(Current Studies, by blog description (2015-16)) - Click on each label to see corresponding posts!

Monday, 2 November 2015

Major Project, - From the micro to the macro.

One of the concious thoughts imparted to me some time ago by an old manager of mine (back in the late 1990s), was always that "The devil is always in the detail".   I've always been quite a detail person, so this was very much part of my way of working.   But the in the mid "naughties" (2005-6), I struggled with a boss who always said "I [they] don't do, I manage"... and at other times I also heard them say "I don't do detail," - which I always took to mean as some poor excuse for not knowing what to do, so it was down to me to sort things out!...

So the upshot of the life lesson that I learned, was that to be really good, one has to be able to do both the detail, and the management of the wider project (or picture) and at the same time, be fully aware of how it sits in its own context with what ever else was going on at the time (i.e. to place it in its own level of priority and or importance etc).

I was delighted again therefore whilst reading Will Gompertz book "Think like an Artist" (2015), to find the passage and a full paragraph dedicated to "artists think big picture and fine detail" (pages 116 through to 137).

For quite some time of the last week something at the back of my mind that has been niggling away at me is the thought of this notion of the very very small to the very very large. From the Micro to the Macro if you like.

Now bear with me on this one, because whilst this thought has been spinning around in my head for some time, I was able to place it in what I kind of call the "Parking Lot". (The ability of latent thinking, to put something in the back of your mind without entirely forgetting it I believe is extremely powerful and it has proved itself again here. Let me get to the point).

In my search for something left behind at the micro level, something very very small, I have already had thoughts around how I can introduce fingerprints as an item that we leave as a trace, through our journey in this world. On a less tangible but virtual Internet level, I have also been thinking about the Internet and the information superhighway and our journey through that. Our data footprint is again something that all of us leave behind, particularly in the Western world, even if we haven't actually had the opportunity to participate in the information age directly; whoever we are in the West, part of our lives journey is recorded in some archive of some sort. I recall a lecture by Caroline Christov Bakargiev, given in 2014, in which she too was investigating ideas of traces and archival existence. Anyway back to my point.

At an even smaller level than fingerprints, where a very small trace of moisture is left behind in our own unique signature, I drilled a little further into the moisture itself and considered the smallest signature that we leave behind, being DNA.

Our uniqueness is made from the building blocks of life, our cells. Inside our cells are a nucleus, and inside that, - chromosomes, which are made of particular strings of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) molecules.  The combinations of these strings of DNA are unique to each individual, even though at a genetic level, we are 99.9% alike, sharing the same chromosomes!
Within the remaining 0.1%, our genes are different from one another, and so make us individually unique  (The number of combinations of DNA (where each length of DNA having some 3.2 billion 'letters' of coding, based on 4 different components called neucleotides, identified to geneticists as G,T,C and A), which permutates to at least to 1 in every '10 to the power of 3,480,000,000').  That makes each of us extremely unique!
 (Ref; "A Short History of Everything", Bill Bryson, (2003), Random House, London - Page 353 to 360)

If I tried to conceptualise anything smaller than this molecule of strings of DNA, which combine to make up our chromosomes, then the uniqueness of something belonging to an owner, yet left behind, starts to "disintegrate" through abstraction.

So at the moment, at the micro level, DNA is my smallest object of interest.

At the micro level, when I think of something left behind, my mind has been drawn to things like culture and ancestry. Ancestry in this discussion, could be argued to mean how we have evolved through the last millennia and indeed, much further back in time to where we, as a hominid species began to emerge. In contemporary genetic biology, for at least the past 25 years there has been great interest in how we can use human DNA to trace our lineage and evolution, as well as identifying genetic diseases, medical conditions and even traits of personality.  The mapping of the unique human DNA structure has been underway since around 1990, having been initially proposed as early as 1984.

As extracted from Bill Bryson's "Short History of Nearly Everything" (2004)

"Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid containing the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments carrying this genetic information are called genes. Likewise, other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in regulating the use of this genetic information. Along with RNA (Ribonucleic acid) and proteins, DNA is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life. DNA consists of two long polymers of simple units called nucleotides, with backbones made of sugars and phosphate groups joined by ester bonds. These two strands run in opposite directions to each other and are, therefore, anti-parallel. Attached to each sugar is one of four types of molecules called nucleobases (informally, bases).
It is the sequence of these four nucleobases along the backbone that encodes information. This information is read using the genetic code, which specifies the sequence of the amino acids within proteins. The code is read by copying stretches of DNA into the related nucleic acid RNA in a process called transcription. Within cells DNA is organized into long structures called chromosomes. During cell division these chromosomes are duplicated in the process of DNA replication, providing each cell its own complete set of chromosomes.  Within the chromosomes, chromatin proteins such as histones compact and organize DNA. These compact structures guide the interactions between DNA and other proteins, helping control which parts of the DNA are transcribed."

This project has now emerged into a global development sponsored by some of the largest companies on the planet (e.g. IBM, , which is intended to track and record the DNA collected from a very large sample of people scattered throughout the world, in order to map where we settled geographically during the human exodus which was believed to be from central Africa. I am delighted to report that the project was completed a few years ago, although the exploration still continues.

You might already have guessed where I am going with this?

The name of this global project, which traces the microscopic record and archives of DNA at a massive level is,

[Wait for it…]

The Genome project, pronounced G-nome.

So my research object which I have been working with in the form of garden gnomes, now makes absolute sense to me!

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