Sydney Brenner on the evolving concept of the gene

"The End of the Beginning", Science 24 March 2000:

Old geneticists knew what they were talking about when they used the term “gene”, but it seems to have become corrupted by modern genomics to mean any piece of expressed sequence, just as the term algorithm has become corrupted in much the same way to mean any piece of a computer program. I suggest that we now use the term “genetic locus” to mean the stretch of DNA that is characterized either by mapped mutations as in the old genetics or by finding a complete open reading frame as in the new genomics.

Consider this supplementary data to my latest Pacific Standard column, Your Genes Are Obsolete. 

The Day The Earth Froze, Gerald Hatch (1963). Cover by Ralph Brillhart.
Polar vortex was clearly bad that year.

The Day The Earth Froze, Gerald Hatch (1963). Cover by Ralph Brillhart.

Polar vortex was clearly bad that year.

Ten sciencey poems for National Poetry Month

This month is National Poetry Month and over at the Finch & Pea we’re reading William Carlos Williams.  This week, it’s Williams’ poem "Labrador", which places our categorizing, scientific minds against a seamless and indifferent nature.

In honor of National Poetry Month, here’s a recap of ten of my favorite science-themed poems that we’ve covered at the Finch & Pea. Some of these poems may not typically be thought of as having anything to do with science, but nonetheless, the science is there.

Czesław Miłosz’s “This World” makes us ask, Why is time irreversible? Why is aging irreversible?

Robert Frost’s “A loose mountain”: Does the universe have it in for us?

Seamus Heaney’s “Death of a Naturalist”: The poet’s budding scientific career ends with a childhood encounter with the obscene realities of being an organism.

Walt Whitman’s “Passage to India” is about our human appetite for exploration and our inner passage to India.

Emily Dickinson’s #822 describes experience and consciousness in terms of a scientific experiment.

Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” is a classic poem of Darwinism and Victorian doubt.

Sally Van Doren’s “Adaptive” turns the reading of a poem into an act of adaptive evolution.

Arthur Rimbaud’s “Movement” and the need for abstraction in science and poetry.

John Keats’ “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer” is a launching point for a discussion of the sublime in science, Big Dumb Objects, and the science fiction of Arthur C. Clarke.

Heid Erdrich’s “Seven Mothers” explores the concept of mitochondrial motherhood.

All of the Finch & Pea’s Sunday Science Poems are here.