Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Robert Fisk on Hamas

Monday, June 18, 2007

Junk DNA useful after all

The ENCODE consortium’s major findings include the discovery that the majority of DNA in the human genome is transcribed into functional molecules, called RNA, and that these transcripts extensively overlap one another. This broad pattern of transcription challenges the long-standing view that the human genome consists of a relatively small set of discrete genes, along with a vast amount of so-called junk DNA that is not biologically active.
The new data indicate the genome contains very little unused sequences and, in fact, is a complex, interwoven network. In this network, genes are just one of many types of DNA sequences that have a functional impact. “Our perspective of transcription and genes may have to evolve,” the researchers state in their Nature paper, noting the network model of the genome “poses some interesting mechanistic questions” that have yet to be answered.

This seems a pretty reasonable finding. More crucial though, is that the idea of a "gay gene" or a "criminal gene" is pushed yet further away, and that we have a system whose form and function depends on interaction with multiple environments at multiple levels.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cities and Countryside

Entirely pertinant, as I have just returned from the rolling hills and smoke stacks of Yorkshire: Town and Country on Radio 3. Calvino is in there, along with Holst, RVW and prose by WH Hudson:

To lie on my back on the rust-brown grass in January and gaze up at the wide hot whitey-blue sky, peopled with millions and myriads of glistening balls of thistle-down, ever, ever floating by; to gaze and gaze until they are to me living things and I, in an ecstasy, am with them, floating in that immense shining void!
And now it seemed that I was about to lose it--this glad emotion which had made the world what it was to me, an enchanted realm, a nature at once natural and supernatural; it would fade and lessen imperceptibly day by day, year by year, as I became more and more absorbed in the dull business of life

The landscape around Bradford becomes more treasured for me each time I visit: the contrast of archaic and modern industry with sheep fields and wooded hills is so rich and rewarding. Of course, it help s to have hills to be able to take in all this in one glance.