A team of scientists is re-engineering cells to create a mirror image of life on Earth. The best-case scenario? A whole new branch of biology. Worst case? A new ice age.
Dimitar Sasselov was at the end of a long day of having his mind blown, when the really big idea hit him. Sasselov, an astrophysicist and head of the Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard, was sitting in the front row of a packed lecture hall at the university last spring, listening to the famous human-genome sequencer J Craig Venter talk about his efforts to synthesise new forms of life. Sasselov had introduced the bald, perpetually sunburned biotech entrepreneur at another lecture that morning, and he had spent the day squiring Venter around campus.
But Sasselov's thoughts were light years away.