The “X” Factor



The Heretick

We do in fact live among pure forms, in radical obscenity, which is to say visible and undifferentiated, among figures that were previously secret and distinct. The same is true of the social, which rules today also in its pure form, that is, obscene and empty. The same for seduction, which in its actual form, has lost all risk, suspense, and magic to take the form of a faint and undifferentiated obscenity.   Seduction – Jean Baudrillard

Strong words for strange times, words that are hardly used outside the context of a court case, for what can be truly called obscene anymore? Will we know it when we see it?

From The New York Times.

Scientists Add Letters to DNA’s Alphabet, Raising Hope and Fear

Scientists reported Wednesday that they had taken a significant step toward altering the fundamental alphabet of life — creating an organism with an expanded artificial genetic code in its DNA.

The Scripps researchers chemically created two new nucleotides, which they called X and Y. They inserted an X-Y pair into the common bacterium E. coli. The bacteria were able to reproduce normally, though a bit more slowly than usual, replicating the X and Y along with the natural nucleotides.

In effect, the bacteria have a genetic code of six letters rather than four, perhaps allowing them to make novel proteins that could function in a completely different way from those created naturally.

‘If you have a language that has a certain number of letters, you want to add letters so you can write more words and tell more stories,’ said Floyd E. Romesberg, a chemist at Scripps who led the work.

Well, isn’t that swell, and of course they chose such a friendly pathogen.

Escherichia coli

But not to worry my brothers and sisters, they just used the “harmless kind”.

Not the nasty kind.

Pathogenic Escherichia coli

But hey, no harm, no foul, right? Nothing to worry about here.

Go ahead, click the links, fact is these creatures only eat synthetic nucleotides, something like that, everything is just fine. What we are seeing here folks is the dawn of a New Age, new medicines, and help for the poor people of the world; and I have a nice bridge in Brooklyn for you.

This is all part and parcel of the budding new field of Xenobiology.

Xenobiology, the discipline which has brought us XNA, this is the subject of this little jeremiad.

Remember what everybody says about the little boy who pulls the wings off of a butterfly? A beautiful creature which has taken nature billions of years to bring forth on our planet? There is a new sort of cruelty stalking the land to my mind, a new sort of perverse thinking; and this is the thinking that nature, and by extension, ourselves, are here to be manipulated and recombined into whatever form the more enlightened among us see fit.

Be my guest, Google laws regulating this field, I have, nothing comes up, except for this.

Safeguarding the Genetic Firewall with Xenobiology**

Markus Schmidt, Ph.D.


Biofaction KG, Vienna, Austria

The potential future release of deeply engineered or novel synthetic microorganisms raises the issue of their intentional or accidental interaction with the environment. Containment systems, risk assessment, and safety regulations designed for genetic engineering in the 1980s and ’90s, for the purpose of limiting the spread of genetically engineered organisms and their recombinant traits, are still largely viewed by regulators and scientists as sufficient for contemporary synthetic biology product.

Progress in synthetic biology is expected to yield a staggering growth in the number of new biological functions and modified organisms with useful purposes. These developments will sooner or later pose a significant problem for established biosafety and risk assessment practices. A technological development that is outpacing its safety regulation is going to end up in (i) a series of unintended consequences and unforeseen accidents, (ii) a legal bottleneck for further product development because of a lack of a clear legal and regulatory framework, and/or(iii) increasing, and well justified, public resistance toward synthetic organisms if they are not considered to be ‘safe enough.’

Once again, feel free, there is also this site to check out.

My bet is that this conference will advance the agenda of this modern genetic Frankenstein, rather than debate the morality of working to develop new forms of life while the species has yet to take care of its own, and that would be you and yours truly. Do you feel safe and secure in this world? No money worries? Everything just hunky dory?

But wait! There’s more! You also get a brand new Crusher!!! That’s right folks!!! Your country’s very own Unmanned Ground Combat Vehicle and Perceptor Integration System!!!!

Because, you see, once again, it’s very important to save lives as we take lives. Of course I don’t want our boys to be put in harm’s way, but silly me, I figured the way to do that just might be to not put them in harm’s way. Go figure. Some people.

This is the narcissism of the West, patting ourselves on the back for how wonderfully our new Ginsu can slice and dice the world while our people still go bankrupt paying for school, or the odd medical procedure here and there.

Call now! Operators are standing by!

It could be made into a monster if we all pull together as a team.

I really don’t have much more to say on this subject, people will draw their own conclusions.

Best wishes. HT


41 Responses to The “X” Factor

  1. Disaffected says:

    What’s not to love? New fertile ground for corporate capitalists to exploit (and benefits to withhold for a price, should it ever actually produce any) and another sandbox for the rabid egghead secular technologists to play in. With the GMO ship having long since set sail, I guess this is just the next logical development. What could possibly go wrong?

    Good post HT!

    • the Heretick says:

      yes, they’ve already formed a company.

      Click to access NIH_Guidelines_0.pdf

      page 35 “voluntary compliance”.
      Section IV-D-1. Basic Policy – Voluntary Compliance

      Individuals, corporations, and institutions not otherwise covered by the NIH Guidelines are encouraged to follow
      the standards and procedures set forth in Sections I through IV. In order to simplify discussion, references
      hereafter to “institutions” are intended to encompass corporations and individuals who have no organizational
      affiliation. For purposes of complying with the NIH Guidelines, an individual intending to carry out research
      involving recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules is encouraged to affiliate with an institution that has an
      Institutional Biosafety Committee approved under the NIH Guidelines.

      my understanding is that if you get govt. money you must comply, otherwise private companies and individuals can pretty much do what they want. of course money is fungible, funds can be fire-walled to keep up appearances.

      research like this is extremely dangerous, it is all just as stable as the environment around it. a nuclear accident, a hurricane; could set creatures such as these free to wreak havoc. we live in a world of expectations, of assumptions, one of which is our ability to control circumstances that could spiral out of our control.

      the interesting question is how these physical realities affect our mental state, our view of the cosmos and each other.

      • Disaffected says:

        Looks like NE and IA got pounded by high winds and tornados last night. It was a quite a ‘Mother’s Day’ in the midwest alright!

        By the way, the current Deregulation fever sweeping virtually all facets of western capitalism appears to have no limits. Not surprising really, since as capitalism dies from lack of further growth opportunities it becomes like a blood-thirsty monster, lashing out to ravenously gobble up anything and everything left. It will for sure be the end of us if it continues unopposed.

  2. Martin says:

    Fools – may their frankenbugs get loose inside the containment and eat them and each other alive.

  3. Ahh… I see it all now! We tinker with nature-especially genetics, then some virus brakes out that screws up our DNA and makes us into bloodthirsty mutations who are pissed off since our lives are forever ruined. Then those in power who haven’t been affected-yet are scared for their lives since we the infected are hot on their trail-will sic those crushers on us to make the world safe for the “select few!” Scary, if you ask me…

  4. Tom says:

    Great post Heretick – I saw the original article and wondered what the mad-men who co-opt all our math and science advances will do with this new toy. This is plausible and, as stated above, frightening. What, we don’t have enough trouble already with climate change, Fukushima and MERS?

    • the Heretick says:

      there are so many thoughts that come to mind, “sad little children playing gown up games”, a line from a Leon Russell song, for one.
      a lack of humility before the vastness of the universe, a failure to contemplate the processes which put us here in the first place, and the fragility of life.
      the rationales put forth, “well it’s because we love nature”, we want to know more! it’s astounding.
      the usual trash will be hauled out, advances in medical science, the search for knowledge.
      there is knowledge and there is wisdom, i’ve known some mentally challenged people who i would rather be stuck on a desert island with rather than some Nobel laureate; not that all types don’t have their own failings.
      as if every advance will ever make it down to the underclass.
      it’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you do know.

    • the Heretick says:

      there are so many thoughts that come to mind, “sad little children playing grown up games”, a line from a Leon Russell song, for one.
      a lack of humility before the vastness of the universe, a failure to contemplate the processes which put us here in the first place, and the fragility of life.
      the rationales put forth, “well it’s because we love nature”, we want to know more! it’s astounding.
      the usual trash will be hauled out, advances in medical science, the search for knowledge.
      there is knowledge and there is wisdom, i’ve known some mentally challenged people who i would rather be stuck on a desert island with rather than some Nobel laureate; not that all types don’t have their own failings.
      as if every advance will ever make it down to the underclass.
      it’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you do know.

      • Disaffected says:

        You’re turning into quite the philosopher there HT! But you’re right on almost all counts as usual too. “Higher” education has indeed turned into almost pure vanity these days (especially in the so-called “sciences!”), with every manner of self-proclaimed genius proclaiming their latest “breakthrough” for humanity, all presumably for suitable remuneration too of course! Homespun wisdom half-forgotten passed on by my great plains agricultural forebearers come to mind, but of course, who among us in our youthful arrogance listened fully? We Americans, alas, are the standard bearers for the “Great Forgetting,” the ill-conceived idea that every generation knows better than all those that came before them, and thus justifiably lays waste to its past. Not surprisingly, we’re already confronted with the folly of such nonsense, and the truth of it ain’t at all comforting, is it?

        • Disaffected says:

          Always drawn back to this video whenever I think of groundedness.

        • Disaffected says:

          And a classic (needs no explanation):

          • the Heretick says:

            i used to have nothing but derision for country music, still do for the contemporary version for the most part, but some of the classics? these people could play.

            • Disaffected says:

              Same here. Country was actually unique and home-spun until it got co-opted by the mass marketing machine. Now it’s where old 70s rock used to be (to my ears at least) stylistically. Hank Williams senior was definitely one of a kind.

  5. rosaburquez says:

    thanks for (another) great article – I learned a lot, again!
    But what an unreal, surrealistic theme this is, esentially !!!
    To cheer you guys up a bit, here is a pic I love :

    just scroll down to about 40% of the page – well done!


    • Disaffected says:

      Nice synopsis of the US induced Ukrainian “problem.” US foreign policy has once again proven to be its own worst enemy. Oh to be a fly on the wall inside Obama’s War Room to hear all the bitter recrimination over this colossal fuck up. One can only hope that they continue to shoot themselves in the foot and that all the rest of us have to do is stand back and laugh at the results, but something tells me we won’t be that lucky for long.

      • Disaffected says:

        Another great discussion (albeit a bit lengthy) of the motivations behind the current Ukrainian putsch.

        And another today on the indicators of the end of the third industrial revolution.

        As usual, the comments afterward are at least as good as the articles themselves.

        • the Heretick says:

          read the articles, they seem to analyze things from quite a remove. the authors write about the machinations of the market as if the market has a will all it’s own, believing in the “hidden hand” of Adam Smith, which negates many of their points. the market is manipulated by people, these people have names, although they do their best to keep them out of the news. mechanization is pursued because it consolidates power and makes workers redundant, to be fair he does touch upon this point, but once again, at a remove.

          the energy equation was tossed in, i feel, as a sort of sop to reality and to give the piece some legitimacy. the first article did have some salient points about US foreign policy, it looks as if that is the thrust of the situation.

          as we head down the slope of peak energy the haves will be hard-pressed to keep the have-nots under control, but it looks as if the tactics are already on display, divide and conquer.

          • kulturcritic says:

            His analysis and summary of the dangerous game played by the USA is clear and on target… indicting!! His economic conclusions re/Putin’s options sound like more fairy dust and roses!

          • Disaffected says:

            Whatever the author’s conclusions (and afterall, he’s an egg-head academic economist!), I think Putin holds most of the cards in this situation and I think he’s played his hand very well indeed thus far. The whole US putsch in general seems just puzzling at this point, but of course none of us are privy to the details behind the scenes. I think the US is getting plainly desperate at this point. Definitely not a good indicator for future developments.

        • Disaffected says:

          Not to belabor a point/site, but NakCap had a lot of good stuff today once again, including this one:

          I link to these guys so often not because the articles themselves are always a fountain of wisdom, but because they’re always provocative and the discussions they thus provoke are almost always better than the articles themselves. In particular, it’s interesting to note the amount of enlightened (mostly anti-US) discussion Obama’s recent misadventure in the Ukraine has prompted among intelligent US (and others) observers. Whatever else you want to say about the apathetic and dumbed down US population, it’s not like at least a significant handful of US citizens across most demographics aren’t noticing and speaking up, at least on “anonymous” internet comment boards. And it’s not like most of them don’t know that the internet is hardly anonymous (thank you CIA and NSA!) anymore either. And I think that most of them, like me, also realize that this may well be our last bastion of truly free speech, if only for a short time longer, and treasure it all that much more.

          Anyway, the gist of this post is that just as the US is “pivoting” eastward toward China militarily (always militarily!), China and Russia (and the EU) may well be “pivoting” centrally toward each other in an effort toward first, self-preservation in the face of an overt external US/UK threat, and second as a direct effort to undermine already waning US/UK hegemony in a world of rapidly diminishing fossil fuel based energy resources.

          • kulturcritic says:

            I think this one hits even harder than NakedCap!!
            “And then, talking about anxiety in Washington, there’s the fate of the petrodollar to consider, or rather the “thermonuclear” possibility that Moscow and Beijing will agree on payment for the Gazprom-CNPC deal not in petrodollars but in Chinese yuan. One can hardly imagine a more tectonic shift, with Pipelineistan intersecting with a growing Sino-Russian political-economic-energy partnership. Along with it goes the future possibility of a push, led again by China and Russia, toward a new international reserve currency — actually a basket of currencies — that would supersede the dollar (at least in the optimistic dreams of BRICS members).”


            • the Heretick says:

              the intro to that article was particularly cogent, lays it all out. it’s no accident that we spend so much on the military, or that the news/agit-prop every day is full of all sorts of threats both foreign and domestic.
              the ruling class doesn’t give a flip if infrastructure crumbles, roads in wealthy neighborhoods are just fine, thank you very much. only peons drive cross country, there’s a reason they call it flyover country.
              the few bodies they need to run POS terminals can find their own way to work, and if they can’t? there’s plenty of poor people needing jobs.
              social chaos suits them just fine, more reason to ramp up the security state, it’s really sick.

            • the Heretick says:

              China, Russia sign $400 billion gas deal

              the head honchos aren’t going to like this. as per my previous comments, if China starts marketing their labor to other countries, the ruling class here will have to deal with workers here once more. there is a real threat to “Pax Americana” in this situation.

          • the Heretick says:

            well yeah, duh. the only thing that keeps the US afloat is agriculture, said it many times.
            i don’t know if China and Russia can get along, they do have sort of a rocky history.
            i find it interesting you say US/UK threat, my thoughts were going exactly to that point, England has long lived high on the hog off someone else’s dime. some quarters believe London’s hegemony over the US never ended, i think it’s just a nest of thieves/vipers, your choice.

            60% of goods imported from China are produced by subsidiaries of American corps.
            the real fear in DC and NYC is that the owners will lose their overseas plantations and then they might have to actually pay Americans better than starvation wages.
            small business and the working class have been hammered by globalization, JK’s latest screed about getting a human on the phone is instructive.. the model is to rely upon machines to suppress the inevitable unrest.

            all of this depends on fuel to power Leviathan.

            it’s true, the nightmare scenario is that the rest of the world says enough! and goes their own way, i think it’s driven by domestic politics as much as anything. the current industrial regime in the US depends upon plenty of fuel, otherwise they will have to deal with the people and may just be brought down a notch.

  6. kulturcritic says:

    Here is something to grab your attention, and make you cry!

  7. Disaffected says:

    More surreal stuff from the realm of the Secular Technologists:

    View at

    The breakthrough came in the 1960s when the physicists John Wheeler and Bryce DeWitt combined these previously incompatible ideas in a mathematical framework now known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. The new work of Dongshan and co explores some new solutions to this equation.

    At the heart of their thinking is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This allows a small empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to fluctuations in what physicists call the metastable false vacuum.

    Huh? I thought Heisenberg was the renegade science teacher in Abq NM who cooked up the blue meth? Sounds more plausible than any of the above. Metastable false vacuum: the space between an egghead’s ears when they’re off in mathematical theory land, allowing them to imagine that reductionist arguments and theories will ever get to the bottom of anything.

    • the Heretick says:

      so? there really is such a thing as a free lunch? righty right then, the universe just popped into existence from nothing? untold quadrillions of tons of matter just pop out of a vacuum? neat trick. sounds more like an argument for special creation to me. so there is a God after all, who’da thunk?

      but then it was “meta-stable”.

      here, once again, we have finite beings attempting to describe what they themselves admit is infinite, good luck with that one. sort of the entire Greek conceit tied up in one neat little package, no? and with a bow on top.

      “The same is true of the social, which rules today also in its pure form, that is, obscene and empty. The same for seduction, which in its actual form, has lost all risk, suspense, and magic to take the form of a faint and undifferentiated obscenity.”

      quotes like that are liable to be misunderstood. the more science tries to control, the more out of control we become. when we force the cosmos into our preconceived notions, the more we lose our humanity, our souls if you will. knowing all things turns everything into nothing, a meaningless soup, although it tastes great, it’s less filling.
      somehow it think we need the suspense, we need the uncertainty, keeps us on our toes.
      the great project of modernity seems to be the eradication of risk, which is fine to a point, but then doesn’t everything become sort of sterile?

      perhaps these brainiacs just seek stimulation.

      the problem with modern science is that it goes too far, it loses the human element. the technologies we currently have are sufficient to destroy the planet, at what point do we get diminishing returns?

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