Are living things really just machines made of little genetic parts? Are genes just like little software programs that we can plug into living things? That’s how synthetic biologists think about life. Brian Baynes gives us a tour of his company, Codon Devices, where they make and sell genes. Then we visit Harvard geneticist George Church, who is using synthetic genes to make bacteria that burp diesel fuel. Robert talks to biotechnology pioneer Craig Venter about just how far synthetic biology might go and about whether humans might someday be able to make a living thing... from scratch. But what happens when the new life forms we make get put into the world? Could they create as many problems as they solve? Jad and Robert, with help from Nigel Goldenfeld and Steve Strogatz, discuss what to do when faced with the the risks, and the benefits, of synthetic biology.
The "Anthem of the Bioegineers" was made especially for Radiolab by the Mammalian Pituitary Band. Their very talented and somewhat whacked members include:
Shane Winter - Composer / Arranger
Josh Kurz - Lyrics/Vocals
Jason Major - Vocals
Wendy Roderweiss - Vocals
Natasha Bayus - 100% Real french horn