And What Does It Say About Me That My Response Is To Haul Out An Obscure 12″ Version of an Equally Obscure 80s Synth-Pop Song

Oh, probably that as a science fiction writer, I’ve been standing around, tapping my foot and thinking “about damn time”:

Scientists Create First Self-Replicating Synthetic Life

And now, that promised obscure remix:


29 Comments on “And What Does It Say About Me That My Response Is To Haul Out An Obscure 12″ Version of an Equally Obscure 80s Synth-Pop Song”

  1. I can’t decide whether the whole synthetic life thing is terrifying or exhilarating.

    I also feel like I’ve already surpassed my lifetime quota of “whoa–everything just *changed* and I’m here to see it” moments, and they’ve pretty much all happened in the last 10 years. Well, besides the whole Berlin wall going away thing.

  2. I remember the original song and it’s only the second OMD song I know.

  3. Seriously, where do you find this stuff?

  4. I can’t help but be disturbed, not only because creating life is an unpredictable enterprise, but because this guy is looking to patent a living thing.

  5. While there’s a part of me that says “yea!” (and another that screams “Oh NO!”), most of me is saying “yawn”. John Von Neumann described how to do this years ago, even before the discovery of DNA, in the Von Neumann Universal Constructor. For all that they have done there, it’s more of a hijacking of life than the creation of life, which may be a good thing.

  6. Ahh, I love me some OMD. <3

    @Chris Turkel: Everyone knows If You Leave, but my favorite by them is Dreaming.

  7. “We’ve briefed the White House…” Venter says…

    i need to find my copy of max brook’s zombie survival guide…

  8. When the CBC Radio news covered the story, they led in with the “it’s alive!” clip from 1931’s “Frankenstein” movie. It was, of course, tongue-in-cheek… but you do have to wonder how many torches are being kindled at the news.

    — Steve

  9. Ah, OMD – saw them twice in concert in college… Dazzle Ships, the album this was from, was good, but I prefer Architecture and Morality.

    I haven’t read the paper yet, but I’m not surprised by the news. We’ve been leading up to this for a while; the hard part is still to come – making up organelles de novo. Still, it’s wonderful to see it happening…

  10. changterhune – Before you hear lies from Chang Terhune himself, we thought we’d tell you the truth: without us, his old action figures, he’d be nowhere. He loved science fiction from way back and began reading it at an early age, but it was through us that he acted it all out. That’s what led to the writing. He watched a lot of science fiction shows like Star Trek, U.F.O, and movies, too. But we were always there to do his bidding. And it’s like they say: you always forget about the little people on your way up. Oh, the 70’s and early 80’s with him were good times! He’d use these blocks and make all the crazy buildings for us to be in his stories. I gotta say the kid’s imagination was pretty damn fertile. Oh, he had friends, but they just weren’t into it like him. He was like the Lance Armstrong of action figures. And of science fiction. At first, when he began writing in the eighth grade, we didn’t mind. He still made time for us. And we knew that when he was holding us in his sweaty little hands and he got that far off look in his eye, he’d come back to burying us in the back yard or - god forbid! – blowing us up with firecrackers. But it was worth it for a part in one of those stories. We loved him for it. He kept us around even when we were minus a leg or two - or even a head. In that mind of his, he found a use for all of us. Then he discovered girls. October, 1986. It was like the end of the world. One day we’re standing in the middle of this building block creation he’d pretended was some marble city on a planet near Alpha Centauri and the next we were stuck in a box in the closet. Not even a “See ya later!” Nope, it was into the closet, then we heard some high-pitched girly-giggles then silence. We didn’t see him for years. We got word about him once in a while. Heard he took up writing, but it was crap like “The Breakfast Club” only with better music. We couldn’t believe it. Not Charlie. What happened to those aliens with heads he’d sculpted out of wax? Spaceships? Those complex plots? All gone. For what? You guessed it: Girls. Emotions. “Serious fiction.” I tell you, it was like hearing Elvis had left the building. During our two decade exile in the closet, we heard other things about him. He went to college. He wrote a lot, but not much he really liked. We knew it even then. It was like he didn’t dare write science fiction. Some of us had lost hope and just lay there. Others kept vigil, hoping for a day we didn’t dare speak about. Then we heard he’d stopped writing in 1996. Did he come to reclaim us? No. He took up music for ten years or so. He took up yoga. Once in a while, he’d visit us in the closet. But it was half-hearted. His mind was elsewhere. Then one day, he really did come back for us. One second we’re in the dark and the next thing we know we’re in a car headed for Massachusetts. Suddenly we got a whole shelf to ourselves out in broad daylight! Then he bought a bunch of others form some planet called Ebay. He’d just sit and stare at us with that old look. But why were we suddenly back in the picture? He had a wife now, who didn’t mind that he played with us. So what had happened? Turns out he’d never forgotten about those stories. He’d been thinking about all of us and the stories he’d made up and then remembered he’d been a writer once. From the shelf we could see him typing away. Before long he’s got a whole novel together! Then he’s working on another one. Word is there are two more in the planning stages! Some short stories, too! It’s good to see him using his imagination again. Its good to know he never abandoned us. He returned to his true love of science fiction. We hear the stories are pretty good. Someday we’ll get one of the cats to score us a copy of the manuscript. Man, it’s good to be out of the damn closet! --- I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me I'm smarter than you I'm harder than you I'm better than you I'm just raw I'm hotter than you More popular than you More clever than you And goshdarn it, people like me
    Chang for days

    Jesus Christ. I love that song.

    You are my friend Michael just in a different body and state.

    See you in September! :)

  11. I said the song was obscure, not the band. Although outside “If You Leave,” here in the states they weren’t exactly hugely high-profile.

  12. This is indeed a remarkable step forward. However, I’d like to make an important point (also made by PZ Myers in #16’s link): This experiment did not produce “synthetic life” – at least not as I and I suspect most SF authors/readers would probably think of it. J. Craig Venter and his colleagues successfully rebooted an anucleate bacterial cell with a synthesized genome that is a copy of a different bacterial genome. The synthetic genome was not designed from scratch (or assembled from a collection of pre-existing parts). Once someone designs a genome from scratch with a specific set of activities and reboots it…then I’d say we have “synthetic life.” Venter is a determined person, and this is his ultimate goal. (And the goal of many others as well.) So, it’s just a matter of time…

  13. Thank you. I never heard this is in the first place. At the time that this kind of stuff was coming out, I was in the throes of early childrearing, working fulltime, going to school, attending too many local political meetings, and generally never hearing any music that wasn’t on the local college radio or featured in a feckless fundraising event. Which means that everything is new to me that ought to be old, and delightful.

  14. What does it say about you? Not sure. But this song about genetic engineering made me think of this reverse engineering hit single from the New Wave band Zanzibar.

  15. Hmm, to those of us who were college station deejays in the late 80s, it’s not obscure at all.

    When your station motto is “600 watts, one third the power of a good blow dryer,” you know you’re obscure.

  16. This could really be great. We can do anything with this. If we can make a bacterium do what we want, then we can make a tree or an animal do what we want. It’s a stepping-stone to great things. Fast-growing plants that absorb lots of CO2, output lots of O2, and are a food source are just barely outside our grasp.

  17. Holy crap! Gotta love those old 12″ remixes. I have this and many other old 80’s 12″ on vinyl. Ahh… the good old days. NOW GET OFF OF MY LAWN WITH YER IPODS YOU DAMN KIDS!

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