The Science Fiction Book Project is a physics project in which students describe an example of science fiction and the scientific feasibility of the author’s ideas. It promotes the school improvement writing goal by allowing a student to pick a book of their choice read it, research one topic in the book, and write a scientific paper discussing the future of the science of their chosen topic.
The book chosen for this project is “Gem X” by Nicky Singer. In the book, Maxo is a GemX (who1). A GemX is a being who is genetically manipulated to be flawless. Maxo, having the top gene line up and being intelligent and handsome, is the epitome of perfect. He lives in the Polis (where1), a city in the future (when). Maxo finds a crack in his face, which is only supposed to happen to Dreggies, which are the wretched underclass of unenhanced “naturals.” Maxo begins to search for a cure to the crack in his skin (what1). Maxo is not the only GemX with a crack in his skin; thousands of others in the Polis are experiencing the same horrifying shock as him. The Leaders of the Polis don’t want to give Igo Strang, Maxo’s father and the lead scientist of the Polis, the time that it takes to do the research for why this is happening—the solution is much more dramatic than they think. Maxo tries to save himself and the others from the secrecy and lies of the Polis (why1).
On the outside of the Polis where all of the Dreggies live, violence, poverty, and ugliness are routine (where2). There, lives a Dreggie named Gala (who2). Gala is looking for her missing father (what2) who “disappeared” while volunteering for scientific research in the Polis. Her dying mother’s last request is to see her father (why2). She runs into Maxo on his journey, and he may be the key to finding her father. His father was the last person to see hers, and she may be able to get information from him. None of them realize that they are all pawns in a bigger game. The city’s Supreme Leader has plans that will leave their lives hanging in the balance.
People may develop different opinions about the book, “Gem X.” The idea and subject of the book give potential in being a great story, but in my opinion it was a poorly written book. Its flow and structure did not appeal. This book is not recommended to those who are picky and read higher quality books.
The scientific subject in the book was genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material. Because it is the alteration of genetic code by artificial means, it is different from traditional selective breeding. Genetic engineering includes cloning and genetic selection. An example of genetic engineering is taking the gene that programs poison in the tail of a scorpion, and combining it with a cabbage. These genetically modified cabbages kill caterpillars because they have learned to grow scorpion poison (insecticide) in their sap.
There are two types of cloning: therapeutic and reproductive. Therapeutic cloning involves cloning cells from an adult for use in medicine and medical research. Reproductive cloning, which is a whole different matter, is creating an identical copy of a human being, and is highly controversial. Reproductive cloning is has not been performed on humans and is illegal in most countries.
Gene selection procedures can be applied after a fetus or an embryo is tested through prenatal screening or through Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). PGD tests embryos for genetic sequences associated with specific conditions. A cell is extracted from an embryo at its eighth cell stage and analyzed. Embryos with the selected characteristics can be implanted in a woman’s uterus to develop into a child.
Genetic engineering is important because it can help us prevent people from being born with diseases and disorders. It can also change produce such as vegetables from attaining bacteria or being eaten up by bugs. It can also increase their level of nutrition as well.
In the past, there have been numerous attempts in genetic engineering, both ending with good and bad results. Scientists have worked on genetically modifying animals and plants, to improve them. One example is changing the genetics in produce animals such as chickens so that they become even bigger than the normal and healthy-sized chicken, to increase income when selling them. PGD was introduced in 1990 and is used to prevent Down’s syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell, Huntington’s chorea, and Cooley’s anemia.
They have also attempted at cloning as well. They have only done reproductive cloning on animals, and it never got the desired results. Athletes have always desired better sports performance, and have driven many trainers and athletes to abuse scientific research to try and gain unfair advantage over their competitors. Such efforts involved the use of performance-enhancing drugs originally meant to treat people with disease. This action is called doping, and it frequently involves substances such as steroids and growth hormones.
Today, cloning and gene selection are popular science fiction topics in movies, books, and comics. PGD has become controversial as well because some parents want to use it to select their baby’s gender and cosmetic traits such as eye color and type of hair to design their own child. Like in “Gem X”, they want to have, in their own way, a perfect child. A new variation of PGD, Pre-Implantation Genetic Haplotyping, allows for many more genes to be tested with greater accuracy. A new reproductive technique involving in-vitro fertilization has become possible as well.
There are currently also problems of gene doping, which is the nontherapeutic use of cells, genes, or genetic elements to enhance athletic performance, and it takes advantage of the gene therapy that involves the transfer of genetic material to human cells to treat them. It increases the amount of proteins and hormones that cells normally make. Although many people desire the ability to select certain genes to have certain traits or clone themselves, the idea of human genetic engineering raises numerous ethical and legal questions, and it is very controversial in itself as well as its techniques. Many other people are highly against it because it is against our morals and ethics, and they just think it is wrong.
Scientists believe that once we overcome these arguments of ethics and morals, develop the technology required, and retrieve more information, we will be able to perform successful genetic engineering on humans in the future. This includes cloning, and gene selection. Researchers are only beginning to use the genetic technology to unravel the genomic contributions to different phenotypes and as they do so, they are also discovering a variety of other potential applications for this technology. The only limits barring genetic engineering are our imagination and ethical code. In the future, cloning and gene selection will be possible.
“Gem X” is a science fiction book that discusses the topic of genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the deliberate modification of the characteristics of an organism by manipulating its genetic material. It can be both helpful, and hazardous, and it may be possible in the future. Genetic engineering gives scientists the ability to alter the very basis of life.
“Genetic Engineering: What is Genetic Engineering?.” Futurist – growth strategies – keynote speaker – Patrick Dixon – globalchange.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://www.globalchange.com/geneticengin.htm>. “Positive Health Online | Article – Genetic Engineering Today: The Promise and the Ethics.” Positive Health Online | Homepage – Welcome to PositiveHealthOnline USA. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <http://www.positivehealth.com/article/miscellaneous/genetic-engineering-today-the-promise-and-the-ethics>. Simmons, Danielle . “Genetic Inequality: Human Genetic Engineering.” Scitable by Nature Education . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2012. <www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/genetic-inequality-human-genetic-engine