Just Sequence Everything!

One of the many podcasts I follow is Adam Savage’s Untitled, the Adam Savage Project. It’s pretty good when he gets started on film-making or special effects, and sometimes it’s really interesting.

Last week’s episode, subtitled: “The Scariest Episode Yet” is one of the most interesting podcast episodes I think I have ever heard. That’s because the guest is Joe DiRisi, a molecular biologist, who has some amazing stories. I won’t spoiler any of them, though I expect that there may be spoilers in the comments – so listen to the show, first, then read the comments.

The show starts a bit slowly, with the usual nerd-heirarchy-establishing throat-sac warbling; it gets interesting when Joe says “did I ever tell you about the snakes?”

Here’s the episode: [tested]

For those of you who are reluctant to just gamble your precious time (I understand that, I really do) let me explain a bit about the discussion. DiRisi is talking about using DNA sequencing to identify new viruses or pathogens, as a diagnostic technique. Suppose Marcus has a weird thing in his eye: you sequence some Marcus DNA, then you sequence some DNA from the thing in the eye, subtract, and then try to match the DNA that’s not Marcus’ with, well, something.

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The  comments are authorized spoiler-zone.



Just to add some space: Snake Ceiling By Ai WeiWei




  1. rq says

    Oh gods, the idea of sequencing everything… Right now my immediate field is on the periphery of this, but there’s people already foraying into the sequencing aspects, and what you can find out from random bits and pieces of DNA… It’s scary and so, so interesting all at once. We haven’t even managed to soothe people about the previous technology, I don’t know what we’ll do about this one.

  2. rq says

    Reginald Selkirk
    Not the daffodil, just its chloroplast:

    The genetic code of the daffodil’s chloroplast – the DNA responsible for photosynthesis – has been mapped for the first time.

    That’s a much smaller chunk of material to sequence, but still missing out on the potential.

  3. jazzlet says

    That snake virus capsule matching the ebola capsule is seriously exciting, anything that makes working with such a dangerous disease is good news.

  4. Ketil Tveiten says

    My favourite was when he was talking about stabbing a live angry python in the heart with a syringe full of Ebola, and goes “no, that’s not the best part, it gets better”.

  5. says

    @Ketil Tveiten:
    I was laughing out loud. “When the snake wakes up it is PISSED.”

    The bit about the snake farms… that got me thinking “oh boy a huge reservoir that’s ebola compatible!”

    Just call up USAAMRID and ask “have you got any ebola?”

    I’m sick and motherfuckin’ tired of these ebola-carrying snakes on a plane.

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