ENCODE, Astronomy, & the Future of Genomics

The ENCODE media fail was epic enough that it totally dominated the discussion when the results were released to the public. Now our collective fury has abated1, I’d like to talk about, not what ENCODE did, but what it might mean for how we conduct genomic research in the future.

ENCODE produced an unprecedented amount of data with unprecedented levels of reproducibility between labs. This data will be useful to researchers around the world for year to come. To do so, however, it commanded tremendous resources and marginalized the concerns of independent researchers. Can we harness the data collection power of these collective projects without destroying the creativity and risk-taking of individual scientists in the crucible of collaborative compromise? Continue reading “ENCODE, Astronomy, & the Future of Genomics”

The Art of Science: Starry Night

Alex Parker is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, focusing on the formation and evolution of planetary systems. His work involves a lot of starry nights. So when cloudy weather gave him a stretch of downtime at the observatory, it seemed like a fun idea to transform some of the stunning images from the Hubble Space Telescope into an homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s famous painting. Continue reading “The Art of Science: Starry Night”

The Art of Science: Solar Burns

Charles Ross, Year of Solar Burns, 1992

The work of American artist Charles Ross uses natural light sources to create intriguing and stunning effects.  After working for many years with using prisms to create dynamic color and light effects in architectural spaces, Ross decided to change his focus.   Rather than dispersing sunlight through a prism he decided to focus it into a single point of raw power to create a solar burn. Each day for one year he burned the path of the sun through a large lens into a wooden plank. The burns were exhibited side-by-side  in an exhibition titled Sunlight Convergence/Solar Burn (1971-72). Continue reading “The Art of Science: Solar Burns”

The blink comparator and The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Barnes’ Yard

With rich dark wooden curio cabinets and a narrow book-filled balcony accessed by a steep staircase, the Rotunda at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff feels like a natural home for the distinguished gentleman scientist (including this female one). Feeling the warm glow of scientific discoveries past, there was one thing in the room I couldn’t take my eyes off: the glass plates and elegant brass eyepiece of the blink comparator used to discover Pluto. Continue reading “The blink comparator and The Rural Alberta Advantage’s Barnes’ Yard”

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