Whats in the . at the end of this sentence?

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Science/Technology is going to have a lot of suprises in store for us in the coming years. The fact that they can even do these kinds of things can be exciting or scary, depending on who's hands the technology is in. -kirsten

Scientists have devised a way of hiding a coded message in a dot of human DNA. Researchers led by molecular biologist Carter Bancroft at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York describe how they made and mailed a microdot that contained a secret message hidden amid millions of strands of DNA.

DNA is shaped like a twisted ladder with four kinds of rungs called bases. The scientists built a DNA strand in which different combinations of bases respresented the letters of their message. At either end of the strands they put sequences of bases that would serve as the key to finding the strand. The strand was one three thousandths the width of a human hair in length.

The scientists then chopped the entire DNA of a human cell into pieces of about the same length and mixed them with the message strand. They soaked the mixture into paper with a period printed on it, cut out the period and pasted it onto a letter. They mailed the letter to themselves to prove that the DNA could survive the rigors of the U.S. Mail.

When the letter arrived they extracted the DNA, multiplied millions of times the strand containing the message , and read its contents. The message they chose for their test was perhaps the most famous secret of the microdot era, " June 6,invasion Normandy."

Conventional computers would not be of much use in reading a DNA microdot said Anne Condon a computer scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Instead it might require advances in DNA computing, the fledgling field of making DNA strands do math she said.

-- kritter (kritter@adelphia.net), March 04, 2000


Very interesting article. This is certainly exciting, but it scares me silly. I've been reading Loren Eiseley's "Immense Journey," and he says that we will just keep on evolving, but genetic engineering changes the equation, and we should understand what we're getting in to.

I still remember my awe at learning about DNA in college. Watson and Crick were my heroes for years.

I hope we don't let a bad genie out of the DNA bottle.

-- gilda (jess@listbot.com), March 04, 2000.

I've got a bad feeling about this....I wonder why???

-- INever (inevercheckedmy@onebox.com), March 04, 2000.

Do bad sci-fi movies come to mind, INever? Can you picture Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo watching these scientists as silhoutted heads in the foreground? Does something go terribly wrong and then accidently get unleashed on an unsuspecting public? Anyone wanna write the script?

-- kritter (kritter@adelphia.net), March 04, 2000.


Isn't that cool (conceptually)?! The only reason they did the "message on a period" stunt to demonstrate the technique is that the Nazis did it in WWII with microfilm. I think at present though it's just to darn time consuming to be worth doing for "real" spies, when an electronic message can be sent so easily. But any univerisity lab could string DNA together, and multiply it with PCR to make as many copies as needed.

A neat, but not to me worrisome idea,


-- Someone (ChimingIn@twocents.cam), March 04, 2000.

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