Machine Learning, Information Content, Gene Regulation

This blog has been comatose for a few years. In an effort to revive it, we’ve finally dispensed with all of the annoying ads, which will (I hope) fire up my motivation to start writing again.

With the flood of new substack writers, it looks like blogging is back – at least it’s starting to feel a little like the early 2010’s again. My aim is to add some some possibly interesting and useful thoughts on science, reason, and society, and of course science fiction. For the past few months I’ve been making some notes to myself on what is means to take science seriously: seriously as a description of the universe, seriously as the most effective means to solve human problems, and seriously as an endeavor founded on a set of cognitive, personal, and societal values. I’ll share some of that work here over the coming weeks. While we’re still waiting out this pandemic, it’s a good time to turn on the lights in the virtual pub.

But in the meantime, let me share with you the latest work out of the lab: “Information Content Differentiates Enhancers From Silencers in Mouse Photoreceptors”, work by a hard-working and very talented graduate student who has put together a nice story that combines machine learning and information theory to understand what gives a sequence of DNA the capacity to act as a regulator of gene expression. The punchline is that the ‘rules’ governing these sequences are pretty flexible, but they can, to some extent, be captured by measuring, in a sense, the information content of the sequence.

Pardon our dust

Our public house is undergoing some long overdue renovations and updates. Please excuse any odd sights or sounds you may encounter here, while we improve our facilities in order to serve you better.

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Clever Girl

Apocalypse 1948: Atomic Age Bitterness

Aldous Huxley’s Ape and Essence (1948)

huxleyWritten in the years after the catastrophic destruction of World War II ended with the initiation of the nuclear age, Aldous Huxley’s Ape and Essence is a graphically violent, sexually explicit, and surrealistic expression of Huxley’s bitter disappointment in humanity. The story is told via a rejected screenplay discovered by two friends on a Hollywood studio lot in 1947. All except the first section of the book consists of the text of the screenplay.

The discarded script starts out by portraying post-World War II society as a civilization of vicious baboons. After a series of surrealistic scenes interspersed with dramatic pronouncements by a narrator, the baboon civilization destroys itself, and the story focuses on a post-apocalyptic dystopia in the vicinity of what used to be Los Angeles. A botanist, Dr. Albert Poole, is a member New Zealand expedition scouting out the west coast of nuclear bomb-ravaged United States. (New Zealand survived the war unscathed.) Poole is out taking samples of plants when he’s taken captive by the natives, and finds that post-holocaust California society is now largely organized around a church devoted to Satan.

Continue reading “Apocalypse 1948: Atomic Age Bitterness”

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