An ode to junk

It is an unfortunate circumstance that ENCODE publicity decided to declare “junk DNA” dead, again. It’s not a totally unique position. Creationists and John Mattick have argued that there is no useless DNA for ages.

The demise of “junk DNA” is a fait accompli of the way “functional” is defined. It is not a definition of “functional” most of us would recognize. Ewan Birney, who should know, explains that when ENCODE says “functional” they mean “not biochemically inert in at least one of our many assays*”. As Mike has noted from his own research experience, many totally random DNA sequences synthesized in a tube are “not biochemically inert” nor are they biologically “functional”.

The fact is, if you only think of “junk DNA” as a problem, you aren’t seeing the forest for the trees – and you certainly are lacking a touch of poetry in your bleak soul. Continue reading “An ode to junk”

Sometimes you wanna go…

…where everybody knows their genomics. Bum bum bum.

Which is as far as I’m taking that, because I have the bad feeling that y’all would suggest that I’m the Cliff Clavin around here (I’m so the Carla).

Technology willing (let’s all take a long, suggestive look at Mike for a moment), we will be doing a live Google Hangout to talk about the ENCODE project tonight (Tuesday, 11 September) at 9PM Eastern. We’ll chat about what it means for science, “junk DNA”, and who (if anyone) actually knows what they are talking about.

Oh yeah, it is BYOB until we get that whole virtual liquor license thing sorted out.

*Leave a comment here or tweet @joshwitten or @finchandpea if you are interested and need a hangout invite.