Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ xenobots

January 15, 2020 • 10:00 am

Today’s Jesus and Mo strip, called “wing”, came with this email message:

A new one this week, inspired by this recent news article about xenobots.

That article, from the Guardian, is fascinating, as it describes “machines” made from living stem cells of frogs, machines that move about under their own steam.

And so Jesus and Mo react. God, of course, never issues updates, and the Bible is notably lacking in any correct predictions except things added to the New Testament to fulfill the prophecies of the Old. Its most famous predication, that Jesus would return during the lifetime of some of his contemporaries, never came true, of course, and I wonder how theologians get around that one.

And requests for donations and purchases:

Help Jesus and Mo continue to grapple with the ethical questions that 21st century life throws at them by becoming a Patron here.

Also, there’s a new J&M book (the 8th) which can buy here.

As I’ve said, I wrote the 3.5-page foreword to the new collection (I don’t get dosh for that), and you can read that only in the book.


16 thoughts on “Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ xenobots

  1. regards the research – and also translating the popular press language which I was confused by at first and thought it was going to disappoint :

    “Xeno” here I think is a double-entendre of sorts – xeno meaning … foreign?.. and for Xenopus laevis, the “frog” that was used. It’s not like it was a frog from the local pond – this is a lab breed with tons of research it has facilitated over the decades.

    PNAS article on the work :

    git hub source code :

    UVM and Tufts University were the institutions – here’s a video :

    it is so amazing!

    1. Stunning. It says these little robots could clean the oceans or your clogged arteries. Amazing is right. Now, at what point with the Catholics want to declare them ensouled, lobby for legal protection, and bring them into the fold to swell the coffers?

      1. It says these little robots could clean the oceans or your clogged arteries.

        [Sharp intake of breath.] The bloodstream option doesn’t particularly worry me – you can do plenty of testing in lab animals and or terminally ill patients, followed by incineration at high temperatures. But testing something like that on the oceans … very fraught. Those things are going to mutate and evolve, and it is predictable that they will do so along trajectories that haven’t been anticipated.

        Dodgy. Very dodgy.
        We’ll do it. It may be an conventional lab, or a unregulated “biohacker” taking a change from breeding stronger cannabis. But it’ll be done.

          1. They’re derived from stem cells. So if the biochemists can get the stem cells living in seawater (which I guess would be very helpful to getting the “organoids” to survive the osmotic challenge of going into something other than laboratory saline) …
            Actually, since the paper shows the organoids “cleaning up” heart-muscle cell coatings on substrates … they’re pretty likely to be floating around in an oxygenated saline already. Quite how the organoids get from the stem cells into the saline wasn’t clear to me.
            Keeping the stem cells in a bioreactor, from which they produce “organoids” into sea-equivalent saline; then the saline going into the sea … might provide enough barrier to keep them “where they should be”. But it would certainly need to be an aspect that needs critical examination.

            1. I see that Wikipedia says stem cells “can divide in self-renewal … This self-renewal demands control of cell cycle as well as upkeep of multipotency or pluripotency, which all depends on the stem cell.[4] ”

              4. Shenghui, H. E., Nakada, D., & Morrison, S. J. (2009). Mechanisms of stem cell self-renewal. Annual Review of Cell and Developmental, 25, 377–406.

              … if the conditions are right then, I don’t see why they couldn’t divide once, or twice. I’m not sure if division alone is sufficient to constitute “reproduction”, though, in this case, a stem cell apparently is reproduced.

              1. The ability to reproduce themselves indefinitely, without the restrictions on division cycles imposed by telomere length (or other means), is AIUI a defining and necessary characteristic of stem cells. Consider, for example, blood stem cells : you have about 25*10^12 in your body at any time. You can service that with 2 stem cells and about 40 division cycles over the 110 day average lifetime with each cell dividing about every 3 days. If you have 4 stem cells, you can take more like 6 days per division. 8 stem cells; 12 days/division. According to Wikipedia, red blood cells constitute about 70% of all cells in your body at any time.
                I don’t have a number off-hand for the average number of blood stem cells in a human at any moment, but if you have 7 litres of blood which can be serviced by the bone marrow of some (not all) bones, you’re going to have a lot less than a litre of marrow to churn out all those blood cells. See for more. Or, for a little more detail, but not enough to really explain the process. Somewhere, there must be a number amplification, but where in the chain?

  2. Intelligent Design is winning the game. We, evolutionists, have to admit it.

    It is just not the Divine Intelligent Design creationnists promote. It is a far more efficient Scientific Intelligent Design.

  3. As for the theological problem with the “real soon now, you’ll see it” second coming bit: some Protestants hold that there is, somewhere, a ~2000 year old witness still alive, somehow. (Always labeled as a Jew, though I don’t understand why that matters.)

    1. He more or less has to be a Jew in order to fulfill Matthew 16:28.

      “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.”

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