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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

Tens of Millions Saved

The Associated Press writes that vaccines against COVID-19 saved an estimated 20 million lives in their first year.

Supersized Bacterium

NPR reports that researchers have found and characterized a bacterium that is visible to the naked eye.

Also Subvariants

Moderna says its bivalent SARS-CoV-2 vaccine leads to a strong immune response against Omicron subvariants, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Science Papers Present Gene-Edited Mouse Models of Liver Cancer, Hürthle Cell Carcinoma Analysis

In Science this week: a collection of mouse models of primary liver cancer, and more.