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But Which Poems Did Venter Pick?

Craig Venter and his colleagues have devised a code that allowed them to plant 46 names, one web URL, and three poems to serve as "watermarks" within the synthetic code of the Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 genome — making it a "code within the code," he said during a press conference. "One of the tenets of this field was to make absolutely sure we could distinguish synthetic DNA" from naturally occurring genetic code, he said. In touching on the "philosophical" bearing of his teams' work, published online in Science this week, Venter recited prose from the poetry that they wove into the chemically synthesized genome.

"To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life." — James Joyce

"See things not as they are, but as they might be." — excerpt from American Prometheus

"What I cannot build, I cannot understand." — Richard Feynman

During the press conference, Venter said that one of the paper's initial reviews was written in a different DNA code that the referee had devised, "so we actually had to translate the DNA code to read the review." When the team resubmitted the work, Barbara Jasny, an editor at Science, told Venter "'Please tell me you didn't write it in DNA code,'" he said, adding that they "didn't because we wanted to expedite the review process."

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