November 12, 2011

« Many who draw a distinction between bioinformatics and computational biology portray the former as a tool kit and the latter as science. All would allow that the science informs the tools and the tools enable the science; in any case, bioinformatics and computational biology are near enough cousins that their origins and early influences are likely to be commingled as well. Therefore […] [we] will construe bioinformatics broadly, bearing in mind it can thus be expected to have a dual nature. This duality echoes another that goes back to Aristotle, between “episteme” (knowledge, especially scientific) and “techne” (know-how, in the sense of craft or technology). The power of bioinformatics might be seen as arising from their harmonious combination, in the Greek tradition, lending it emergent capabilities beyond the simple intersection of computers and biology, or indeed of science and engineering. »

« Gamow’s remarkable letter [to Watson and Crick] reimagined the DNA in each chromosome as a long number written in base four, so as to open up its analysis to number theory. He was soon calling this “the number of the beast”, suggesting that it varied only slightly among individuals, “whereas the numbers representing the members of two different species must show larger differences”. Not only did Gamow thus neatly frame the future of sequence bioinformatics, but he went on to pose the question of the genetic code for the first time in purely formal terms — that is, in Crick’s words, “not cluttered up with a lot of unnecessary chemical details”. »

« […] Theoretical computer scientists who first encountered biology sometimes seemed less interested in nature than in citing motivating examples for string algorithms or combinatoric problems with little regard for their practical application. »

~ “The roots of bioinformatics”, D.B. Searls. PLOS Computational Biology, 2010.

%d bloggers like this: