Category Archives: Science, magic, & religion

Correction: BIO, not Solazyme, responsible for cloned pigs

After receiving numerous indignant emails today from individuals purporting to represent Solazyme, I’ve done some additional digging and found that it is apparently BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization), and NOT Solazyme, that placed the cloned-human-transplant pigs in the convention hall for last week’s Chicago conference. From Solazyme‘s communications, I’ve gathered that they are “a renewable oil company, focused on converting algae to oil within a sustainable process for use in making biofuels, foods and cosmetics. They do NOT work with livestock.” I apologize for the mistake and for any inconvenience it may have caused.

However, the story stays interesting. The cloned livestock is for real. And it turns out that you can check out the GE (genetically engineered) animals for yourself in September, when BIO holds its Livestock Biotech Summit in South Dakota. From BIO’s website:

“The livestock biotech summit is BIO’s first national industry conference on genetically engineered (GE) animal technologies. This conference will uniquely focus on developing global solutions through animal biotechnology.” 

BIO’s stated motive for displaying its cloned pigs and calves is to prove that

“these healthy creatures do not look different from any other pig or calf you’ve ever seen but these animals, and others like them, are laying the foundation for transforming public health, helping the environment, improving food production and enhancing animal welfare.”

Well, judging from the fact that Solazyme was extremely anxious to distance itself from this technology, BIO will have its work cut out for it in convincing the general public to accept the new genetic advances, however revolutionary.

Just as I predicted, this is a hot-button issue. More later.

Cloned pigs used for human transplants

Wow … while scouring the internet this week, I happened upon a mention of a “bioproducts” company called Solazyme. Word is that, at an intellectual property conference held last week in Chicago, Solazyme proudly displayed in the convention hall one of its new products: a pig that had been genetically modified to grow body parts to be used for transplantation into humans.

Apparently, Solazyme isn’t the first to venture into this territory. In 2002 National Geographic reported that competing teams of scientists had been cloning genetically-modified pigs, to use their organs for human transplantation:

“Pig organs are well suited for transplantation; they are approximately the same size as human organs and have similar plumbing, which makes reconnecting blood vessels much easier. Also, the size of pig litters tends to be large and pigs reproduce quickly, raising the prospect of a large supply of ‘spare’ organs.”

One hitch, however, is that “natural” pigs’ organs are generally rejected by humans, due to an idiosyncratic coating of sugar molecules. The fix: scientists simply created cloned piglets programmed without the sugar-producing gene. This was a significant scientific advance because the researchers were able to “knock out” a targeted gene at a specific location.

Though scientifically laudatory, this work by geneticists — and its subsequent commercialization and marketing by companies like Solazyme — promises to open up a proverbial can of (genetically-modified?) worms. Once fundamentalist Christians, FoxNews, and PETA latch onto this story, I imagine it will stir vigorous debate.

Perhaps that’s why, during a quick visit to Solazyme’s website, I found absolutely no mention of livestock, genetically-modified or otherwise. Maybe they’re planning to break it to us gently. I’ll keep tabs on this story. More later.

STEPHEN HAWKING: TIME TRAVEL IS REAL!

“[I]s time travel possible? Can we open a portal to the past or find a shortcut to the future? Can we ultimately use the laws of nature to become masters of time itself?”

In a recent article published by the UK’s Daily Mail, renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking asks these questions and provides some startling answers. For days the internet has been abuzz about Hawking’s essay “How to Build a Time Machine,” in which the universally-recognized genius emphatically concludes that humans can accomplish time travel into the future.

For the means of voyaging through the fourth dimension, Hawking presents several possibilities: wormholes, black holes, or a VERY fast machine.

According to Hawking, physicists now believe in the existence of invisible portals through time (“wormholes”) that can facilitate fourth-dimensional travel:

“There are tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids in time. Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than molecules, smaller than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum world. And they actually link two separate places and two different times.”

One problem, though, is their incredibly small size. But Hawking suggests that wormholes might be captured and enlarged enough for a person or a spacecraft to pass through. If so, a wormhole could take a traveler to distant planets, or to a different time on our own planet Earth.

Even with the help of wormholes, Hawking concludes that time travel to the past is impossible (thus dashing his own hopes of a tryst with a vintage-era Marilyn Monroe). This is because traveling to the past would create a paradox that the laws of nature would not permit.

The future, however, is fair game. As Hawking explains, this is partly because time moves at different speeds in different places. A massive object — such as a black hole or even our own planet Earth — can cause time to slow down dramatically. However, Hawking dismisses such natural bodies as being largely impractical time machines.

Instead he proposes a man-made alternative: a machine that can travel near the speed of light.

“It really is that simple,” Hawking claims. “If we want to travel into the future, we just need to go fast. Really fast.” But of course there’s a catch. A suitable time machine would have to be massive; and the only way it could achieve the requisite speed would be to travel through outer space. However, Hawking writes, if these conditions were met, then one could travel to the edge of the galaxy in 80 years, or approximately one lifetime.

So exploring the galaxy in one lifetime is within the realm of human potential. But I suspect that a lifetime might not be nearly enough to explore the mind of Stephen Hawking.

Don’t miss “Stephen Hawking’s Universe,” beginning May 9 on Discovery Channel at 9pm!

Stephen Hawking in zero gravity (NASA)

HOW TO MAKE A MAGICAL SIGIL

180px-Chaosphere.svg

Symbol of chaos magic

We could all use a little magic in our lives, especially during these dark days of autumn. In this post I’ll describe one simple (and fun!) way to do a magical working that can help make a wish come true.

If fulfilling your wish will not overtax the universe, you can sometimes bring about such a “deliberate coincidence” by an act of will. Some believe that magic derives its power from the principle that every compelling thought or desire creates a corresponding, semi-sentient energy form on the astral plane. This astral energy form, a form of your will, can then manifest on the material plane.

As aids to manifestation, sigils are “glyph[s] of desire stylized so as not to immediately suggest the desire.”*

Sigil magic is composed of 3 steps:

1. Making the sigil
2. Charging the sigil
3. Forgetting the sigil

STEP 1: MAKING THE SIGIL — THE WORD METHOD

Liber Null, the influential book written by chaos magician Peter Carroll, describes several ways to create sigils: from words, images, and sounds. For now I’ll describe only the first of these, the “word method.” I’ll illustrate by creating a sample sigil below.

First, concentrate on a desire that you would like to manifest. Reduce the wish to a word or short phrase. Then write down this word or phrase. For this illustration, I’ve chosen the word “EXAMPLE.”

Now cross out any repeated letters in your word or phrase of desire, like this:

sigil_example_X

You’ll create a sigil from the remaining letters. (In my example, these letters are E, X, A, M, P, and L.) Take these, and then start playing with them, arranging them in creative ways. Call it a glorified doodle. If you wish, create several sketches until you find one that you want to concentrate on for a while. Here are sketches of how I’ve abstracted my selected letters:

sigil_sketchesNext, develop your sketch until you feel that it’s finished. Here’s the sigil I ended up with from the word “EXAMPLE”:

sigil_400

Example of a finished sigil

STEP 2: CHARGING THE SIGIL

The sigil can best be charged (infused with power) during moments of high psychic or emotional excitement. Such moments can occur, for instance, during magical trance or sexual orgasm; or at times of terror, fury, or intense embarrassment or chagrin. At any such time, visualize the sigil and concentrate on this mental image.

STEP 3: FORGETTING THE SIGIL

Opinions differ on this final step. I know one practitioner who keeps her sigils prominent in her consciousness by constructing altars around them, chanting mantras before them, and so forth. But many other practitioners claim that your desire does not often manifest until you have forgotten about it. This may be because the energy of a word spell dissipates if the mind is constantly focused on it, since this constant focus can eventually drain the symbol of the desire associated with it. This is why many choose to deliberately “lose” the sigil after it has been made, so as not to weaken its attached energy. If you opt to do this, you can “lose” your sigil by burning or burying it, throwing it into a large body of water, or simply putting it away in a place you’re not likely to encounter it for a while. At the same time, deliberately put the sigil out of your mind.

That’s it! Good luck!

*Peter Carroll, Liber Null

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