We are the 98%

Check out my new review in Nature’s Spring Books issue. Three books on the genome and junk DNA. Even though it’s a couple of weeks late, it’s full of easter eggs. Highest density of wordplay I’ve ever gotten away with in print. It also contains a serious thesis about how we think about the genome. Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “We are the 98%”

  1. Wow! Talk about walking the walk and talking the talk:
    “The language of DNA is a veritable cornucopia of metaphor and cliché”
    Great read.

  2. Very nice to read, as usual, semantically rich 🙂

    Robert Pollack really took the idea of genome-as-text to town in Signs of Life, and not without an awareness of how it’s limited. I think last I saw he’d moved away from science into a more Church/religiously involved career though.

    Bonnie Bassler (of quorum sensing fame) spoke to the US Presidential Commission for Bioethical Issues in 2010 about how the metaphors Craig Venter and co. supplied to the press had generated unnecessary alarm in ways that perhaps hold relevance to CRISPR today. I made some notes on it a couple years back here if you’re interested, following Pauwels and Loettgers’ piece on scientific metaphor in Nature.

    • Thank you–those both look very helpful. I’m interested in metaphor as a way of knowing. Linking the unknown to the known is one of the basic ways we have for understanding the world. I appreciate the comment.

  3. The capsule bio after the article mentions that you are working on a “biography” of DNA. So I guess your metaphor for DNA is a famous, influential person of historical interest? No, wait, that sort of tortured analogy can’t be right. You must be pointing out one last time how we anthropomorphize molecules to better understand them. Yes, that’s better. And to show the irony of a mixed meta-metaphor because you are writing a book about a “book,” not a person, except maybe it is a person, since it’s a player, on a stage, er, in a cell. Or perhaps the word “biography” is simply a less carefully chosen descriptor that shows just how difficult it is to avoid metaphors when writing in general. There must be some method in the madness…

    • “Method in the madness” is perhaps a bit strong, as well as a cliché. But to find out, you’re just going to have to wait and see, aren’t you?

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