Originally published on Aug. 4, 2015.

Think about an airplane. Now, think about an itty bitty bacterium. Which one of these do you think is easier to make? I’ll give you a hint: It’s the one that millions of us ride on every year across vast distances.

We’re better at building airplanes than bacteria because we know everything there is to know about them: how they work, what they’re made of, how to to fly them. Bacteria? Not so much.

That’s because there’s always been this divide between technology — the inanimate stuff that we build — and biology — the living stuff that nature builds. It’s not that we can’t build living things; we just have to figure out how. And that’s exactly what synthetic biologists are trying to do. Check out the video above to see how.