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

William Bains william at
Sat Feb 14 15:29:31 EST 1998

In article <Pine.SOL.3.93.980211120056.27240C-100000 at mailer>, TODD J
PIERCE <tjp4773 at> wrote:

> 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?  

Do not confuse DNA bases (AKA the genetic code) of which there are 4, with
amino acids (the consituents of proteins, of which there are 20), and with
proteins themselves (of which humans contain 100,000, an din all lifeforms
on Earth there are billions). 

> > 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.)
> > 

Most X-files uses technicallanugage in this way to make the plot sound
scientifically reasonable, while actually being complete b*****it.

> 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???

In simple terms, the variations between people at the genetic loci used
for DNA fingerprinting are relatively minor, so PCR can amplify the loci
from everyone, producing slightly different results from different people.

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