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Summary of the Coverage of the Maize Genome here at J+TGC

Summarizing a couple of Virginia Walbot’s ten reasons you should care about the maize genome

Hear one of the lead authors of the maize genome paper explain how and why it was done in under four minutes.

Reviewing the quality of the genome sequence itself.

We can already see research made possible by the maize genome.

How maize fits in the family tree of grasses/grains

Read about how the maize genome project is helping researchers find more genes selected for during the domestication of maize.

Plants have more genes than people, why is this still news

Other people on the web react to the maize genome (also why different colors of corn are not different species)

Corn vs Maize

I use the words basically interchangeably on this site. I know it’s confusing and I at least attempt to pick one and use it all the way through a post (often without success, which I’ll catch, and wince at, days later). The problem is that naturally I use one word or the other depending on context.

The plant in question is studied internationally and while in America “corn” means those cool looking plants that you see me standing in front of one third of the time when you visit this blog, in british english the same word means any grain. I’ve never heard it explicitly said, but I assume the reason the geneticists who study the plant originally called it maize was to avoid confusion from those mixed definitions. It’s also possible “corn” was still considered a slang term back then, and not the sort of name a well educated scientist should be using regardless.

As a result of growing up in the midwest surrounded by corn and getting interested in comparative genomics by way of maize genetics, terms like “corn geneticist” and “corn genome” don’t sound right to my ear and ones like “maize plant” or “maize is selling for $5 a bushel” sound even worse. On the other hand, the sentence “Sequencing the maize genome is going to provide even more powerful tools to corn breeders” sounds fine, but I realize it can be confusing to people whose life experiences are different from my own.*

*An even weirder one: Back when I was still doing science that required writing with pen and paper instead of doing everything on the computer, without thinking about it I’d either cross my sevens or not depending on whether I was writing a number in a scientific context.

A crossed 7. Theoretically this is easier to distinguish from a 1, especially on tassel bags and row stakes that are going to be outside, exposed to the elements for months.

A crossed 7.

Theoretically a crossed 7 is easier to distinguish from a 1, especially on tassel bags and row stakes that are going to be outside, exposed to the elements for months. (And where a mistake has the potential to ruin a year or years of work. It’s not like maize geneticists can run down to Walmart and buy more seeds carrying the genotypes they’ve spent years putting together.)

So what do you all enjoy reading about?

I’ve got a couple of indirect ways of estimating changes in the number of subscribers to my RSS feed, and from my, very, VERY rough, estimates, it looks like it’s been increasing a lot faster than actual click-throughs to articles. Even if you read only one post and actually find a bit of science that excites you, I’ve done something completely worthwhile.

However, I did want to give everyone a chance, both new subscribers and regulars (has this site been around long enough to have regulars?) to let me know what kind of information drew you to this site, and/or what you’re interested in reading about.

There are so many things I’d love to write about but realistically I’ve only got time to write a couple of posts a day (being a grad student is actually a lot of work, and until recently I’ve always been the sort of person who needs to spend a couple of hours a day relaxing/decompressing/.) So if there’s anything in particular you’ve enjoyed reading about on this site, speak up!

That’s not a demand, it’s not even a request, just an open invitation.

The top two good keywords for this site are James and Corn!

Looks like the search engine is finally letting me put the annoying hacking of this site over the summer behind me.


If you’re seeing this, it means I stayed out to late doing important science (read: hanging out in Calvin) and didn’t write and schedule my nightly genetically engineered crop profile. Sorry folks.

Here’s a review of the series thusfar:

Spam Wave

I’m getting hit by completely nonsensical spam comments (nothing that looks like words in any language, no working links) at a rate of close to one per minute. As a result I’ve had to reactivate my spam filter, the same one that was misbehaving earlier. If you’re comments aren’t showing up, drop an e-mail to jcs##@jamesandthegiantcorn.com (replacing the ## with the sum of 23 and 75).

Please let me know if you have any idea what might be causing this upswing.