Thursday, September 6, 2012

Scientific American: Junk DNA and the value of redundancy

What was once considered junk DNA by the founder of the genetic helix, may very well have some hidden treasures of knowledge/understanding.

The phrase “junk DNA” has haunted human genetics ever since. In 2000, when scientists of the Human Genome Project presented the first rough draft of the sequence of bases, or code letters, in human DNA, the initial results appeared to confirm that the vast majority of the sequence—perhaps 97 percent of its 3.2 billion bases—had no apparent function. The “Book of Life,” in other words, looked like a heavily padded text.

The term that immediately came to my mind was one of buffer, slack, or added flexibility. Is this redundancy the source of our success? Think about all the 'models' and predictive abilities we have tried to develop, to only determine that outlier events, those events of double digit standard deviation from the norm, the littlest of probabilities are the ones that cause the greatest consequences. Is this the demonstration of the need for that level of redundancy to be sustainable.


Thinking out loud. Watching and learning.

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