If you thought math was something you could safely leave to those with calculator watches, think again. Mike the Mad Biologist has a post about why it's so important for biologists to be fluent in mathematics. He recounts a presentation he made to the Human Microbiome Project and the pushback he received on estimates of how much sequencing would be required for various projects. "Over and over, I was told that these estimates were 'counter-intuitive.' Why? Sites that had relatively few species required nearly as much sequencing (and, in some cases, more than) as those sites that had lots of species," he writes. After detailing why his estimates make sense from a probability standpoint, he blogs, "Now, my colleagues are very smart people, and they got it once I explained it to them. But this example demonstrates why mathematics as a way of thinking is vital for biologists."
Combinations, Permutations, and ... Sequencing?
Apr 22, 2009