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Christmas Cheer

Glow-in-the-dark Christmas Trees 185

Posted by Hemos
from the singing-around-the-phosphorescent-tree dept.
lawrence writes "The BBC is carrying this story about five post-grad students at the University of Hertfordshire who are planning on creating a glow-in-the-dark christmas tree. They would do this by adding the genes that cause glowing in fireflies and jellyfish, making the pine-needles glow all the time. They expect the cost of the trees to be about £200 ($330) Future possibilities involve coral genes that would make it multicolored. " I think my favorite part about this story is the comment about Americans being a likely market. *grin*
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Glow-in-the-dark Christmas Trees

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Jealousy??

    I'll take some of the silliness of our consumer culture which is due to our greater freedom and greater respect for individual rights over the earnest seriousness and self-righteous sanctimoniousness of other, more socialist countries who feel, perhaps, that there ought to be a law against these kinds of things

    Karma Protect mode
  • something fairly similar has been done already (dunno if it's on the web, but it's in my intro biology book (Biology, 5th Edition. Campbell.)) with tobacco plants. The neat part is that we can now express the gene in more than one non-native organism. How long until I can get some chloroplats engineered into the membranes of my skin cells?
  • Yep, Chicago had 18" of snow, and it became a big deal .

    Here in Minnesota we never carry on about things like that. (Oh wait, Minnesota does have most of the world's weather geeks!)
  • Last I heard, cancer was still caused by a group of cells that begin regenerating due to damage but for some reason never acknowledge the chemical signal to stop. There is, to my knowledge, no virus involved.

    The anonymous coward I think went off on a rant and forgot to check his information before posting. Tsk tsk...

    ..Oh, and as for virii having a "right" to exist.. that may be, but unless you're opting to be the one put into a sealed tank to feed the virii, I don't think anyone will shed any tears over some particularly nasty diseases being cured.
  • Rob, enable the blink tag, would ya?

    Please?

    Pretty Please?
  • It would seem to me to be then merely a question of scale.

    Do we not have the relevant portions mapped out yet?
  • Actually, I don't think it can be said for sure whether or not it would be a popular item. There is no such thing as "they" in the sense you used; different things toot different peoples' horns.
  • It's not quite as far out as you'd think, but there are many challenges ahead. Firefly luciferase has been expressed in tobacco plants, which bioluminesce when provided with luciferase to the roots. I haven't seen this done beyond small seedlings, though, and there are many concerns. There are huge energy costs to the plants, and they may be toxic side effects from the unexpected proteins.

    GFP has also been used to create transgenic plants (and animals!) There are mice, for instance, that produce GFP in every cell in their body. This doesn't require as much energy as GFP is merely fluorescent (and this the fluorophore needs to be excited by external UV light), but this also makes it less attractive for the coolness factor.

    If you're interested in this further, I highly recommend the book "Green Fluorescent Protein : Properties, Applications, and Protocols" [amazon.com] by Martin Chalfie and Steven Kain (eds.). I've been reading through it quite a bit in lab, and it's a wonderful resource.

    Anyway, I wish them luck in their rDNA endeavors, but I agree that they have their work cut out for them.

  • (To the tune of O Tannenbaum)

    Cthulhu Tree
    O Cthulhu Tree...


    k.
  • "What did you get for Christmas?"

    "A tan and skin cancer. You?"
    "Knowledge = Power = Energy = Mass"

  • "I think my favorite part about this story is the comment about Americans being a likely market. *grin*"

    Well, I'm still waiting for glow in the dark, multicolored lawn flamingos...
  • Find a gene that will keep the needles from
    falling off.
  • Siberian hackers are suspected to have sown large amounts of modified conifer seed in a complicated arrangement forming graphics and letters, appearantly hoping to render a functioning encryption program visible on regular satellite photos from the area, thus making it globally available without violating national export legislation.

    Nah, it wasn't conifers, it was "perl" barley.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • Lots of xmas trees are ones that're just standing around outside one's home and get strung with lights. Just plant one of these instead, and it'll glow for free. And don't think that people won't do it just because these things would glow all year round. People have enough trouble getting their lights down by valentine's day -- they want the lights up all the time, and this is the perfect excuse for doing so.
  • That will version 2 next for Christmas.
  • Hey, at least they'd be easier to find, should they ever get loose. :)

    And it'd justify some mighty strange "Dumbo" parodies...
  • by Stonehand (71085) on Monday October 25, 1999 @11:20AM (#1588555) Homepage
    The glow? Feh. They've got jellyfish genes, so it'd be REALLY cool to give 'em tentacles. Right.

    A glowing Christmas tree with stinging tentacles -- what better way to frighten the neighbor's dog?

    {g}
  • The next obvious modification is to edit in genes from Bing Crosby and Jerry Seinfeld so that your glow-in-the-dark tree serenade's your guests and loved ones with:

    "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."


    IV
  • Uh, hi, ya, I AM an American.
    I go to work everyday, paying my taxes, and would gladly die for all this country was founded on.

    This was meant to be funny to people with a sick and twisted off beat sense of humor (like myself and many of my friends).

    But if you want reality, all I said was true.

    American's are lazy - don't believe me, look at highschools, how many people do their own work?

    American's are braggarts - don't believe me, just hang around a mall sometime and watch everyone talk about how they have something better.

    And as for not wanting to learn new things, why do you think linux hasn't taken off...people would rather stick with windows because they know it.

    I've proven all my points, though I was hoping I wouldn't have to.
  • Glow-in-the-dark plants sound like they could have a lot of potental. Lots of people have a small plant or two around the house - what if your aloe doubled as a nightlight?

    Granted, it might not work, or require special expensive fertilizer... but ultimately this goes beyond crassly commercial glowing Xmas trees. This goes to crassly commercial house foilage in general! :)

    If these things get popular, will Motel 6 leave a tree out for you?

  • Of course Americans would love this kind of crap!

    Welcome to the land where being King of the Suburbs is almost as important as highschool football!

    You would be the talk of the neighborhood with one of those trees.
  • (despite the fact that a very small minority of Americans are familiar with the acronym GPF...)
    Nevertheless, notice how many TV shows refer to unstable PCs as a fact of life. The legacy of Microsoft.
  • If they can make mice glow, can reindeer be far behind?
  • Glow-in-the-dark fruit could be the basis for easy-to-find midnight snacks and exotic resturaunt entrees.

    And when you input the glowing food & beverages, I wonder will the output also glow?

  • by Negadecimal (78403) on Monday October 25, 1999 @09:38AM (#1588568)
    I think there's more potential elsewhere. Glow-in-the-dark Christmas trees are simply too weird. What sort of lights/ornaments to you put on a glowing tree with? Do you rewrite your Christmas songs ("O' Glowing Tree...")? They're probably ugly as hell, though.

    I'd like to see glow-in-the-dark shrubs along your driveway (so you can see at night). Glow-in-the-dark ivy would be interesting on building exteriors.

    And why limit your gene splicing to plants? How fun would it be to have a glow-in-the-dark dog?

    Anybody know if the chemicals responsible for phospholumenescence are toxic? If they're not, you can do really neat stuff. Glow-in-the-dark fruit could be the basis for easy-to-find midnight snacks and exotic resturaunt entrees. Better yet, glow-in-the-dark algae, making for glowing beverages.

  • After reading a few comments from some more informed people than I, I doubt that the "glowing tree" will ever happen. However, I drool at the the idea and application of glowing plants. As a amature gardener, the first place I would run with glowing plants would be Disney. They are never at loss for lighting their parks. It would allow for some interesting lanscaping as well.

    Glowing flowers, bushes. Kids would have a field day. Then again, so would most of the parents.


    Please excuse my spelling. It's late, and I don't want to run a spell checker.
  • by tuffy (10202) on Monday October 25, 1999 @09:41AM (#1588570) Homepage Journal
    and maybe a star on top and we'd be all set. Still, this sounds like the stuff bad horror movies are made of. Imagine if they'd develop intelligence and start devouring people. On the other hand, a grove of carniverous christmas trees just doesn't have a big scare factor.
  • Think of how much fossil fuel such a thing would save if it glowed on its own instead of having to be plugged into the local power plant. There's too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it is, and here we have a glowing xmas tree that, being a tree, actually deducts from the aggregate atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Of course it'll be ugly as hell, but we're used to that here in the states. Since when has xmas ever been about demonstrating good taste in America?
  • while i doubt i'd be a buyer of a glowing christmas tree (i _am_ american, but i don't spend $350 on something i'll only use for about a month, besides, i'm an atheist) i like to think this sort of thing would catch on in other areas as well.

    think of it. tree-lined walkways that are perpetually lit without need for electric lights. glowing grass-bordered landing strips that are visible in power outages. whole glowing forests and jungles filled with insomniac monkeys!

    now, if they could only figure out how to have plants glow without need for luciferase (which sounds like nothing more to me than satan's protein) in the soil...
  • Similarly, we lose weight by breathing (though not enough to make a difference, to you dieters out there!)
    I have it on good authority that we also lose weight when we stop breathing.
  • the glowing of fireflies is the result of a chemical reaction in and special organ of the firefly, the firefly can somehow controll this.
    how can this apply to a tree. trees arent animals and I IMHO can't see that combining animal and vegetable genes has any result.
    if this however is possible, would it also be possible to add the genes for growing arms and legs to a tree and growing arms and legs for transplantation in that way.
    I am now an expert on genetics but is seems impossible to me to combine animal and vegetable genes. IMHO the differ too much.


    ---
  • Glow in the dark children, so you know when they're sneaking around. Playing hide and go seek in elementary school would suck, though... "What's that light in the tunnel?! It's Bobby!! You're it!"

  • Imaging the next time you have to give a urine sample....scare the #*&$# out of the nurse...
  • Actually, that is what they are doing.

    Luciferase is an enzyme that reacts with a chemical called Luciferin to create light. The trees will have the genes to create the luciferase enzyme, but will still need a source of luciferin. The plan is to put luciferin in the water, and when a christmas tree sucks up the water into the leaves (Which it will still do after it has been cut), you can get the reaction.
  • Remember, you can't get something for nothing. The energy for the light has to come from somewhere... if it's not the wall outlet, then it's the fertilizer. And which is more expensive? Granted, the tree-glows are much more efficient than the lights (heat factor), but still...

    > The sad part is that these will probably be popular. I suppose that they will help prevent candle-causing house fires, and save on electricity. But Geeze!

    Since when did house fires make candles? I'm going to find some burned-down house and collect all the candles! (I think he meant candle-caused.)

    Kenneth Arnold

    PS - Add one advantage: Save hours that could better be spent with the family (optional) or r e adi n g Slashdot!

  • I think my favorite part about this story is the comment about Americans being a likely market
    Not to mention the Japanese, they love tacky stuff like that.
    Mind you...they probably have enough glowing vegetation as it is.
    This is all wrong though.Why resort to such unnatural methods when we could just dispense with the trees and hang luminous jellyfish around the house at Christmas instead.

    Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
    Thought exists only as an abstraction
  • What we need really need is the translucent iMammoth, available in 5 "flavors".

  • glow in the dark trees = cheese.
    at the local 7-11 up here in canada they are selling glow in the dark slurpee cups with glow in the dark lids, and it reminded me that when i was little, 7-11 had glow in the dark straws for a while.
    the straws were great, we used to charge them up under a lamp, then close out all light from the ~20 foot hallway in the basement, and chuck the glowing staws at each other. a couple teams of ski-goggle-and-jacket-clad kids. what a blast!

    but the tree idea thing just sounds lame.

  • Think of how much fossil fuel such a thing would save if it glowed on its own instead of having to be plugged into the local power plant. There's too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as it is, and here we have a glowing xmas tree that, being a tree, actually deducts from the aggregate atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    From my bio classes, this is false... sure, they take in carbon dioxide during the day, but at night they produce it just like anything else...

    ... this was OAC BIO so it could be leaving out big huge gaps but it seems ot make sense to me...
  • It's not even November yet and already we're starting to get stories of Christmas? Ugh.

    I love Christmas the family time, but I hate Christmas the overcommercialized holiday. I could probably attempt to write a lengthy diatribe about how America is too commercialized...

    At least in the US you have one advantage over us in the UK: Thanksgiving. With a major holiday at the end of November, the Christmas season doesn't really start until after that. In Canada, it starts after Hallowe'en (Thanksgiving being at the beginning of October there). In the UK, we don't take that much notice of Hallowe'en (yet), and Christmas seems to start in the middle of October, and getting earlier every year...
  • Let me see if I remember this right, from my molecular biology classes:

    1) The firefly gene you use for making plants glow encodes the enzyme Luceferase.

    2) The (greenish) ligth is emitted when the enzyme breaks down the compound Luceferin.

    3) No luceferin = no light. You need to water the plant with a luceferin solution in order to make them glow. As far as I remember luceferin STINKS LIKE HELL :) I wonder how much succes a stinky X-mas tree will get...

    Besides, the tree needs to be alive in order to take up Leceferin and glow.
  • Eating is NOT the only problem with GM crops.

    What if the genetic changes in the GM Xmas trees happen to kill off a species which is beneficial to other trees? This could happen even as the result of small scale trials, hence there is no difference between research and mass sale in this case. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that this kind of effect has already been observed in the US? (I don't know the reference I'm afraid)
  • The extra energy (and matter) needed for the plant to make the "new" protein will have to be supplied by new soil, water, and/or light requirements (read: increased energy input). People have to manage the soil requirement, and both people and the plant can manage the water requirement.

    Example: Why do all of my houseplants die off in the winter and grow like weeds in the summer? Changes in the light level change the energy entering the system that is the plant.

    And I said 'increase', not 'double'. We're not duplicating the sun. Just turning the plants into some form of Gro-lites. :)
  • < I take it you've never played Beyond Zork.


    Or read the Lord of the Rings.

  • > Welcome to the land where being King of the Suburbs is almost as important as highschool football!


    The sad thing about this is the assumption that highschool football should be important...

  • I'll take some of the silliness of our consumer culture which is due to our greater freedom and greater respect for individual rights over the earnest seriousness and self-righteous sanctimoniousness of other, more socialist countries who feel, perhaps, that there ought to be a law against these kinds of things

    I live in one of those more socialist countries (actually, so do most people... by the way, it's worth pointing out that "social democracy" is very differnet from communism). There is no law or barrier against buying tacky stuff, but we don't do it anyway. The reason is that we have an older and more homogenous culture than the US. (I'm not saying that a varied culture is bad, mind you, but I prefer one based on long-standing roots with variations woven in afterwards.) Of course, we didn't go through the WWII->"man in the grey flannel suit"->now-for-something-completely-different period either.

  • (Again)

    Yes, I know I did this joke last year. I laughed so hard I had to do it again.

  • Would they continue to glow in the dark after the tree died?
  • Canadians are fatter (by population) than Americans? I really doubt it.. We have snow to shovel!
  • Canadians are fatter (by population) than Americans? I really doubt it.. We have snow to shovel!
  • If the proteins produce light in the right wavelengths, plants utilizing the protein can absorb the light and use it for photosynthesis. That would reduce the risk of death by underlit conditions, and could increase the growth/yield of the plant.

    This is the part where the pulp/paper industry utilizes the tech to accelerate tree growth, if they can separate the protein(s) in the pulp process.
  • This kind of thing does seem neat, if a bit over the top. I'm wondering: At what point is it cheaper to buy a tree that glows on its own, than to buy a regular tree and normal lights? I don't know offhand how much it costs to light a normal strand of decorations, but I imagine there's a positive tradeoff somewhere. Add to that the benefits of not having to listen to any of those ornaments which play 'Jingle Bells' and won't stop and you have a sure thing!
  • Actually, the substance of plants is partially composed of carbons from the air. If you pour H2SO4 (sulphuric acid) over some sucrose, the mess will smoke and stink, and when the reaction is done, all that will be left is a bunch of carbon. Through radioactive tracers it has been proven that the carbon that winds up in the sugar originally was floating around in the form of CO2.

    I'm guessing that other parts of plants are the same way, so the carbon in wood and leaves was originally part of atmospheric CO2. This carbon doesn't return to the atmosphere at least until the wood is burned or rotted by methane and CO2 producing bacteria. Forests are good carbon sinks, until the rate of growth of new forest is balanced by the rate of decay of dead leaves and wood, and then the forest is saturated with carbon. It can't hold any more.


  • This is nearly impossible- due to the laws of conservation of energy. A lot of energy would be lost in just making the light, and cannot be recovered to produce more energy. You're describing a perpetual energy machine- which would be cool, but unfortunatly very impossible.
  • Oops... should have used that preview button.
  • I have it on good authority that we also lose weight when we stop breathing.

    Is this a dieting tip?

  • Long live... vattenfall (watercraft) or something like that;)

    Vattenfall (lit. Waterfall) is a Swedish power company specialising in water power and nuclear energy... I don't quite see the connection to fossil fuels.

  • luciferase (which sounds like nothing more to me than satan's protein)

    Well, lucifer means "bringer of light" (don't forget that he was an angel to start with).

    I'm an atheist too, but that doesn't stop me from using christmas trees. (Christmas trees are actually pagan - in Norse paganism, they sacraficed horses, goats and slaves to the gods at midwinter (night of 20th/21st dec.); the christmas tree was introduced in Germany in the 18th century (when paganism was in vogue) as a reference to this. Guess why you use red decorations...)

  • ...And you can be sure any glowing trees will be marketed with an appropriately marketable name...

    ...Like "Lucifer trees"?
  • Killer bees might be a good example of a small scale genetic thingie gone wrong. Alas i've been working all day so the details on this particular story just don't seem to be present at this time ;-) Anyone ?

    Message on our company Intranet:
    "You have a sticker in your private area"
  • This isn't any more stupid than the already traditional tree-cutting, something which IS practiced outside of America [ahem].

    Go with plastic trees, at least. It's only tacky if you don't consider the environmental implications. Plastic may be bad for the environment but manufacturing reusable trees have got to do less damage than clear-cutting forests to make way for "tree farms".
  • Glow-in-the-dark plants sound like they could have a lot of potental. Lots of people have a small plant or two around the house - what if your aloe doubled as a nightlight?

    For this particular application, phosphorecense seems more appropriate: turn of the light and the glow of the plants guides you to bed, then fades out. (The usefulness of this might not be appearant to those with moderately tidy floors, though...)

    -- These are *MY* opinions. They will not be *YOUR* opinions until the Orbital Mind Control Lasers are operational.

    Actually, the secret space weapon is a plasma dart cannon. Although this is generally believed impossible, it has been proven to work (theoretical support is found in Maxwells oft-ignored fourth equation).

    No, that isn't a joke.

  • ...I wonder how the boyz in Redmond feel about sharing their abbreviation with a crippling disease?

    They think, "that makes two of us."

  • Psst..Buddy, want some luciferin-producing marigolds to plant under your trees? Only $200, but they'll keep the trees lit all summer...
  • I guess I'd better halt the experiments on the glowing cold-tolerant Kudzu I've been working on, then. Damn!
  • It seems to me I recall seeing an article in print about an herbicide that reversed photosynthesis, so that weeds literally glowed to death. Seems to me there were the typical herbicide problems of selectivity, but what if you used it as a tree additive? Seems to me you could get a nice soft glow much more cheaply than $330.

    On the other hand, the tree might die too quickly. Why does the Xmas tree tradition suddenly seem cruel?

  • Um nice but no.

    What you are describing is perpetual motion - using the energy put out by a system (in this case photons from the tree) fed back into the system to power it. You *cannot* make this worthwhile - The laws of thermodymanics say that you can't win, and you can't break even. Anyone who says otherwise is a crank.

    In the best case your enegry efficiency is near 100% - ie you collect most of the energy that you sent out, and don't gain anything, only lose a little.

    In the real world, energy effiency is likely to be very low, i.e.
    1) Energy lost while powering the luciferin/luciferase reaction
    2) Only a fraction of the emited light will hit the tree's leaves.
    3) Photosynthesis in those leaves will be inefficient.

    Therefor there is no way that the tree doing this this would increase the yield of the plant - quite the oposite.
  • I know someone is going to bring this up (maybe someone already has while I was writing this), but there are an almost endless stream of modifications that can be made to this idea:

    • Color. (This has already been said, I know.)
    • Multi-color! Now there we go! Each needle a different random color, but some limitation on the availible colors so we only get normal-looking shades.
    • Blinking! On-off-on-off-on-off-etc-etc-etc. Of course it's biological, so it would probably be more like on-on-on-off-on-off-off-on.
    • But wait a second! That looks a lot like binary! Let's have a computer in our Christmas tree! And make it run Linux! Now, what can we make it do? (blank stare)
    • Okay, better computer idea: Make your computer control your Christmas tree. "I'm tired of green. Let's do purple. Now what RGB was that?"
    • Tunes built right into your tree! Special gene progams tree cells to synchronously play songs! Sings Jingle Bells, O Christmas Tree, and all your other Christmas favorites! All through the night, and over and over again! "I'M GONNA KILL THAT TREE!!!"


    I'm sure I've missed a few wacky variations, so feel free to reply to this insert descriptive word here post!

    Have a Merry Christmas with your light-up tree! Yeah, I know this is exactly two months early :-).


    Kenneth Arnold

    Where's the HTML tag that makes my post not stupid?

  • These are the same people who FROST their trees. They aren't thinking about eating them, or even thinking of them as alive, really.

    Which actually makes these trees the perfect start for more intensive genetic manipulation. A sorry state where in order to gain acceptance, a branch of research has to stoop to frivolous applications. But if Americans (and, unfortunately, therefore the world) are going to accept recombindant DNA technologies, it will be in safe niches that they do. Meaning plants they don't eat. Animals are too 'alive'- a glow in the dark dog would be "wrong" in too many eyes, I think. And genetically engineered food has been too big an issue for too long. I'm all for glowing plants though. Or color patterns. Company logos. Whatever. Anything to get it into the public eye in an unthreatening way.

  • Can you imagine if they tried to film the Blair Witch Project in a forest of glowing trees.....
  • While your concerns are certainly warranted, new strains of plant life don't just go spreading uncontrollably unless they have some sort of evolutionary advantage over their "normal" siblings. I can't think of any reason why a bioluminescence would increase a tree's chance at reproduction, but I suppose the engineering could have some unexpected side-effects as you indicate.

    Plus, as another poster mentioned, it would probably be pretty easy to engineer them sterile.
  • by mal3 (59208)
    I'd like to see glow-in-the-dark shrubs along your driveway (so you can see at night).


    At least you'd know if anyone was hiding in the bushes.
  • Imagine if they'd develop intelligence and start devouring people
    i could take on any tree, anytime. bring it on, piney bastards.
  • Pee is irridescent (?)/luminescent (?) when you shine black light into it. There's a McDonald's here that uses black lighting in the bathroom. It's kinda gross, actually, since you can see little glowing droplets of pee where people have splashed/missed...

    <tim><
  • Forget X-Mas Tree, forget Rudolph. What about the HOUSE? what about My Vest? man, a glow in the dark vest would be a BABE Magnet(tm)
  • yes,
    we are the nation of easily amused,
    and we are proud of it!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The artificial tree best expresses the meaning of Christmas.
  • besides, i'm an atheist

    Being Atheist myself (But not really a practicing one though) I am going to have to correct you on this.

    The Christmastree may have been adopted by the christians, It originally came from from the (Skandinavian?) Light-fest, or mid-winter-fest. They wouldn't stop using the tree's so the christians decided to let them keep it.

  • 1) Start with a large pickle or cucumber. Best size is 6-9 inches in length.

    2) Remove the female end of a 10 foot extension cord. Strip the cord to expose the copper wire.

    3) Wrap the exposed wire around a 3 inch steel nail, then insert the nails halfway into each opposing end of the pickle.

    4) Place pickle on concrete or other non-flammable area. PLug the male end into the wall.

    5) Enjoy the brief spectacle of a pickle, glowing bright green with approximately 30 lumens

    6) Reset circuit breaker and explain the situation to your landlord and/or fireman

    I've done this many times; it is lots of fun. I've had no fires yet, but be careful. Every pickle is different.

    Scudder

    New DT out today, 26 Oct, btw...
  • And when you input the glowing food & beverages, I wonder will the output also glow?

    No, probably not. Proteases in the stomach (i.e. pepsin) should pretty much disassemble the glowing components.

    If they didn't, you probably wouldn't notice anything anyway, though it would certainly make drug tests more interesting ("Sir, we have strict rules against plutonium consumption").
  • Yep.

    And I could put "I was being silly" in blinking red letters that you couldn't fail to notice.
  • Not to mention the famed hedgemaze in Zork III, where you actually get *attacked* by these things...
    ---
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • by Ichoran (106539) on Monday October 25, 1999 @01:00PM (#1588646)
    Since I know a little bit about the subject, this article strikes me as both an obvious idea and a peculiar (impossible) approach to implementing it.

    Luciferase is a firefly gene that catalyzes the breakdown of the chemical luciferin, emitting light in the process. (Yellow light.) Fireflies "blink" by controlling the access of luciferase to luciferin. A plant isn't going to blink since it doesn't have the appropriate control machinery (e.g. no neurons to send a signal saying "turn on now"). But a plant could always simply glow steadily. Unfortunately, plants don't make luciferin, and normal luciferase doesn't catalyze anything in a normal non-firefly-light-organ cell. I presume that the postdocs have figured out a way to get around this.

    Even stranger is the idea to use GFP. GFP (green fluorescent protein) is responsible for most of the neat pictures of glowing organisms that you're likely to see. However, what they don't tell you is that since it is fluorescent it requires violet or blue light as input. GFP absorbs violet or blue light, blah blah Stokes Shift blah blah, and emits green light. If you're going to shine blue light on your tree, why bother with all the confusing luciferase stuff and--if you want yellow--just include YFP as well (which works just like GFP except it emits yellow, or actually more chartreuse, light).

    My guess as to what the group is really trying to do is this: find and use a luciferase-like gene that creates bioluminescence out of common cellular energy carriers, e.g. NADPH. Plants store the energy from sunlight in NADPH, so if you express this gene, they'd glow (at least during the day...). Furthermore, the reaction would ideally produce blue light. It's tough to get blue light out of a plant, because cholorphyll absorbs blue light. But if you tack on a GFP, it will convert the blue light to green and you'll be able to see it fine. Likewise for yellow with YFP. If you want orange or red, you can tack on both a GFP and a coral fluorescent protein, which will turn green light into an orangy color.

    It makes a nice headline, but it sounds rather complicated to me. I wouldn't hold your breath for these trees.

  • Well, not only does the fact of owning a glowing Christmas tree scare the hell out of me, it also makes me think about how commercial Christmas is. We have commercials telling us to "the perfect gift" for mom/dad/sister/brother/neice/nephew/cat/dog/bird/f rog/rock and it's a pathetic waste of time. I mean, does a company actually care if your parents, etc. (see above for more examples) are happy with the gift they receive? Hell no, they just care that they make some gigantic product and you turn the wheel of the country's economy, and the latter isn't that common either.

    So what can we do to stop this total insult to our intelligence one may ask, well, not buying the product is a solution, but how many people can safely say they will not buy it regardless? Not many, I presume. We're forced as the human species to fit in as best we can, especially the younger generations.

    Listen up SlashDot readers, it's getting pathetic how this idea/story is actually commended by the public, it's a pathetic idea, and some things are just too traditional to try and change. This will not catch on, it will just sit there in the stockroom collecting dust for god knows how many years. Now, glowing underwear.. that's a different story.

    Trying not to flame,
    Matthew
    _____________________________________
  • The BBC have an article up about this at This page [bbc.co.uk]

    Pretty much the same as we know but its got a picture of a normal tree on it. Which is nice.
  • Ah, but that crazy neon-tree isn't just going to glow on it's own -- no no, that would be too easy. Fireflies don't just glow. They have to produce an enormous amount of energy (relative to their size) in order to glow, and even then they don't glow 24 hours a day. A tree could presumably do the same thing, I guess, but it would need a very constant supply of energy, and if you cut it down in order to bring it into your house, you'd be cutting of it's power supply.

    So, you have to power the tree somehow - Electricity or expensive fertilizer: you make the choice.

    -----------

    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • If they're going to try to bring back mammoths, and are going to be a bit short on the DNA...

    Anyone for glowing green mammoths?! :-)

    Mammoth 2000 - now in your choice of day-glo colors!
  • I'm holding out till they come with there own presents
  • | On the other hand, a grove of carniverous
    | christmas trees just doesn't have a
    | big scare factor.

    I take it you've never played _Beyond Zork_.

    "Vast herds of these luminous vegetables roam freely amid the glacial valleys of the south. Residents fear the autumn migration, in which the trees cheerfully trample anything in their path. Christmas tree monsters are repelled by caterpillars, but nobody can explain why."

    Courtesy of _The Lore and Legends of Quendor_.

    Now if I could only find out where I put that copy of the glyph of warding ...
  • Actually, the article explains that they'd distribute luciferin in a fertilizer packet with the trees!
  • America isn't more free just because Americans tell themselves over and over again that it is.

    the war on drugs!!!!! and all its ramifications
    religious right
    crazy patent laws
    creationists
    lawsuit-o-mania
    selective service
    nutbar drinking age laws
    no cuban cigars or cheap vacations
    highest incarceration rate in the western world
    3 strikes and "you're out"
    bla bla bla

    *ON THE OTHER HAND*: it's easy to think of ways America has got the drop on many other Western countries too
    For example many European countries have - get this - an official list of names you can name your kids - not on the list, forget it! wierdness! *too* crazy!





  • The gene in question (or something similar) is patched into E. coli all the time in HS and college biology classes. The resulting bacteria sit in a suspension and do not glow. Only when the flask is shaken do they glow, because that's the only time they get enough oxygen to metabolize enough energy.

    A quick look at the average xmas tree configuration reveals:
    1) The trees are cut and screwed into a base.
    2) The screws puncture the phloem (or whatever it's called) that carries the actual nutrients.
    3) In combination with these two factors, most trees are put in plain water, which has precious little energy in it.

    Seems to me that any tree that's going to glow reasonably well is going to have to be at least in miracle-gro, and probably in something more special than that to get any real benefit.

    Not only that, but these are first-run products. My guess is that people will buy them, set them up, wonder why they don't glow, call the company, get told to feed them something nutritious, and be disappointed when they only glow a little bit.

    I won't deny the neatness factor of staying up until 1 in the morning and turning all the lights off for an hour so your eyes adjust enough to see your tree glow, but don't expect anything spectacular for your $300, folks!
  • Don't fireflies use their lights primarily to call a mate over?

    "Mommy why is our tree covered in fireflies?"

  • With this great new idea, that tacky aluminum tree suddenly becomes obsolete.

    Or maybe Charlie Brown is obsolete, too, and it's time for something like After Y2K to come up with their own claymation christmas special, featuring a tree just like the one we're talking about.
  • In Thailand there's a species of fireflies
    that flashes in sync. It's really amazing to see these bugs at night.

    How about engineering those babies to take the cold?
  • ... and already we're starting to get stories of Christmas? Ugh.

    I love Christmas the family time, but I hate Christmas the overcommercialized holiday. I could probably attempt to write a lengthy diatribe about how America is too commercialized, the forgetting of the genuine meaning behind important holidays, materialism, and public gullibility, but I should probably start making my shopping list...
    ----------

  • "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter."

    when do I get to glow in the dark?
  • Not only is it possible, it has been done.
    This particular technology is not new.
    Almost 10 years ago, firefly genes were grafted into tobacco plants (I believe it was at the University of Waterloo, but I'm not positive about that). I saw pictures taken of these plants in 1991. I'll try to come up with the journal cite for it.
  • by Anders Andersson (863) on Monday October 25, 1999 @11:04AM (#1588719) Homepage
    However, the controversy between the USA and Europe over genetically modified vegetables may put a dimmer on that christmas illumination. While the European Union demands labelling of genetically modified food, the USA considers responding to these restrictions by placing selected European goods under heavy import duties. Mutant christmas trees from Britain seem to be a prime candidate for this.

    Scientific expertise disagree on what impact genetically modified cristmas trees may have on the environment. The producers have been eager to point out that since the tree isn't supposed to be eaten, the effect on humans is most likely nil. Others are not quite that optimistic, and fears have been raised that the gene may spread from domesticated trees to their wild counterparts, possibly making entire forests glow continuously and thus upsetting the natural balance between day and night.

    Meanwhile, reports from Russia suggest that another British invention, the allegedly UFO-made crop circles, is being exploited on a grand scale. Siberian hackers are suspected to have sown large amounts of modified conifer seed in a complicated arrangement forming graphics and letters, appearantly hoping to render a functioning encryption program visible on regular satellite photos from the area, thus making it globally available without violating national export legislation.

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