Prediction: 'Dark Genome' Popularity May Make 'Dark' The Top Science Media Cliche Of 2013
By Hank Campbell | May 2nd 2013 02:12 PM | 28 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

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With the popularity of dark matter and dark energy as blanket terms for 'this is weird and we don't understand it but we are studying it, ain't science awesome?' in physics, it was only a matter of time before it caught on elsewhere.

So we have dark lightning and the life sciences made sure they caught the wave, migrating non-coding DNA (factual = booooring) from the colloquially misunderstood blanket term 'junk DNA' to the cooler and edgier 21st century 'Dark Genome'.

Dark Genome as a term is not new in 2013. I've seen it floating around since 2010 or so (and biologists probably a lot longer than that) but I am predicting this is the year it takes off and reaches cliché status. Terms rarely catch on right away.

I had some hysterical ninny shriek 'false equivalence' at me recently - a political person masquerading in science, naturally - and I chuckled to myself and wondered if we were back in 2006.  'False equivalence', the realest-sounding made-up logical fallacy I know of, was invented in 2004 so that political writers could criticize the Viet Nam war record of President George W. Bush but keep the war record of Senator John Kerry, the official candidate of American media, off limits. Anyone who talked about Kerry hiring a film crew to watch him get off a boat and adding in bullet special effects was said to be using false equivalence  It caught on - it's a great non-specific retort for dumb people - and by 2006, even science blogging was overrun with it.  Anyone who uses it today sends me back in time a little, like if they say they are going to a Savage Garden concert.

But it reminded me we need some new clichés.

To be fair to science media, it is nowhere near as bad about clichés as sports, perhaps because a lot of us watch three hours of sports live - and that's a lot of sportscaster talking time to fill - while people who watch three hours of science live are usually scientists and not on TV. But when sportscasters like something, they go overboard.  If you also get annoyed by overused sports clichés, I can use a term like "smash mouth football" and “they left it all on the field” and you might even know what year I am talking about.(1) Sports announcers are overrun with the things, but at least they create new ones every year.

Science media, not so much. 'Missing link' is always going to be in the running for cliché of the year, and NASA should trademark the phrase 'implications for life on other planets' but even journalists are sick of writing how 'Baffled', 'Stunned' and 'Alarmed' scientists are by the findings of every paper that gets into corporate news.

So I am making the early prediction; this is the year we go Dark.

Journalists need something new and Dark could be it. I, for one, welcome getting rid of headlines like "Junk DNA Not Junk After All! In Your Face, Biologists!" and replacing those with "Dark Genome Gets A Little Lighter" or "Baffled Scientists Shed Light On Dark Genome And Are Alarmed".

Then it will catch on in other fields, including the pseudoscience contingent that are the anti-heroes to biology's heroes; the GMO hysterics.

It's only a matter of time before an advocate produces a paper where they rationalize that GMOs don't harm anyone in ways we can detect because they are a 'Dark Toxin' - people get sick, and some of them eat GMO foods so there must be a correlation, science has just not discovered it yet. Mark Bittman then gushes over the idea in the New York Times and, presto, it is part of the factual record for 50% of America. A new field of study is born.

Once that happens, it is open season. We'll get overrun with Dark Paleontology and Dark Social Psychology papers and people are going to want to blame someone.

Maybe we can blame Chris Claremont and John Byrne.  In 1980, working for Marvel Comics, they took Phoenix, who they had already re-purposed from the wholesome Marvel Girl, and made her into Dark Phoenix, where she was all scary and hot and could eliminate a planet faster than Neil Tyson.  Readers of "X-Men", who had previously ventured to the story monthly to see good stories that oddly always had characters in Ugg boots, suddenly became treated to whole plotlines where the female villains dressed up in lingeries to show how dangerous they were.(2)

Dark Phoenix, though not in her Black Queen dominatrix outfit. They did change her costume from green to red to show how dangerous she was. Credit: Wikipedia.

How is that related to science? The average age for an R01 grant is now 42, which means a whole generation of scientists came of age when those comics were out and both 'Dark' and super-heroines in stiletto heels were cool. And Marvel was always the most science-based of the comic book companies - Superman was an illegal alien and Batman was part of the 1% but Marvel characters were genetically modified heroes - sorry, Frankenheroes - or bitten by radioactive spiders. You can bet scientists were reading about those characters and not "Kamandi, The Last Boy On Earth".

So if researchers in Spain want to talk about their work describing alterations in noncoding long chain RNA sequences (lncRNA) in Rett syndrome, they can say "Dark genome' is involved in Rett Syndrome" and it sounds a lot more interesting. Not to pick on them, if a little sizzle sells some mouse model research steak, I am all for it.

I'm not just not looking forward to those Dark Sociology papers, so I will hide in my work; pursuing that PhD in Theoretical Phys Ed.

NOTES:

(1) Bleacher Report has a much larger list.  A funny sample:

“He’s deceptively quick.” Justin Goar's positive take: "I’m a deceptively good-looking genius. Also, I used to be deceptively slow—now I’m just obviously slow."

(2) But to overturn convention, the good girl dressed in black lingerie and the bad girl dressed in white lingerie.

Dark TinTin anyone?

'False equivalence', the realest-sounding made-up logical fallacy I know of, was invented in 2004
It isn't made up, but it should be called "false analogy".  The term "false equivalence" belongs more properly to linguistics and dates back to at least 1970 - probably earlier.

If I am correct, there are in linguistics three kinds of equivalence: lexical, grammatical and textual.  Accordingly there should be three kinds of false equivalence.
That's good knowledge. Despite being wonderfully literate and a lightning rod for all kinds of insults, I never heard the term before 2004. It was suddenly everywhere. Thanks for making me a little smarter.
Actually there's a fourth; substantial equivalence.  I will leave it to you to explain where it fits.

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/food-safety.aspx
Mundus vult decipi
Actually there's a fourth; substantial equivalence.  I will leave it to you to explain where it fits.

Semantic near equivalence, as in seawater, salt water and brine.
Wait, when did Savage Garden become uncool? I got to second base at my seventh grade graduation dance, all to the tune of Truly Madly Deeply while doing the two-step. In fact, I'm listening to this tune right now. (But probably not by the time you, you or you read this.)

How about "It's all in how you splice it!" for non-coding DNA? I read that somewhere, though I have no idea where and when.
Begin with this assumption: it's all a joke. Then you will see the humour in everything.
Hey, if you are still listening to them, they must be cool.
I'm so fly I put the 'ill' in 'chill'. :P
Begin with this assumption: it's all a joke. Then you will see the humour in everything.
Cosmic Debris
Mundus vult decipi
Oh well, Kelly Clarkson agrees with you that everybody's got a 'dark side' :(
My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
I have a Fear of the Dark, though. (Easily the best song with 'dark' in the title.)

Edit: Not digging the Kelly Clarkson. If you have 'dark' in the title of a song, you have to deliver! I want to feel angst, inner conflict, despair, fear. She sings about some of these emotions, but... happily? Let's get emo, c'mon!
Begin with this assumption: it's all a joke. Then you will see the humour in everything.
If you have 'dark' in the title of a song, you have to deliver! I want to feel angst, inner conflict, despair, fear. She sings about some of these emotions, but... happily? Let's get emo, c'mon!
Gosh, she sounds pretty miserable to me but maybe you're right, she's sort of hoping someone can still love her and her dark side, so not completely despairing! How about this then? Confusion will be my Epitaph. My favorite angst, inner conflict, despair and fear song with some pretty 'dark' Youtube images to go with it  :)
My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine

I have a Fear of the Dark, though. (Easily the best song with 'dark' in the title.)
Greg, I think that song was good in its time but now its a bit old and passe. Even I saw Iron Maiden perform that 'live' in the 80's in London! I think that this song  'Dark Days' by the Australian band Parkway Drive, is probably the best modern song with 'dark' in the title. Its all about global pollution and the world dying. These guys are typical offspring of Byron Bay hippies, very disillusioned and angry.

Parkway Drive is a road just around the corner from where I live, where the members of the band all lived as teenagers, when they first formed. The local council have to replace the road sign on a weekly basis, as fans are always removing it, even though they now weld and bolt it on to the top of a 3 meter high pole! There are often kids standing there with hacksaws taking photos and looking very furtive as I drive past :)
My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
The first song by King Crimson, "Confusion Will Be My Epitaph," is definitely 'dark,' but not really my style, although I do appreciate the band's disillusionment. Have you heard "The Crimson" by Atreyu? Apparently life is hard in Orange County, California, and they have a lot to be angry about. The vampire theme is a total win because auto-vampirism, sadomasichism and sanguinarianism are so 'dark' this season. (So dark, in fact, there is a counter-culture of self-proclaimed "vampire-slayers," lmao!)

I like the second song, thanks for introducing me to Parkway Drive. I will seek out more of their songs. Softcore emo has nothing on screamo-emo, which is the epitome of dark! Have you discovered Lamb of God? (They're uber dark!) One of my favourite songs by them is "Walk With Me in Hell" because they sample a riff from Slayer's "Raining Blood". Too dark!

2013: The year of darkness.
Begin with this assumption: it's all a joke. Then you will see the humour in everything.
I wonder if these songs convey a sense of "darkness" in another way.

Trapped

Timeless
Mundus vult decipi
The lyrics of the first song, "Trapped" by Utopia, are really dark despite sounding upbeat, but the second song, "Timeless" by Badfinger, is the inverse. To be fair, it doesn't sound too dark but the instrumentals are somewhat... forlorn?
Begin with this assumption: it's all a joke. Then you will see the humour in everything.
Yeah, the Badfinger song always brings to mind the word "poignant".  Like the regret that things may turn out as one hoped.

If you want a really "dark" song listen to Pat Benatar's "Hell is for children".
Mundus vult decipi
Yeah, the Badfinger song always brings to mind the word "poignant".  Like the regret that things may turn out as one hoped.
What does that even mean? The regret that things may turn out as one hoped? Sounds as confused as the lyrics!

We are yesterday, we are today
We are tomorrow, we are timeless
We are then, we are now
We are the future, we are timeless
We are the sorrow, we are the pain
We are the sunshine, we are rain
We are love, we are hate
We are the future, we are timeless
Whatever we see, wherever we go
Shows perfectly clear how little we know
[guitar solo (Pete Ham)]
How can we look and not even see?
How can we live and not even be free?
We are the comfort, we are the shame
We are forgiveness, we are blame
We are kind, we are kill
Are we the future?
Are we timeless (are we timeless, are we)?
Are we timeless (are we timeless, are we)?
Are we timeless (are we timeless, are we)?
(Are we timeless, are we)?
Are we timeless (are we timeless, are we)?
(Are we timeless, are we)?
Sorry but I think they should have ended with 'we are a waste of time'!
My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
I meant regret that things didn't turn out as one hoped.

Wow, are you cynical.  The song reflects on the dual nature of everything.  Everything we do can reflect the positive side as readily as the negative.

So the song begins by saying "we are timeless" and after reiterating that positive/negative view, ends by asking if we truly are.

Anyway ... I get it ... you didn't like it.
Mundus vult decipi
So the song begins by saying "we are timeless" and after reiterating that positive/negative view, ends by asking if we truly are.
Ha ha! I think you are flogging a dead horse Gerhard or the dead horse is flogging you or the dead horse is alive in the past and you are flogging it or the dead horse was flogging you in the past when it was alive?
Anyway ... I get it ... you didn't like it.
Right!
My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
Ha ha! I think you are flogging a dead horse Gerhard or the dead horse is flogging you or the dead horse is alive in the past and you are flogging it or the dead horse was flogging you in the past when it was alive?
Wow!  Now Schrödinger gets one-upped.  You are on a roll, Helen.
I see your dark oxidants and raise you dark silicon - not to be confused with black silicon.

lux in tenebris
Interesting link Hank, it says we can fight oxidants with 'dark chocolate' but that these 'dark oxidants' are found in dark environments and dark places, maybe they are trying to get away from the dark chocolate?

Then there's another related link to a Science Codex article called 'Beyond sunlight: Explorers census 17,650 ocean species between edge of darkness and black abyss'. It definitely seems to be getting darker and darker.....
My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
everybody's got a 'dark side'

I know lots of people who used the dark side to test their hifi systems.

So they kept a reference copy and never listened to it until they were buying something new? Interesting.

In college an acquaintance had a really nice linear tracking turntable and a 4-cassette recorder - how young people could afford that stuff was a mystery to me, coming from my background - so four of us would pitch in on the album and he would play the disc once and make a copy for each of us. It wasn't as good, obviously, but back then I wasn't buying the kind of turntable that was going to be good anyway.
I just stumbled on dark photons.  The term was coined in 2009 - I think - but it could be gathering momentum now.

Search for a dark photon in the $π^0 \to e^+e^-γ$ decay - April 2 2013

Dark Matter Detectors as Dark Photon Helioscopes - last revised 23 Apr 2013

lux in tenebris
Could dark photons and dark atoms exist?
'The goal of the original paper (written by Carroll and others) was to propose a mechanism by which dark matter and dark energy could be part of a larger, more rich (and interesting) set of physical behaviors in their own right. They weren't the only ones to do this, as various kinds of dark fields and interactions had been proposed by others......Well, now someone has, by expanding the dark photon idea into an entire range of atomic dark matter.'

My latest forum article 'Australian Researchers Discover Potential Blue Green Algae Cause & Treatment of Motor Neuron Disease (MND)&(ALS)' Parkinsons's and Alzheimer's can be found at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
I think I've just been one-upped by you, Helen.  Well done.