After the Genomes: Season 1


Image source:  HBO.com

Andy: Surprise! The human genome is still as boring as it always was.

Chris: Oh, come on, you didn’t get turned on by that BAM file?

Andy: Hi, I’m Andy. 

Chris: Hi, I’m Chris, and this is “After the Genomes!”

Andy: Each week for the next three weeks, we’ll be looking back on Game of Genomes, an ongoing series at STAT News written by science journalist, Carl Zimmer.

Chris: That’s right. Yet another journalist has made the plunge into the abyss of his own genome. Spoiler alert! There’s nothing there. But Carl gets to claim that he’s the first journalist to look into his own “BAM file.” Take that, David Duncan and Misha Angrist!

Andy: So let’s jump right in. This week we got to binge read the entire first season. And boy was it full of . . . moving fish.

Chris: Right? I mean what was with that? For me it was like counting sheep. I used it every night to go to sleep. I pretty much missed the first episode.

Andy: I loved the fish. It took me back to my primal evolutionary roots. I really felt my inner fish wiggling away, juicing up my eagerness to hear about Zimmer’s genome.

Chris: OK.

Andy: What?

Chris: So what happened in the first episode? Let’s see if you can tell me. And I’m not buying it. Is science so boring that we need gimmicky graphics distracting us?

Andy: Actually, you’re right Chris. Nothing really happened. Except we found out that Carl Zimmer is not really interested in high art.

Chris: Come again. How did you arrive at that conclusion?

Andy: Well, there was this business at the outset of “This is not Carl Zimmer” and “This is Carl Zimmer.”

Chris: Oh yeah, I got that far.

Andy: The best I can make out: scientist Mark Gerstein was trying to assert a philosophical point, and Carl didn’t get it, so he put it at the beginning of the piece.

Chris: It’s a common journalistic move. Whatever material you have left over and don’t understand, use that to start your article.

Andy: Do you think he was alluding to that famous painting by Magritte, a picture of a pipe which has the caption under it, “This is not a pipe.”? 

Chris: Let’s jump to the second episode, “A Code Is Broken.”

Andy: The artistic code?

Chris: Speaking of paintings, this episode features that picture of Carl standing in line at the Westminster Dog Show.

Andy: I liked it. The honest feeling of any patient going to the doctor.

Chris: Yes, but--OK, I’m going to be a bad boy. Cuz hey, this is HBO, right? I mean when you think of Carl Zimmer, what kind of place do you see as his natural habitat?

Andy: He's that guy at the science fair who really needs to go to the bathroom but can’t stop looking at the exhibit of the glowing piss ants?

Chris: No. Think of the well manicured poodle from the picture in line just ahead of Carl. So perfectly blow dried.

Andy: Ok.

Chris: Carl writes that perfect kind of Goldilocks science journalism which isn’t too skeptical nor too in awe; it's neither assertive nor introspective. It’s just right. He tames science for the middle class.

Andy: I think you mean middle school.

Chris: He writes about fascinating science, but he doesn’t want to raise anyone’s blood pressure. His pen must trim here and there lest a hair be out of place.

Andy: God forbid, a hair of science be out of place.

Chris: OK, moving on.

Andy:  Haha. This is fun. BTW, what did you make of Carl writing “hell” in a sentence?

Chris: Come on. We have a job to do here. To the third episode.

Andy: Yes, the BAM episode. This is really the climax of the whole first season, isn’t it? Finally we get to see technology fetishized in all its glory in the form of a hard drive with the raw BAM file showing up on Carl’s front door step. Now that was some sexy writing!

Chris: “I unzipped the case, and inside I found a hard drive with a brushed-metal gleam.”

Andy: When I read that sentence, time came to a halt. The hairs on the back of my neck shivered. My genome leapt inside me.

Chris: “Brushed-metal.”

Andy: Yes, “brushed-metal.” And written with the dash, my favorite journalistic spelling corrector. 

Chris: It was a great climax.  Who knew that none of us regular “civilians” could get our genome BAM file?

Andy: Carl Zimmer rocks. I mean, the guy can walk into about any science lab in the country and get scientists eating out of his genome.

Chris: BTW, did you ever check to see if BAMrights.com is available?

Andy: No, I was playing Pokemon Go. But, are you sure you want your BAM? Because, it turns out that scientist Mark Gerstein didn’t want to see his BAM.

Chris: So we’re skipping episode four?

Andy: Yes.  On to the final episode. It turns out that our hero, Carl Zimmer--that scientist charming, science taming, perfect sentence writing journalist--comes through in the end with more courage than the scientist. Would you get your BAM file, Chris?

Chris: Yes, definitely!  Carpe datum, man.

Andy: And that’s all the time we have for today. Join us next week for Episode Two of “After the Genomes!” I’m not Andy.

Chris: And I’m not Chris. So long!



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