Three interesting TED Talks shown today …

Three interesting TED Talks shown today at the TSSG. Craig Venter showed us how we are working towards synthesising life, not just through recombinatorial processes but from the ground up, “booting chromosones into life.” For software developers we can think of it as components that can be combined into programmes and then booted up. They are even working on an IDE to do this. Recombinatorial processes allow our “software” to be injected into existing “hardware” (cells) which then pick up the new genetic code and reprogramme themselves. This followed on from an excited Bonnie Bassler who told us how bacteria communicate. There are intra and inter species communication systems. These systems are used by bacteria to trigger virulent processes, waiting for bacterial numbers to reach preprogrammed levels. Bacteria are effectively acting as multi-cellular organisms, not individuals. The outcomes of this research may lead to better antibiotics that, rather than killing off weak bacteria and selecting for strong bacteria, will fool bacteria into attacking when do not have sufficient numbers to do harm, so spending themselves. And should you ever date Bonnie be aware she sees you as a bacterial mass with a smattering of human cells. Charming. Finally we have a short piece from Sean Gourley on the mathematics of war. His team computed a number based on the number of attacks vs. how many died in each attack. What they found was all wars across the globe had a similar number and that this number varied based on the organisational structure of the combatants. The plan would be to use this analyses to see what strategy would best destabilise the combatant structures and bring and end to the war. §

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