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Biotech Shark

Biological Lasers 90

MancunianMaskMan writes "Sharks in the seas all around the world are interested in this story, though the less scientifically-minded will read the summary on the beeb web site about laser light produced by a living cell. The technique starts by engineering a cell that can produce a light-emitting protein that was first obtained from glowing jellyfish."
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Biological Lasers

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  • Jumped the shark (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 13, 2011 @09:26AM (#36424404)

    The laser/shark meme is really boring and pathetic. Can't people move on?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Same with:

      * Lego

      * Rummicube

      * Starwars / Star Trek

      * Sovjet Russia

      * Netcraft

      * Bill Gates

      * The year of the Desktop, Linux

      * PACMAN

      * Tron

      * ...

      The "geekculture" seems very dated wrapped in a yought-nostalgia in a PeterPan syndrome... It's not anymore what it once was. Now it's a job and utility; we've become digital plumbers.

      • 1) Legos seem to have a bit of a revival lately, especially with the Lego series of video games. If anything, they're very much mainstream now, which is a good thing. Anything that helps kids use their imaginations to build stuff with is good.

        2) Rummicube - Eh, did anyone actually play this? Or was it even part of Geek culture?

        3) Star Wars/Star Trek - Star Trek and Star Wars have had something of a revival recently with the reboot and Episodes 1-3 and Clone Wars. Okay, the Star Wars stuff has kinda sucked

        • 9) Tron - Maybe it's a little nostalgic, but it just had a big movie come out a few months ago. That's not nostalgia, man, that's new and cool.

          And an even better computer game in 2004.

    • ... I welcome our meme-bound overlords.
    • If you create a laser-shark, will you have to mount it on another shark?

    • I'm pinned-down by withering shark-fire.
    • Fair enough.

      Can I still link to barely-relevant xkcd [] comics?
    • Jumping the shark has jumped the shark.

  • How many sharks with frikkin laser jokes will we get on this story?
    I think it has jumped the shark

    • by jamesh ( 87723 )

      How many sharks with frikkin laser jokes will we get on this story?

      Since the joke was made in the summary, I predict a total of zero further Shark jokes. I'm sure that Sea Bass jokes will be plentiful though.

      • How many sharks with frikkin laser jokes will we get on this story?

        Since the joke was made in the summary, I predict a total of zero further Shark jokes. I'm sure that Sea Bass jokes will be plentiful though.

        Somehow I trout that.

    • by JustOK ( 667959 )

      The interesting point is that the lasers don't have to be on the sharks' head any more! Sharks with lasers on their butt cheeks!

    • I came in here just to read comments about sharks with frikkin lasers on their heads. This story is just perfect for /.
    • Forget the lasers, this is about laser firing single cells. Am I the only one who though of Iruel?

      • by EdZ ( 755139 )
        Or Ramiel. But as neither were lasers, the Beta are a better fit (the air defence sort, not the 'chow down on the supporting cast' sort).
    • How many sharks with frikkin laser jokes will we get on this story?
      I think it has jumped the shark

      This story has jumped the shark and ran straight into a fridge to get nuked.

    • Not enough.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Greg Egan did this in Bubble Fever. People pass information between each other by shaking hands; infrared emitting cells in the palms of the hand transmit the information. You can also control your TV by waving your hand at it.

  • I suppose one implementation of a bio-laser would to engineer an eye, or multiple eyes surrounding the entire organism. It would provide exceedingly good vision, but would also work in reverse. Rather take in light, they could emit a beam of light with the lens focusing it on its target. It's ok of the the lens gets damaged in the process. It was only designed to fire once, and you have multiple eyes that provide protection as the other one heals. Much like quills on a porcupine.

    • I imagine that you would have a very difficult time getting defensively-useful power levels... Except for the eyes(which are, naturally, rather light sensitive and rather ill-cooled) lasers of modest power aren't all that dangerous. Even the ones powerful enough to damage bulk tissue have the disadvantage of neatly cauterizing the place, rather than leaving room for exsanguination or sticking in the wound and retarding movement.

      Chemical lasers can do it; but the chemistry of those things is a halogen hor
      • I was thinking something along the lines of a split second pulse. Enough to blind the eye/s of the predator. In fact, they have multiple eyes because of an on-going biological arms race. Anyways, it was just a fun exercise. In reality, I suppose you're right in that it could never work out that way.

        • If you could accurately target the eyes, I suspect that things could get a good deal more practical. Lasers of disturbingly low power can leave you with permanent blind spots, and ones lower still can leave you with dazzling after-images for quite some time...
      • I imagine that you would have a very difficult time getting defensively-useful power levels

        Electric fish/rays/eels can pack quite a punch.

    • by EdZ ( 755139 )
      Why not instead of a weapon,actual eyes. You can do lots of fun things when you mix lasers with sensors, like phase shift sensitivity, chirped pulse ranging, LIDAR, etc.
  • Sounds like there may be a day when you will be able to get your cell phone display tattooed on your hand. Not clear
    how they would incorporate the speaker, mic and camera... In addition, laser beam eyes would be cool at night.

  • by yeshuawatso ( 1774190 ) * on Monday June 13, 2011 @09:30AM (#36424448) Journal

    "the less scientifically-minded will read the summary on the beeb website..."

    Slashdot viewers are more than capable of understanding the paper, but that doesn't mean we want to pay for something we're most likely not going to implement in our basements when we get a spare chance.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by justsayin ( 2246634 )
      Just google "Single-cell biological lasers" and you get some free sources for the article. Looks like they "shined" blue light on a cell which was positioned between 2 mirrors. So out of the 3 parts needed for a laser, 2 of them were not biological. I say good news that they grew cells capable of lasing the light but the article headline really jumps to conclusions and dramatizes it a bit, what am I saying? [] had the article.
      • Just google "Single-cell biological lasers" and you get some free sources for the article.

        Or just click the link in the summary, it works for me and I ain't on any special network like a uni with a subscription to the journal.

      • by EdZ ( 755139 )
        Blue light? Photophores have you covered there. Biological mirrors might be a bit harder. Chitinous carapaces can form some lovely dichroic-like effects,as tdo the Calcium Carbonate shells of various marine creatures, so I'd not rule it out.
  • Given the recent finding over in Australia that sharks like AC/DC [], I get the feeling that sharks just like to rock.
  • that science is evil?

  • Interesting... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday June 13, 2011 @10:23AM (#36424820) Journal
    From what I can gather of TFA, the cell isn't really a laser per se, as much as it is a cell that, genetically engineered to express GFP, can survive and be observed while be used as part of the lasing medium in a GFP-based organic dye laser(which is stimulated by blue light from outside the tube in which the cell(s) and the GFP dye fluid are placed).

    That is pretty cool, and I suspect that there will be some very elegant live-cell imaging that comes out of applications of this technique; but it leaves me wondering how small a complete biological laser could be: ie. something that both expresses the proteins needed to make up the lasing medium and uses some flavor of bioluminescence to pump its own lasing medium...
    • by DalDei ( 1032670 ) *
      Not just is the driving light external, but the cells had to be place between tiny mirrors. So the only biological component is the green florescence. To make the whole laser biological would require growing mirrors as well as the blue light.
      • Just thinking out loud here, but... could you maybe engineer some bacterium that naturally develops a biofilm to reduce metal ions from solution (a chemical reaction that has already been observed in cells) to produce a flat, shiny surface, i.e. a mirror? I'm curious what the requirements are for a surface that would be sufficiently mirror-like.
    • The cells were pumped with 5ns, 14nJ laser pulses. I can't think of any bioluminescent processes that come remotely close to this. Better off coming up with a different kind of pump for now..
  • So, towards engineering a shark with lasers, it seems that one needs:

    (a) this "GFP" protein as a gain medium,

    (b) mirrors,

    (c) this "blue light" to bathe it in, and

    (d) some sort of lens(?)

    what is interesting, it is that all of the above components can easily be made by nature. GFP is already there, the "blue light" could come from a similar process, lenses are in eyes so I would guess (b) could be the hardest one to come up with, but there are numerous animals with a silver-ish tint (reflective surface) plus several wasp species that have so much metal in their stings (deposited there trace by trace from their diet) that they can easily drill into seeds. Point being that reflective (i.e. metal) components can be intermingled and arrayed into living tissue.

    I keep wondering as to what could be the chances of such a "laser organ" evolving naturally? Can the fact that it hasn't be seen as a hint that evolution does not have a plan, and is merely a sum of random events? And let's speculate even further- what use could such an organ have?

  • I, for one, welcome our new Zerg Overlords.
  • Take that, all you naysayers who says there's no way someone can shoot lasers out of his eyes!

  • Any chance this could be weaponized, as with the Bugs in Starship Troopers?
  • Just wondering when Andy Samberg will be collecting his Nobel prize...

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.