Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Da Vinci II



Judge: “Defendant. Do you agree with copy of your testimony being recorded by the computer?”
“Sure, or yes?”
“Sure, yes.”
Judge turns to his colleagues and says openly: “I warn the members of the tribunal that the same arrogant way Mr. Novatius behaved...”
Novatius's Lawyer: “I protest.”
Judge: “You can when I finish. The defendant behaved in the same arrogant way during the interrogation by the computer, which in some ways confused the programmed concept of the interrogation software.”
“I have to protest again!”
Judge: “You can, I've finished.”
Reporter: “Mr. Novatius's lawyer doesn't seem to have an easy job.”
Legal expert: “Yes, it's absolutely terrible. The defendant originally even refuses to have a lawyer. He pleads his case like an amateur -- spontaneously, without consulting with his lawyer, who can only scrimmage with the Judge. It can't bring him professional satisfaction with sure -- and no sympathy at all from the public.”

Bustling in the hall is heard in studio too.
Reporter: “The defendant seems to have embittered not only the public, but also those who are, unfortunately, near to him. It can tell much about his character. Now with me, listening to the proceedings, is the distinguished scientific expert, Dr. Gropius, who has known the defendant for a years. Am I right, Dr. Gropius?”
“Not so much. In fact, I met him few times. During studies and later mostly in seminars or conferences.”
“Could you tell us anything about him?”
“He wasn't a perfect student. Above average, but undisciplined. He had a smattering of interest in everything besides the problem at hand. He adopted science for himself like short runs. He shut himself in the laboratory for a set period, and when he succeeded discovering something during that period, he published it. And when he didn't, he quickly got over the disappointment by turning to one of his hobbies.”
“Which hobbies? Drugs, women, politics.”
“He didn't overdo anything. And he didn't stick with one hobby as well. He had real panache about everything he did and specially enjoyed attention of crowds. I don't think that this surroundings in the court will scare him.”
Interview breaks for a while noise in the hall, incomprehensible voices in the background from the trial.
Scientific expert continues: “In those quick actions in his laboratory he was able to concentrate thoroughly, but this is no way to work in science. I'm sure that he made this discovery quite by chance.”
Reporter: “We could say that what he easily got, he cynically easily lost.”
“You could say that.”
“Although our listeners know something about his discovery, can you clarify its importance?”
“After the AIDS epidemic was finally controlled and changes in lifestyle radically reduced the number of heart attacks, two deadly hindrances still faced humankind -- cancer and ageing. They don't seem to have anything in common. But there are reparation mechanisms for protecting the genetic code of each cell. If they work well and repair all genetic defects that occur during the cell's life, the organism -- and also the man -- grow old. If they can't preserve this programmed process, degeneration takes place and all cells grow young. Unfortunately, it's the malignancy growing young, which is beyond the control of the organism -- and this is cancer. We concluded that growing old and cancer is the same process, but in opposite directions.”
“The defendant conducted just such experiments. What was he successful in achieving?”
“First, a little background. Some 10 years ago, the exceptional ability of bacterium Deinoccocus radiodurans to repair genetic damage from radiation was discovered. Thanks to more effective repair mechanisms, coded in its genes, this bacterium was 50 times more resistant than human cells. About the HIV virus, we knew that it also has a special gene ´tat´. Thanks to it, after successfully attacking human cells, this gene is responsible for enhancing a 1,000-fold the ability of these cells to produce more HIV viruses. Army laboratories succeeded in combining these two different genes and...”
“Thanks to genetic engineering, soldiers facing the greatest risk had these two new genes implanted into the nuclei of their cells and no longer fear radiation sickness. If they aren't right next to an atomic explosion, they can move safely in radioactive territory. But the defendant wasn't involved in army research...”
“No, he wasn't. He speculated about the idea for prolonging life. He wanted to save life against mutations, from radiation, chemical materials, genetic risks.”
“Then, the fantastic perspective for almost unlimited prolongation of human life opens up!”
“Sure, but there’s a hitch. If Novatius worked on strengthening the reparation mechanism, he had to stick to the problem of how to ensure that this new ability reaches all the cells of the body. One possibility was to experiment with human embryos...”
“These experiments are forbidden.”
“Yes, but difficult to monitor. Scientific teams at this field work very closely and confidentially. Only those involved in similar experiments can understand what they're doing, and outsiders are not welcomed to visit competitive laboratories. Reliable controls don't exist. Getting human sperm and eggs isn't a problem. And in-vitro fertilization is routine.”
“Then the defendant did conduct forbidden experiments.”
“We don't know. But we know this knowledge from military experiments can't help him. The soldiers had cells altered, but as adults. Experiments in whole organisms at so early an age could have major consequences.”
“And he solved this problem?”
“Perhaps, yes.”
“But I understand that he refused to publish his results and destroyed everything including any supporting data. Is it certain that he actually discovered something?”
“He succeeded with monkeys, published just a general conclusions from his results and held a short press conference at which he revealed monkeys from his experiments. Then he radically changed his mind. He ordered the laboratory animals killed. Only his favorite lab monkey, Rikky, stayed alive. Her exceptional resilience he later demonstrated to some important academic colleagues. It was his typical vanity. As far as I know, everyone of these colleagues was allowed to bring some perfect gene-destroying agent and apply it into Rikky's food. But Rikky was able to resist all of these gene-attacks. As a small compensation, Novatius insisted that the colleagues had to buy huge quantities of bananas. He said that the bananas were the only real risk for Rikky because she had an especially sweet tooth.”
“Where is Rikky today?”
“She stayed alive against all that deadly experiments, but she couldn't bear to be separated from Novatius. When he was arrested, Rikky refused to eat.”
“Couldn't anyone do anything..?”
“No, when we speak about biotechnologies it is impossible to make additional incursions into a live system. We can't open it up, draw a schematic and recreate it. Basic cytological and biochemical tests didn't show anything. For detailed research we require long-term cultivation of Rikky's cells. This culture we can only make from the culture removed cells, which we call calus. But calus will grow only when the cells spontaneously changes to the new system and starts to divide. Rikky's cell-reparation system was perfect and precluded anything like this.”
“And what about Novatius's colleagues?”
“He had only helpers and lab assistants. He was an absolute individualist. Sure, the authorities questioned them. But they learned only partial information that somebody was injecting something somewhere and another poured some well-know agent into some unknown liquid. It was worthless.”
“So, everything is lost?”
“In contemporary, state-of-the-art scientific technology, we don't need to know details if we know the premise or principle. Very often we only need confirmation that this way is realistic. That it's possible. A few sentences or schemata, a catalyst, and the process is under way.”
“Does it mean that we could hear the solution here at the trial?”
“If they can convince Novatius to tell it, sure. But he's silent.”
“Thank you. Actually, we can see that he is really silent... he's not only silent, he's leaving! The guards have taken him away. Mr. Hokius, what's going on?”
“Sorry, I was so interested in my colleague's words that I didn't see what happened... but it's not finished, I'm sure. It's just a break.”
“We planned a longer broadcast and our listeners surely would welcome a little musical interlude...” Reporter replays with despair, “... a little musical interlude..!”
Red-light lamp marking broadcasting from studio went out.

(To be continued)

Translated by Robert M. Davis

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