Shakespeare? It’s in the DNA

shks_dna

Are you old enough to remember when floppy disks were actually floppy? Or maybe when disks were 3″ wide? (Yes, kids, that’s what that little icon to “save” your work to your hard drives and flash drives represents, a hard little disk that held approximately two Word files or a half a dozen pictures (but not at the same time).

Maybe you think data storage has reached its pinnacle. It is rather startling to realize you carry more technology in your pocket on your smart phone than was available for the moon landing (but with considerably less LOL cats).  But when you understand that there is now over one trillion gigabytes of information in the world, not even the iPhone 204 can keep up with that pace. (Here’s what 10 trillion gigabytes looks like in numbers: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000…. ten plus twenty one zeroes).

Every method of storage we have thus far employed has had long-term storage problems. CDs and DVDs scratch and wear out, as do magnetic tapes. But what about DNA, nature’s storage system? DNA is compact and durable. We can extract DNA information from bones that are millions of years old.

It sounds like science fiction, but it’s actually science-in-action. Nick Goldman heads up a research team at European Bioinformatics Institute in the U.K. Goldman and his fellow scientists are studying DNA data storage and Goldman has written a paper on the process which appeared  in the journal Nature last week.

In an interview with Ira Flatow on NPR’s “Science Friday,” Goldman explains that DNA utilizes a storage system much like computers use ones and zeroes so “[w]e wrote a computer program that embodied a code that would convert the zeros and ones from a hard disk drive into the letters that we use to represent DNA, and then we – our collaborators in California  - were able to actually synthesize physical DNA.”

Once the scientists realized this was possible, they decided what they would first try to encode and store:

[W]e chose a photograph of our own institute because we’re sort of self-publicists at heart, I guess, and an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s speech “I Have a Dream,” all of Shakespeare’s sonnets and a PDF that contained in fact the paper, the scientific paper by Watson and Crick that first described the structure of DNA itself.

All of this information, Golman says, is saved  on the equivalent of a speck of dust. How large of an area would contain all 10 trillion gigabytes of the world’s information? It would “fit in the back of a station wagon.”


Young Adult Classics “The Giver” and “Tiger Eyes” as Major Motion Pictures

giver

There is good news for young adults (and parents) who are tired of lifeless, often commercially-oriented films. Two classic novels for young people, Lois Lowry’s The Giver  is in production and Judy Blume’s Tiger Eyes was released in 2012.

Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, Lowry’s The Giver is often required reading in junior high and it is one novel that most students enthusiastically embrace.  Set in the future, Lowry’s riveting tale revolves around Jonas and his “community.”  When Jonas is selected to be the new “Receiver of Memories,” he discovers that the idealized life his community has created is horrific. Little by little, Jonas becomes increasingly aware that everyone he knows and loves, and everything he has been taught in his engineered, perfect world is evil.

For the film version, (the making of which has been rumored for some fifteen years) actor Jeff Bridges will play the lead. Auditions are still underway to fulfill the role of Jonas. You can listen to an interview with Lowry and the upcoming film based on her novel on NPR’s Studio 360 here.

(Have you been assigned The Giver in school or do you want to learn more? Here at eNotes, not only do we have a comprehensive study guide for the work, but also individual quizzes for each chapter of the novel!  Test your knowledge before your exam or just for fun!)

tiger_eyes

Another  teen favorite which made its debut on the big screen recently is Judy Blume’s classic novel Tiger Eyes. Tiger Eyes is about  teenager Davey Wexler dealing with her father’s sudden and shocking death. Like all of Blume’s work, (which has won over ninety awards) the author treats real world concerns of teenagers with deftness but also includes her trademark humor which keeps even the most sensitive of topics from becoming overbearing.  Tiger Eyes was released in April 2012. You can listen to an interview with Blume on NPR’s Think with Krys Boyd here.

Want to learn more about Tiger Eyes? Check out our study guide and stay tuned for upcoming chapter-by-chapter quizzes for the work!

Readers, what other Young Adult novels would you like to see given a cinematic treatment?


The Big Read: Get Talking About Books

big_read

One of the things I miss most about graduate school is the time to luxuriate in conversation with intelligent, engaged people about literature.  Inevitably, someone had a different take on some element of the book that made me re-evaluate my own position or, conversely, helped me feel more confident about an interpretation.

In a recent interview on NPR’s Morning Edition, Oprah Winfrey told interviewer Lynn Neary that her reason for starting the original book club (that catapulted so many authors to fame and fortune) was for the exact same reasons as my own: wanting to talk to other people books.

Of course, there are probably hundreds of book clubs in every city and intimate gatherings are great. But if your life and relationships are anything like mine, trying to get friends to commit, show up at the same time, and actually have read your selection by a specific date can about as successful as herding cats.

That’s why I think that this year, for the first time, I am going to attempt to participate in a number of  “Big Reads.”  The Big Read is a project sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts “designed to revitalize the role of literature in American culture and to encourage citizens to read for pleasure and enlightenment.”

Here is a brief description of how The Big Read works (learn more by clicking the link):

Through The Big Read, selected communities come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 34* selections from U.S. and world literature. In addition, The Big Read provides comprehensive information about the authors and their works in the Our Books section of The Big Read website.

Click here to enter your city, state, or zip code to find out what your community is reading, find a “real life” book club or online discussions.

Curious what titles up for discussion? Here are just a few of the selections, ranging from new works to classics:

alvarez

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

bless_me

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya

451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

antonia

My Antonia by Willa Cather

dickinson

The Poetry of Emily Dickinson

 


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 782 other followers