A few weeks ago, my wife and my youngest son heard what appeared to be a lunatic shrieking in our backyard. They rushed out the door to find me standing in the midst of about a dozen freshly dug holes, waving my arms and yelling at our mud-covered, 10 month-old Golden Retriever.
The dog, who had obviously excavated all of the holes, was simultaneously wagging her tail and sneezing the dirt out of her nose, utterly unimpressed with my tirade. My wife and son managed to get me inside with the promise of a cold drink and a warm compress, all the while calmly listening to me carry on about ruined landscaping and holes all the way to China.
Once I had calmed down and my wife had taken the dog off to the tub to wash away the evidence, my son solemnly informed me that it would be impossible for Gracie to dig a hole to China, because there were lots of rocks in the way and, besides, the center of the earth was way too hot. He also reminded me how much fun it can be to dig.
He was right.
It can be a lot of fun to dig. Now, I’m not talking about the back-breaking, working-on-a-chain-gang type of digging, but rather the treasure-hunting or the let’s-see-what-we-can-build type of digging. Just look at a bunch of kids at the beach or in a sandbox, and you’ll see what I mean. Old blues singers ask “Can you dig, it?” Peter, Paul and Mary tell us that they “dig” rock & roll music. Paul McCartney planned to “dig the weeds” when he turned 64 (somehow, I don’t think that ever happened.). The seven dwarves sang about “dig, dig, digging” in the mines where a million diamonds shine. The pirates of yore and modern-day archaeologists spend their days digging for buried artifacts and other treasures.
Digging can be pretty cool!
As genomics scientists, we also spend our days digging. Faced with a mountain of data, we dig and we sift and we dig some more, all the while looking for the clues buried in those mountains. Without the right tools, the task can be daunting; in fact, like treasure hunters without a map, we could dig forever without ever finding anything of value.
Here at SAS, we make the tools that make the digging easier. For example, new features in JMP Genomics 4.1, which is due out later this year, include interactive, graphical tools that will allow you to visually evaluate and compare complex statistical results for thousands of genes and other markers across an entire genome. Once you’ve identified one or more genes of interest, other new features make it easy for you to annotate those genes and link your analysis to online data bases. These tools won’t help you dig to China, but they will help you sift through your data until you find the treasure.