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Tuesday, March 16, 2004

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find related articles. powered by google. Salon Decoding humanity, down to the last atom

"There is a fascinating moment near the end of "Digital Code of Life" where the fundamental premise of the book -- that advances in computing technology have made it possible to fully understand our biological makeup -- is brought into profound question. It's one thing to "elucidate" the human genome, and provide a map of all 30,000-plus genes in our species. That's been done. It's a task of an another order of magnitude to provide a similar map of all the proteins created as a result of our genetic instructions. That's in progress.

But to finish the job, making clear a complete picture of a human cell that takes into account its DNA, proteins, and all the manifold molecular interactions between the various pieces, would result in a concatenation of data whose "resulting complexity exceeds the ability of the human mind to comprehend it in its totality."

In other words, the end of the quest to fully understand our biological nature would, in a way, bring us back to the beginning. One might be tempted to say to our computers, "well, thanks for nothing.""

[ rhetoric ]

Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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