Some ultra-shiny berries have been found and examined by science. The pollia condensata apparently reflects an impressive 30% of light back from its surfaces thanks to some amazing nano structures. Apparently ‘the cells are coiled in a peculiar twist. The cells form sheets, like the skin of an onion. Light filters down through those layers in a way that creates something called “structural color.” “So what they do, basically, is they bounce back the blue light, and they let the rest of the light through.”‘
Strangely, the plant is inedible but birds will pick it up and carry it to their nest for some fancy decoration. And thereby the plant gets its wish: the seeds get dispersed. Very clever.
Science too never ceases to amaze. Scientists at the Harvard Medical School have recently used DNA to encode the contents of an entire book, including both words and images. Apparently DNA encoding is going to get so cheap in 10 years’ time that it might be cheaper to store large amounts of data in DNA than in electronic devices.
The data capacity of DNA is far higher than silicon chips: one gram can store up to 455bn gigabytes of information, thanks to this ingenious biological system beautifully developed through evolution. They used a system of coding in which A and C indicate zero, while G and T represent one (the 4 building blocks of DNA). Therefore this is still a binary system. Apparently the DNA gets ‘inkjet printed’ onto glass and each DNA fragment contains a digital address code that denotes its location inside the original file so it can be assembled later.
Obviously this is an ingenous way of storing data. I wonder if leaving DNA strands to coil up would make them more fragile and difficult to use. Afterall, that’s their original 3D structural nature. So perhaps scientists found they need to change the structure, essentially making this a hybrid system: an already existing biological information coding system that has been shaped and re-coded using human-made logic and properties.
Of course, as soon as science finds a biological system that it can bend to its purposes via complex techniques of precise manipulation, the wheels of instrumental rationality are set in motion. What follows is usually purposively rational manipulative action being taken up for commercial technological purposes that may or may not serve wider social interests. I wonder what wider technological use this new discovery will be put to… will we use this evolutionary-scientific hybrid to advance sustainable, equitable interests and give back some value to the two communities whose original ‘patent’ and know-how the technology uses: the plant and animal kingdom, and human society?