Friday, February 24, 2012

Making science fiction a reality show may not be wise

From the Economic Times: Making science fiction a reality show may not be wise
It is hard to believe that a delicate white flower has the power to put Jurassic Park into the documentary genre from improbable (if exciting) science fiction. The Russian scientists' reincarnation of the Silene Stenophylla plant - that flowered 30,000 years ago, before the last Ice Age - seems to be just the first step to making the celluloid fantasies of prehistoric dinosaurs and pterodactyls turn into 21st-century reality shows.

If the cloning techniques of a Japanese scientist succeed, the next creature from the past to be given a 2012 makeover could be the woolly mammoth that died out 5,000 years ago, as remains of both the plant and the pachyderm were retrieved providentially intact from the Siberian permafrost.

As it is, the past has been brought into the present with the announcement this week of the discovery in north-eastern India of an ancient species of a worm-like, burrowing amphibian that existed before the Indian land mass broke away from Gondwanaland 140 million years ago; the prehistoric-looking crocodile seems a sappy teenager by comparison.

Other blasts from the past no doubt lurk in the Earth's rainforests, permafrosts and oceanic trenches, so our reservoir of ancient throwbacks is far from exhausted.

The benefits of having prehistoric relics roaming the earth's ever-shrinking wilderness again are debatable, though Steven Spielberg may disagree. Indeed, our overcrowded planet will not be able to handle the reappearance of antediluvian behemoths; even resurrected plants could upset current ecosystems.

Of course, gaining proficiency in reviving extinct species holds out hope for flora and fauna in line for extinction. Unfortunately, if the world itself ends this year or very soon, as some ancient texts have predicted, all this will come to nought.

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