Imagine that someone gives you a mystery novel with an entire page ripped out.
And let’s suppose someone else comes up with a computer program that reconstructs the missing page, by assembling sentences and paragraphs lifted from other places in the book.
Imagine that this computer program does such a beautiful job that most people can’t tell the page was ever missing.
DNA does that.
In the 1940′s, the eminent scientist Barbara McClintock damaged parts of the DNA in corn maize. To her amazement, the plants could reconstruct the damaged section. They did so by copying other parts of the DNA strand, then pasting them into the damaged area.
This discovery was so radical at the time, hardly anyone believed her reports. (40 years later she won the Nobel Prize for this work.)
And we still wonder: How does a tiny cell possibly know how to do…. that???
A French HIV researcher and computer scientist has now found part of the answer. Hint: The instructions in DNA are not only linguistic, they’re beautifully mathematical. There is an Evolutionary Matrix that governs the structure of DNA.
Computers use something called a “checksum” to detect data errors. It turns out DNA uses checksums too. But DNA’s checksum is not only able to detect missing data; sometimes it can even calculate what’s missing. Here’s how it works.