What is the philosophers’’ stone in the age of molecular and synthetic biology?
For centuries alchemists searched for the philosophers’ stone, a secret substance not only capable of changing common metals into silver or gold, but also ensuring agelessness, health and even immortality. Today scientists do not look for some magic substance hidden in nature but try to understand natural processes to create new molecular tools to meet ambitions and challenges of our century. The special role is played by ‘biobricks’- designed standard biological modules based on short DNA sequences, used for designing and creating bigger biological circuits with defined functions. The research is crucial for nanotechnology and medicine, and in the future, for creating new synthetic forms of life which genome will be based on standardised parts.
“Philosophers’ Stone” is a 3D stereoscopic video animation and installation related to the scientific project of the iGEM Team Heidelberg (Grand Prix iGEM 2013!). Its main hero is Delftibactin, a peptide (small protein) capable i.a. of transmutation of electronic waste into a pure gold.
The artistic video-animation recalls the alchemic phases of Magnum Opus and the rich tradition of human quest for the human pursuit of knowledge (leading to wisdom) and power over natural processes, questioning at the same time innermost human desires and fears.