I’ve just finished watching ‘The Cell’ on BBC iplayer. Not the rather dodgy film with J.Lo in but a three part documentary originally aired on BBC4 about the scientific process that led to the current understanding of the cell and life on earth. It is totally mind blowing how far science has come in just four centuries, and to be honest I wish I’d seen it sooner so I could recommend it before it expires on the iplayer site (runs out this evening). It served – for me – to highlight how much of what we take for granted took massive intuitive leaps for scientist of the day. For example, when the cell was first discovered by a linen maker in Denmark it was well understood that new life just appeared. Literally just popped into existence. There was even a written method for ‘appearing’ mice. Leave some grain in a jar along with some sweaty rags and ‘pop’ – one week later you had mice.
Then from seeing the cell for the first time there was a long time and lots of experimentation to find some ‘well known’ facts. e.g. All life is made of cells, cells have a nucleus, the nucleus contains chromosomes, cells with-out a nucleus or with more than one don’t work. Chromosomes are DNA, DNA is the code of life etc.
In the last episode the current state of the art research was outlined. In Harvard scientists are on the brink of making life.
Making life. I don’t think there is any way in written words to express how completely ground-breaking, history making and philosophically challenging this is. As soon as the human race has made life then we can essentially act like gods in our own playground. A scary thought at the best of times – but it’s actually happening. The next ten years have the potential to be very very interesting time to live in!!