Coffee!!: From the Ballad of Craig Venter: Create the Easter Bunny from scratch, and his estate could sue you for hoppyright infringement …

Yes, the Bunny is dead, but his lawyers aren't, see?

You may have heard this one, from Dennis Overbye (New York Times, February 21, 2011):

Using mail-order snippets of DNA, Dr. Venter and his colleagues stitched together the million-letter genetic code of a bacterium of a goat parasite last year and inserted it into another bacterium’s cell, where it took over, churning out blue-stained copies of itself. Dr. Venter advertised his genome as the wave of future migration to the stars. Send a kit of chemicals and a digitized genome across space. "We’ll create panspermia if it didn't already exist," he said.

The new genome included what Dr. Venter called a watermark. Along with the names of the researchers were three quotations, from the author James Joyce; Robert Oppenheimer, who directed the building of the atomic bomb; and the Caltech physicist Richard Feynman: "What I cannot build, I do not understand."

– "A Romp Into Theories of the Cradle of Life"

Then Irish novelist James Joyce's estate threatened to sue, because Venter had allegedly violated Joyce's copyright.

And Caltech called to complain that Feynman had been misquoted:

The institute sent a photograph of an old blackboard on which Feynman had written, "What I cannot create, I do not understand."

And so, as Overbye notes, Venter's genome "is now in the process of acquiring its first, non-Darwinian mutation."

Last time we talked about Overbye's article it was to note his lighthearted approach to recently spotted "flightless words" about the origin of life.

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.