The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

Computing the Neanderthal Genome

New software helped decode the DNA of our stone-age cousins

3 min read

Reconstructing cavemen from bits of fossil DNA is still the stuff of science fiction. But thanks to high-powered computing wizardry, we now have the blueprints you’d need to do it. An international team of scientists published the first draft of the Neanderthal genome in the journal Science on 7 May. The study showed, somewhat surprisingly, that early humans and Neanderthals interbred and that 1 to 4 percent of the DNA in modern Asians and Europeans comes from Neanderthals.

The bulk of the credit for decoding the Neanderthal goes to high-throughput sequencing technologies developed in the past five years, which turned bits of ancient DNA into millions of short strings of letters. But sequencing the Neanderthal genome would have been impossible without the sophisticated software that put all those millions of strings together in the right order.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

Keep Reading ↓Show less