Earth, the body, and irrigate her.

Hildegard of Bingen

O Man,
Regard thyself,
Thou hast within thyself
Heaven and Earth.

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Earth -

Astronaut Edgar Mitchell

    Suddenly from behind the rim of the moon, in long, slow motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery.  It takes more than a moment to fully realize that this is Earth.