Somewhere between Earth and Mars Science Fiction Became Science Fact
by Bradley Bartz
The little boy screamed at the top of his lungs when Bill Nye, the Science Guy, said standup and speak-up. A cute rambling question was deciphered as, yes, NASA can make you an X-man by an excited Dr. Alicia Jackson, CTO, Drawbridge Health, Inc. It seems a line of thought at NASA is to create artificial biology so only a tool set needs to be sent to Mars for colonization.
A tool-set that is designed to mimic evolution by allowing the creation of life from 20 ingredients already on Mars. The simplified explanation of 3-D printing of amino acids had the crowd pleased.
"The Martian" lovefest in Hollywood was to a standing-room only crowd of space geeks, NASA and JPL Scientists, and an astronaut to hear Ridley Scott, the director, Andy Weir, the author, and Drew Goddard, the screen writer on three panels of getting there, living there and colonizing. The panel members all seemed to be scientists typecast players, but in actuality they were some of the most advanced minds in our country.
With Adam Savage of Mythbusters as the MC and Bill Nye leading a panel, a real mix of Woody Allen sarcasm banter was had. A large amount of time was spent on Safe Exploration (SEX) as a way to engage the audience. This was a live NASA version of a Go Fund Me page.
Andy Weir, writer of "The Martian", loved his tautology of NASA scientists making cool stuff and then Hollywood making cool movies with that stuff that leads to more funding for new stuff.
You get smart people together because lightbulbs happen. Neil Gershenfeld, Director, Center for Bits and Atoms, MIT has the vision to create the tools that will make the building blocks of life. The automation of biology gained greater steam when the little boy charged that gene editing with CRISPR can make him an X-man. Alicia Jackson, CTO, Drawbridge Health, Inc. used the example of curing blindness by putting a needle directly in the eye with new gene instructions.
The light happened with the little guy (Dr. Gershenfeld) promoting AI biology chirped that he would design a new small compact body to carry his head. Small Body, Big Eyes... maybe a little green. So... that happened. Mars is indeed the logical target for mans next step. It has the 20 ingredients. Our lovely moon does not.
Mans next step is a virtual one first. The key reason for sending man into space is to get that human moment standing on the edge of the impossible. The images of my fathers satellites were flat, pale and limited. Today, the Hololens of Microsoft is gleefully being adapted by JPL scientists. We are close to feeling Mars from home.
The magic of space is its inexhaustible. Did we just hear the first ping of gravitational waves or are we about to be awash in blurry fluctuations of time? The fiction writer in me says yesterday a problem of the past resurfaced with fury today. I know that business has outside unknowns but time-flips are hard to navigate.
Time in the audience of this event allowed a lot of freedom of thought. The fun part was the expressions of the scientists and the fiction writers not knowing who is not real. I think Science Fiction writers are going to have to regroup. It is indeed the realistic fiction of "The Martian" that makes me ask what is next. I really want to know what is next. Not a documentary of what we already have.
It is unlimited what the 20 building blocks can be trained to do. NASA cannot talk about sex in space. It wants to. "Scientists do it Repeatedly" the bumper sticker might say. But, NASA can talk about creating new life. Not just replicants printed on demand, but new life forms created in the lab.
Somewhere between Earth and Mars, Science Fiction Became Science Fact. Science Fiction needs to step up its game.
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