by Mark Salzwedel
Many of us watched “The Martian,” the hit movie starring Matt Damon as an astronaut stranded on Mars for months adapted from a 2011 novel by Andrew Weir. A year after the movie came out, astrobiologists set their sights on finding a strain of potatoes that would thrive in the harsh conditions on Mars and verify that important detail in Weir’s plot. Four of 65 varieties planted in replicated conditions sprouted ('Super potato' grown in Mars-like conditions may benefit Earth's arid areas).
Most of us watched “Jurassic Park,” the hit movie based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel, in which a busy fly trapped in amber contains the intact DNA of the resurrected dinosaurs in the park. In reality, DNA starts to break apart after the host’s death, even when its corpse is frozen to prevent tissue decay. The fragments are usually so small, putting them together is like completing a 100,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. It helps if you have an accurate image as a guide, and with the sequenced DNA from cousins, scientists are starting to believe they can bring some species back from extinction (The Jurassic Park Science to Bring Back Dinosaurs Is Almost Here).
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