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April 24, 2020

#2298: Coronavirus Genome

Coronavirus Genome

[Megan sits at a desk, working on a laptop. A genome sequence is displayed on her laptop screen, shown with a jagged line in a text bubble.]

Cueball (off-screen): So that’s the coronavirus genome, huh?

Megan: It is!

Laptop: <A long string of unintelligible letters, presumably the genome>

[Cueball walks up and stands behind Megan, still working on the laptop.]

Cueball: It’s weird that you can just look at it in a text editor.

Megan: It’s essential!

Megan: We geneticists do most of our work in Notepad.

[A frameless panel, Cueball still standing behind Megan. Megan rests her arm on the chair. ]

Cueball: Notepad?

Megan: Yup! Nicer labs use Word, which lets you change the genome font size and make nucleotides bold or italic.

Cueball: Ah, okay.

Megan: That extra formatting is called “epigenetics”.

[A regular panel. Cueball still stands behind Megan, this time with his hand on his chin.]

Cueball: Hey, why does that one have a red underline?

Megan: When we identify a virus, we add its genome to spellcheck. That’s how we spot mutations.

Cueball: Clever!