Saturday, 17 May 2008

In Darkness, the Word



The Human Genome is the entire list of three billion letters required to create a human being. All the instructions are written in just four letters – A, C, G, T. The instructions are encoded in DNA. These four letters in the DNA alphabet carry the instructions to make all living things. From a human being to a leaf – a tiger, Guinea pig, tortoise, dolphin or flower. The meaning of the code lies in the sequence of the letters. Thus, from continual adaptation of just these four letters by the creative principle of Evolution, are made the hand, the heart, the eye - the iridescence of the peacock and brilliant blue of a kingfisher - the helicoptering sycamore key - druggy sunflower and poppy eyes - the chameleon, armadillo, bushbaby - and the perfumed stillness of the milk-skinned lily.

“There is no word used to create anything alive that is longer than three letters.” Matt Ridley, Science Writer

‘Today we celebrate the revelation of the first draft of the human book of life… it is humbling for me and awe inspiring to realise that we have caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.’ Dr Francis Collins, Head, Human Genome Project, US

‘The languge of the genes has a simple alphabet, not with 26 letters but just four. These are the four different DNA bases…(A,G,C and T for short). The bases are arranged in words of three letters such as CGA or TGG…It is possible to write a meaningful sentence with 25 letters instead of 26, but only just. Life manages with a mere four.’ Steven Jones, Professor of Gentics, University College, London, The Language of Genes, HarperCollins, 1993

‘…we find poetry, as it were, substantiated and realized in nature: yea, nature itself disclosed to us... as at once the poet and the poem!’ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

‘In the beginning was the Word.’ John 1, 1, The Bible

‘Imagine that the genome is a book. There are 23 chapters, called chromosomes. Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called genes. Each story is made up of paragraphs, called exons, which are interrupted by advertisements called introns. Each paragraph is made up of words, called codons. Each word is written in letters called BASES. There are one billion words in the book… This is a gigantic document, an immense book, a recipe of extravagant length, and it all fits inside the microscopic nucleus of a tiny cell that fits easily on the head of a pin. The idea of the genome as a book is not, strictly speaking, even a metaphor. It is literally true. A book is a piece of digital information, written in linear, one dimensional and one directional form and defined by a code that transliterates a small alphabet of sign into a large lexicon of meanings through the order of their groupings. So is the genome.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, Fourth Estate, 2000

Written out, the Human Genome would fill one million pages, 5000 books stacked 200 feet high; two hundred telephone directories. Read out for 24 hours a day, it would take a century to finish. It has taken scientists 13 years to decipher. The human body has 100 trillion (100 000 000 000 000) cells – each contains a copy of the entire Human Genome.

‘So although there are only twenty or so amino acids, the range of proteins to which they can give rise is effectively infinite. In the same way the twenty-six letters of the western alphabet can code the language of Shakespeare, and 10,000 other languages as well.’ Ian Wilmut, Scientist

‘To continue the linguistic, information-theory metaphor within which genetic theory was now to be formulated, the directed synthesis of RNAon DNA was termed transcription, and the synthesis of protein on the RNA was translation. DNA had become the master-molecule, and the nucleus in which it was located had assumed its patriarchal role in relation to the rest of the cell. It is hard to know which had more impact on the future directions of biology – the determination of the role of DNA in protein synthesis, or the organizing power of the metaphor within which it was framed.’ Steven Rose, Lifelines: Biology, Freedom, Determinism, 1997

‘In the beginning was the Word. The Word proselytised the sea with its message, copying itself unceasingly and forever – the Word discovered how to rearrange chemicals so as to capture little eddies in the stream of entropy and make them live – the Word transformed the land surface of the planet from a dusty hell to a verdant paradise. The Word eventually blossomed and became sufficiently ingenious to build a porridgy contraption called a human brain that could discover and become aware of the Word itself.’ Matt Ridley, Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters, 2000

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.’John 1, 1-5, The Bible

‘In our culture at present, people find it somewhat surprising that an idea can be large enough to have both a scientific and a religious aspect. This is because, during the last century, our ideas of religion, of science, and indeed of life have all become narrowed in a way that makes it difficult to get these topics into the same perspective. (Here our window has become a good deal narrower that it was when Galileo and Newton and Faraday used it. They never doubted these things belonged together).’ Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, 2003

In Darkness, the Word

Space vagrant -
in darkness, the Word

Shut eye dreaming light

among a billion stars and gases,
dust and ashes.

First Author -
of itself;

principle without theory -
workings on the blackboard of space;

intention before means,
elements, first materials.

Earth and all her dreaming creatures
improbable as Raphael’s Madonnas

looming ethereal from mineral pigment,
the silver formulae of poems, skeletons

beneath as music is scored -
love’s organic consummation.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Unearthing the Human Genome

‘The International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium has published its scientific description of the finished human genome sequence, the product of the 13-year effort to read the information encoded in the human chromosomes that reached its culmination in 2003. The paper, which appears in the 21 October issue of the journal Nature, examines the current genome sequence, which contains 2.85 billion nucleotides, encompasses around 99 per cent of the euchromatic (or gene-containing) portion of the human genome and is 99.999 per cent accurate - 10 times more accurate than the original goal. Notably, the predicted total number of genes has fallen to just 22 287: 19 599 known protein-coding genes and a further 2188 sections of DNA predicted to be protein-coding genes. Original estimates of gene number when the draft genome sequence was released were between 30 and 40 000, a figure that was considered surprisingly small. "Only a decade ago, most scientists thought humans had about 100 000 genes. When we analysed the working draft of the human genome sequence three years ago, we estimated there were about 30 000 to 35 000 genes, which surprised many. “This new analysis reduces that number even further and provides us with the clearest picture yet of our genome," said NHGRI Director Francis Collins. "The availability of the highly accurate human genome sequence in free public databases enables researchers around the world to conduct even more precise studies of our genetic instruction book and how it influences health and disease." ‘Finished' doesn't mean that the human genome sequence is perfect. There still remain 341 gaps in the finished human genome sequence, in contrast to the 150 000 gaps in the working draft…’ Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, 2004

Unearthing the Human Genome

Invading the sacredness of someone else’s bedroom top drawer -
women’s skin-powder dust, perfume ghosts; jewellery casualties
in gorgeous little velvet coffins, intestinal beads spilled, the blind

rings with lost eyes; brooches still pinning granny’s face - crippled,
bloody lipsticks, ancient silk limpening at the heart of lace - button
amputees clinging hopefully to threads, so desperate to feel needles

again in those aching holes, be re-united with dead mother garments.
The keys that haunt everybody – (if only we could find all the things
they open, close; the world - our lives, would be easier to understand).

Maybe tickets for a show – a boat, castle, years ago. Love words
and poems bleeding black and blue through skinny yellow paper;
cheesy souvenir thimble, horrible ribbon bows from forced necks

of momentous flowers - loud scarves slithering, slowly coming back
into fashion; pills for a forgotten illness with illegible doctor’s script,
safety-pins a-waiting sartorial danger; all these odd things washed up

from a life into the drawer, as sand passively takes all-comers – not
asking why, what for, just lays them out like starfish hands, accepts;
gradually becoming person-spelled, printed, like church icons slowly

growing holy. Imagine invading the sacredness of an egg, without
smashing, sawing, slicing. Think of the shape, perfect inviolability,
except for butting sperm inveigling mammal egg, promising cargo,

half-written letter by special delivery; the letterbox opening, healing,
as new life writes on the seemingly empty page - but magic happens,
lemon-juice writing, cocktail-shaking, spinning – an automaton body

making itself as mystery and grace hover like the breath of a lake;
halo, light anchored in a shining object - knowing skin boundaries
but not of them. The rooted, composted, whirring of letters shifting,

reforming - machine-knitting original patterns but incorporating still
Cable, Fair Isle, Turtle Neck. Patiently designing tiger fur, Einstein’s
brain, kingfisher wing, apple-belly; how to print love in a living eye.


Even beneath Plasticine’s pliable body -
before coming into warm moulding hands,

nimble fingers, multiple elastic fate;
mutability, passive form - material

at the heart of soft molecule,
to the inner nature of supple.

Even under thin star bones,
stuff of bone, white fibre -

to softness, cloud bone,
scaffold idea of bone -

white bone dream;
it is dark there -

everything unrealised, present -
like the absent breath of a ghost

inhabiting a prickling, cold room -
innocence of a black light switch

wired at the start of time -
where air is still dark space.

Now torches, spotlights shining
on the Genome’s many hearts -

all knowing in their history
each other’s beats and wars;

each one mother, son, sister, brother,
daughter to the other; genetic family,

the communal products of adaptation,
even collation of wrong information -

molecular meltdown, struggle and disease;
but always correcting or die in the attempt.

Always printing and editing - creating fantastic
patterns, chains; labour and success, developing

engineering, embroidering beauty; more
and more dazzling chemistry, creativity –

the tools of love, heart mechanics;
operation of eyes, hands blooming.

Like the tinkering watchmaker removing
the back, seeing unmistakeable artistry -

the mark, signature; instantly
knowing the maker’s name.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Working on the Human Genome

‘Francis Collins is a committed Christian and heads the publicly-funded National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in Washington DC, US…His professional reward, he says, comes when he discovers something that “the creator knew ahead of time - that's one of the aspects of my existence I wouldn't trade for anything”.’ BBC News

Working on the Human Genome

I am working in the realm of Grace -
when I hang up my bright white coat,

its hollow arms fall sloppily warm,
droop open like tired wings - shine

under dazzling laboratory light.
I have been borrowed, loaned -

when I return from my labour
to familiar family and friends,

my tongue babbles white smiles;
I think when I touch my children

you will see this character silver
dripping from my loving fingers -

like the blood of mercury, nectar,
printing invisibly as kisses print,

shining their interior molecules -
because I have touched the divine.

I think they will see it -
in the pupils of my eyes,

like an infection of stars, love-scar,
because I have witnessed the divine;

so carefully unwrap the packaging,
to see the holy, golden gifts inside,

stripped of skin and shape.
And yet, I am there too -

all shining, shimmer-shivery,
as if stepped from the shower;

like a dripping silver ghost, indistinct -
then slipping even from this live ghost,

like a glorious embroidered robe -
and laughing aloud to see myself

only as code, known
as Word and light -

message and meaning;
love-print in the world.

All this makes me feel wonderful; as if
I come home looking just like the Moon.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Human Genome Project – Method (1)

“The pursuit of a single gene is an arduous task… like looking at the Earth from outer space, focusing first on Lake Michigan, then finding Chicago on the shore, narrowing the view down to one neighborhood, finding a specific house, spotting a person sitting in the back yard, and then examining the hairs on the back of her hand.” John Daley, Biologist, Whitehead Institute, US

‘Sequencing the human genome depended on many technological improvements in the production and analysis of sequence data. Key innovations were developed both within and outside the Human Genome Project. Laboratory innovations included four-colour fluorescence-based sequence detection, improved fluorescent dyes, dye-labelled terminators, polymerases specifically designed for sequencing, cycle sequencing and capillary gel electrophoresis. These studies contributed to substantial improvements in the automation, quality and throughput of collecting raw DNA sequence.’ Human Genome Project, Nature


Celera Sequencing - 60 million overlapping fragments, each 2,000 to 10,000 bases long,
Human Genome Project Sequencing - 22,000 fragments, each 100,000 to 300,000 bases long
Time to assemble 12,000 bases – 1980: more than a year; 1997 - 20 minutes; 2000 - one minute.
Figs, BBC Science Online

12 000 letters of DNA decoded by the Human Genome Project every second – 20 years previously, it had taken one year.

‘The Sanger Institute has more than 1500 devices installed on its network: more than 250 PCs and some Macintosh systems and a total of more than 700 64-bit Alpha processors. The Sanger Institute main sequence storage has more than 22 Terabytes (22,000 gigabytes) capacity. The system that serves sequence searches (the BLAST farm) has more than 400 nodes.’ Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK, where one third of Human Genome was sequenced

‘The method used for much of the genome is ‘shotgun sequencing’ which, in essence, involves breaking the genome up into conveniently sized chunks. The total size of the human genome is estimated to be about 3 billion base pairs, arrayed in 23 chromosomes. The chromosomes themselves are 50-250 million bases (megabases) long, too large to be sequenced directly (automated machines sequence fragments of between 400 and 700 bases), so the Human Genome Project fragments them into chunks of about 150 kilobases. Each of these large clones is then ‘shotgunned’ - broken into pieces of perhaps 1500 base pairs, either by enzymes or by physical shearing - and the fragments are sequenced separately. Shotgunning the original large clone randomly several times ensures that some of the fragments will overlap; computers then analyse the sequences of these small fragments, looking for end sequences that overlap - indicating neighbouring fragments - and assembling the original sequence of the clone… The alternative approach, ‘whole-genome shotgun sequencing’, was first used in 1982 by the inventor of shotgun sequencing, Fred Sanger, while working on phages (viruses of bacteria). In this technique, which has been used by the commercial company Celera Genomics, the whole genome is broken into small fragments that can be sequenced then reassembled. Although this approach can be highly automated and efficient - and has been very successful for the sequencing of the genomes of microorganisms and the fruitfly Drosophila - reassembling the fragments from the human genome is far more difficult and requires powerful computers.’ Wellcome Trust

Human Genome Project – Method (1)

It began, turning blind earth -
unknown geography, contours,

continents; panning sea - mining
air; hunting nuggets with needles,

teaspoons, in sluggish light,
glow-worms in dense night.

Then forks, ladles, spades;
buckets, diggers, trawlers -

storm lamps, growing brighter -
eagle eye transplanted to mole;

octopus arms to singing whale -
spotlight burning to lighthouse,

starlight seeding sun,
supernova, sunspots -

until bright nuggets strung;
sparkling, twitching beads

on silver strings -
life’s memorials

to the living and dead;
senseless knowledge

of order, space, materials -
chemical wire pulling pearls.

Spirit-pattern, matter unrealised,
insubstantial chimera of being -

spinning intricacy from simplicity -
uncovered, now revealed, displayed,

like a body put to bed in pure acid -
only known to us as mind translates

Sun to smiles - snowflakes and stars
rendered into their shining skeletons.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Slowness, at enormous speed

Slowness, at enormous speed -

Slowness, at enormous speed -
war against inaccurate darkness,

to bring this amazing thing to light,
good hands. Orphaned from life -

isolated script, deducible chemistry;
the dissection of beauty, expression

shaking hands with shifting skeleton,
which is silver; shining - promising

Earth and all her creatures -
new unity and understanding.

From the circus-masters, our animal
preserved, free - from taxidermists -

scrap-merchants, white-coated vultures,
we have cradled our mighty monument;

dream, hope, idea, thought, action,
discussion, argument, race, draft -

trumpets, labour, refinement;
completion, more refinement…

chromosome by chromosome now,
the Genome will not stop yielding.

‘Even more detailed annotations and analyses have already been published for chromosomes 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21, 22 and Y. Publications describing the remaining 12 chromosomes are forthcoming.’ Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, 2004

‘Biological research increasingly depends on 'finished' genome sequences. Deducing what is absent from these sequences is not trivial. More than 99% of the euchromatic portion of the human genome is now represented as a high-quality finished sequence with each base ordered and oriented. However, two principal types of gap remain: heterochromatic (estimated to be 200 Mb) and euchromatic (23.0 Mb) gaps. Here, we use various global sources of data to help understand the nature of the gaps in the finished human genome. Not all gaps are recalcitrant to subcloning, nor are most heterochromatic. The presence of recent segmental duplications is the most important predictor of gap location in euchromatic sequences. The resolution of these regions remains an important challenge for the completion of the human genome, gene annotation and SNP assignment.’ An assessment of the sequence gaps: Unfinished business in a finished human genome, Nature, 2004

‘Dr Francis Collins, the scientist leading the Human Genome Project, says he expects important new gene sequences governing aspects of personality, such as intelligence and behaviour, to be known very shortly. While the project to crack our DNA code has been targeted at understanding and eradicating disease, Dr Collins believes the project will provide significant insights into a broad range of heritable aspects. "We haven't discovered most of those yet, but frankly, we should be prepared for an avalanche of that kind of information coming in the next two or three years," he told the BBC World Service's The Interview programme. "On top of the Human Genome Project, which laid out the letters of the code in a 'reference DNA sequence' way, we now have a very good encyclopaedia of the variable parts. "Researchers are using those in very powerful ways, to track down the specific genes involved in very complicated things - including intelligence," said the director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute. Dr Collins stressed that understanding the genes governing behaviour was not the main focus of the Human Genome Project. Instead, it remains firmly focussed on identifying the faulty genes responsible for disease, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.’ BBC, 2006

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Revealing the Human Genome

‘In a recent issue of Nature, the landmark paper has appeared that describes and discusses the finished version ('build 35') of the human genome. This International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium's new build of the genome sequence is as finished as current technology allows, which is a major improvement on the initial draft sequence. The finished version of the genome sequence covers 2.85 Gbp or 99% of the euchromatic region, with only 341 gaps, compared to the 150 000 in the working draft. It has a long-range continuity of 39.5 Mb, which is 475 times better than the 81 kb in the working draft, and the sequence has been delivered at an error rate of 1 10-5: almost 10 times better than the quality standard of 10-4 originally aimed for…The authors of this landmark paper emphasize the extremely rigorous quality control applied to achieve and validate this result. And rightly so, this sequence will be the raw material upon which future generations of scientists and healthcare workers will base studies that depend on highly reliable data. To this aim, 40 Mb was independently resequenced, and an overlap study was carried out on 4235 clones from one large insert library. As hoped for, the latter showed a bimodal distribution of base differences, consistent with half of these coming from one haplotype and half from the other. These results confirm that the sequencing error rate is 20−100 times lower than the human polymorphism rate. This confirms the finished human genome sequence as a robust resource for large-scale evolutionary, functional and comparative analyses. The Consortium also resequenced 750 000 clones (8 coverage) from an independent fosmid library to validate over 97% of the junctions of the large insert clones. This analysis also suggests the presence of 50−100 erroneous deletions (average 5 kb).’ European Journal of Human Genetics, 2005

‘The biological code crackers sequencing the human genome have said they have finished the job - two years ahead of schedule. Their announcement came less than three years after a "rough draft" was published to worldwide acclaim...The decoding is now close to 100% complete…American institutions have been the major partners in the decoding programme. When the Human Genome Project was formally launched, there were some who thought it could take 20 years or more to complete. But robotics and supercomputers speeded up the process hugely… The purpose of the last three years has been to fill in gaps in the DNA sequence and "proof read" the data to produce a "gold standard" that will inform genetic research for years to come. Jane Rogers, head of sequencing at the Sanger Institute, said: “We have reached the limits we set on this project, achieving tremendously high standards of quality much more quickly than we hoped. The working draft allowed researchers to kick-start a multitude of biomedical projects. Now they have a highly polished end product which will assist them even more. It's a bit like moving on from a first-attempt demo music tape to a classic CD," she said…Identifying genes can now be done in days instead of years.’ Ivan Noble, BBC News Online, 2003

‘Finishing the euchromatic sequence of the human genome - The international collaboration has worked to convert this draft into a genome sequence with high accuracy and nearly complete coverage. Here, we report the result of this finishing process. The current genome sequence (Build 35) contains 2.85 billion nucleotides interrupted by only 341 gaps. It covers 99% of the euchromatic genome and is accurate to an error rate of 1 event per 100,000 bases. Many of the remaining euchromatic gaps are associated with segmental duplications and will require focused work with new methods. The near-complete sequence, the first for a vertebrate, greatly improves the precision of biological analyses of the human genome including studies of gene number, birth and death. Notably, the human genome seems to encode only 20,000−25,000 protein-coding genes. The genome sequence reported here should serve as a firm foundation for biomedical research in the decades ahead… Because the precise scientific plan and the feasible degree of accuracy and completeness were unclear at the outset, the sequencing of the human genome proceeded in phases… Notably, the finishing phase required roughly equal resources of time and expense as the draft phase.’ Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, 2004

Revealing the Human Genome

Such a staggering spillage of secrets -
this walnut-cracking, slow unlocking

of a sacred, long buried biological box,
which we didn’t even know had a lid -

yielding key, cipher - sealed centuries
of blood and death’s fruitful sampling;

Evolutionary time capsule
still roaming modern Earth.

Such rushing into unaccustomed light -
sequencers, processors, spewing pattern,

curious letter fountain in electric air,
for the whole world’s artificial eye -

like finding light has a skeleton,
white bone - aeons before bone,

the honed dream of first light
that commanded itself to be -

and was, illumined even in the cup
of darkness, a shut eye dreaming -

discovering it came from families of light -
pinprick to star to heavenly recipe; sampled

in burning salmon sunset - summer honey
filling sugared flowercups; lickable, sticky

gold of autumn afternoons, the mussel-stomach
colour enchanting the Western Isles at evening.

Like finding dark has skeleton – exoskeleton;
soft blue skull like a squashy baby fontanelle

hardening at late evening under navy skin,
to glossy black turtle - crawling with stars.

The human being is now unspooling
animal skins, our old cast costumes -

our glorious burning tiger robe,
dazzling, missing swan wings -

eye-flower, leaf-palm,
our foot-root, bat-arm -

beyond example flesh,
the enormity of atoms,

marvellous weight of existence;
excising to what remains - left

held in the scientist’s palm
like a magic seed of light -

a description using light
because there is no word,

no suitable explanation,
existing simple symbol,

for the original Word,
which just is; yes - is.

A nest of letters,
written in light -

cocooned in darkness,
dreaming always, life -

translated by computers
trying to learn grace; art.

‘… the successful completion this month of all of the original goals of the Human Genome Project (HGP) emboldens the launch of a new phase for genomics research, to explore the remarkable landscape of opportunity that now opens up before us. Like Shakespeare, we are inclined to say, “what’s past is prologue” (The Tempest, Act II, Scene 1). If we, like bold architects, can design and build this unprecedented and noble structure, resting on the firm bedrock foundation of the HGP (Figure 2), then the true promise of genomics research for benefiting humankind can be realized. “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will themselves not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will not die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency” (attributed to Daniel Burnham, architect).’ A Vision for the Future of Genomics Research, Francis S Collins, Eric D Green, Alan E Guttmacher & Mark S Guyer on behalf of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, Nature, 2003

‘Owing to the emphasis on thoroughness, validation and QC, the flavor of the [Human Genome Sequencing Consortium] paper is rather more technical than the mainly biology-oriented working draft publication, which was therefore, unsurprisingly, more electrifying. …. One revisited issue is the human gene count. This is corrected to an estimate of 22 500 (range 20−25 000): downwards from the already surprisingly low estimate of 31 000 in the working draft.’ European Journal of Human Genetics, 2005

Coaxing our ghost from skin wall,
bone helmet, wild animal, flower;

pattern among drapes of existence -
furred, spotted, fleshed; the running

glory of them to our pinnacle eye -
grown slowly in the rumbling belly

of time, from death’s foetal waters,
stories of continual fertilising birth –

into dazzling light, comes brighter light,
like the skeleton of a star, heart of a star,

star-seed. We have caught ourselves
in the process of life, computer-held,

coagulated a moment - not frozen,
as the Genome is always evolving;

never a Gingerbread man, static pattern,
but man becoming - a work-in-progress,

like water pausing as mercury -
river as silver ribbon from afar

for the benefit of comprehension;
possibility of process, perception.

We have deduced ourselves,
our living poetry, nature -

poetry that speaks our name;
all others - living and dead -

animal, man, fish, plant -
shown to be one structure.

‘For some it's the sense of completion. For others it's the importance of getting it right. Either way, the completion of the human genome project in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of DNA's helical structure is attended by many sighs of relief… Two groups of scientists revealed draft versions of the human DNA sequence: one from a private company, one from an international and publicly funded consortium. Labs involved in the latter have been slogging to fill the holes ever since. Today they are announcing closure: 98% of the regions that actually contain genes are done…Some bits remain elusive; for unknown reasons, current molecular-biology tools cannot get the better of them. Whether or not the details actually matter is "a matter of bar room fistfights", says Branscomb. But there is pressure to be accurate because this sequence serves as a reference to which people's genomes are compared.’ Helen Pearson, Nature, 2003

The world will hold collective breath a moment;
TV food hang cooling, hooked on frozen fork -

before treacherous sinking sands of everyday,
duty’s ambush; television, bills and pleasure -

our tailored sorrows, fitted panniers on our back,
eclipse interest blinkers, illuminated attention -

snuff wonder, humbling perspective; that stirring -
as we avoid the shattering night beauty of stars.