April 25, 2014 6:02 PM   Subscribe

The Animated Genome is a spirited 5-minute film that uses graphics to explain the makeup of your genome and how it affects life and health. It's part of Genome: Unlocking Life's Code, an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.
posted by grouse (6 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
"Every living thing on earth has DNA".
I don't know about that , I thought virus' only had RNA. That's why they mutate so erratically.
posted by Narrative_Historian at 2:33 AM on April 26, 2014

Some viruses have RNA, others have DNA. And then we get into the whole (unproductive) discussion about whether viruses are actually alive.

It's an acceptable simplification.
posted by outlier at 2:52 AM on April 26, 2014

What is the discussion about whether viruses are alive ? Is that a Christian fundamentalist idea ?
posted by Narrative_Historian at 4:05 AM on April 26, 2014

What? No. It's actually an old-ish scientific debate going back to at least the 1930s.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:09 AM on April 26, 2014

And then we get into the whole (unproductive) discussion about whether viruses are actually alive.

The borders of definitions are often the most interesting places to examine and test assumptions, including what is the threshold for life, which is actually pretty hard to define.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:37 AM on April 26, 2014

The "are viruses alive" argument is unproductive, because whatever the answer you come up with, the response is "so what?" If they were alive, that would mean ... uh, nothing. And if they were considered not alive, that would change ... nothing. No advances, no new questions to ask, no new paradigms. It's like debating whether a splash of paint is an orangey-red or reddish-orange.

As MBR said, it's an old debate. About the only output is that it underlines the idea of life / biology as a spectrum of complexity, rejecting essentialism and idea of a "spark of life".

Most of the arguments center around viruses needing a host for replication, hijacking the genetic machinery of a living cell. As one of the primary qualities of life is reproduction, a virus cannot reproduce without "help", therefore it is not really alive. Counterpoint: all living things require specialised environments outside of which they are non-functional. A virus is just an extreme form of this.

But, again, this doesn't get you any closer to a cure for cancer. Or influenza in this case.
posted by outlier at 11:23 AM on April 26, 2014

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