How Many Pages Does It Take to Print Out Someone's Genetic Code? (Video)

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[ted id=2490]

Anyone interested in the potential benefits of having the human genome mapped will be interested in this recent TED talk by data scientist Riccardo Sabbatini, who is researching "computational genomics and how to crack the code of life."

Sabbatini says the genetic components that form each human being are "the biggest amount of information you will ever encounter. Forget big data."

To illustrate, he brings onstage Craig Venter, a pioneer in sequencing the human genome. "Not the man in his flesh," Sabbatini explains, as carts full of bound volumes are wheeled onstage, but his genome, "printed page by page, letter by letter." The code fills more than 175 books, or 262,000 densely printed pages.

Sabbatini goes on to explain that differences between individual human beings make up just 500 of those pages -- the rest of our genetic code is shared by everyone on the planet.


He ends with a somewhat spooky demonstration of how machine learning can be used to make predictions of what an individual will look like by reading that code.

"Can we read the books and predict height? Yes, within 5 centimeters. BMI, within eight kilograms. Eye color and skin color -- 80 percent accuracy."

Take a look at the video, above. The presentation is about 15 minutes long.