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One of two pieces from the show "How Human: Life in the Post-Genome Era," at the International Center of Photography in New York City, from 28 February through 8 June 2002.

genomic cartography:
axonometric introns and exons

(Click image for a detail. Actual size is 9 x 18 feet)

The human genome is believed to be made up of approximately 35,000 genes, each of which have a specific task in cells of the human body. This image depicts two-thirds of those genes, the ones publicly catalogued by scientists as of one year ago.

Genes known to exist are shown as blue wireframe boxes, with their name name and a description. Genes thought to hypothetically exist have a dotted blue wireframe. The size of the box is proportional to the amount of genetic code (A, C, G, and T letters) that make up the gene. The solid blue boxes inside the wireframes depict the proportion of code that is actually used by the gene. The yellow boxes show the amount of material between genes that has no known function.

The in-use material is most important, but there is far less in proportion to the unused data. To help even the balance, a semi-3D layout is used because the proportions are more easily compared as a three dimensional volume rather than as a horizontal sequence. Eight letters of in-use material can be shown with a box that is 2x2x2. A set of 27 unused letters are shown with a 3x3x3 box. The volumes maintain the true proportion, but allow a simpler side-by-side comparison of 2:3 instead of 8:27.

This project is an updated, large-format version of this one.

Ben Fry | April 2003 | Last updated November 2003