Welcome to the future.
It isn’t too surprising to learn that scientists have sequenced the DNA of polio, the 1918 flu virus and more recently the “type H” botulinum toxin. And then created synthetic versions of them. Rightly so they are keeping that last one under lock and key because:
It is the most deadly substance ever discovered: 2 billionths of a gram is enough to kill one person. One reason it’s been published is because DNA synthesisers, machines that can take lines of DNA and turn it into molecules, are also surprisingly easy to get hold of. You can buy one for a few thousand dollars on eBay. With DNA code and a synthesiser, you too may be able to make some DNA of your own. [via The Telegraph]
Generally speaking, when science works out how to something, it tends to be done – from nuclear bombs to particle accelerators – regardless of the inherent risks. While I have no doubt that American scientists will do the right thing, it won’t be long before such information and technology falls into the wrong hands. Terrorists and/or governments will be able to create a lot of havoc cheaply and undetected. Sounds like it will become as easy as making a bunch of counterfeit Lego blocks.
This is another example of why being away from large crowds or populations is safest. The chances of a toxic substance being deliberately released where I live (near a small town in rural Australia) are slim to none.