Larry David and Bernie Sanders just found out they're actually related

No wonder Curb Your Enthusiasm's Larry David did such a great job impersonating presidential candidate Bernie Sanders last year on Saturday Night Live. The two are apparently related, perhaps as distant cousins.

According to NBC News:

Sanders is a "third cousin or something," David told reporters at a Television Critics Association event on Wednesday. The comedian, who impersonated the senator on "Saturday Night Live" during the 2016 election, said he learned about the genealogical connection while filming an upcoming episode of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots."

"I was very happy about that," David said, according to Variety. "I thought there must have been some connection."

We're still waiting to see how Sanders feels about his new extended family member. Read the rest

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: DNA, individuals, and species

British geneticist Adam Rutherford is one of the country's great science communicators, an alumnus of Nature whose work we've celebrated here for many years; with his second book, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived, Rutherford reveals how the century's astounding advances in genetic science reveal just how little we understand about our genes -- and how our ideas about race and heredity are antiquated superstitions that reflect our biases more than our DNA. (See the bottom of this post for an important update about the upcoming US edition!)

Controversy over DNA sequencing of 90 Egyptian mummies

One of the most hotly-contested fields of genetics revolves around the genetic lineage of ancient Egyptians. A new study of 90 Pre-Ptolemaic, Ptolemaic, and Roman mummies raises as many questions as it answers. Read the rest

Forensic anthropology examines skeletons found in archaeologist's home

Here's a fascinating story about advances in forensic anthropology based around a creepy case of an archaeologist who had several open coffins full of human remains in his home. He said they were all legally taken from ancient Guatemalan sites, but new forensics methods showed that some of the bones were pretty new and of different races than the archaeologist claimed. Read the rest

A simple “DNA Journey” forces people to confront their biases

Travel site Momondo interviewed 67 people about their feelings about nationality and patriotism. They then conducted a DNA test to show them just how global the world truly is.

[via The Daily Kos] Read the rest

Thought-controlled nanorobots in your body

A team of Israeli scientists devised a system by which a person can use their thoughts alone to trigger tiny DNA-based nanorobots inside a living creature to release a drug.

Read the rest

Nobel laureate spots Turkish banknote error

The Turkish five lira note, issued in 2009, has a DNA helix. But Nobel laureate Aziz Sancar noticed that the note "shows a left-handed Z-DNA helix winding from left to right, when it should be the other way round." What Sancar doesn't know is that the monetary systems of the world are controlled by the lizard people, whose DNA is exactly like that depicted on the banknote. Read the rest

Chelsea Manning interview: DNA, big data, official secrecy, and citizenship

Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg creates portraits from DNA samples, usually working from found samples -- chewing gum, cigarette butts -- of people she's never met. But this year, she's done a pair of extraordinary portraits of Chelsea Manning, the whistleblower currently serving a 35-year sentence in Fort Leavenworth for her role in the Wikileaks Cablegate publications.

States with the worst rape kit backlogs

The U.S. government estimates that hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits languish in police and crime lab storage facilities. The EndTheBacklog project illustrates that there's "more we do NOT know about the backlog than we do know." Read the rest

Dino-chicken creation inevitable

Entirely happy to use the word "chickenosaurus," NBC News reports that scientists are getting closer to creating a throwback creature by messing with avian DNA: "From a quantitative point of view, we're 50 percent there," a professor of paleontology told them.

The illustration is by Karl Tate of LiveScience.com Read the rest

Owner of John Lennon's tooth would like to clone the musician

Back in 2011, I posted that one of John Lennon's teeth was up for auction. Canadian dentist Michael Zuk bought the molar for approximately $34,000 and says he would eventually like to use it to clone Lennon and raise him as his own son.

"He would still be his exact duplicate but you know, hopefully keep him away from drugs and cigarettes, that kind of thing," Zuk said.

Zuk has all kinds of other plans involving the tooth, including a DNA pendant, fine art photos, a documentary film, charity fundraising... It goes on and on over at JohnLennonTooth.com. (NME) Read the rest

"Duon" is just a new name for something we already knew about

Over the last couple of days, you might have heard about the "duon" — a "second" genetic code that's being hyped as a radical new "breakthrough" in science.

Based solely on the number of words I've put in quotations here, you can probably guess that the actual news doesn't really match the hype. Read the rest

Patent life: how the Supreme Court fell short

You can't patent the building blocks of life, but you can patent a type of synthetic DNA that contains all the same information. Maggie Koerth-Baker explains how the Justices misunderstood the science and the effect that their verdict could have on future research.

Analyzing the Bigfoot genome

Back in February, a Texas forensic scientist announced that she'd identified a DNA sample from Bigfoot and had sequenced the creature's genome. Now the sequences have been released for wider scrutiny and Ars Technica's John Timmer had a chance to dig into the data and speak with the discoverer of the possible Bigfoot genome. This is a story that, I think, everybody can enjoy — a skeptical analysis that's respectful to the Bigfoot researchers and genuinely interested in understanding where the DNA in question came from and what the genome sequences can tell us. Read the rest

The oldest genome ever sequenced

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen sequenced the oldest genome yet — 700,000-year-old DNA from an ancient ancestor of the horse. The Nature Podcast explains why doing this is valuable (and, no, it's not about creating a cloned ancient horse park) and how you go about sequencing such elderly, and thus degraded, DNA. Read the rest

Making sense of the confusing Supreme Court DNA patent ruling

Nine people who have not recently made any sweeping judgements about biotechnology.

Last week, I told you about the US Supreme Court ruling that made it illegal to patent naturally occurring DNA. In that article, I talked briefly about the fact that the new ruling doesn't cover all DNA. It's still perfectly legal to patent synthetic DNA, and the court documents referred specifically to complementary DNA (aka cDNA).

This is where things get murky. Complementary DNA is a thing that can be both natural and synthetic. And, as a laboratory creation, it's an important step in a common method of replicating naturally occurring DNA. All of which leaves some holes in the idea that the Supreme Court ruling is a simple "win" for open-access science, patent activists, and patients. After all, if you can't patent a gene, but you can patent the laboratory copy of the gene, what's that mean? It's sort of like not being able to patent a novel, but being able to patent a copy of its contents that's had all the white space removed. It seems like everybody is a bit confused by this. So I wanted to take a moment to at least clarify what cDNA is and what some people, on different sides of the science/law/biotech divides, are thinking about it.

It starts with some stuff you learned back in junior high — how information from your DNA gets turned into actual working proteins. Read the rest

The bones of Richard III (or, possibly, someone else entirely)

Before you get excited about the bones of Richard III being found under a parking lot, consider this — the announcement included no mention of how common the DNA sequences that ostensibly identified the body as Richard really are. Those sequences might match Richard's descendants, but if the sequences are also really common, well, that's not saying much. Read the rest

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