mrcreek: Pikaia, a distant relative (pic#265175)
[personal profile] mrcreek in [community profile] bioinformatics
I am looking for good examples of bioinformatics in fiction. Biotechnology and genetics are major themes in stories ranging from science fiction to crime thrillers. Most of the time, though, either the focus is on cloning or modifying DNA rather than interpreting it, or else the part where DNA is compared to a database is mentioned in a throwaway sentence but there is no discussion of how it was analyzed. Even though bioinformatics is complicated, there is no reason why parts of it couldn't be explained to a lay audience. I have easily followed plenty of plots, from Sherlock Holmes to Contact to the Da Vinci Code, which revolve around characters figuring things using fields of study in which I had very little prior knowledge.

Here are a few examples I can think of so far (I haven't read any of these in a while, so my summaries might be slightly off):

Darwin's Radio by Bear. Studies of endogenous viruses in the modern human genome and in Neandertal DNA play a pivotal role in the plot.

Relic by Preston and Child. In at least one scene, a sassy computer program talks a researcher through the process of taxonomically identifying the source(s) of a DNA sample.

Jurassic Park by Crichton. Although the main event is of course cloning and minor genetic modification, the book does a fairly good job explaining how the scientists made sense of dinosaur DNA.

Please help me think of more. Movies and TV shows are okay, too, although it's usually possible to fit more scientific details into novels or short stories. I'm definitely interested in amateur fiction, also; give me the links.

on 2010-05-21 10:14 pm (UTC)
foxfirefey: A wee rat holds a paw to its mouth. Oh, the shock! (thoughtful)
Posted by [personal profile] foxfirefey
Possibly The White Plague by Frank Herbert--but I honestly can't remember how technical it got.

Also The Calorie Man by Paolo Bacigalupi hints at things but doesn't go too in depth.

Rummaging through this site might help.

Maybe some things by Peter Watts like Starfish?
"Pyranosal RNA," Scanlon said after a moment. "Five-sided ribose ring. A precursor to modern nucleic acids, pretty widespread about three and a half billion years ago. The library says it would've made a perfectly acceptable genetic template on its own; faster replication than DNA, fewer replication errors. Never caught on, though."


This is surprisingly harder than I thought it'd be, woe.
Edited on 2010-05-21 10:14 pm (UTC)

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