Every so often, a scientific breakthrough comes along that completely reshapes our world, giving us untold insight and inestimable hope for a more perfect future. What a world, it makes us think, and what privilege to be a part of it. This is not one of those breakthroughs.
Nature reports that researchers in New Zealand have ruined one of your more cherished secret hopes today with the announcement that DNA, the blueprint of life, the sketchpad onto which every living thing is doodled, does not last very long. Specifically, it has a half-life of 521 years, which means that unless Henry VIII rode a stegosaurus into battle, we’re never going be able to clone a dinosaur. This means that your beautiful Jurassic Park dreams have just been crushed with Jurassic Park III levels of disappointment.
You’re thinking about amber, aren’t you? Amber will save us! Sorry, no dice. You could have the entire cast of The Land Before Time and all of its sequels frozen to Encino Man perfection, and it still wouldn’t do you any good. Because, while it’s true that ideal preservation conditions will extend DNA’s useful existence, it would still be unreadable after 1.5 million years.
OK, but what if we just figured out how to, I dunno, read DNA better? Again, sorry, no; all the cloning technique advancements in the world won’t change the fact that every single nucleotide bond in a DNA strand is broken after 6.8 million years at most. And that’s under perfect conditions, which something tells me the Mojave Desert is not.
The last dinosaurs? They died out 65 million years ago. And not even an eccentric British billionaire scientist raconteur can bring them back now.