Genomics researchers were astonished to learn on Tuesday that, not only do microarrays still exist, but people still use them.
“I was utterly gobsmacked” said Dr Farr Sickle of UC Davis, California. “I nearly fell off my stool. Microarrays? Really?! I’d forgotten about those!”
Microarrays were a technology invented in the UK during the industrial revolution (c 1760 – 1820) and were produced using steam-powered printing presses in large factories near Manchester. The “technology” featured brightly coloured dots that were lit up at random and which bore no relation to any useful measure whatsoever. Despite this, microarrays were popular amongst bioinformaticians who could use the data to fool real scientists into thinking they were geniuses.
“Ah, I remember the days!” a source at the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB) said. “We used to have entire 5-day conferences devoted to figuring out what on earth the data meant. Then we figured out it was completely random. Those were the days”
In recent years, RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq) has been favoured over microarrays. This new technology, using next-generation sequencing, is slightly more accurate, and nations have recently declared war over which is the best aligner to use.
In a recent poll, 98% of researchers answered “next-generation sequencing” to every single question – even their name, age and job title. The new science of “sequence first, think later” has been coined “nextgenomics”.