The Nucleotides of Life

The story I wrote about genetic engineering and buried treasure in New Orleans is found in Glass Chimera, which I published in 2008.

In the novel, Robby Davis is student of microbiology at Theseus University in the year 2000, four years after Dolly the sheep had been cloned in Scotland. Under the tutelage of Dr. William Theseus, Robby is studying DNA, and the nucleotides of which its double-helix strand is composed.

Robby has also recently developed a fascination with a certain young lady, Rosa. On one particular evening, Robby and Rosa are strolling along on the levee in New Orleans. Here’s the scene in chapter 12 of Glass Chimera:

“Life is incredibly complicated,” said Rosa as she watched, across the river, the West Bank shimmering from daytime browns and grays into nightly jeweled darkness. Then she turned, looked at her new friend. Reflections from the cityscape were like sparks in her eyes. A breeze whispered.

Ever the dork, Robby downshifted his own musings into a credible follow-up: “You know how complex a computer is?” It was half question, half answer.


“As incredible as it all is — what people can do with computers — its all based on memory systems of only two characters: zero and one.”

“Uh-huh. They make up bits and bytes.” She pulled the band off her pony-tailed hair, and it cascaded gloriously upon her shoulders.

“As seemingly infinite as all those combinations are, based on only two characters — the composition of the biological world is based on four characters.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. G, A, T, and C.”

“The T is thymine. I remember that one.”

“Thymine, cytosine, guanine, and adenine: building blocks of DNA. So, while artificial intelligence is constructed upon a base of two, original intelligence of the natural world is built upon a base of four.”

“As if the possibilities of a two-based system were not great enough to do everything that needed doing.”

“Yeah. Whatever multiplicity of permutations can be assembled, or even conceived, with the two-base system is then squared and cubed exponentially by the expansion into a system built upon four. It’s mind-blowing, isn’t it?”

“Like I said, life is complicated, . .”

Glass half-Full