Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Junk DNA is a myth

Probably one of the most absurd scientific ideas that I have ever read about is the idea that approximately 97% of human DNA is junk. Wikipedia (June 26, 2007) says that:

"About 97% of the human genome has been designated as "junk", including most sequences within introns and most intergenic DNA. While much of this sequence may be an evolutionary artifact that serves no present-day purpose, some is believed to function in ways that are not currently understood. Moreover, the conservation of some junk DNA over many millions of years of evolution may imply an essential function."

It's hard for me to believe that any thoughtful person could believe such an absurd theory. On what authority do I make such a claim? Well, not much. I am not a geneticist or a molecular biologist. In fact, I only read a couple of books on genetics. However, as a software developer I have a vague idea of how many bytes of code are needed to make complex software programs and I am amazed that something as complicated as a human being is encoded in as little as 3.2 billion base pairs of DNA.

To be more specific, since the DNA alphabet consists of 4 nucleobases, we can represent a nucleobase with 2 bits data. This means that 4 base pairs can be represented by a byte of data and approximately 4 million base pairs can be represented by a megabyte of data. This means that the entire human genome can be represented by only 800MB of code. From my 25+ years of experience as a software developer, this would have to be highly efficient code. To suggest that 97% of DNA is junk implies the implausible -- that only 24MB of DNA is not junk. By comparison, the Microsoft Word executable has a size of 12MB which is half as much information (and that doesn't even count all the DLLs and operating system code that it relies on).

I think it's more probable that we haven't yet discovered all of the biological information required to produce humans and other forms of life.

What about repetitive DNA sequences?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Don't Hurt Yourself

I worked for John Fluke Manufacturing Company for 2 1/2 years. And every day the security guard at the door said the same thing to me and every other person that walked through that door. He said "be nice". And I think it worked to some extent because I enjoyed working at Fluke more then any other place I have ever worked. And I never heard of any nasty office politics going on like I did at other places.

Because of this I often tried to think of two words I could say to my kids that they would always remember and that would have a positive impact on their lives. I wanted those two words to say something grand that would summerize a lot of things that I would like them to be reminded of. Something that might steer them away from using cigaretes, drugs, and alcohol; or engaging unprotected sex or any number of dangerous activities.

I never could come up with those two words, but I came up with three: