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actual numerical system that dna represents

Genetics as it applies to evolution, molecular biology, and medical aspects.

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actual numerical system that dna represents

Postby plynxis » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:48 pm

Hi, i'm not a biologist, i'm an engineering student dealing mostly with electronics and automation. thing is, i've thought for a long time that dna is essentially binary, but on the internet, i've read its actually quaternary (base 4). i havent actually read this at like 100 different sites, but just reading it once made me think about whether i understand it wrong.

the one place i clearly remember reading this says that, since dna has 4 bases, its not binary but quaternary. but since we have 2 base pairs and if the handedness of each base pair conveys no information (i.e. AT is the same as TA) it is unquestionably binary and can be represented by binary bits.

i'm asking here because if i ever get into a discussion about it i want to know what biologists think at least, before using it as an argument.

to rephrase: is dna a binary pattern of information? and/or can it be represented by a binary stream of numbers? are all forms of genetic code binary as well?

thanks and sorry if this has been asked before, i deeply need to ask it myself and get an answer personally.
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Postby JackBean » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:51 pm

the "problem" is, that AT != TA ;)
http://www.biolib.cz/en/main/

Cis or trans? That's what matters.
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Postby plynxis » Thu Jan 06, 2011 4:57 pm

i see. thanks for the quick reply :)

without intending to sound like a smartass though, it can still be represented in binary, if you use two bits instead of one for each base pair :P one could say its more of a compressed binary pattern, with exactly half the size it would have if it were true binary.
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Postby canalon » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:06 am

Yep but the fact that it can be represented in binary does not mean it is binary. In terms of representing the information, it does not really matter what system you use. Just as I can do math in my head using the decimal system, and my computer do its calculations with a binary system, but we end up with the same results (except of course when the computer is wrong ;) )
However what is important is that the way information is processed is not binary even if it it can easily be converted in the other system. So I find your argument quite irrelevant.
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any proof. (Ashley Montague)
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Postby JackBean » Fri Jan 07, 2011 7:51 am

as canalon said, just because you can write it in binary doesn't mean it's binary. You can write even 3910489 in binary, yet it isn't.
http://www.biolib.cz/en/main/

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Postby plynxis » Fri Jan 07, 2011 12:24 pm

i understand what you're saying - as i said in my post, you can *represent* it in binary, ofcourse it doesnt mean it is binary just because it can be represented that way - just a comment. what i think is more important is why exactly it needs to be quaternary. i guess thats a totally different topic though. and, not meaning to sound pedantic but, a generic scalar quantity isnt exactly a good parallel since it represents a number, not coded information - thus it doesnt have an inherent base. a system that codes its information however, like a computer has an inherent base for its information, dependent on its architecture. which is why i was so interested in finding out the exact base of genetic code in the first place :P

i guess i'm going off topic now though

thanks for the replies
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