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Mysteries of the Human Brain

In an interview with Gizmodo, artificial intelligence expert Ray Kurzweil says we're very close to reverse-engineering the human brain, and that the design of the brain lies in the genome. According to Gizmodo, Kurzweil says that the three billion base pairs of the human genome can be compressed down to about 50 million bytes and that half of that information deals with the brain. Those 25 million bytes would be about a million lines of code. Even better, Kurzweil says, complete reverse-engineering of the brain might only be a decade away.

Derek Lowe at In the Pipeline says Kurzweil is wrong. "It would be much less of a leap to say that the Oxford English Dictionary and a grammar textbook are sufficient to write the plays that Shakespeare didn't get around to," Lowe says. "Saying that [the brain's] entire design is in the genome is deeply silly, mistaken, and misleading." Comparing the way the genome works to the way computer data works is "laughable" — computer codes have one level to them whereas genomic codes are a set of instructions for another set of instructions for yet another set of instructions on how to work very complex tools, and then the whole thing feeds back on itself and creates whole new patterns, he adds. Comparing it to simple code and then saying we can have it completely figured out in 10 years is misguided.

The Scan

Another Resignation

According to the Wall Street Journal, a third advisory panel member has resigned following the US Food and Drug Administration's approval of an Alzheimer's disease drug.

Novavax Finds Its Vaccine Effective

Reuters reports Novavax's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine is more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.

Can't Be Used

The US Food and Drug Administration says millions of vaccine doses made at an embattled manufacturing facility cannot be used, the New York Times reports.

PLOS Papers on Frozen Shoulder GWAS, Epstein-Barr Effects on Immune Cell Epigenetics, More

In PLOS this week: genome-wide association study of frozen shoulder, epigenetic patterns of Epstein-Barr-infected B lymphocyte cells, and more.