novel:
whole thing so far, release notes, chapter one, chapter two
news:
front page, archive, timeline, most popular, undead celebrities, future news, future science gearbox, newest & most improved
company:
about us, history, our founder, business model, investor relations, careers, corporate culture, as seen on
products:
our products, research services, financial services, publications, dingo stroller
innovations:
philosophy, temporal networking, forward intentional invention, interstitial public offering, time-money value inversion

Linguists Decipher Warning Message in Genome
February 1, 2039

BOSTON--A group of researchers at MIT's Chomsky Institute announced yesterday independent confirmation of their discovery of a series of messages encoded in apparently dormant or unused sections of the human genome. "We're able to report replication of our results by at least three independent teams," explained the team's project director Klara Tulip. "We hence feel quite confident about the results and felt that they were significant enough to warrant preliminary public release."

Exploiting evolved, mathematical models derived from iterative analyses of network-available audio, video and text files in more than 200 languages, the team scanned files in the Human Genome Library for patterns consistent with the presence of a "semantic system." "We were actually using the Genome Library as a control data-set to be sure that our model wasn't producing false positives," explains Tulip. "We'd developed a mathematical and algorithmic formulation of a meta-language descriptive of all known human linguistic systems and needed to test it against some non-random data that we assumed had no semantic content. We we're stunned to find that the genome contains sequences consistent with an implied linguistic system."

Within days of discovering the presence of "semantic sequences" the team had also isolated a "Rosetta Stone" enabling them to partially decipher and translate a number of passages. "The genome appears to contain a linguistic system of remarkable economy," notes Tulip. "Like a coded message that includes detailed instructions for how it is to be decoded."

Though declining to reveal the full results of their analysis, noting that some 97% of the human genome consists of biologically unused sequences with "a statistically significant chance of containing decipherable semantic content," the team did release translations of a "number of passages of public interest," including the warning "NOT TO BE REMOVED EXCEPT BY END USER."

Among other messages, the team isolated at least 42 varied repetitions of the instruction to "[not] fold, spindle, or mutilate" and two apparently inconsistent warranties, one claiming "absence of defect in material or workmanship for 180 days from formulation" and one disavowing "all warranties of fitness for use except as otherwise required." "Our initial analysis has uncovered a number of repetitions, counter-factuals, and internal-inconsistencies suggesting that these genomic messages are a product of the same evolutionary forces driving reproduction of the non-semantic portions of the genome," observes Tulip.

Responding to news of the team's discovery, critics, including a number of prominent linguists and bioinformaticians, characterize the research as a Rorschach Test revealing more about the researchers' assumptions than about the meaning of human genes. "You have to look closely at their model, at what their meta-linguistic model assumes about the world," notes Harvard Professor of Statistics Joseph Climb. "If you go into the world with a sufficiently abstract model of 'language' you'll start finding Shakespeare inside rocks and twigs."

Discounting such criticism as "mathematically unsophisticated," project leader Tulip points to the astronomical odds against "a chance consistency that would permit our model to identify such a vast pool of semantically significant sequences. Our genome has something to say. The real question is why--what evolutionary purpose could these messages serve?"

filed in:future science gearbox
related stories:Engineered Corn Communicates, Crunches Numbers
Celera Issues Recall of 'Diet' Gene
Mosquito-Repelling Genes Now Available Over-the-Counter
Maryland Startup Sequences English Language
send this story to a friend
rate this story:  (sucks) 1 2 3 4 5 (great)    
PREVIOUS(go to list of stories)NEXT
free email subscription: 
questions? problems? : feedback@futurefeedforward.com
privacy policy | terms of use | rss:xml
copyright 2000-2007, some rights reserved, Hamlet Monkeys Media
licensed under a creative commons license