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NYU synthesizes crystals with lifelike behavior under light

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
February 1, 2013
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Scientists have long surmised that inorganic life is possible. New York University hasn't created any at this stage, but it just produced an uncannily close imitation through a recent experiment. When exposing hematite particles (iron and oxygen in a polymer) to specific wavelengths of blue light, researchers got the particles to form crystals that metabolize and move together like a flock. If it weren't for the lack of reproduction, the crystals would technically qualify as life -- and one upcoming test will trade mobility for that self-replication. Accordingly, NYU sees the crystals not just as having possible uses for electronics, but also as illustrating that a finer line might exist between living creatures and synthetic objects. Whether or not the university ever meets all three conditions for life at once, we may have to reset our expectations for what chemicals can do when they get together.

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