The Hero of Science

A guest post by Derek Blander, the most amazing scientist of all time….

In 1957, the world was bequeathed a gift – one of the greatest scientists to ever live was born – me.  This post details some of my achievements since then, and I know you will all kneel down in front of me and worship my patents.

Despite being minus 4 years old, in 1953 I discovered the double helical structure of DNA.  A few other people did a bit of minor ground work, such as Rosalind Franklin and Watson and Crick, but the most important bit was definitely me, no doubt about it.

In 1983, following many decades of hard work on my now beloved molecule, DNA, I invented the polymerase-chain reaction (PCR).  This reaction can take a single molecule of DNA and amplify it many times over – one might say over-amplifying the achievements of that piece of DNA, something I have become incredibly good at.

In 1994 I turned to Maths and proved Fermat’s last theorum, then transferred careers to Scotland where my team cloned Dolly the sheep.  I discovered the Tau neutrino in my spare time whilst single-handedly sequencing and publishing the human genome.  Craig Venter is just a stray piece of my ego that broke away and became real.

I produced the first induced pluripotent stem cells, sequenced the neanderthal genome and discovered the Higgs boson whilst at CERN.  Not only did I discover CRISPR, but I was actually the person who told God how to make it.

Now that we have the record straight, I hope you can all see just how amazing I am.  You are lucky to know (of) me.


Derek Blander

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Assembly problem solved by wizardry

San Diego USA, the Poorly Assembled Genomes (PAG) meeting got off to an exciting start this year as a little know bioinformatics company ordasIT took centre stage having solved the age old ‘assembly problem’ with their new secret algorithm ‘DenovoHocusPocus’

Over the years scientists have been constantly frustrated by the fact that maths has stood in the way of getting a good assembly. Mike Devon, a Norfolk farmer and complex genomes specialist explained ‘we have been constantly told that genomes are fragmented because reads are short and repeats are long, therefore, because of something to do with maths, that biologists will never understand,  we cant get long contigs just by sequencing more. It now turns out that the mistake we have been making has been that we have been over-thinking the problem”

Prof. Dumbledore, CEO of ordasIT and Head Wizard explained the DenovoHocusPocus methodology. “we observed that, historically, limitations imposed by physics have been overcome by using magic – so that’s the route we took here. However, people sometimes find the use of wizardry disturbing, so to help the end user we have made our entire assembly pipeline invisible”.

You cant run the ordasIT pipeline yourself as, to get around established mathematical theory, it must exist in a magical universe (a bit like Hogwarts). Instead you have to send your data to Dumbledore directly who, for a fee, will return a single contig per chromosome (or however many contigs you want).

Not all delegates at the PAG meeting were impressed, a sour faced delegate at the back of the room was overheard saying ‘this all smells like snake oil to me’, but nobody was listening and by that time Dumbledoor had left the building at high speed in his vintage Ferrari.

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Ash dieback continues to slaughter trees throughout Europe despite online game

UK.  Scientists revealed today that they are very surprised that Ash Dieback, a fatal fungal disease of ash trees, has maintained its relentless march through Europe, slaughtering millions of trees, despite their production of an online game designed to prevent the disease.

“It’s almost as if the fungus doesn’t have a Facebook account” lamented one of the authors.

“Gamification” is the process by which a complex problem may be solved by casting that problem as a game and allowing millions of online gamers to play for free, thus bringing huge crowd-sourced power to bear.  It has been used to solve problems such as finding the optimum protein folding structure.

“The issue here ” said Mario ‘The Godfather’ Staccato “is that protein-folding is an abstract concept – it’s important, but knowing the answer doesn’t affect real life.  Whereas ash dieback is a real fungus that attacks real trees in the real world and sticking a modified version of Tetris on Facebook realistically isn’t going to make any fucking difference” he finished.

The story of Fraxinus can be read at celebrity socialite scientist magazine eLife.

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Consortium partner is going to do everything you do, only worse

Europe.  A new survey has revealed that no matter which consortia you find yourself a member of, there will always be a partner who claims they plan to do exactly the same as you, only far, far worse.

Increasingly funders insist that projects are funded as large consortia, and include a wide range of partners.  However, given the paucity of ideas in modern research, it appears that many partners turn up to meetings simply to steal your ideas and do them really badly.

One source, who wishes to remain anonymous, is part of a large European FP2020 project, had this to say: “It’s getting really bad now.  No matter which projects you propose, there will always be a partner who claims they also plan to do the same, only far, far worse; or often they will claim that they have already done it when of course they haven’t.  Everyone knows it and it’s quite embarrassing, but what can you do?”

Another source said “We turned up at the inaugural meeting and I was leader of WP1, which aims to measure biodiversity using sequencing.  I said we should plan to sequence 10,000 individuals – because, well, what else do people do these days?  And at the end, someone stuck their hand up and said they’d already done this, so why bother?  I was a bit deflated.  But it turns out, they haven’t done 10,000 individuals, they’ve done 5; and they didn’t sequence them, they genotyped them using micro-satellites; and they didn’t choose the individuals well, it was just some found in the scientist’s own back garden.  And then it turns out they put in the budget to buy a HiSeq, which would actually be worth more than their entire institute, and we have 20 at our place anyway.   Honestly, why do funders force me to work with these people?”

TheScienceWeb planned to contact funders for their opinion on the problem, but we discovered a new satirical science news site set up in Romania that has stolen all of our blog posts.

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Academic website reaches peak bullshit

South East.  An academic institute project website has reached peak bullshit, The ScienceWeb has learned, with an entire page devoted to buzz words and phrases that mean absolutely nothing.

The Centre for Analysing Things (TCAT), a museum of unused and out-of-date sequencing technologies, is famous for producing loquacious and verbose language in an attempt to bamboozle, hoodwink and hornswaggle funders and local MPs.  TCAT have written a project page that experts confirm holds the current record for the highest ratio of of words used to meaning imparted.

“They have an infinite ratio” said the Guinness book of world records “We’ve had the page analysed by scientists and language experts alike and all of them confirm that the page means absolutely nothing.  However, many said that the use of buzz words and pseudo-language could possibly fool non-experts into thinking TCAT knew what they were talking about, and subsequently hand over cash.  We would encourage everyone to not do that” they finished.

We exerted our unique skill set to try and two-way communicate with and engage the experts and skill-vendors at TCAT, but were incapacitated by a lack of opportunity brought about by a lack of funding and commitment to actually being there to not unexpress their thought bubbles.


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“Scientists” call on Obama to fund The Unified Contaminant Initiative

Chicago.  A collection of the world’s weirdest and wackiest science fiction and fantasy authors, called collectively “microbiome researchers”, who have created some of the most outrageous fiction in recent times, have called on president Barack Obama to fund their next fantasy novel, called “The Unified Contaminant Initiative”.

Set in a parallel universe where everything on Earth, from diseases to space stations, is controlled by microbes commonly found in water and laboratory reagents, the work is set to cost billions and will be controversial as it will take money away from other work that relies on government funding, such as “science”.

“We have already seen how our fantasy work on the ‘microbiome’ can cross over into science, and we know that doesn’t work” said Gilbert Jack, Professor of Microbiomes at University of the Planet.  “so we need to keep ‘microbiomes’ and ‘real science’ completely separate, I am convinced of that” he finished.

Fellow author Sir Knight of Rob added “We saw what those Brain Initiative guys did and we were so goddamn jealous.  What the brain folk did was show that you can translate hype directly into government funding, and we thought ‘There is no field with more hype than microbiome, so let’s get us some of that cash'”.

TheScienceWeb mentioned that perhaps epigenetics could rival microbiome in terms of hype, to which Sir Knight said “Well, epigenetics has some amazing hype, some amazing fantasy stories too, but those guys still can’t approach microbiome for amazing, unbelievable, fantastical stories”

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Scientists sequence same thing on same machine many times and get same result

UK.  A bunch of scientists throughout the world have sequenced the exact same sample on the exact same machine, multiple times, and come up with the same results each time, a study in F1000Research reveals.

The somewhat unsurprising results failed to capture the imagination of anyone; however, consortium leader, Ewingsworth Barney III, had this to say: “What we have done is miraculous.  We have shown, for the very first time, that the Universe has rules, and that if you do the same thing over and over again, you will get the exact same result.  It’s almost as if the universe is governed by maths and formulae and universal constants” he finished triumphantly.

When TheScienceWeb pointed out that the field of Physics was at quite an advanced stage in determining the rules of the Universe, Barney simply stared at us until we looked away.

We asked “So what next?”

“Well”, said Barney, “next comes phase II”

“Phase II?” we enquired

“Yes, in phase II we will continue to sequence the exact same thing on the exact same machine, over and over again, and hopefully generate the exact same result each time.  You see you never know… maybe, just maybe, there are exceptions to the rule, and we can only find those by repeatedly doing the same thing forever” Barney finished.

TheScienceWeb chose not to ask about phase III.

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