Last week, private genome sequencer Craig Venter and his team announced that they had constructed the genome of a bacterium using just off-the-shelf chemicals for the first time. In addition, the researchers had included "watermarks" encoding secret messages in the genome. The New York Times reports that the secret messages have now been decoded and they are, well, disappointingly humdrum. To wit:
Wired Science reported Monday that it had ferreted out the messages, with help from government scientists. One watermark said "VenterInstitvte," using the unusual spelling because there is no amino acid represented by the letter "u."
The other messages were CraigVenter, HamSmith, GlassandClyde and CindiandClyde for his co-authors Hamilton O. Smith, Clyde A. Hutchison III, John I. Glass and Cynthia Andrews-Pfannkoch. A Venter spokeswoman confirmed them.
The Times adds that some more imaginative German scientists had installed a line from Virgil's "Georgics" in their engineered cress plants. The line? "Neither can every soil bear every fruit." All right, all right–that's a bit pretentious. But is it really too much to ask for a little doggerel in the DNA?
*Headline explanation: Frequent H&R commenter Episiarch's suggestion for the decoded message.