Microvenus--The first non-biological message encoded in DNA, by Joe Davis

Communicating with Aliens through DNA

Microvenus–The first non-biological message encoded in DNA, by Joe Davis

By Christina Agapakis
DNA encodes the information for all the proteins inside the cell, their amino acid sequence, when and where to turn them on, and a whole lot of other things that we probably don’t fully understand yet. With the ability to write DNA, to synthesize our own arbitrary stretches of A’s, T’s, C’s, and G’s, we can create our own instructions for cellular proteins or we can encode sequences that would be “junk” to a cell but that we could read as a message. This week, George Church, Yuan Gao, and Sri Kosuri published a short paper demonstrating that not only could we encode a few phrases here and there, but write a whole book in DNA. The book, Church’s Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves, which will be published using more traditional means this fall, includes 53,426 words, 11 jpgs, and one JavaScript program. The text and images were converted to html format and then read as bits, 1′s and 0′s that can be easily encoded into DNA: A or C for 0 and T or G for 1. Having two possible letters for each bit means that the sequence won’t end up with long stretches of any single letter, a challenge for chemical DNA synthesis. The perl code they used to covert bits to DNA is available in the paper’s supplementary information (PDF).

This is by far the largest amount of non-biological information synthesized and stored in DNA—a total of 5.27 megabits, way beyond the 7,920 bit record previously held by the Venter Institute’s watermarks in their chemically synthesized genome (written using an undisclosed code for each letter and punctuation mark)…..
Read more: scientificamerican.com

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White House: there is no evidence that aliens exist

Administration response to website petition denies knowledge of life outside Earth is being hidden from public

The White House has said it has no evidence that extraterrestrial creatures exist.

Barack Obama’s administration made the declaration on Monday in response to feedback on its website, which allows people to submit petitions to which officials must respond if enough people sign.

In this case, more than 5,000 people signed a petition demanding that the White House disclose the government’s knowledge of extraterrestrial beings. More than 12,000 signed another petition seeking formal acknowledgment of an extraterrestrial presence engaging with the human race.

In response, Phil Larson of the White House office of science and technology policy wrote that the US government has no evidence that life exists outside Earth, or that an extraterrestrial presence has contacted any member of the human race.

“In addition, there is no credible information to suggest that any evidence is being hidden from the public’s eye,” Larson wrote.

However, he did not close the door entirely on a close encounter of an alien kind, noting that many scientists and mathematicians believe the chances are high that there is life somewhere among the “trillions and trillions of stars in the universe” – although the chances that humans might make contact with non-humans are remote.

It is not the first petition to force the White House to engage on a somewhat offbeat topic since the “We the People” web page was inaugurated in September. Various petitions demanding the legalisation of marijuana have gathered more than 100,000 names, to which the White House has responded that marijuana is associated with addiction, respiratory disease and cognitive impairment, and legalising it would not be the answer.

The administration has also addressed topics including gay marriage and student loan debt.

http://www.guardian.co.uk

Telescope to spot aliens

World’s largest eye on the sky to join quest for signs of ET

The device will be built in the Chilean desert in a dome the size of a stadium

Housed in a dome almost the size of Big Ben and containing a mirror nearly half the length of a football pitch, it wasn’t exactly rocket science for astronomers to find a name for this telescope.
And, sure enough, they came up with the European Extremely Large Telescope – just about the only routine thing about the world’s largest and most powerful ‘eye on the sky’.
Astronomers reckon it may finally shed light on whether there really is life somewhere out there by helping them find Earth-like rocky worlds that are home to other beings.

And British scientists might be among the first to find out – as their work is crucial to the project.
Key instruments for the telescope will be developed thanks to £3.5million funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council.
The device in the Atacama Desert, Chile, will be built in a dome that covers an area the size of a stadium…… Continue reading Telescope to spot aliens

Top 3 Questions People Ask an Astrophysicist (and Answers)

Introduction
Whether he’s teaching class, socializing at a cocktail party or talking to visitors at the planetarium where he works, Charles Liu knows that sooner or later he’s going to get asked at least one of three questions:
Is there a God?
Are there aliens?
What would happen if I fell into a black hole?
“I’ve never been in a public environment where people know what I do where at least one of these questions was not asked,” Liu said. He is an astrophysics professor at the City University of New York Staten Island and an associate at the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.
Over the years, Liu has developed some pretty solid answers, based on scientific evidence and his own opinion, to those three burning questions. Here’s what he told us….. Continue reading Top 3 Questions People Ask an Astrophysicist (and Answers)