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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Challenge: Memorize the Human Genome

I've lifted what's below entirely from the Annals of Improbable Research newsletter
which suggested "post as appropriate".  So here goes:

"Biologists, rise to the challenge! You count, too!

"The publication of the human genome makes it possible for
biologists to breast-beatingly compete with mathematicians.

"Loads of people vie to memorize the most digits of the number pi
(the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter). Several
people boast of reciting, from memory, in the correct order, tens
upon thousands of digits. For a list of record-claimers, see

"Biologists, arise! Pi is of infinite length, true, but the human
genome has about three billion base pairs. It will be a while
before the pi spouters reach that neighborhood.

"And true, one person's genome is a little different from
another's, but that's just a technicality.
(One way to the problem: Specify that genome pioneer Craig
Ventor's genome is the only one that counts. No one else's genome
is the subject of a tribute song. See <

"This wonderfully pointless exercise - reciting the human base
pairs, from memory - can delight persons of a certain personality
type. Acclaim is something they count on."
Actually, this is potentially of some use, unlike memorizing the digits of pi, which is completely pointless.  It's not likely to be of use, but it's possible.