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Tinkering With Life: Geneticists “Engineer” Bacteria With Minimal Genetic Code

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The progress of modern genetics is nothing short of astonishing.  This week it was announced that Craig Venter and his team had created the first synthetic life form.  But we may need to look a bit deeper.

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They made Syn 1.0 by removing the naturally occurring genome of bacteria ​Mycoplasma mycoides and replacing it with a lightly tinkered version that they made in a lab. This was a unique achievement because Syn 1.0 lived with the synthetic genome.

So the first thing to recognize is that they began with a natural bacteria and replaced its programming—no “new” or “artificial” bacteria was created.  Its instructions were merely changed—an amazing feat because in this case the DNA was programmed entirely by computer.  Venter calls the computer the true parent of this new “artificial” bacteria.

Another key aspect of this endeavor was defining what the least amount of essential  genetic material might be… Here is another key element:

What is “essential” for life depends on the environment that a living cell finds itself in. For instance, the record for the life-form with the fewest genes is held by naturally occurring Tremblaya, which has only 120 genes. But it cannot survive outside its insect host, which is performing many of the critical functions for Tremblaya. That is why Venter’s team wanted “essential” to mean what would be necessary for the organism to live on its own.

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This is the first hint of the relevance of the relatively new field of Epigenetics, which sees the activity of genes within the context of their environment.  It is interesting to note that Venter’s team had to take this factor into account (without acknowledging Epigenetics directly) and that more modifications will presumably need to be made to the genome for it to live in various environments—like our internal organs or blood stream, or in an oil field or ocean—if it is to accomplish medical or ecological tasks.

This again does not minimize the achievement in any way, but it does point to the fact that when talking about life, all activity is in relationship to other life and the environment.  No life form truly exists on its own.  To take this reality a step further, Venter and his team did not create the “world” in which the new life form exists.

And then there is this:

“Though Syn 3.0 is the free-living cell with the fewest number of genes, Venter and his colleagues still don’t know what 149 of those 473 genes do.”

What this means is that without understanding its function, through trial and error, the Venter team had to include 1/3 of genetic material that is deemed to be “junk DNA.”

Using the computer analogy which is now obviously much more than mere analogy, what this breakthrough demonstrates is that our growing knowledge of DNA (which could not have occurred without supercomputers) is really akin to creating a macro or subroutine inside another application (Life).

For those who use Microsoft Office at a high level there is familiarity with “macros”—which are snippets of code that do repetitive functions with the input of a mouse or one keystroke.  Photoshop users may know these as more aptly named “Actions”—again these are “scripts of code” that can be recorded to, for example, crop a number of images to a set of dimensions and add other features like effects.

In the example of macros in Office or actions in Photoshop it is important to understand that they “live” in the context of the greater program.

In Microsoft Office the programming tool to create and edit macros (which can also be recorded) is called VBA—or Visual Basic for Applications.  This means that all such subroutines must “live” within an Office application.

One might perhaps view Venter’s amazing work and modern genetics as “the Visual Basic for Applications within Life”; without the application known as Life and the host bacteria already in existence, the new genome would not and also could not exist.

Similarly without Microsoft Word already existing, the macro to quickly change all styles in a particular document to another set of parameters would have no useful purpose or value.

It would also have no meaning.

Similarly it is important to keep in mind that the extraordinary achievements in genetics are the result of life already existing—Life is the Microsoft Word or Photoshop within which this “tinkering” has taken place.

It has worked because by decoding the genome there is now an amazingly deep description of the functions of life available—almost like the “user manual” or more aptly the “object model” for living functions using the letters A, C, T and G to represent the active chemicals to instruct and control living functions within us.

But we need to step back and look at the big picture and acknowledge that while the functions have been described, they have not been explained.

There is still no viable explanation for how life came to be (remember that the host for the new genetic material already existed as a bacterium) and also no explanation of how the quality of MIND, which is necessary to devise a set of computer programs, arose from inert or inanimate matter.

The “presence” of a mind with respect to our own computer software is undeniable—Photoshop and Microsoft Word did not evolve except for human invention by programming.

From this very perspective perhaps we can now adjust our attitude to Life and existence to appreciate its actual meaning—and perhaps its lesson for humanity.

The complexity of DNA and its ability to instruct our biological functions may seem mysterious—but we now have a model that helps make its reality more comprehensible—our own recently developed software.

(If our science is several hundred years old since the Enlightenment—computer software has been known for a small fraction of that time.

When we see that the code in our cells operates in the same way as the code in our computers, perhaps we can finally drop the absurd notion of life as an accidental occurrence within nature—and now begin to understand that there must be an immense intelligence at work within nature (as Eckhart Tolle and others have suggested).

Science has begun to tinker with life. Now it must turn its attention to the context within which that tinkering has begun to work: A universe that is not only vast and huge but actually conscious and immensely intelligent.

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Scientists Propose That We Can Travel Faster Than The Speed of Light

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new paper suggest travel faster than the speed of light might be possible given the creation of a new way of looking at propelling a vehicle.

  • Reflect On:

    When considering the advancement of life changing technology, does our current economic model speed up or suppress the collaboration, creation and advancement of ideas?

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In Star Trek Gene Roddenberry imagined it possible to set a ship into ‘warp drive’ and travel at speeds 6000+ times the speed of light, moving from one galaxy to a distant one very quickly. Imagine having that type of technology here on earth?! It has been said before that if we can think it, we can create it. Well, maybe that’s sometimes true.

What Happened:

The question of whether travel faster than the speed of light is possible was again approached in a new research paper written by an American physicist Erik Lentz. In the paper Lentz proposed a new theory for how faster-than-light travel could be possible. Given their models, Lentz and his team feel that travel to distant stars and planets could be possible in the near future, perhaps with proper research and development they could have something working in as little as 10 years.

The question of whether this is possible does not challenge our current understanding of physics that Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity sets forth that it is not possible to travel faster than light.

Instead of focusing on our current understanding of matter, Lentz’s new paper puts greater importance on a possible engineering solution as opposed to the theoretical physics. The new paper was published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

The paper proposes a plan to travel faster than light by creating a series of ‘solitons’ to provide the basis for propulsion. A soliton is a compact wave that keeps its speed and shape while moving with little loss of energy.

Interestingly, this technology would allow travel at ANY speed. This brings me back to an article I wrote yesterday discussing the incoming reality within collective consciousness that UFOs and Extraterrestrials are real. In that article I state that the question of ‘how are they getting here’ is of importance as it could give humanity access to technology that would completely change the way we live on this planet.

 [The method] “uses the very structure of space and time arranged in a soliton to provide a solution to faster-than-light travel,” From the press release.

Imagine this, the nearest star beyond our solar system is called Proxima Centauri. We know it to be about 4.25 light years away. (A light year is the distance it takes light to travel in one year.)

Lentz stated that using our current rocket fuel methods fo travel, it would take about 50,000 to 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri. If we were to upgrade to nuclear propulsion technology, it would take about 100 years. But if we employed a light speed warp drive, it would take only four years and three months.

This would mean that the average person would be able to travel to distant interstellar planets and complete the trip in a current human lifetime. Think of the vacations!

According to Lentz there are some barriers to making this all work, but they aren’t impossible to surpass. For the tech to work, it would require lowering the energy needed down to the level of modern nuclear power reactors. That is if we don’t take into consideration energy technologies that are currently suppressed. Lentz also stated that what would be needed is a  way to develop and speed up the solitons (waves.)

“This work has moved the problem of faster-than-light travel one step away from theoretical research in fundamental physics and closer to engineering,”

Why Its Matters:

Humans are curious beings who seem to gain a great deal from expanding our curiosity beyond everyday plights of a system and way of life that doesn’t necessarily inspire the deepest use of our creativity. Perhaps a knowing that we can indeed go elsewhere without primitive technology would shift the way we see our role on this earth and how we choose to fight over what we believe are limited resources.

Then again, perhaps if humans carry their current story of separation and competition to other worlds, we’ll produce the same mess there. I guess the question is, would the possibility of being able to leave this earth and go almost anywhere change the underlying nature of how we choose to set up our cultural beliefs and narratives of what it means to be human?

It’s my feeling that humanity does not lack the solutions to live in a thriving world, we lack the worldview and state of being. Both of which we could change with a little effort.

The Takeaway:

When I hear research like this I am fascinated. Then again I also sometimes wonder if all scientists around the world saw the technology I have seen first hand, that completely changes the way we perceive energy generation today, would the way we look at creating technology that requires energy change entirely? Yes, of course it would.

In my mind and heart I see a world of true collaboration and curiosity. One where we aren’t competing to see who’s the greatest scientist with the best copy written tech, but a world where we transparently share what is out there to advance the entire human race. No powerful interests suppressing technology because it’s too threatening to an economy, but instead true open advancement where we can solve problems incredibly fast.

Can you imagine this world?

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What Causes Déjà Vu? The Neuroscience Behind The Memory Illusion

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CE Staff Writer 5 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Current explanations from the field of neuroscience suggest that déjà vu occurs when the brain is slightly fatigued and working to 'fact check' a memory. We experience this as being odd because we become aware of the process.

  • Reflect On:

    Might we explore a different explanation for déjà vu if we were looking at it from the standpoint of time being non linear and perhaps opening up to the idea of a collective consciousness?

Before you begin...

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They say about 60% of people experience déjà vu during their life, right off the bat that hit me as something I didn’t expect as I feel like almost everyone I know has had it at one time or another. Déjà vu, (‘already seen’ to the French) is the feeling that you are re-living something that has happened before. In the movie The Matrix, where déjà vu is perhaps most thought of in pop culture, Neo experiences a cat going by a doorway twice in a matter of seconds. Same cat, same moves, same everything.

In the film, this moment is presented as a ‘glitch in the matrix,’ however, in real life, déjà vu doesn’t often happen like what is seen in The Matrix, it instead feels as though you can’t recall when the ‘other memory’ happened, more so that what you are experiencing right now has already happened at some time.

Let’s dive into what some believe neuroscience is offering as an explanation.

What Happened:

According to experts like Dr Akira O’Connor, who is a senior psychology lecturer at the University of St Andrews, déjà vu is not only a feeling of familiarity, but also the metacognitive recognition that these feelings are misplaced. In simple terms:

“Déjà vu is basically a conflict between the sensation of familiarity and the awareness that the familiarity is incorrect. And it’s the awareness that you’re being tricked that makes déjà vu so unique compared to other memory events.”

Neuroscientists have determined that this memory illusion occurs when the frontal regions of the brain are attempting to correct an inaccurate memory.

“For the vast majority of people, experiencing déjà vu is probably a good thing. It’s a sign that the fact-checking brain regions are working well, preventing you from misremembering events. In a healthy person, such misremembering is going to happen every day. This is to be expected because your memory involves millions and billions of neurones. It’s very messy.”

While there isn’t a completely agreed upon explanation for what happens in the brain when déjà vu occurs, most models suggest that déjà vu occurs when areas of the brain (such as the temporal lobe) feed the mind’s frontal regions signals that a past experience is repeating itself. The frontal decision making parts of the brain then checks to see if the memory is actually true or possible, perhaps saying something to the effect “have I been here before?”

“If you have actually been in that place before, you may try harder to retrieve more memories. If not, a déjà vu realization can occur.”

It’s typically believed that we are more susceptible to déjà vu when the mind is a bit more fatigued and not as quick to discern that validity of our current moment.

Why It Matters:

What fascinated me about this in particular is two things: I’ve long felt that it’s quite possible that memories may actually be non local, i.e. they exist outside the brain not in the brain, and that perhaps the brain tunes into those memories that are somewhere around us. Or maybe we could say that some memory may exist in the brain, while others are part of some sort of collective field.

The second fascinating part for me is that I wonder if déjà vu has something to do with emerging science that tells us time is not linear. Perhaps when we take a classic scientific model that states all time is linear and all experience is linear, we limit our explanation of what déjà vu might be to something that fits that paradigm. What if the brain is tuning into something relating to quantum potentials that always exist, and that perhaps something different is happening with déjà vu? I’m not sure yet, however this is where déjà vu intrigues me the most.

Of course, the end result of exploring a question like this invites us to shift our worldview around the nature of reality, time and experience. Something that might be uncomfortable for some but I feel post material science is inviting us to do.

The Takeaway:

As with anything that is happening in our lives right now it seems, we are culturally in a time where a long avoided shift in our scientific paradigm is creating a lack of meaningful explanations for many things that happen in life. Is déjà vu one of those things that doesn’t have a good explanation in our current scientific paradigm? The jury might still be out on that, but for me, the current explanation presented in this piece did not quite ‘do it for me’ and my inquisitive mind and gut feeling pushes me to explore these questions through the emerging paradigm of non material science.

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These Anti-Solar Panels Don’t Require Daylight To Generate Power

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CE Staff Writer 7 minute read

In Brief

  • The Facts:

    A new approach to solar panels attempts to generate energy during the night, when there is no sunlight to turn into energy. This new invention could make solar a more efficient and reliable option for energy generation.

  • Reflect On:

    Are we being made aware of all energy technologies that truly exist out there? Are our ideas of what energy technologies we could create and bring to market limited on the belief that they must fit inside our existing economic structures?

Before you begin...

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Take a moment and breathe. Place your hand over your chest area, near your heart. Breathe slowly into the area for about a minute, focusing on a sense of ease entering your mind and body. Click here to learn why we suggest this.

Energy is one of the most important elements to any functioning society, and since our modern era of living uses so much power, the industry is always looking to evolve towards newer and more efficient solutions. Furthermore, given the environmental damage that often comes with many of our modern energy generation practices, people have been thinking outside the box to come up with ideas that are harmonious with mother nature.

Solar panel technology has been around for decades, but there are a few main issues with it. First off, you often need sunlight for it to produce enough on demand and stored energy for daily life. There are many areas in the world where that can be an issue in certain seasons. Secondly, during the night energy can’t be gathered so you’re always dealing with a limited time period where you can generate power for the moment or future use. This prompted inventors to imagine a new “anti-solar panel” that is designed to work both during the day and at night.

Typical solar panels work by gathering visible light from the sun and converting it to usable electricity. This energy can be used as it’s created, or it can be stored into battery cells to be used at a later time. That is to say, it might be a sunny day, you and your family are at work so little power is needed at home. When you return home and you need power,  batteries hooked up to your solar panel had been storing the energy collected from the sun during the day, so it’s ready for you to use once you need it even if the sun isn’t out.

No sun for a couple days while your family is at home for the weekend? Well, you can start to see the issues with solar, you might run out of power if you aren’t connected to a standard city power grid as backup.

But now a team at UC Davis is hoping to develop a new strategy relying on having panels that can also generate electricity at night from heat emitted by a device in the infrared spectrum that is used to generate power.

Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and who leads the research team:

“In order to produce electrical power after the sun has set, we consider an alternative photovoltaic concept that uses the earth as a heat source and the night sky as a heat sink, resulting in a “nighttime photovoltaic cell” that employs thermoradiative photovoltaics and concepts from the advancing field of radiative cooling.”

They also explain in another report:

We were thinking, what if we took one of these (thermoradiative) devices and put it in a warm area and pointed it at the sky? A regular solar cell generates power by absorbing sunlight, which causes a voltage to appear across the device and for current to flow, (but) in these new devices, light is instead emitted and the current and voltage go in the opposite direction, but you still generate power. You have to use different materials, but the physics is the same.”

It’s not yet known how much power this technology might produce, but at this time the UC Davis team estimates perhaps as much as 50W during the night. This is about one quarter of the amount a typical solar panel might produce during the day. While this isn’t a huge amount, one could argue it’s worth it.

But what happens if we think outside the box a little further?

Breakthrough Energy

At Collective Evolution we have been exploring new energy technologies for many years, and have had a few close relationships with several investors who have truly been thinking outside the box. This has provided us with an inside look at what technologies are out there beyond what most people commonly speak about in the realm of renewables.

I’m talking about technologies that would deeply disrupt our current energy economy and that could provide energy to anyone, at anytime and in a completely clean manner.

Many believe these types of “breakthrough” technologies are nothing more than unicorns – they aren’t real. They believe them to be elaborate hoaxes that only show up online and in YouTube videos. And this is fair to say. There have been may hoaxes, including inventors who didn’t quite have what they had claimed, however, some of these technologies are real and work exactly as claimed.

“I started to examine the breakthrough solutions, and much to my surprise, these concepts have been proven in hundreds of laboratories throughout the world, and yet they have not really seen the light of day. If the new energy technologies were to be set free worldwide, the change be profound, it would affect everybody, it would be applicable everywhere. These technologies are absolutely the most important thing that’s happened in the history of the world.”  – Dr Brian O’Leary, Former NASA Astronaut and Princeton Physics Professor

In our research we came across a device local to us here in Toronto and had the opportunity to see it functioning first hand. We were there alongside a group of third party investors and engineers who were eager to see the technology in action and understand how it functions. Unfortunately for this piece, the NDA we had signed stops me from saying too much more about the specifics, however you can decide whether or not you believe my word that, yes, this technology was very real, worked to produce multiple kilowatts of power, and had the potential to change the way you view energy generation entirely.

We have also explored technologies our friends and colleagues have vetted as well. One of our latest ones from a man in Zimbabwe who invented a power generation system that charges itself via radio frequencies around the device. A truly remarkable idea, one you have to see to believe.

Another friend and colleague of ours, Susan Manewich, has been working to bring these technologies to market for years. Her and her team have travelled around the world vetting various technologies and working with inventors to find viable ways of making their technologies available for mass use. In her travels she has seen that only a small percentage of claims and devices are real and viable, perhaps only 5%. As low at that sounds, it still shows us that there are in fact devices that would completely revolutionize the way we produce and use energy today and yet these devices are not known about and in many cases hidden purposefully from the public.

We talk about this with Susan in great detail during an interview with we did with her as she shares her insight and experience having worked in the ‘new energy’ industry for many years. Dive into this important conversation on CETV here.

The Takeaway

Imagine what a society would look like if we had ‘freed’ up the secrecy behind the existence of these breakthrough energy technologies. Do you see humanity thriving? Do you see energy being free of charge for people? If not, do you feel humanity’s existing worldview i.e. competition, separation, etc, might be a barrier to these technologies being used to liberate the way we live?

Finally, if it is humanity’s worldview and belief that we must all compete with one another that gets in the way, does it suggest we might need to go about re-examining our worldview’s in order to live in a more peaceful and harmonious society? It appears as though the solutions are already all here, but the way we think of ourselves and one another deeply holds back a thriving world.

Dive Deeper

Click below to watch a sneak peek of our brand new course!

Our new course is called 'Overcoming Bias & Improving Critical Thinking.' This 5 week course is instructed by Dr. Madhava Setty & Joe Martino

If you have been wanting to build your self awareness, improve your.critical thinking, become more heart centered and be more aware of bias, this is the perfect course!

Click here to check out a sneak peek and learn more.

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