The Clock That Breeds

We humans spend a lot of time building tools out of pieces of the natural world. We started with sticks and stones, began to mine iron and other metals, and, just recently, learned how to manipulate the genes of living things. To make insulin, for example, biologists in the 1970s inserted human insulin genes into E. coli and turned the bacteria into living chemical factories. These days, scientists are trying to retool bacteria much more dramatically, treating them more like programmable computers than factories. It sounds simple enough, but it most definitely isn’t. All material pose challenges to tool-makers. Wood can rot, metal can buckle. And living things are maddeningly sloppy. That’s why it’s so impressive that scientists at the

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