Across the world’s great deserts, a mysterious sheen has been found on boulders and rock faces. These layers of manganese, arsenic and silica are known as desert varnish and they are found in the Atacama desert in Chile, the Mojave desert in California, and in many other arid places. They can make the desert glitter with surprising colour and, by scraping off pieces of varnish, native people have created intriguing symbols and images on rock walls and surfaces.
How desert varnish forms has yet to be resolved, despite intense research by geologists. Most theories suggest it is produced by chemical reactions that act over thousands of years or by ecological processes yet to be determined.
Professor Carol Cleland, of Colorado University, has a very different suggestion. She believes desert varnish could be the manifestation of an alternative, invisible biological world. Cleland, a philosopher based at the university’s astrobiology centre, calls this ethereal dimension the shadow biosphere. “The idea is straightforward,” she says. “On Earth we may be co-inhabiting with microbial lifeforms that have a completely different biochemistry from the one shared by life as we currently know it.”
It is a striking idea: We share our planet with another domain of life that exists “like the realm of fairies and elves just beyond the hedgerow”, as David Toomey puts it in his newly published Weird Life: The Search for Life that is Very, Very Different from Our Own. But an alternative biosphere to our own would be more than a mere scientific curiosity: it is of crucial importance, for its existence would greatly boost expectations of finding life elsewhere in the cosmos. As Paul Davies, of Arizona State University, has put it: “If life started more than once on Earth, we could be virtually certain that the universe is teeming with it.”
However, by the same token, if it turns out we have failed to realise that we have been sharing a planet with these shadowy lifeforms for eons, despite all the scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries, then we may need to think again about the way we hunt for life on other worlds. Robot spacecraft – such as the Mars rover Curiosity – are certainly sophisticated. But what chance do they have of detecting alien entities if the massed laboratories of modern science have not yet spotted them on our own planet? This point is stressed by the US biologist Craig Venter. As he has remarked: “We’re looking for life on Mars and we don’t even know what’s on Earth!”
The concept of a shadow biosphere was first outlined by Cleland and her Colorado colleague Shelley Copley in a paper in 2006 in the International Journal of Astrobiology, and is now supported by many other scientists, including astrobiologists Chris McKay, who is based at Nasa’s Ames Research Centre, California, and Paul Davies.
These researchers believe life may exist in more than one form on Earth: standard life – like ours – and “weird life”, as they term the conjectured inhabitants of the shadow biosphere. “All the micro-organisms we have detected on Earth to date have had a biology like our own: proteins made up of a maximum of 20 amino acids and a DNA genetic code made out of only four chemical bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine,” says Cleland. “Yet there are up to 100 amino acids in nature and at least a dozen bases. These could easily have combined in the remote past to create lifeforms with a very different biochemistry to our own. More to the point, some may still exist in corners of the planet.”
Science’s failure to date to spot this weird life may seem puzzling. The natural history of our planet has been scrupulously studied and analysed by scientists, so how could a whole new type of life, albeit a microbial one, have been missed? Cleland has an answer. The methods we use to detect micro-organisms today are based entirely on our own biochemistry and are therefore incapable of spotting shadow microbes, she argues. A sample of weird microbial life would simply not trigger responses to biochemists’ probes and would end up being thrown out with the rubbish.
That is why unexplained phenomena like desert varnish are important, she says, because they might provide us with clues about the shadow biosphere. We may have failed to detect the source of desert varnish for the simple reason that it is the handiwork of weird microbes which generate energy by oxidising minerals, leaving deposits behind them.
The idea of the shadow biosphere is also controversial and is challenged by several other scientists. “I think it is very unlikely that after 300 years of microbiology we would not have detected such organisms despite the fact that they are supposed to have a different biochemistry from the kind we know about today,” says Professor Charles Cockell, of the UK Centre for Astrobiology at Edinburgh University. “It is really quite unlikely,” adds Cockell, whose centre will be officially opened this week at a ceremony in Edinburgh.
Ways need to be found to determine whether or not the shadow biosphere exists, says Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. “If you want a clue you can count up the amount of carbon that is emitted by living things – cows, sheep, grass, plants, forests and all the planet’s bacteria. When you do, you find there is a discrepancy of around 5% when you compare the amount given off from Earth’s standard biosphere and the amount you find in the atmosphere.”
In other words, there is slightly too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than can be explained by the emissions of standard lifeforms on Earth. There could be an error in these calculations, of course. Alternatively, the shadow biosphere could be responsible for this excess, says Sasselov. “There is plenty of room for a shadow biosphere. That is clear. Certainly, it is not true, as some allege, that we have strong evidence to show that it does not exist. In fact, the opposite is true: we do not have good enough evidence to dismiss it.”
A key point to note is that scientists – although describing the inhabitants of the shadow biosphere as weird – still assume they will be carbon-based entities. Complex chemistry based on other elements, such as silicon, is possible, they acknowledge but these alternatives cannot create the vast range of organic materials that carbon can generate. In other words, the shadow biosphere, if it exists, will almost certainly be inhabited by carbon life, albeit of an alien variety.
“Billions of years ago, life based on different types of carbon biochemistry could have arisen in several places on Earth,” says Cleland. “These varieties would have been based on different combinations of bases and amino acids. Eventually, one – based on DNA and on proteins made from 20 amino acids – formed multicellular entities and became the dominant form of life on Earth. That is why we find that life as we know it, from insects to humans and from plants to birds, has DNA as its genetic code. However, other lifeforms based on different bases and proteins could still have survived – in the shadow biosphere.”
A different prospect is highlighted by Sasselov, who points out that a complex organic chemical can come in two different shapes even though they have the same chemical formula. Each is a mirror-image of the other and are said to have a different chirality. “Amino acids are an example,” says Sasselov. “Each comes in a right-handed version and a left-handed version. Our bodies – in common with all other lifeforms – only use left-handed versions to create proteins. Right-handed amino acids are simply ignored by our bodies. However, there may be some organisms, somewhere on the planet, that use only right-handed amino acids. They could make up the weird life of the shadow biosphere.”
But how can scientists pinpoint this weird life? Microbes are usually detected in laboratories by feeding nutrients to suspected samples so they grow and expend. Then the resulting cultures can be analysed. A weird lifeform – such as one made only of proteins formed out of right-handed amino acids – will not respond to left-handed nutrients, however. It will fail to form cultures and register its existence.
One solution to this problem is being pursued by Sasselov and colleagues’ Harvard Origins of Life Initiative. They are building an artificial cell – or bionic system – made only of right-handed components including right-handed DNA and right-handed ribosomes. “If there are right-handed lifeforms out there, many of them will be viruses – which will attempt to hijack the DNA of our bionic cells,” adds Sasselov. “When they do that they will leave evidence of their existence. Essentially we are building honey traps to catch any right-handed viruses that might live in the shadow biosphere and so reveal their existence.”
Other scientists suggest a different approach – by looking at Earth’s most inhospitable ecological niches: hot vents on the seafloor, mountaintops, highly saline lakes, Antarctic ice sheets and deserts. Standard lifeforms, mainly bacteria, have been found in these places but only a few. Some niches, researchers speculate, may prove to be just too inhospitable for standard life but may just be tolerable enough to support weird life. Microscopic studies would reveal their existence while standard culture tests would show they had a different biochemistry from standard lifeforms.
Stripes of desert varnish line the canyon walls of Capitol Gorge in Utah. No laboratory has been able to re-create the phenomenon. Photograph: Larry Geddis/Alamy
And a promising example is provided by the desert varnish proposed as a target by Cleland and backed by David Toomey in Weird Life. “No laboratory microbiologist has been able to coax bacteria or algae to make desert varnish,” he states. “It is also possible that the stuff is the end result of some very weird chemistry but no one has been able to reproduce that either.” So yes, these sites could provide proof of the shadow biosphere’s existence, he argues.
Not surprisingly, Cleland agrees. “The only trouble is that no one has yet got round to investigating desert varnish for weird life,” adds Cleland. “I confess I find that disappointing.”
Fascinating. I have come across different versions of Earth “shadow” life over the years; Mac Tonnies’ “cryptoterrestrials“, ancient creatures older than mankind whom remain hidden and undetectable from us. And Peter Watts’ “Behemoth” right-handed amino acid life forms taking over the Earth during the 21st Century.
And I’m not even counting legends of elves, Bigfoot, dwarves, demons and angels from past decades and centuries.
So the idea of Earthly “alien” life isn’t new.
But maybe, just maybe with advanced biotechnology techniques, we’ll be able to detect this shadow life.
Perhaps a whole hidden world!
Hat tip to the Daily Grail.
From Technology Review:
Two high-profile entrepreneurs say they want to put a DNA sequencing machine on the surface of Mars in a bid to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life.
In what could become a race for the first extraterrestrial genome, researcher J. Craig Venter said Tuesday that his Maryland academic institute and his company, Synthetic Genomics, would develop a machine capable of sequencing and beaming back DNA data from the planet.
Separately, Jonathan Rothberg, founder of Ion Torrent, a DNA sequencing company, is collaborating on an effort to equip his company’s “Personal Genome Machine” for a similar task.
“We want to make sure an Ion Torrent goes to Mars,” Rothberg told Technology Review.
Although neither team yet has a berth on Mars rocket, their plans reflect the belief that the simplest way to prove there is life on Mars is to send a DNA sequencing machine.
“There will be DNA life forms there,” Venter predicted Tuesday in New York, where he was speaking at the Wired Health Conference.
Venter said researchers working with him have already begun tests at a Mars-like site in the Mojave Desert. Their goal, he said, is to demonstrate a machine capable of autonomously isolating microbes from soil, sequencing their DNA, and then transmitting the information to a remote computer, as would be required on an unmanned Mars mission. (Hear his comments in this video, starting at 00:11:01.) Heather Kowalski, a spokeswoman for Venter, confirmed the existence of the project but said the prototype system was “not yet 100 percent robotic.”
Meanwhile, Rothberg’s Personal Genome Machine is being adapted for Martian conditions as part of a NASA-funded project at Harvard and MIT called SET-G, or “the search for extraterrestrial genomes.”
Christopher Carr, an MIT research scientist involved in the effort, says his lab is working to shrink Ion Torrent’s machine from 30 kilograms down to just three kilograms so that it can fit on a NASA rover. Other tests, already conducted, have determined how well the device can withstand the heavy radiation it would encounter on the way to Mars.
NASA, whose Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August, won’t send another rover mission to the planet before at least 2018 (see “The Mars Rover Curiosity Marks a Technological Triumph“), and there’s no guarantee a DNA sequencing device would go aboard. “The hard thing about getting to Mars is hitting the NASA specifications,” says George Church, a Harvard University researcher and a senior member of the SET-G team. “[Venter] isn’t ahead of anyone else.”
Venter has a great idea here, but it reminds me of a certain movie in which sequencing alien DNA wasn’t such a great plan.
It is common knowledge now-a-days in the U.S. about the African-American syphilis experimentation done on men during the 1932-1972 timeframe and the recently admitted experiments done on Guatemalans during 1946-1948.
Now there’s possible news of experimentation done on ordinary citizens using various nuclear materials since 1947:
Revelations yesterday (Friday, Oct. 1) that the United States government in the late 1940s conducted clandestine medical experiments on mental patients, prisoners and soldiers in Guatemala rocked western hemisphere international relationships, with more such disclosures apparently on tap.
Announced late Friday by the Obama administration, apparently to reduce domestic coverage, the disclosure nonetheless is provoking outrage in Guatemala and among minority communities elsewhere because the medical scientist reportedly in charge of the experiments also was central to the infamous Tuskeegee syphilis study.
That study, disclosed in the 1970s, involved hundreds of African-American men used as human “guinea pigs” by American researchers from 1932 to 1972. Many of the unwitting research subjects were left untreated for syphilis as researchers watched the progression of their disease. Others were administered various experimental drug treatments.
The Guatemalan studies reportedly involved 1,500 men and women and took place between 1946 and 1948, according to The WashingtonPost as reported in its Saturday morning edition (Oct. 2, 2010; Page 1-A).
The full story, contained in a 29-page report by a Wellesley College history professor, is slated for publication in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Policy History.
These latest findings, discovered by researcher and professor Susan Reverby, came to light incidentally to her research at University of Pittsburgh archives into the papers of John C. Cutler, a physician with the US Public Health Service, and his involvement with the Tuskeegee study. Cutler died in 2003.
Then-US Surgeon General Thomas Parran, Jr. was among a number of high ranking US government officials who also knew of the Guatemalan studies, according to Reverby’s report. Parran, who died in 1968, is quoted in the Post story: “You know, we couldn’t do such an experiment in this country.”
Parran quite likely knew very well that his statement was not true.
In reality, such experiments were widely conducted in the United States during this period, ironically while the US government proposed and signed the Nuremberg Code proscribing medical and other experimentation on unwitting human subjects.
Such prohibitions were born of Nazi atrocities uncovered at the close of World War II and prosecuted by the US at the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals in the late 1940s.
And while the US signed the Nuremberg document in 1947, officials with the military, the then-new Atomic Energy Commission (derived from the Manhattan Project) and other government agencies and research contractors abjectly and routinely disregarded the Nuremberg Code, while conducting a range of experiments on unwitting citizens.
Previous revelations about these practices caused a stir in the Clinton administration, when a 1993 series by then-Albuquerque Tribune reporter Eileen Welsome revealed “The Plutonium Experiments,” a long-term study of the effects of Plutonium injected into unaware patients by then-esteemed medical researchers on behalf of government agencies.
Welsome stumbled upon references to those human experiments in 1986 while looking into radiation experiments on animals and problems attendant to radiation leakages at older nuclear facilities.
Welsome won the Pulitzer Prize for her series in 1994, and President Clinton apologized to the families of those victims, as well as to thousands of American service personnel (termed “Atomic Veterans”) exposed to radiation from nuclear weapons tests and, at least until the mid-1990s, generally abandoned and ignored by their government.
Also in 1994, University of Cincinnati professor and physician Eugene L. Saenger, who according to his Washington Post obituary in 2007, “led Cold War human radiation experiments,” was sued by families of cancer patients “who said their relatives were unwitting guinea pigs in a military-sponsored experiment.” That lawsuit reportedly was settled in 1999 for $3.6 million.
The link to the much publicized “Roswell UFO,” widely described by government-linked “UFOlogists” as being a “crashed flying saucer,” replete with recovered bodies of alleged “extra-terrestrial” occupants, arises from little-known rocket tests and other medical experiments associated with post-World War II research into the effects of radiation and high-altitude exposures to humans.
The tests were conducted by then-Army Air Corps and “our” captured Nazi scientists beginning in 1946, at the White Sands missile testing facility, and involved animals lofted into near-Earth space in the nose cones of captured V-2 rockets as well as alleged human subjects flown by high-altitude balloons.
Most contemporary advocates of the “Roswell UFO crash” scenario have involvements with government nuclear programs and other military or intelligence research in their resume’s, but now publish “UFO conspiracy” books and are regularly featured as speakers at “UFO” conferences. Their vaunted “investigations” rarely if ever come up with prosaic explanations, especially those involving less well-known experiments using humans.
Ongoing efforts to promote “UFO Disclosure” by the US government experience periodic up ticks in public interest, the most recent accruing from several new books and media events claiming “ET/UFO interference” with military activities, such as at ICBM launch facilities in the 1960s and subsequently, as well as other military related “UFO reports,” often associated with US Air Force and clandestine intelligence agency operations.
Current activities include a contributory effort by former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, previously head of the Obama transition team and now president of the Center for American Progress, who penned a forward for a new book pushing “UFO disclosure” by journalist (Ms.) Leslie Kean.
Kean previously teamed with Podesta for a 2001 investigation into a claimed 1965 “UFO crash” at Kecksburg, PA, sponsored in part at the time by the Science Fiction (SyFY) television channel, and used Freedom of Information requests targeting NASA for information about the Kecksburg event.
Kean’s new book features alleged “UFO interactions” reported by retired US military personnel, while Kean, and Podesta in his forward to Kean’s book, both claim they are “agnostic” about whether “UFOs” as reported are actually “extraterrestrial” in nature.
Yet both Kean and Podesta previously advocated the “ET” genesis of such events.
In 1993, the late industrialist and philanthropist Laurance S. Rockefeller funded a range of “UFO-related” projects to encourage the Clinton administration to “disclose what the government knows about UFOs,” an initiative that also reached into the office of then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Rockefeller met at at least twice with Clinton administration officials in the White House, in 1993 and 1994, and reportedly discussed the “UFO question” with Mrs. Clinton during a Clinton family vacation at Rockefeller’s “JY Ranch” near Jackson Hole, WY, in the mid-1990s. Mrs. Clinton has subsequently refused to acknowledge or discuss the subject.
Mrs. Clinton, now Secretary of State, issued a joint apology for the Guatemalan debacle with Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Friday, saying in part: “Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health,” and “…we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent policies.”
Clinton era efforts to have a range of past government operations declassified came after Welsome’s story about the Plutonium experiments and in the wake of aggressive activism by “atomic veterans” and advocacy groups.
A government-wide search for past human experimentation efforts was instituted as part of President Clinton’s effort to force declassification of millions of pages of government documents from the Cold War’s secrecy, although the effort was plagued by bureaucratic foot-dragging and claims of lost files or intentional lapses in the documentation of such programs.
Former President George W. Bush shut down that effort in the weeks after the September 11, 2001 attack by Islamic terrorists, although President Barack Obama reinstituted government-wide declassification mandates upon taking office. These are ongoing.
Activists for supposed “UFO Disclosure” generally ignore, downplay and deflect public and journalistic interest from any recollection or recounting of human experimentation possibly attendant to so-called “ET abductions” or other alleged “UFO” activity involving reported contacts with terrestrial human beings, in the US and now most notably in other countries and cultures.
The Guatemalan disclosures likely signal a “climate change” in how such alleged reports are considered, as much so-called “UFO” activity and claimed conspiracies involving citizens of countries other than the US have been the centerpiece of “retail UFOlogy.”
Previously, the American CIA acknowledged that many claimed “UFO” sightings during the Cold War years had been of exotic reconnaissance aircraft the agency sponsored and developed, including its A-12 supersonic spy plane, code named “Oxcart.” That aircraft later went public as the SR-71 Blackbird, now “retired.” The skin of an early A-12 prototype recently was installed as a static display at the CIA’s campus in Langley, VA, and a retired SR-71 was added to the collection at Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, after a record-breaking final flight across the continental United States.
Less proudly remembered are previous government and military intelligence research programs into so-called “mind control” and other experiments aiming to influence human and cultural behaviors, alleged victims of which continue to seek recognition and justice for claimed medical and psychological damage they suffered.
Although the UFO phenomenon has been with us for thousands of years, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that various governments over the past 80 years have used it as cover for their own experimental aircraft, and possible experiments on the human population.
In fact, recently books have been written about government officials admitting that this was policy during the Cold War.
The Star Child, the skull of a supposed “alien” child, does seem to have anomalous DNA on the father’s side of the family.
Lloyd Pye explains:
Proof of genetic engineering 900 years ago?
The more time goes on and empirical evidence such as DNA from the Star Child, and I’m sure others will crop up eventually, will have to be accepted by mainstream science. Then the idea of aliens on Earth won’t be so much tin-foil.
But in my opinion, these aliens seem to be “of Earth” despite the fact the DNA isn’t in the world’s database.
For a break from space stuff, I would like to put forth an ethical conundrum of science; “Should we clone Neanderthals?”
Neanderthals were a branch of humanity (according to mainstream science) that existed for over 450,000 years and coexisted with our homo sapien ancestors 50-60,000 years ago.
They supposedly were less intelligent than homo sapiens and one prevailing theory up until recently said that our ancestors wiped out the less aggressive Neanderthals.
Now there seems to be proof that both branches of humanity where able to interbreed (viva la differance!) and instead of being wiped out, the Neanderthals were absorbed into the larger homo sapien gene pool.
With the advances in genetic engineering, it has become possible to resurrect the Neanderthal race of homo sapiens, but that has started an interesting problem and the the question posed at the beginning of the post:
[…]The Neanderthals broke away from the lineage of modern humans around 450,000 years ago. They evolved larger brains and became shorter than their likely ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis. They also developed a wider variety of stone tools and more efficient techniques for making them. On average, Neanderthals had brains that were 100 cubic centimeters (about 3 ounces) larger than those of people living today. But those differences are likely due to their larger overall body size. Those large brains were housed inside skulls that were broader and flatter, with lower foreheads than modern humans. Their faces protruded forward and lacked chins. Their arms and the lower part of their legs were shorter than modern humans’, making them slower and less efficient runners, but they also had more muscle mass. Their bones were often thicker and stronger than ours, but they typically show a lot of healed breaks that are thought to result from hunting techniques requiring close contact with large game such as bison and mammoths. They had barrel-shaped chests and broad, projecting noses, traits some paleoanthropologists believe would have helped Neanderthals breathe more easily when chasing prey in cold environments.
Recent studies comparing Neanderthal and modern human anatomy have created some surprising insights. “Neanderthals are not just sort of funny Eskimos who lived 60,000 years ago,” says Jean-Jacques Hublin, a paleoanthropologist at Max Planck. “They have a different way to give birth to babies, differences in life history, shape of inner ear, genetics, the speed of development of individuals, weaning, age of puberty.” A study comparing Neanderthal and modern children showed Neanderthals had shorter childhoods. Some paleoanthropologists believe they reached physical maturity at age 15.
As different as Neanderthals were, they may not have been different enough to be considered a separate species. “There are humans today who are more different from each other in phenotype [physical characteristics],” says John Hawks, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Wisconsin. He has studied differences in the DNA of modern human populations to understand the rate of evolutionary change in Homo sapiens. Many of the differences between a Neanderthal clone and a modern human would be due to genetic changes our species has undergone since Neanderthals became extinct. “In the last 30,000 years we count about 2,500 to 3,000 events that resulted in positive functional changes [in the human genome],” says Hawks. Modern humans, he says, are as different from Homo sapiens who lived in the Neolithic period 10,000 years ago, as Neolithic people would have been from Neanderthals.
Clones created from a genome that is more than 30,000 years old will not have immunity to a wide variety of diseases, some of which would likely be fatal. They will be lactose intolerant, have difficulty metabolizing alcohol, be prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease, and maybe most importantly, will have brains different from modern people’s.
Bruce Lahn at the University of Chicago studies the evolutionary history of the genes that control human brain development. One gene that affects brain size particularly interests him, a variant of the microcephalin gene, which Lahn thinks may have entered the human gene pool through interbreeding with Neanderthals. If that turns out to be true, roughly 75 percent of the world’s population has a brain gene inherited from Neanderthals. Lahn is excited to see what the Neanderthal microcephalin gene sequence looks like. “Is the Neanderthal sequence more similar to the ancestral version or the newer, derived version of the gene?” Lahn asks. “Or is the Neanderthal yet a third version that is very different from either of the two human versions? No matter how you look at it, it makes that data very interesting.”
The Neanderthals’ brains made them capable of some impressive cultural innovations. They were burying their dead as early as 110,000 years ago, which means that they had a social system that required formal disposal of the deceased. Around 40,000 years ago, they adopted new stone-tool-making traditions, the Châttelperronian tradition in Western Europe and the Uluzzian in Italy, that included a greater variety of tools than they had used in hundreds of thousands of years. But even if they were as adaptable as Homo sapiens, the question remains–if they were so smart, why are they dead? Chris Stringer of London’s Natural History Museum believes our species hunted and gathered food so intensively that there simply was not enough room for the Neanderthals to make a living. In other words, they had the same problem as many species facing extinction today–they were crowded out of their ecological niche by Homo sapiens. Finding a place in the world for a Neanderthal clone would be only one dilemma that would have to be solved.
Bernard Rollin, a bioethicist and professor of philosophy at Colorado State University, doesn’t believe that creating a Neanderthal clone would be an ethical problem in and of itself. The problem lies in how that individual would be treated by others. “I don’t think it is fair to put people…into a circumstance where they are going to be mocked and possibly feared,” he says, “and this is equally important, it’s not going to have a peer group. Given that humans are at some level social beings, it would be grossly unfair.” The sentiment was echoed by Stringer, “You would be bringing this Neanderthal back into a world it did not belong to….It doesn’t have its home environment anymore.”
There were no cities when the Neanderthals went extinct, and at their population’s peak there may have only been 10,000 of them spread across Europe. A cloned Neanderthal might be missing the genetic adaptations we have evolved to cope with the world’s greater population density, whatever those adaptations might be. But, not everyone agrees that Neanderthals were so different from modern humans that they would automatically be shunned as outcasts.
“I’m convinced that if one were to raise a Neanderthal in a modern human family he would function just like everybody else,” says Trenton Holliday, a paleoanthropologist at Tulane University. “I have no reason to doubt he could speak and do all the things that modern humans do.”
“I think there would be no question that if you cloned a Neanderthal, that individual would be recognized as having human rights under the Constitution and international treaties,” says Lori Andrews, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law. The law does not define what a human being is, but legal scholars are debating questions of human rights in cases involving genetic engineering. “This is a species-altering event,” says Andrews, “it changes the way we are creating a new generation.” How much does a human genome need to be changed before the individual created from it is no longer considered human?
Legal precedent in the United States seems to be on the side of Neanderthal human rights. In 1997, Stuart Newman, a biology professor at New York Medical School attempted to patent the genome of a chimpanzee-human hybrid as a means of preventing anyone from creating such a creature. The patent office, however, turned down his application on the basis that it would violate the Constitution’s 13th amendment prohibition against slavery. Andrews believes the patent office’s ruling shows the law recognizes that an individual with a half-chimpanzee and half-human genome would deserve human rights. A Neanderthal would have a genome that is even more recognizably human than Newman’s hybrid. “If we are going to give the Neanderthals humans rights…what’s going to happen to that individual?” Andrews says. “Obviously, it won’t have traditional freedoms. It’s going to be studied and it’s going to be experimented on. And yet, if it is accorded legal protections, it will have the right to not be the subject of research, so the very reasons for which you would create it would be an abridgment of rights.”
Human rights laws vary widely around the world. “There is not a universal ban on cloning,” says Anderson. “Even in the United States there are some states that ban it, others that don’t.” On August 8, 2005, the United Nations voted to ban human cloning. It sent a clear message that most governments believe that human cloning is unethical. The ban, however, is non-binding.
The legal issues surrounding a cloned Neanderthal would not stop with its rights. Under current laws, genomes can be patented, meaning that someone or some company could potentially own the genetic code of a long-dead person. Svante Pääbo, who heads the Neanderthal genome sequencing project at Max Planck, refused to comment for this article, citing concerns about violating an embargo agreement with the journal that is going to publish the genome sequence. But he did send ARCHAEOLOGY this statement: “We have no plans to patent any of the genes in the Neanderthal.”
The ultimate goal of studying human evolution is to better understand the human race. The opportunity to meet a Neanderthal and see firsthand our common but separate humanity seems, on the surface, too good to pass up. But what if the thing we learned from cloning a Neanderthal is that our curiosity is greater than our compassion? Would there be enough scientific benefit to make it worth the risks? “I’d rather not be on record saying there would,” Holliday told me, laughing at the question. “I mean, come on, of course I’d like to see a cloned Neanderthal, but my desire to see a cloned Neanderthal and the little bit of information we would get out of it…I don’t think it would be worth the obvious problems.” Hublin takes a harder line. “We are not Frankenstein doctors who use human genes to create creatures just to see how they work.” Noonan agrees, “If your experiment succeeds and you generate a Neanderthal who talks, you have violated every ethical rule we have,” he says, “and if your experiment fails…well. It’s a lose-lose.” Other scientists think there may be circumstances that could justify Neanderthal cloning.
“If we could really do it and we know we are doing it right, I’m actually for it,” says Lahn. “Not to understate the problem of that person living in an environment where they might not fit in. So, if we could also create their habitat and create a bunch of them, that would be a different story.”
“We could learn a lot more from a living adult Neanderthal than we could from cell cultures,” says Church. Special arrangements would have to be made to create a place for a cloned Neanderthal to live and pursue the life he or she would want, he says. The clone would also have to have a peer group, which would mean creating several clones, if not a whole colony. According to Church, studying those Neanderthals, with their consent, would have the potential to cure diseases and save lives. The Neanderthals’ differently shaped brains might give them a different way of thinking that would be useful in problem-solving. They would also expand humanity’s genetic diversity, helping protect our genus from future extinction. “Just saying ‘no’ is not necessarily the safest or most moral path,” he says. “It is a very risky decision to do nothing.”
Hawks believes the barriers to Neanderthal cloning will come down. “We are going to bring back the mammoth…the impetus against doing Neanderthal because it is too weird is going to go away.” He doesn’t think creating a Neanderthal clone is ethical science, but points out that there are always people who are willing to overlook the ethics. “In the end,” Hawks says, “we are going to have a cloned Neanderthal, I’m just sure of it.”
I’m not sure I agree with Hawk’s rational of cloning the Neanderthal genome, just because we can clone the mammoth’s genome, we should clone the Neanderthals’.
In my view, just because we can, doesn’t necessarily mean we should.
And the ethics of bringing another race of potentially intelligent beings back into existence should be considered. What of their ‘rights?’ Should they be afforded the same as other human beings? What of their ‘nationality?’ Does that influence what rights of being they have?
To me, the legalities of this act should be considered before any ‘resurrection’ is performed.
What do you think?
Pat Regan, a researcher exploring the possibility of human-alien hybrids he terms “humaliens” in his book ‘UFO: The search for Truth’, posts about humaliens as they relate to Lloyd Pye’s Star Child Skull and a photo taken at the turn of the 20th Century of a Siberian woman with her child who exhibit some strange physical characteristics:
The creation of my latest book, ‘UFO: the Search for Truth’, has been an immense learning curve for me personally. My experience so far has been as a published writer connected with mythology, native Pagan legend/religion and the eco-system and more recently concerning the deception within politics. UFO: the Search for Truth holds numerous accounts of strange public sightings concerning UFOs and aliens. The subject of poltergeists and other extraordinary phenomena is also broached as being relevant to the subject at hand.
However, just before I finalised the book fate stepped in and an amazing disclosure occurred. I was contacted by the proprietor, Mr Chris Bray, of a well-established Leeds bookshop, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Chris was aware that I was writing UFO and he kindly wanted to grant me permission to use an image from his private collection. Just before the book went into print I rushed in to request from my publishers, ‘CanWriteWillWrite’, that we should include this late disclosure.
The old photograph Chris sent to me was astonishing as it seemed to fit perfectly with what I had already written concerning the potential of our Humalien heritage. I had already included in the book American data from the Starchild Project – an established scientific operation run by Lloyd Pye. Recent tests on an extraordinary ancient skull of a child had revealed that one of the parents of the child in question possessed DNA that was not recognised as being of human origin. The potential of our Humalien heritage was being revealed.
I quote from Lloyd’s own 2010 news release:
“This past weekend (March 2010) I met with the geneticist working on the Starchild’s DNA. He explained how he can now prove the Starchild is not entirely human, which has been our position for years. Now it is no longer a question of “if,” but of “when” and “how” we spread this astounding new reality beyond the mailing list.”
Lloyd reiterates that scientific corroboration now clearly illustrates that a “significant part of the Starchild’s genome is not found on Earth.” This groundbreaking discovery by Lloyd’s expert team will indeed I believe transform world history and the way we perceive life in the universe. However, the new photo that came to light, thanks to Chris Bray, threw a whole new light on the exciting issue of humans who had indeed crossbred with extraterrestrial races.
The photo (that we affectionately call “Alien Mom”) was an authentic shot of a mother and child from Siberia. These two individuals potentially hold alien traits of a physical nature. Chris explained in my book:
“The pic is very historic, taken at the turn of the century (circa 1900). Notice in particular the shape of the mothers head and the length of her fingers! The kid looks almost identical to the Area51 images of aliens and could easily be the result of mating between aliens and humans. The photo is absolutely genuine but no claims of extra terrestrial influence have been made about it before.”
But there was much more.
In June 1908 The Tunguska Event, or Tunguska Explosion, was a powerful explosion that occurred over the so-called Southern swamp, a small morass not far from the Podkamennaya (Lower Stony) Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai of Russia. There was not I believe a great deal of scientific interest about the impact at the time, possibly due to the remoteness of the Tunguska region. The first recorded expedition arrived at the impact site more than a decade after the event.
In 1921, the Russian mineralogist Leonid Kulik, visiting the Tunguska River basin as part of a study for the Soviet Academy of Sciences, deduced from neighbourhood accounts that the explosion had been caused by a giant meteorite impact. Kulik, persuaded the Soviet government to finance an expedition to the Tunguska region, based on the prospect of meteoric iron that could be salvaged to support Soviet industry. Kulik’s party finally undertook an expedition in 1927.
Kulik made arrangements with the local Evenki hunters to direct his party to the crash site. Reaching the vicinity was an extremely difficult task. But upon reaching an area just south of the location, the superstitious Evenki hunters would go no further, fearing what they called the “Valleymen”. Kulik was therefore impelled to return to the nearby village, and his party was delayed for several days while they sought new guides.
Who were the mysterious Valleymen that struck fear into the hearts of the Evenki hunters? Did they have any relationship to the Tunguska Explosion? Later on, other claims came in about a wreck of an alien device that had been found at the site of the inexplicable explosion. Reports indicated that Russian scientists, belonging to the Tunguska space phenomenon public state fund, said they found the remains of an extra-terrestrial apparatus that allegedly crashed near the Tunguska River in Siberia in 1908.
The mystery of the Tunguska event continues, yet now we have the Siberian mother and child issue to consider also. I must say here that the more I personally discover about this particular subject the more I am convinced that extraterrestrial intervention with our own race has genuinely occurred before. The evidence of experts does appear to be most compelling indeed.
I shall let Chris Bray explain what is particularly fascinating about the alien x human situation herein. What did he personally feel about the Alien Mom photograph and its inclusion in my book? He informed me:
“You’ve stitched together some interesting links here and of course apart from the Tunguska impact there have been many other meteorite hits in northern Siberia over the centuries any one of which could have disguised the crash landing of a spaceship (if indeed it was a crash and not a chosen landing) but my take on the photo is that the mother is herself a product of Alien interbreeding from several generations previously and we need to look for a ‘visit’ anomaly during the period 1775-1800. The importance of this picture is that it seems to record alien physical traits which will have subsequently been ‘subsumed’ during later interbreeding of alien offspring with the native Siberians who make up the majority of the population. Hence only a DNA analysis could now repudiate the possibility that this picture is proof of a race of humaliens living in Siberia.”
Chris’s pioneering disclosure deserves great credit. His “humaliens” theory in fact makes excellent sense and would perhaps form the basis of a brand new investigation for scientists researching DNA, such as the one headed by Lloyd Pye. I feel this situation alone merits greater research than is being currently undertaken. Are we finally witnessing evidence of genetic amalgamation between extraterrestrial life forms with humans?
Since ancient times up to this day; inexplicable UFOs have indeed been reported over Siberian and Russian areas. I welcome greater scientific investigation into this exciting situation. Others also seem to be suggesting similar.
The UK press reported in February 2010 that Lord Martin Rees, the Astronomer Royal of the UK, stated that aliens could be amongst us and we may not be able to distinguish them. Rees, who is also the President of the Royal Society, said:
“The problem is that we’re looking for something very much like us, assuming that they at least have something like the same mathematics and technology.”
Alternatively, recent sensationalistic scare-mongering by others such as top scientist Stephen Hawking, who warned us in April not to ‘talk with aliens,’ appears to be unjustified in view of the disclosure highlighted in this article.
The physical characteristics of the woman and her child seems to be very weak evidence to me. I’ve known people during my five plus decades of life that show the same traits. You have to do better than that to convince me of the Star Trek version of alien life.
But I do endorse Lloyd Pye’s research of the Star Child Skull. Physical evidence is the only way to convince the powers that be of the possibility of intelligent life that might not be human.
But not necessarily ‘alien.’
There was a TV show back in the late 1960s, early 1970s called “UFO.”
Ubiquitous enough, eh?
It was produced by Gary Anderson, better known for making puppet shows, but this program had actual live actors. A game-changer for Anderson.
The premise of the show was that Earth was being attacked by UFO aliens who were kidnapping people in order to experiment on them in order to breed with humans.
Familiar story, no?
Anyway, S.H.A.D.O., an acronym for Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organisation, was formed as a private organization with no connection with governments (so to retain plausible deniability) to combat the alien threat.
S.H.A.D.O. had enough armaments to make Xe (Blackwater) jealous; mobiles (tanks), submarines, jets, rockets, moon shuttles, space interceptors and a Moon Base for them to launch from.
Now Bigelow doesn’t have all of that. Yet.
But it’s no secret he wishes to establish a private space business using his inflatable module technology, and possibly use the same technology for Moon bases.
And it’s also no secret Mr. Bigelow is interested in UFOs; the reason why they are here, who and what are the inhabitants and what technology they are using.
And also; why are some of them violent?
It sounds like a Hollywood plot for a 21st century remake of Earth versus the Flying Saucers.
San Francisco physicist Dr. Jack Sarfatti claims to have heard the rumor while visiting London in 2004, while in the company of Nick Cook, the well known aerospace journalist from the private intelligence publisher Janes Information Group.
“I was asked by the ‘CIA’ not to pursue the story in 2004, but now Bigelow has (allegedly, it seems) opened Pandora’s Box on the story.”
Sarfatti came forward with the rumor following a remark made by billionaire space maven Bob Bigelow to the New York Times about the dangers of UFOs:
“People have been killed. People have been hurt. It´s more than observational kind of data.”
The New York Times had interviewed Bigelow about his recent efforts to build a private space station. In the article, Bigelow was quoted about the lethality of the UFO phenomena, but the basis for Bigelow’s statement was not pursued.
According to Sarfatti, the rumor of a battle between Bob Bigelow’s employees and otherworldly beings was provided by a mysterious French woman, who was accompanied by a body guard carrying a mystery briefcase allegedly containing “some kind of ‘psychotronic’ weapon based on alien ET technology.”
Sarfatti says the woman claimed to be part of a semi-secret Paris UFO group, and the woman attributed the story to Jacques Vallee, the internationally famous researcher who inspired the French UFO researcher Claude Lacombe in Steven Spielberg’s classic UFO film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Sarfatti quickly added, “Allegedly Jacques Vallee denies the story, but now Bob Bigelow seems to have gone public with it — albeit without the details.”
Apparently Sarfatti, who in recent years has consulted to Dr. Ron Pandolfi (for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence) on speculative ideas related to reverse engineering hypothetical extraterrestrial technologies, also knows more of this rumor than he is willing to make public.
“I am not divulging details only the general nature of the remarks. In any case Nick Cook heard them also.”
In the 1990s, Bob Bigelow funded UFO investigations under a group he founded called the National Institute of Discovery Sciences, also known as NIDS.
Among the many investigations conducted by NIDS was the mysterious case of the so-called Bigelow Skinwalker Ranch in a remote region of Utah, where a variety of paranormal phenomena had been reported.
One experience made public by former NIDS personnel was the report of a nearly invisible being emerging from a tunnel that appeared to float in thin air, which led to speculation of an opening from another world — a star gate — built from a spacetime wormhole.
According to Sarfatti’s account, the French woman “claimed an actual gun battle at Bigelow Ranch with Bob’s paramilitary against aliens out of the wormhole with dead and wounded humans. She was very convincing and Nick Cook heard the strange tale at his private London Club with me and another witness. I debriefed Kit Green and Ron Pandolfi soon after and the story caused a big stir.”
Pandolfi and Green are well known for their interest in unusual phenomena and their history of employment with the CIA.
Given the many reports of pilots who have lost their lives pursuing UFOs beyond the safe operating range of their aircraft, Bigelow’s comments to the New York Times may have a more mundane explanation.
Until Mr. Bigelow comes forward with a more detailed explanation for his comments about lethal UFO encounters, Sarfatti’s expose’ of the rumor will only further inflame allegations of a cover-up among the fringe elements of the UFO community.
Is Bob Bigelow a modern day, 21st Century Commander Straker? Did he let too much out of the bag?
Or will he be considered to be like Howard Hughes, a brilliant eccentric?
This story bears watching.
Craig Venter finally accomplished his goal of creating an artificial lifeform.
Yesterday, his company posted a paper on how they did it, and it’s implications:
The first microbe to live entirely by genetic code synthesized by humans has started proliferating at a lab in the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI). Venter and his colleagues used a synthetic genome—the genetic instruction set for life—to build and operate a new, synthetic strain ofMycoplasma mycoides bacteria, according to an online report published May 20 by Science.
“This is the first self-replicating cell on the planet to have a computer for a parent,” said J. Craig Venter during a press briefing on May 20. “It’s also the first species to have a Web site in its genetic code.”
For the past 15 years, the genomes of thousands of organisms have been sequenced and deposited in databases. “We call this digitizing biology,” JCVI molecular biologist Daniel Gibson told Scientific American. “We now show that it is possible to reverse this and synthesize cells starting from this digitized information….We refer to the cell we have created as being a synthetic cell because it is a cell controlled by a genome assembled from chemically synthesized pieces of DNA.”
In other words, a chemical synthesizer stitched together various short iterations of man-made adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine that were then assembled into a working genome that can successfully produce the proteins that enable life. Using stretches of DNA, known as cassettes, roughly 1,000 base-pairs in length, the researchers assembled a simplified version of M. mycoides genome from scratch in a succession of E. coli and yeast cells. The final synthetic genome—more than a million base-pairs long—was then inserted into an existingMycoplasma capricolum cell. The synthetic cell then went on to behave as a M. mycoides, producing proteins from the instructions encoded by the synthetic genome and even dividing and growing.
“It is a big deal,” geneticist and technology developer George Church of Harvard Medical School says of the achievement. “It’s not incremental, but it’s not final either,” noting that other groups are already delivering useful products from partially reengineered genomes, such as biofuels from engineered E. coli.
Biological engineer Drew Endy of Stanford University clarified how to think of this creation. “It’s not genesis, it’s not as if mice are coming from a pile of dirty rags in a corner,” he says. “The correct word is poesis, human construction. We can now go from information and get a reproducing organism. It lays down the gauntlet for us to learn how to engineer genomes.”
Getting to this point was not without its challenges, including requiring at least $40 million in investment into relevant experiments over the past 15 years, primarily funded by Venter’s private company Synthetic Genomics and the U.S. Department of Energy, among others. The researchers started with the intention of synthesizing the genome of Mycoplasma genitalium, which has the smallest known natural genetic instruction set. But that organism’s slow growth and other properties led them to ditch it in favor of genetically more complex cousins such asM. mycoides and M. capricolum. To simplify things, they deleted 14 genes from M. mycoidesnatural genome, leaving behind hundreds.
Then the researchers could not find a way to transfer genomes from one bacterial species to another, eventually enlisting the yeast as an assembly waystation, permitting easier manipulation of genetic material and overcoming natural resistance in the microbes to tinkering with their DNA. The yeast also copies the synthetic genome numerous times with its own to allow spares for experiments, while adding its own genetic twists, such as eight single nucleotide polymorphisms now found in the synthetic genome. In fact, there are 19 total nucleotide sequence differences between the synthetic genome and its natural analog. And, thus far, genomes can only be swapped between closely related species. “Right now, we don’t know how far phylogenetically speaking the donor and recipient can be,” said JCVI microbiologist Carole Lartigue at the May 20 briefing.
But once this synthetic genome was inserted—the would-be host cell failed “and we did not know why,” Gibson says. By cross-checking the entire genome gene by gene, they found the fatal flaw after three months of work: a single missing base in the dnaA gene, which is required for life. “Accuracy is essential,” Venter said. “There are parts of the genome where it cannot tolerate even a single error.”
Of course, the rest of the original cell remains “naturally” made, from the cytoplasm on down, but the billions of daughter cells are assembled entirely from proteins encoded by the synthetic genome. Once the perfected synthetic M. mycoides genome was inserted into M. capricolum, on March 26, it booted up the natural cell’s machinery and busily set to work living, making proteins and, ultimately, dividing and thriving. By March 29, the researchers found a thriving blue colony of M. capricolum living as synthetically driven M. mycoides. “The cells with only the synthetic genome are self-replicating and capable of logarithmic growth,” the researchers wrote, and grow “slightly faster” than their natural peers.
Venter and his colleagues also included four “watermarks” in the code to distinguish the synthetic microbe—dubbed Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0—from natural organisms, including 46 names of scientific contributors to the synthetic genome, an email address and a web site based on a code derived from the four letters of the bases and 64 combinations of the four letters, or triplets, possible in the genetic code. “When you put English text into [the code], it generates very frequent stop codons in the genetic code and won’t produce big proteins,” said JCVI microbiologist Hamilton Smith, a Nobel Laureate in medicine. “It’s designed to be biologically neutral.”
Gibson adds: “If one is able to translate the watermark sequences, they will be able to send us an email and prove that they decoded the sequences.”
The man-made genetic code also includes three quotes: “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, and to recreate life out of life” from James Joyce; “see things not as they are but as they might be” from Robert Oppenheimer via the Ethical Culture School in New York City; and “what I cannot build, I cannot understand” from physicist Richard Feynmann.
The dream of Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ is finally realized and the Age of Nanotechnology can begin in earnest now.
“For I have survived multitudes of quantum deaths to witness the truly absurd.”
It is well known that Cro-Magnon Man lived along side of Neanderthal Man 30,000 to 45,000 years ago and much is speculated how that relationship existed.
Now there might be a third type of human being thrown into the mix to confuse things even more!
Scientists have identified a previously unknown type of ancient human through analysis of DNA from a finger bone unearthed in a Siberian cave.
The extinct “hominin” (human-like creature) lived in Central Asia between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago.
An international team has sequenced genetic material from the fossil showing that it is distinct from that of Neanderthals and modern humans.
Details of the find, dubbed “X-woman”, have been published in Nature journal.
Ornaments were found in the same ground layer as the finger bone, including a bracelet.
Professor Chris Stringer, human origins researcher at London’s Natural History Museum, called the discovery “a very exciting development”.
“This new DNA work provides an entirely new way of looking at the still poorly-understood evolution of humans in central and eastern Asia.”
The discovery raises the intriguing possibility that three forms of human – Homo sapiens, Neanderthals and the species represented by X-woman – could have met each other and interacted in southern Siberia.
The tiny fragment of bone from a fifth finger was uncovered by archaeologists working at Denisova Cave in Siberia’s Altai Mountains in 2008.
An international team of researchers extracted mitochondrial DNA from the bone and compared the genetic sequence with those from modern humans and Neanderthals.
It is speculated that tribes of Homo Erectus survived into this time frame, this could be the proof paleo-anthropologists need to prove the theory.
But with no other Erectus DNA to compare it with, this might be a hard sell.
Branches of Humanity are often nebulous things to grasp in our modern society and most cultures discount our biological past, so research such as this is important in understanding who we were.
From earthly ancestors to possible extraterrestrial (or crypto?) ones as we continue the study of human beings using DNA technology.
The Star Child Skull is famous (or infamous) for being proof positive of ET contact with humans and has many detractors of course for the obvious reasons.
Lloyd Pye has had possession of the Skull for many years and had it’s DNA tested in 2003. The findings showed that the individual had a human mother, but because the testing couldn’t resolve the father’s nuclear DNA, proof positive of the origin wasn’t forthcoming.
Now, that is about to change:
We finally have a recovery of nuclear DNA from the Starchild!
This past weekend I met with the geneticist working on the Starchild’s DNA. He explained how he can now prove the Starchild is not entirely human, which has been our position for years. Now it is no longer a question of “if,” but of “when” and “how” we spread this astounding new reality beyond the mailing list. First, though, let me bring the list’s newcomers up to speed.
In 2003 we had a DNA analysis that used human-only primers to recover the Starchild’s mitochondrial DNA, the DNA outside the nucleus, which comes from the mother and her genetic line. That meant its mother was human. But we could not recover its nuclear DNA, which comes from both mother and father, which meant its father was not a human. Unfortunately, with the recovery technology of 2003 we couldn’t prove what he was, which left us in scientific limbo. The “no result” from the search for the nuclear DNA clearly meant Dad wasn’t human, but we could not prove that fact beyond all possible doubt.
Now, in 2010, there have been many improvements in the recovery process, and those improvements have been applied to the Starchild skull with the stunning result you see below. This is a gel sheet that shows a clear recovery of its nuclear DNA, which could not be done in 2003.
The next two screen shots are taken from the national genetic database at the National Institute of Health, NIH. That public-access database is a centralized repository of all genetic information generated by geneticists all over the world, and now covers essentially all living organisms on Earth, from various kinds of viruses and bacteria, to various kinds of crustaceans and fish, to all kinds of animals and plants, including great apes and humans.
For many species, humans included, there are already nucleotide sequences covering entire genomes. Therefore, sequences from the Starchild’s DNA can be directly compared against this vast database to look for any matches. In one such comparison below, you see the text below the blue line at the bottom (if you can read it, sorry it’s so fuzzy) that 265 base pairs (a good length) of recovered Starchild nuclear DNA matches perfectly with a gene on human chromosome 1. This verifies beyond any degree of doubt that some of the nuclear DNA seen in the gel sheet is from a human being.
In the one below, and again at the bottom, you see the stunning report that in a string of 342 base pairs (another good length), “No significant similarity (is) found.” To recover a stretch of base pairs as long as that with NO reference in the NIH database is astounding because it means there is no known earthly corollary for what has been analyzed! This incredible anomaly will put the Starchild in history books!!!
Please understand that this result has now been verified several times, and a few more different fragments have been identified that cannot be matched in this database to anything known. Despite that fact, mainstream skeptics will be obligated by their positions to try to say it’s some kind of gibberish or some kind of mistake because in their world view it simply can’t be true.
Luckily, their bleating protests can be easily overcome with continued repetition of the result, finding more and more similar fragments in the library that will be created from the Starchild’s DNA, which is what the geneticist is confident will happen over the next weeks and months—nothing but verification that a significant part of the Starchild’s genome is not found on Earth.
I will investigate this further over the weekend to see if I can find other leads.
No matter if it ends up that we are genetically manipulated by ‘aliens’ (I have a feeling Mac Tonnies might be vindicated, holy synchronicity!) of some type, this will blow the lid off from various theories of Human Origins.
Today’s hat tip goes to the Anomalist.
What is Transhumanism?
The term itself has many definitions, depending on who you ask.
The stock meaning is that transhumanism is a step toward being ‘posthuman’, and that term is subject to many iterations also.
One definition of being transhuman is using advanced technology to increase or preserve the quality of life of an individual. And that is the interpretation I use for myself , of which I have mentioned many times on this blog (I’ve made no secret of my heart condition).
That is just one interpretation however. According to Michael Garfield, transhumanism has many meanings:
Mention the word “transhumanism” to most of my friends, and they will assume you mean uploading people into a computer. Transcendence typically connotes an escape from the trappings of this world — from the frailty of our bodies, the evolutionary wiring of our primate psychologies, and our necessary adherence to physical law.
However, the more I learn about the creative flux of our universe, the more the evolutionary process appears to be not about withdrawal, but engagement — not escape, but embrace — not arriving at a final solution, but opening the scope of our questions. Any valid map of history is fractal — ever more complex, always shifting to expose unexplored terrain.
This is why I find it is laughable when we try to arrive at a common vision of the future. For the most part, we still operate on “either/or” software, but we live in a “both/and” universe that seems willing to try anything at least once. “Transhuman” and “posthuman” are less specific classifications than catch-alls for whatever we deem beyond what we are now … and that is a lot.
So when I am in the mood for some armchair futurism, I like to remember the old Chinese adage: “Let a hundred flowers bloom.” Why do we think it will be one way or the other? The future arrives by many roads. Courtesy of some of science fiction’s finest speculative minds, here are a few of my favorites:
By Elective Surgery & Genetic Engineering
In Greg Egan’s novel Distress, a journalist surveying the gray areas of bioethics interviews an elective autistic — a man who opted to have regions of his brain removed in order to tune out of the emotional spectrum and into the deep synesthetic-associative brilliance of savants. Certainly, most people consider choice a core trait of humanity… but when a person chooses to remove that which many consider indispensable human hardware, is he now more “pre-” than “post-?” Even today, we augment ourselves with artificial limbs and organs (while hastily amputating entire regions of a complex and poorly-understood bio-electric system); and extend our senses and memories with distributed electronic networks (thus increasing our dependence on external infrastructure for what many scientists argue are universal, if mysterious, capacities of “wild-type” Homo sapiens). It all raises the question: are our modifications rendering us more or less than human? Or will this distinction lose its meaning, in a world that challenges our ability to define what “human” even means?
Just a few pages later in Distress, the billionaire owner of a global biotech firm replaces all of his nucleotides with synthetic base pairs as a defense against all known pathogens. Looks human, smells human…but he has spliced himself out of the Kingdom Animalia entirely, forming an unprecedented genetic lineage.
In both cases, we seem bound to shuffle sideways — six of one, half a dozen of the other.
By Involutionary Implosion
In the 1980s, Greg Bear explored an early version of “computronium” — matter optimized for information-processing — in Blood Music, the story of a biologist who hacks individual human lymphocytes to compute as fast as an entire brain. When he becomes contaminated by the experiment, his own body transforms into a city of sentient beings, each as smart as himself. Eventually, they download his whole self into one of their own — paradoxically running a copy of the entire organism on one of its constituent parts. From there things only get stranger, as the lymphocytes turn to investigate levels of reality too small for macro-humans to observe.
Scenarios such as this are natural extrapolations of Moore’s Law, that now-famous bit about computers regularly halving in size and price. And Moore’s Law is just one example of a larger evolutionary trend: for example, functions once distributed between every member of primitive tribes (the regulatory processes of the social ego, or the formation of a moral code) are now typically internalized and processed by every adult in the modern city. Just as we now recognize the Greek Gods as embodied archetypes correlated with neural subroutines, the redistributive gathering of intelligence from environment to “individual” seems likely to transform the body into a much smarter three cubic feet of flesh than the one we are accustomed to.
Greg Egan is the consumate trans/posthuman author and I have been a reader and fan of his for ten years. He is stunningly accurate and it amazes me how fertile his imagination must be.
Could he be getting quantum information from the future?
And I think I’ve read almost all of Greg Bear’s work over the past twenty years, including his Foundation works. His nanotech fiction is astonishingly prescient. Is he tapping into the quantum information highway too?
Like the author of this post speculates, maybe it’s just a few of the hundred flowers of the future.