Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology is riff on nano/bio tech – according to Rudy Rucker, “it’s about building slippery wetware entities that might live in the real world.” Rucker has a rich post about the field, and its promises (“we ought to be able to design some kind of microorganism that eats
inexpensive crud and generates energy in some usable form or another”) and problems (“what’s to stop a particularly virulent synthetic organism from eating everything on earth?”) Ending with a cool science friction premise:

Suppose it were possible to encode a person’s memory
and personality into a single, very large, DNA-like molecule. Now
suppose that someone turns himself into a viral disease that other
people can catch. If I were you—sneeze—oh, wait, I guess I am.


Memories are made of this

Researchers are learning how memory works, via PKMzeta molecules that facilitate “speed dialing” among brain cells, “like a group of people joined in common witness of some striking event.”

Call on one and word quickly goes out to the larger network of cells, each apparently adding some detail, sight, sound, smell. The brain appears to retain a memory by growing thicker, or more efficient, communication lines between these cells.

By manipulating PKMzeta, it may be possible to edit memories, which “raises huge ethical issues,” according to Dr. Steven E. Hyman, a neurobiologist at Harvard. While you might be able to remove traumatic memories, the drug could be misused to eliminate memories that support moral conscience. [Link]