Labwork and The X-Files--Techinal Question--Help?

TODD J PIERCE tjp4773 at
Wed Feb 11 12:07:17 EST 1998


I have a technical question about the X-Files, which I hope someone can
answer for me.  I've been looking into it for a while, mainly because I'm
confused by it and would like to use the information for something I'm
working on.  I'm a Ph.D. student in English.  I posted this message to the
X-Files group.  I have an active interest in Pop Culture.  I also have a
limited (for this group, I really stress *limited*) understanding of basic
genetics labwork.  My question is below.  If you could answer it, I'd
really appreciate it.  Also, please give it to me in fairly basic layman's

Thank you much,
Todd Pierce

> I have a few questions about an older episode, the Erlenmeyer Flash, which
> is one of my all time favorites.
> Well, actually I have just one question, which has a couple parts.  Toward
> the end of the episode, Scully takes the flask to a lab for analysis.  The
> result of this analysis--I'm assuming some sort of genetic analysis--is
> that it contains proteins not known on earth.  OK, so here's the question?
> What test(s) would one need to perform to discover that there are
> something other than the usual four proteins in that flask?  Also,
> important, what would be the first test one would perform to see what the
> flask held--let's say it's assumed to me organic?  I know a little about
> how genetic testing works--PCR, Southern Blot--Electroforesis--so I'm not
> entirely stupid on the matter, but I am, let's face it, just a grad
> student in ENGLISH.  (Come talk to me when X-Files makes allusions to
> certain works of American Lit, such as Moby Dick, because I can be helpful
> there.)
> Really, I'd love any help you can offer on how this analysis might have
> been done?  How does one discover that a liquid doesn't contain known
> material????  Let alone two unknown proteins?  That's pretty specific,
> right?
> I'm mainly asking because I thought for all (or at least all that I
> understand) genetic tests you needed to work with a known probe which
> searched for an exact gene match.  Then again, I only have a small
> knowledge (honestly small) of genetics.
> If you can help, please drop a copy to my email
> box---tjp4883 at
> Thanks much,
> Todd

PS I have one more quick question someone might help me with.  I
understand that most DNA fingerprinting is done with southern blots
(correct me if I'm wrong here), but my second question is this: the
souther blot uses known genetic material to determine unknown material.
How would a person run a gel of simply unknown material to get a ID DNA
strip, without using PCR to isolate or label specific genes???


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