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Old 05-13-2011, 10:38 AM
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Default Towards a dark planet

For a while now, solar cell researchers have claimed that their constructs are more efficient than plants in collecting solar energy with all sorts of implications I do not want to go into now.

Now, biologists try to "invent" a new form of photosythesis in plants that is more efficient than what nature does. The intention is to make more efficient plants for biofuels vie genetic engineering. These "synthetic plants" would be grey or almost black, because the higher efficiency would mean that they absorb more sunlight and do not as normal plants do, reflect either green or red parts of the light spectrum. Also these plants may, as is hinted in the article, be "created" to lack some of the mechanisms that protect the plant. This makes it likely that these plants have a short life (e.g. will be annuals).

So instead of bioluminescent colorful plants, we will get black plants. What a world...

And they even dare to compare this to Native American practices in making corn a food crop.

Improving photosynthesis? Solar cells beat plants at harvesting sun's energy, for now
Quote:
Plants are less efficient at capturing the energy in sunlight than solar cells mostly because they have too much evolutionary baggage. Plants have to power a living thing, whereas solar cells only have to send electricity down a wire. This is a big difference because if photosynthesis makes a mistake, it makes toxic byproducts that kill the organism. Photosynthesis has to be conservative to avoid killing the organisms it powers.

"The efficiency of photosynthesis, and our ability to improve it, is critical to whether the entire biofuels industry is viable"
...
Just as early Native Americans manipulated skinny, non-nutritious Teosinte into fat, juicy kernel corn, today's plants can be manipulated to become much better sources of energy.
...
In synthetic biology plants can be built from scratch, starting with amino acid building blocks, allowing the formation of optimum biological band gaps.
...
The newly engineered plants would be darker, incorporating some biological pigments in certain of nature's flora that would be able to absorb photons in the red and infrared regions of the solar spectrum.
The only hope I have if they start using this on a larger scale is that such plants that obvioulsy are "created" to not care for themselves anymore in terms or living and repairing themselves would not be able to survive for long on their own. But who knows - they may be more efficient and become invasive, especially if that is not used only for biofuel plants but also for food crops.

This is exactly that sort of contribution I really keep saying genetic engineering plants will give to the disasters of the future.

Grey Plants... - Industrial civilization turns everything it touches grey!

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Old 05-13-2011, 12:21 PM
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An interesting idea, to be sure. But I wouldn't believe they'd have the ability (or the right) to go planting these synthetics everywhere.
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Old 05-13-2011, 01:17 PM
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More people thinking they are smarter than nature

I agree with Advent, I don't think these manmade abominations will ever replace green plants. I for one would burn/remove them on sight and there are people out there even more 'zealous' than I am when it comes to this sort of thing.

I wish we'd just leave things as they are
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Old 05-13-2011, 01:31 PM
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"I don't think these manmade abominations will ever replace green plants. I for one would burn/remove them on sight"

"Well - but they are good for us, they are more efficient and without them, our economy would collapse and we would not have enough food. Millions would die! You cannot burn them, you lunatic misanthrope."

No really - the same crap goes on about other (present day) GMO crops. At first they were controversial, then some people still used them, they spread and now vast amounts of corn, soybeans, canola and cotton comes from them and people who oppose them are called names and are given the "bull**** award": YouTube - Bull****! GMO's - Vandana Shiva

I have not the slightest doubt that if these plants are created and make it to the industry and nothing very significant has changed by then, they will spread... yes, some people will oppose them, as they do with GMO corn and potatoes, fields are going to get burned and trampled as it happens in Germany whenever they try it again, but it will be a fight to be fought. Another one.

EDIT: Do we really need that **** **** censorship feature activated?
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Old 05-13-2011, 11:14 PM
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Very interesting

Well, they are not survival-focused. The entire point is that they are removing limitations on photosynthesis by not requiring it tu support an organism with other priorities. they would not survive outside of fertilised and controlled environment. That is the entire point of how they are being used.
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Old 05-14-2011, 01:35 AM
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If anything this speaks for the efficiency of nature. It's not actually a more efficient solar-capture process than nature, it's just a replacement/removal of other biological processes of the plant. Sure speaks for power of nature, that we use photosynthesis to run our future.

That is, as long as they ARE able to be contained, and incapable of survival in the wild. I wonder, if they flower, will they end up crossbreeding with natural plants? That could lead to problems. Same scenarios as if Monsanto frankenfoods managed to get loose. These abominations need some sort of kill-switch.

And from an existential standpoint, do you really want to live in a world with so many black plants? Yes, some exist in nature, but most are green, and people respond best to green plants. What if these started popping up in other places than biofuel farms? What if they caught on as garden plants? Or GMO trees were created? Or if, Eywa forbid, these managed to spread in the wild? Would you really want to live in a world with that many "synthetic" plants?
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Old 05-14-2011, 05:23 AM
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Originally Posted by The Silver Stag View Post
More people thinking they are smarter than nature

I agree with Advent, I don't think these manmade abominations will ever replace green plants. I for one would burn/remove them on sight and there are people out there even more 'zealous' than I am when it comes to this sort of thing.

I wish we'd just leave things as they are
The image Ms. Glacious posted is a naturally occurring plant.

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Originally Posted by AuroraGlacialis View Post
The image in the OP is from one of these natural occuring ones. I do not know if these are related to what they plan to do - in the article it does not sound like it, but rather like they want to create something completely new and not just transfer genes from natural dark plants to their crops. I dont dislike some dark plants among the many other colors, but really I do not look happily at future squaremiles of that dark foliage. I already do not like endless fields of corn, but them being black does not make it better...

Oh and it reminds me of the Daisyworld model. As even with high absorbance, efficiency is not increased that much overall, a lot of the absorbed energy would go into heat. This could very well lead to a decreased albedo in alreas that grow these crops and thus contribute to rising temperatures on Earth. Just a speculation, I dont know the numbers
I think if you need to lie to get a point across, your point must be pretty flawed.
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Old 05-14-2011, 10:33 AM
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Well hey; at least, if worse comes on worse, we'll at least have some plants left.
Also, do these plants produce oxygen? /me has some interesting ideas...
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Old 05-14-2011, 12:09 PM
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I think if you need to lie to get a point across, your point must be pretty flawed.
I do not even remotely understand why you are calling me a liar AGAIN... This is getting really annoying....
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Old 05-14-2011, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
I do not even remotely understand why you are calling me a liar AGAIN... This is getting really annoying....

Because I can't call Fox News up and tell them they're lying. So I have to debunk more localized propaganda.
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Old 05-15-2011, 01:13 AM
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I still do not know really what part of my posts did you understand as a lie, but I dont really care anymore, you seem to chunk out some unrelated and unqualified comments to anything i write without even thinking about the topic in any way longer than it takes to read a twitter message.
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"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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Old 05-15-2011, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by auroraglacialis View Post
I still do not know really what part of my posts did you understand as a lie, but I dont really care anymore, you seem to chunk out some unrelated and unqualified comments to anything i write without even thinking about the topic in any way longer than it takes to read a twitter message.
You tried to pass off a picture of naturally occurring fauna as a product of genetic engineering in an attempt to rouse anger and fear.

(very much like fox news, they once tried to pass off footage of a violent protest in SoCal as the Wisconsin teachers protests. One problem, palm trees don't grow in the Wisconsin winter.)
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Old 05-15-2011, 08:45 PM
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Oh come on, that is nonsense. I am not even going to reply to that. I used an illustration of a naturally occuring plant to illustrate what a grey/black plant looks like. The article and my post clearly states that these pplants are yet theoretical using sentences like "... would be grey or almost black". If your interpretation was different or if you did not read the article or my post well enough, I cannot help you, sorry.
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"Humans are storytellers. These stories then can become our reality. Only when we loose ourselves in the stories they have the power to control us. Our culture got lost in the wrong story, a story of death and defeat, of opression and control, of separation and competition. We need a new story!"
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