Monday, September 10, 2012

The Story of You: Encode and the human genome – video

This is really quite incredible. I don't think I've seen anything like it in my lifetime.

Two private for-profit companies, illumina and Nature, team up to promote the ENCODE results. They even suck in hire Tim Minchin to narrate it.

The average person watching this video will think that ENCODE is the best thing since sliced bread. The hype is astounding, and totally unjustified considering that we haven't learned anything of fundamental importance from the ENCODE project.

Is this what science is going to be like in the future—the person with the biggest advertising budget wins the scientific debate?


  1. This video has two big crucial fails.Although I enjoyed the illustration efforts made it had assert that ENCODE is the next colossal chapter of human genome without really explaining why this chapter is "colossal" this will certainly leave a big impression on the normal reader without deep understanding of what "big" is really means in this case.

    The second fail dear viewers happened at 2:03, another assertion that "you" are more complex than peas !!! giving the fact that ENCODE, even if entirely genuine, must be UNIVERSAL !!!
    So we can't be that more complex than Peas or monkey, not that much. which takes us back to something you have mentioned long time ago, the Deflated ego problem !! I think it is more beautiful to comprehend the nature as complex as a whole without specializing certain species. After all, bacteria have managed to survive for almost 2 billion years without significant complexity or intelligence.

  2. I don't like being first to post because I'd like to be influenced [ahem] by the intelligence of other readers. I need to harvest their thoughts because I'm not into primary research and been outta University for 20 years now. Got that outta the way!
    Ok. My unimpressioned impressions. I like the early parts. As a whole not really all that informative. We've had enough time to sort that early stuff out [mostly]. I got caught up in the 50 trillion cells bit. Seems everywhere I go I read a different number. Wonder if they are mixing total biota into the value? Anyone have a generally accepted value? I generally say 10 trillion give or take a couple trillion. Its the utter magnitude not the accuracy I'm looking for anyway. I also will say I gotta respect the concept of ENCODE's mission. I would like to read some ACCURATE, evidence based debate on the papers and the meaning of 'function' as you, Larry, and Jonathon Eisen and Gregory have been blogging about. I been busy teaching transposons and the C-value etc, to my AP bio students for years and want to get this right. So the "the stuff we thought was junk" part does bother me. And the fact that this seems like a promo rather than informative. So - what WAS its purpose? How did Nature get hooked into this? Is it all PR? Why? Is there a funding issue they face? Did an IDiot get on the board?
    Anyway, some general, mostly benign thoughts, don't mind the idea of Minchin, pitchin some biology. Just wanna know why.

  3. Larry,

    I'm wondering if you've seen this; it should delight you.

  4. Just raise some money, get Attenborough on board, and make another Youtube video called INJUNKTION - et voilà - you win.

  5. No, call it

    "The Myth of Func DNA".


    "Padadigm ShAft"

  6. Larry: Is this what science is going to be like in the future—the person with the biggest advertising budget wins the scientific debate?

    We know that in the long run, science wins! Until then, the scientists who know best how to exploit the system will have the upper hand, and there is no much that can be done about it.

    Although damaging and embarrassing from an academic perspective, fortunately, the main conclusion of the ENCODE project doesn’t directly affect people’s life; well, except yours Larry, but I’m sure you’ll come out stronger from this, and with more ammo.

    Unfortunately, that is not the case in other fields, in which misleading concepts and working hypotheses might affect the life of tens of millions of people, and have huge economic consequences (e.g. in USA and Canada more than 7 million people are affected by this group of diseases and thousands die every week, and the negative economic impact is up to five hundred billions per year). I’m talking about the field of neurodegenerative diseases, which includes Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, CJD, and Huntington’s disease, in which the two primary working hypotheses, the protein misfolding theory and the prion hypothesis, have directed most of the thinking and research for decades.

    Recently, I have shown that the prion hypothesis and the protein misfolding concept are flawed, and proposed an alternative model that is fully consistent with the current data and observations, it has superior explanatory power, and it makes biological and evolutionary sense (

    Unfortunately, challenging the protein misfolding concept and the prion hypothesis, which have directed the work of an entire generation of scientists is difficult, to say the least.