“Junk” DNA story for today

‘Junk’ DNA makes compulsive reading

Whatever the truth, the results pose fresh puzzles about how genes work. “It would now take a very brave person to call non-coding DNA junk,” says Greally.

It would. So stop it, New Scientist. Putting the “junk” in quotation marks doesn’t distract us from the usage of the word.

The article is a summary of recent findings from the ENCODE project (ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements). More details in:

Random summary of interesting things

Way too busy for a proper blog post, here’s some links to resources that caught my eye in the past week:

Authorship now meaningless?

How’s this for a couple of multi-author papers?

Genome-Wide Association Analysis Identifies Loci for Type 2 Diabetes and Triglyceride Levels

A Genome-Wide Association Study of Type 2 Diabetes in Finns Detects Multiple Susceptibility Variants

I count 69 commas in the first author list, 269 in the second. People = #commas + 1 + 1 (for the “and last author”) = 71 and 271, respectively. And some of the names are consortia.

If you’re in there and I didn’t spot you, congratulations! Don’t tell me that author order means anything in this case though.

Nature snippets

  • Academics strike back at spurious rankings
    “Thomson Scientific’s ISI citation data are notoriously poor for use in rankings; names of institutions are spelled differently from one article to the next, and university affiliations are sometimes omitted altogether. After cleaning up ISI data on all UK papers for such effects, the Leeds-based consultancy Evidence Ltd, found the true number of papers from the University of Oxford, for example, to be 40% higher than listed by ISI, says director Jonathan Adams.”

    Someone explain to me: why do scientists willingly submit to assessment using the rubbish from ISI?

  • Complex set of RNAs found in simple green algae
    “A class of RNA molecule, called a microRNA, has been found in a unicellular green alga. The discovery, made independently by two labs, dismantles the popular theory that the regulatory role of microRNAs in gene expression is tied to the evolution of multicellularity.”

    Like I keep saying – it’s the biological process that’s important, not the organism. Why this constant surprise based on ill-founded notions of complexity?

  • Algae bloom again
    “A handful of pioneers are trying to bring algae-based biofuels back from a near-death experience.”

Science snippets from last week

There are weeks when you skim through the TOCs of your favourite journals and nothing really grabs your attention. And then there are weeks like last week, when there’s almost too much to read. This is where a system to grab a web page comes into its own – you just mark the page using e.g. Zotero, Google Notebook or del.icio.us and come back to it later.

Stuff that I grabbed for later from last week includes:

And from PLoS Computational Biology:

As an aside – does anyone else find that PLoS journal websites take ages to load in Firefox and use a lot of CPU?

From Science:

From Nature:

Quiet passing of pioneer

I almost missed the news that Stanley Miller, of the famous Miller-Urey experiment, recently passed away.

The experiment has been criticised in recent years for making incorrect assumptions and encouraging an over-simplified view of how life originated. However, I think it’s important to place this work in the context of its time. It showed that the basic “building block” molecules of life could be synthesised via known, understood and relatively simple chemical processes. This means that given the right environment and ingredients, biochemistry goes from being unlikely to almost inevitable, with profound implications for the likelihood of life emerging both on the earth and elsewhere.