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The Biggest Piece Of DNA Ever Made 70

An anonymous reader writes "Forbes has a story on 'the biggest piece of artificial DNA ever made'. The real story is that companies are racing to produce longer and longer DNA fragments to serve the growing science of synthetic biology." From the article: "On a piece of DNA as long as the one made for Microbia, ten or more genes may be present. By studying more than one gene at once, researchers hope to get a better picture of how they work in concert to produce an organism. Another advantage: These stretches can also be made to contain all the DNA letters that occur between genes. Scientists once thought of that stuff as junk, but many now believe it may regulate how the genes work or provide some other function."
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The Biggest Piece Of DNA Ever Made

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  • "junk" DNA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Scrameustache ( 459504 ) * on Friday July 14, 2006 @12:10PM (#15719523) Homepage Journal
    Ah, "junk" in biology.
    There was a piece of the brain that was once thought of as "junk", or "filler", until it was removed by a zealous neurosurgeon during an operation in that region of the brain of his patient. The patient unexpectedly lost the ability to learn new things (as in Memento)... Now we know.
    The pancreas was once though to serve simply as a support structure for the more obvious organs...
    Beware the tendency of the very litterate to dismiss that which they do not understand, it's simple hubris.

    My not-supported-by-resasearch-of-any-kind take on "junk" DNA?
    I think it's stored evolution.
    DNA that isn't expressed, but stored in a way that it can mutate for generations and generations before being randomly reactivated, cueing natural selection. That would result in a simple mutation (only the reactivation of a chunk of stored DNA) with not-so-simple results from generations of stored changes.
  • by MrFebtober ( 922100 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:15PM (#15720112)
    ...a rude awakening for those who PLAY God without KNOWING God.

    Alright, I'll bite. Who are you to assume the scientists involved in these projects don't know God? Science, for many, is driven by the desire to better understand His creations (I'm talking studying evolution here, not non-science fundie jibberish). Experimenting and testing is a great way to learn things. I'm not saying that's the only reason to learn things, but you've made an unfair and pointed assumption and I just felt I had to call you on it.
  • by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) ( 613870 ) on Friday July 14, 2006 @01:40PM (#15720296) Journal
    Isn't it time to stop talking about "junk DNA" as being junk? The idea that it might not be junk has been popular in the popular science press for decades now. Presumably the idea that it's useful has been around for much longer in academia. Every single article I have ever read in the last decade that mentions the stuff points out that it might serve a purpose. So isn't it time to stop saying "Scientists once thought of that stuff as junk" just like you no longer have to preface every discussion about relativity with the statement "people used to think there was an absolute zero velocity with respect to which the aether was at rest". It's kind of insulting, don't you think?
  • by Sage Gaspar ( 688563 ) on Saturday July 15, 2006 @01:17AM (#15723580)
    There IS going to be a day of reckoning, a rude awakening, and I know because MY day of awakening already came and went.

    Ironically enough, your day of awakening was based on your demonstrably flawed sense perception. And if we accept that even logic is faith-based, why does it make a bit of difference if you or Kant use said logic to posit the existence of a god?

    Furthermore, Kant's supposition is that morality has Meaning with a capital M. He started with the premise that humans have some inherent sense of morality. I think morality has meaning in some sense, but it's born of a complicated mixture of sociological and biological influences. So complicated that we can never know if it's deterministic or a product of free-will. So the acceptance of even that supposition is faith-based.

    Finally, even if I accept that morality has Meaning and that there's some higher power governing said meaning, why am I taken necessarily to the existence of a god in anything close to the christian sense, let alone Jesus? If you say that it's just something that you "feel" once you get there, then we might as well abandon all the arguments we've made, because we've just pinned them all on a highly contested, individual perception. Which is fine, as far as universal belief systems go, but sort of pointless to argue. In science we draw conclusions from collective sense perception, things that humanity as a whole can see and verify for themselves. There is a large consensus on things like "the Rocky Mountains exist" and "this sensor dial reads 91 degrees," but for every "I found Jesus" I can point you to a "praise Allah" or even a "hail satan."

    It is a bit disquieting to abandon Truth with a capital T for some sort of evolving truth based on statistical sense perception, but if you look at it, disagreement on physical reality barely ever happens when you get a group of people together and ask them to focus their senses on something at the same time. In memory things are a bit more fluid, but the fact that there's so much agreement leads me to believe that physical reality exists for humans in every reasonable sense. If there is no physical reality, either I've conjured it all up in my head (and therefore all my observations are by default correct), or I'm describing another reality that's experienced in a hallucination en masse by humanity. Either way this reality might as well be physical reality, because it's indistinguishable from it in every way.

Today is a good day for information-gathering. Read someone else's mail file.