Science musings

What biologists need to do more of:

A major goal in all sciences is to be able to explain large-scale phenomena as consequences of the interactions of small-scale components. This is what drives me to study what I’m studying – in my case, the large scale-phenomena are patterns of gene expression, and the small-scale components are transcription factors and DNA binding sites.

Biologists do a lot of measuring of large-scale phenomena, via genomics or classical genetic phenotying. Biologists also spend a lot of time discovering what the small-scale components and interactions are. But they don’t really spend enough effort trying to understand how it is that large-scale phenomena are consequences of the interactions of small-scale components.

Just to be clear: your typical blob-and-arrow pathway diagram featured in Figure 7 of nearly every Cell paper (Fred Cross calls these ‘Figure 7 models’) is not the answer to this question, because it is essentially impossible, in nearly all cases, to predict the large-scale behavior just by looking over one of those diagrams.

Author: Mike White

Genomes, Books, and Science Fiction

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