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My development logbook

A New Energy Future

It is an absolutely fascinating talk by Craig Venter.

Joining 3.5 Billion Years of Microbial Invention

Very well worth your 1 hr 45 min of your life.

Craig has actually covered a lot of subjects. A board outline here will not do justice to the brilliant talk, but I do it anyway:

Craig first recounted his oceanic expedition in which he sailed around the world and collected micro-organism in seawater every 200 miles for genome sequencing. On his way he has met French who jealously guarded their “genetic heritage” in French Polynesians territory, and even detained by British navy for a while.

The result is an astonishing proof of the richness and diversity of our eco-system.

Each local area has its own set of unique, diverse micro-organism. But due to modern logistic, these micro-organism are transported to different part of the world by our vessels. When anchoring in destination ports, large container ships discard sea waters which they have pumped up from, possibly, another part of the world far far away. Imagine the magnitude of the evolution challenge to the local species when millions of new, alien micro-organism are being released, along with the sea water, into the local environment on a regular basis.

Craig also described the mechanism to build a custom-design chromosomes. He emphasized that the scientists are not playing God. The technique is only possible because the microbial has invented the underlying mechanism through 3.5 billion years of evolution.

Lastly he introduced the vision of the 4th Generation Biofuel, a fuel that is generated by engineered bacteria using solely CO2 and solar energy (whereas the 2nd and 3rd generations of technology still require sugar as input to the process). It is a better solution because, comparing ethanol solution, the generated fuel can contain more energy per unit, does not absorb water and will not bid up the food price.