Mad Science Contest: Build a Lifeform and We'll Send You to Hong Kong or Give You $1000

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io9 wants to encourage mad scientists in every field, but especially in the area of synthetic biology. That's because synthetic biologists are the people who are going to build new life forms, like ligers and unicorns and people with claws and glowing eyes. OK, they might build bacteria that can clean up oil spills and repair damaged kidneys too. The point is, building new lifeforms is the science of the future and therefore you can never have too many garage laboratories and mad scientists devoted to it. That's why io9 is sponsoring a contest to find two of the best synthetic life forms you can design for us. The winners in our two categories will get either an all-expenses-paid trip to the kickass Synthetic Biology Conference in Hong Kong this October, or $1000 and a chance to have their creature drawn by a cool comic book artist. Find out more below.

There are two categories in the contest, each with their own prize. The important thing to remember is that this contest is about creating cool new lifeforms that are also, in some way, entertaining. So each entry will be judged for plausibility (i.e. whether it is scientifically justifiable), creativity, usefulness, and entertainment value.


Our esteemed judges include synthetic biologist Drew Endy (MIT), evolutionary biologist and PLoS co-founder Michael Eisen (UC Berkeley), Spore game developer Jason Shankel (EA/Maxis), and biology researcher/io9 "ask a biogeek" columnist Terry Johnson (UC Berkeley).

Category One: BioBricks Lifeform
Using the BioBricks registry of standard biological parts, propose a lifeform design that you could conceivably create in a lab. Must include a complete description of how you would make the lifeform, what it would do, and what possible hazards might be involved in creating it. You may design this creature with a team, but only one of you can claim the prize. You may enter lifeforms that you have entered in other contests, but you must state in your entry which contest(s) you've already entered. Your entry should be in the form of a short scientific paper (no more than 3000 words), with illustrations. More points given if you've actually got a working organism.
Prize: All travel and hotel expenses paid trip to the Synthetic Biology Conference in Hong Kong in October, as well as the chance to present your research there.


Category Two: General Synthetic Lifeform
This lifeform can be more creative. Propose a scientifically justifiable lifeform, which could conceivably be created using current technology. Explain how you would create it, what it would do, and hazards involved. Unlike the BioBricks lifeform, this lifeform can be more speculative. It should be science fictional, but must remain scientifically plausible. Your entry should be less than 3,000 words, please. Illustrations and diagrams are a good idea.
Prize: $1000, plus a cool comic book artist will draw your lifeform and you'll get a signed copy of the original art.


General Rules

1. Send queries and completed entries to
2. On entries, please include your full name, an email and phone number where we can reach you, plus any information about other contests you may have entered your lifeform in.
3. Winners will be announced September 8.
4. All general Gawker contest rules apply.