In the first real post on You’d Prefer An Argonaute, I poked great fun at the Broad Institute. It’s not so rare that my colleagues and I do this because well, from its inception the Broad, where King Lander reigns, has lavishly branded itself as a future of biological science, where too often hypothesis-less, behemoth experiments that involve lots of sequencing and money and relatively few papers, rule. So, it’s lovely to see work like this from John Rinn’s lab, which got its start in the Broad, killing it!
Channeling LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow, Rinn, and lead author Maite Huarte, educate us in this video posted to the Cell website. The Broad applied their characteristic sheen in its production, practically revolutionizing these types of videos. (Check out 4:20 near the end–there’s an awesome “Evening News”-style sound effect discharged as the paper’s titile/authors/affiliations are displayed–it’s ringtone worthy.) But in all seriousness, expect much more lincRNA goodness from the Rinn lab in the near future.
The Broad Institute: “Bringing the power of genomics to biology and medicine.” This scientific behemoth spews out A’s, C’s, G’s and T’s like a nauseous infant, (see below), after a tall bowl of Alphabet soup; it’s working on supplanting humans with machines; and in Cambridge’s bone-chilling winter months it wields an icicle slinging defense system, dropping water rocks onto Kendall Square’s helpless nerds who dare come too close to it. Why the cold tone you ask? Because of its mountain o’ monitors.
This prodigal display makes many of my colleagues and I cringe. The monstrously sized mound of SEVENTY ~50 inch flat screen monitors form a circular array that, when turned on, display video of model organisms and sciency words and other random stuff. The heap is enclosed behind the safety of the large glass facade of the building, allowing Broad insiders – those inside the Broad – to bask in its warm glowing warming glow, and leaving everyone else wondering how many fewer millions of dollars fund all the good stuff in the Broad, namely the research, due to this contraption.
The piece is part of Broad’s DNAtrium, a micro-museum featuring informational video displays and genomics research equipment.
While I think conceptually the DNAtrium is a great idea, and most of the displays look nice and do offer some information to the general public, I think the SEVENTY monitors part was ill-conceived and a massive waste of money. I walk past this spectacle on an almost daily basis, and estimate about 2% of the people I see also walking past give the DNAtrium more than a passing glance. Wouldn’t some of that money have been better spent on, say, scholarships supporting young scientists, or summer student internships at the Broad?
But if the Broad wants to be in the business of frivolous entertainment, MIT East Campus Hackers, here’s a hack for you: Get all those monitors to loop: for as long as possible, on a weekday around lunchtime, sound optional.