Friday, December 27, 2013

Simple Science: Algorithms for Compressive Genomics

This is a post in our Simple Science Descriptions series of pieces written with the Up-Goer Five Text Editor restricting writers to the ten hundred most used words in English. It's harder than you might think! Send your entries (preferably under 350 words) to jeanyang [at] mit [dot] edu.


Learning the life words* that make people, and trees, and animals, and all other kinds of life, helps people like doctors find out how to help sick people, and how life works. One thing we do with these life words is to search all the life words we know to find ones that are like other ones. This search is very important.
Since people started reading life words, the words that make humans and animals and trees, we have found more and more life words. We have found so many life words, that computers aren't getting faster fast enough to keep up!

But, some life words are a lot like other life words. In fact, most life words are very much like other life words. The different parts of your life words and a tree's life words are very small.

I work on helping computers learn how to make all the life words smaller, so they can search only the life words that are not like other life words. This way, computers don't need to search nearly as much. This allows us to look through even bigger sets of life words, like those in your stomach, or in the ground, or in the water.  I hope this will help doctors find new ways to help sick people.

- Noah M. Daniels, Post-Doctoral Associate in Computational Biology

* I chose "life words" for DNA.

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