Crispr  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Crispr  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Sciencing the Shit Out of BioShock Plasmids Sun, 09 Oct 2016 16:21:25 -0400 Larry Everett

I cannot express enough how excited I am to talk to you about today’s subject. First off, we are talking about BioShock. I have never been a fan of first person shooters. I thought DOOM, the original, was good, but I knew from that point on that these kinds of games would never be for me. That’s why the Call of Duty and Battlefield series never really intrigued me. I wasn’t even really interested in the Battlefront series, even though I am a huge Star Wars fan and those are good games. No, really, I didn’t want anything to do with them until a friend practically begged me to play BioShock. It really changed the genre for me and apparently for a lot of people.

BioShock proved that you could tell an interesting and impactful story within the mechanics of a first-person shooter. Although there are some choices in the story, I wouldn’t call it a choose-my-adventure type, like BioWare games. But what I found most intriguing about the story was that it didn’t matter if there were actual choices or not, I was still compelled to finish just to see what happened. I guess what I’m saying is that you should play it if you haven’t.

If you haven’t played it yet, I’m not going to spoil anything today, but I’d like to talk about one of the major components to the main character Jack. They are called Plasmids. Essentially, these stimulants give Jack special abilities that humans really wouldn’t have naturally. However, you might be surprised to learn that it’s not the far-fetched science fiction you might think. Let’s take a moment to science the shit out of BioShock’s Plasmids.


Let’s first talk about the in-game science behind plasmids and how they work. I should note that this is in-game science, not real life science. It uses elements that don’t exist in the natural world, but there could be re-world corollaries, which I will get into later.

Plasmids are made from a substance called ADAM. This is a genetic modifying substance from a sea slug. The story of Rapture, an underwater city, revolves around the creation, use, and abuse of ADAM. Rapture was intended to be a utopia hidden away from the troubled surface world. However, as you find out rather quickly, it didn’t work out that way. The city is crawling with zombie like people who have clearly lost their minds. It makes for a very frightening setting.

ADAM itself modifies people at the genetic level. The lore of the game states that ingesting or in some fashion injecting the bioluminescent fluid from the ADAM slug will cause a person to regenerate or otherwise heal themselves. It’s said that the substance was first discovered after a dock worker regained use of his hand years after a crippling injury.

Reproducing ADAM

Of course, after that, the demand for ADAM rose higher. It appeared to heal any and all injuries and diseases, but there were side effects, mainly a physical addiction to the drug. A person taking ADAM would need a constant supply of the drug in order to remain healthy and sane. Spoiler alert: that’s where the zombies came from.

The truly nefarious side of ADAM comes from how it’s produced. In order to keep up with the demands of populace of Rapture, the slugs had to be mass produced. This could only be done with a human host, a young girl, to be specific. A girl, about the age 5 to 8, ingested the slug which formed a symbiotic relationship with the host. While the slug is in the girl, ADAM is regurgitated by her and used to produce Plasmids and other genetic modifying products. Yeah, it’s gross on multiple levels.

Plasmids, which are the next step in the genetic modifying drug, don’t just heal people, but also give them special abilities like throwing fire or electricity. I could probably do a whole article on each of the different plasmids and how they do what they do, but tackling the idea of genetic enhancement should be the first stop of this tour.

Cas9 and CRISPR

In what might look like fringe science sits a Cas9, or as they are appropriately called sometimes: Cas9 plasmids. This injection will literally change the genetic code of cells through a genetic editing process that I’ve mentioned before called CRISPR.

To give you an oversimplified version of how Cas9 and CRISPR work I would like to tell you about bacteriophages. This is a virus that infects and replicates itself inside a bacteria. Skipping over the complicated explanation of the process, phages inject their genetic code into the host bacteria and simply take it over, causing the bacteria to change on a genetic level so that the virus can survive and reproduce.

Few bacteria survive this, but when they do they produce a strand of DNA called CRISPR that matches the virus DNA. The protein called Cas9 then examines the DNA of the bacteria and when it finds a match to the infected DNA, it cuts it out and replaces it with the correct DNA. This system is very precise, and to top it all off, it’s programmable. All that has to be done is find the sequence to remove and know the sequence it should be replaced with.

Now we get into the fringe science arena, if somehow we knew the genetic sequence that caused an electric eel to produce it’s shocking properties, it wouldn’t be outside the possibilities of science to give those properties to humans. We aren’t there yet, but maybe someday in the next 50 years we will be.

Circling back to BioShock, if our ADAM sea slugs naturally formed Cas9 plasmids by feeding off or forming a symbiotic relationship with the little girls, then we aren’t too far from the science fiction of BioShock becoming reality.

That’s how I science the shit out of BioShock’s plasmids, but it’s not just one person’s research that keeps science going. It should be tested and retested. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

Sciencing the Shit Out of Pokemon Sun and Moon's Alolan Vulpix Fri, 23 Sep 2016 06:00:01 -0400 Larry Everett

Let’s get one thing out of the way right up front: What Pokemon do is not evolution. Evolution in nature relates back to Darwin’s theory of evolution. says that evolution is “change in the gene pool of a population from generation to generation by such processes as mutation, natural selection, and genetic drift.” In plain terms, evolution requires parents and offspring. What Pokemon do is metamorphosis. says this is “a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism.”

I’m not sure why the creators of Pokemon use the word evolution over metamorphosis. According to our friends at, evolution is actually a lesser known word than metamorphosis, and it also scores a lot lower on Words with Friends.

However, in Pokemon Sun and Moon, we see actual evolution. Well, we don’t actually see it happen, but the Alolan versions of preexisting Pokemon are, in fact, evolutions of the previous Pokemon. One of the most hotly (pun intended) contested Pokemon on Alola is Vulpix. How dare they change the fundamental aspects of a most-sacred Pokemon! That kind of thing could never happen in nature, right? Hmm, perhaps we should science the shit out of that to find out.

I should first address the idea that a canine-like creature breathing fire or ice is pretty absurd to begin with and I don't plan on tackling that bit of insanity just yet. But it's not unusual for nature to take some very strange turns. Take for instance the bombardier beetle. Although this little bug doesn’t exactly breathe fire, it does spray extremely hot liquid from its abdomen, accompanied by a loud popping noise. This noise and the resulting smoke-like plume of vapor that follows is where the insect got its name. If a bug can do that in our universe, I will accept (for now) that a dog can breathe fire or ice.

I cannot accept that a species can change itself so drastically without scientific precedent. Is there a scientific precedent for the two different types of Vulpixes? As a matter of fact, yes.

In Mass Effect 2, Salarian geneticist Mordin Solus questioned why the Collectors would choose humans for their genetic experiments. He came to the conclusion that the Collectors choose humans because of the species' diversity in not only physical appearance, but in its adaptability and intelligence. In the lore of the game, humans have been able to conform themselves to many of the worlds of the galaxy, far beyond any other species.

On Earth, there is probably no mammalian species as diverse as the dog. (Sorry, humans.) We have dogs that can easily fit in your hand and ones that are the size of a small horse. All are considered canines, and all can more or less be crossbred. In fact, the genetics of dogs are so diverse that man’s-best-friend can actually be mixed with other species of canine like wolves. Like the Collectors from ME2, we humans breed dogs because of the variety of work, comfort, and entertainment that they can provide.

As it happens, Vulpix is a canine. 

It’s unfortunate that we don’t know exactly when the humans brought the Vulpix to the Alolan islands, but according to the official website, it was humans who brought the Vulpix to live with them in the high mountain regions of the islands. So it was also likely that humans created the new ice-type Vulpix. But how did they do it? There are no ice-type Vulpix as it is, and the “evolved” Vulpix, Ninetails, is not an ice-type either. We might have to go about this another way.

I looked through the Pokedex to see if there was anything in there that could be a feasible match for Vulpix. And there really isn’t. Vulpix is an unevolved Pokemon. And although there are Pokemon who are ice-type and not evolved, Alolan Vulpix is the only unevolved canine that’s ice-type. That means that we have to do something tricky.

An Evee can morph into an ice-type called Glaceon, but it takes very specific circumstances do that. Then a Pokemon breeder would have to somehow get a Ninetails to breed with a Glaceon. Then if breeding is anything like breeding dogs in real life, it could take a person’s whole lifetime and several generations of Glaceon-Ninetail mixed to finally get a pup that has the abilities of a Vulpix but in ice-form.

There is another way

This can’t be a Science the Shit Out of Video Games article without mentioning some crazy fringe science. And today’s word is CRISPR. This stands for “clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats,” and what it means for biological science is possibly the cure for everything. The long and short of CRISPR is that it can take a sequence of DNA, change it, and distribute it throughout the rest of the body. On the low end, CRISPR means that we can adjust animal DNA so that it’s more fit for certain work. On the high end, we could possibly cure cancer or wipe malaria off the face of the planet.

Of course, my first thought is to use CRISPR to convert Vulpix to an Ice Vulpix by splicing in come Glaceon DNA sequences. Obviously, that would be the best use of that technology; who wants to cure cancer?

And that's how we arrive at Alolan Vulpix -- god-like meddling at a molecular level. 

That is how I science the shit out of Pokemon Sun and Moon, but science isn’t science unless it’s questioned and re-tested. How do you think  Alolan Vulpix was created from Vulpix? Let me know your answers in the comments below. And if you have any other suggestions for what I should science the shit out of next, let me know in the comments or on Twitter; I do my best to reply to everyone who reaches out to me. See you next week.