Gene pool

What do milk and video games have in common?  Leave it to our Tuesday coffee social to find the connection.

The topic of genes had its own evolution as the conversation flowed around the table, starting with the organic half and half sitting on the table.  Did you know that the ability to digest lactose after childhood is a relatively recent genetic mutation and varies between ethnic groups?  And that genetic variation in the liver cause us to metabolize drugs differently?  One size fits all diet and medical advice seems questionable given all the potential individual differences that evolution has bestowed upon us.

And what of synthetic biology?  One coWORKer has backed a potentially controversial Kickstarter project just to see how far they’ll get.   A team of Stanford trained PhDs are taking the bioluminescence genes from bacteria and fire flies and inserting them into plants in an attempt to create natural lighting without electricity.  Crazy?  Maybe, maybe not.  But their offer to give you seeds sparked a whole conversation around invasive species and genetic pollution.  Our imaginations ran wild with ways glowing plants could get out of control.

Finally, the conversation landed on coWORKer Jeffrey Ventrella, who’s game Gene Pool  is apparently very popular with French science teachers.  In the course of about 15 minutes you can watch evolution in progress in “a virtual Darwinian aquarium in which you initiate a  primordial soup, and then occasionally check up on what Virtual Mother Nature is up to.”  He’s using similar genetic algorithms in his new venture, Wiggle Planet  and his WORKer in Residence Looma Project in which cute little virtual creatures with their own unique genetic code can breed new individuals.

And so, gene talk evolves in coffee talk, all the way from milk to video games. Join us next week for more fascinating conversations…you just never know where it will go.

by Natasha Juliana