The aim was and still is to understand life: to discover how amino-acid chemistry gives rise to biology. The Craig Venter researchers are proper explorers, no less pioneers than the scientists, engineers and astronomers who have explored our solar system and beyond. And as with outer space, it is the things we fail to discover which are most exciting. It's no wonder that the mystery genes have been described as biology's "dark matter".
For all our progress, the mechanisms of life remain stubbornly elusive.
A little Sunday morning rumination on the elusiveness of defining life.