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Melville on Science vs. Creation Myth

From Melville's under-appreciated Mardi: On a quest for his missing love Yillah, an AWOL sailor...

Non-coding DNA Function... Surprising?

The existence of functional, non-protein-coding DNA is all too frequently portrayed as a great...

Yep, This Should Get You Fired

An Ohio 8th-grade creationist science teacher with a habit of branding crosses on his students'...

No, There Are No Alien Bar Codes In Our Genomes

Even for a physicist, this is bad: Larry Moran, in preparation for the appropriate dose of ridicule...

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Michael WhiteRSS Feed of this column.

Welcome to Adaptive Complexity, where I write about genomics, systems biology, evolution, and the connection between science and literature, government, and society.

I'm a biochemist

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In the end, we should all like [mathematical] models that wear their faults on their sleeves.

- Paul Wilmott, quoted in "Revenge of the Nerd", Newsweek June 8, 2009












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What kinds of genetic changes are required to evolve significant changes in body shape and size? The availability of affordable, state-of-the-art DNA sequencing and array technology has made it possible to study evolution at a level of molecular detail inaccessible just a decade ago.
Since when has systems biology been a synonym for genomics?

This is from a Perspective piece in the Oct. 2 issue of Science:

The relative value of discovery aimed at hypothesis generation versus hypothesis testing has been debated. High-profile journals publish systems biology studies, including the human genome sequence, but most papers focus on hypothesis-driven investigations.

It's not hard to find scare stories about cell phones and brain cancer. On the other hand, numerous randomized, double-blind studies have debunked extreme claims of negative health effects of EMF exposure.

So what should you believe? Is the cell phone industry, like the tobacco industry in the past, covering up evidence for the harmful effects of cells phones?
Photosynthesizing sea slugs take 'you are what you eat' to an extreme: by eating photosynthesizing algae, these "solar-powered" sea slugs are able to live off photosynthesis for months. How does this work? Is this just a straightforward case of symbiosis between algae and sea slugs?

It turns out that this is not a case of symbiosis: this is a case of the amazing and ubiquitous power of viruses to dramatically reshape the genetic landscape.

Cheap, powerful sequencing has enabled scientists to sample the viral world like never before. Our understanding of marine viruses, in particular, has exploded as researchers have sequenced whatever they can find in samples of seawater.

I've lamented multiple times the negative influence on scientific culture of some trends in the use of computational tools to analyze large datasets, particularly in biology.

Over at Nobel Intent, John Timmer brings up another issue related to computational models of complex phenomena: reproducibility: