Simple Things #7

In which we use Randall Munroe’s ‘simple writer‘ to explain plant-and-pipette topics. Can you guess what they are?

Monroe’s ‘simple writer’ limits language use to only the 10 hundred most common words in the English language. So the word ‘chloroplast’ is out. But so is ‘duck’, ‘cuddle’, and ‘explosion’.

We’ve tried to define a plant and pipette related word using only these common words. Can you tell what we’re talking about? The solution is shown at the bottom.

Parts of the parents’ information of an living thing may be changed. This change can be things such as removing single letters, small bits or whole blocks of the parents’ information, or simply changing the letters from one letter to another.

These kinds of changes can be used by people whose job it is to discover, to find out what exactly these blocks of parents information do – if you want to know how something works, the easiest way to do that is often by breaking it!

A lot of people, also those who are leading countries, fight about whether it is ok to change the information of the parents of a living thing. Any way, people who figure stuff out are really happy to be able to just that.

Can you guess what we are describing?

Solution

The answer is: genetic modification!

For many years now it is possible to change the genetic information stored on the DNA of various organisms, including plants. These changes can be really small or reorder bigger parts of a genome. It is also possible to take information from one organism and put it into another.

This technology is heavily discussed, from NGOs to regulation agencies. Is it ok to just modify small areas? Can we use transgenic organisms to increase yield or resistance in plants? The answer to these and other questions are very different depending on who you ask.

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