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The Wave Genome Movie

the wave genome movie

Genome sequencing has revolutionized medicine, linking hereditary disease with specific genes and providing at-home genetic tests, but has also led to new forms of inequality and misinformation. This month on Short Wave we bring you a film exploring these complex issues relating to genome testing.

Cell migration trajectories and pause frequencies were observed for WT and WAVE1-KO cells that expressed either EGFP-WAVE1 or EGFP-WAVE2 at their leading edge.

The story of the wave

The Wave by Todd Strasser is an unsettling story of a high school classroom experiment that turns into an oppressive cult. Inspired by real events where a teacher led his students in creating an authoritarian police state within their school, The Wave serves as a warning against fascism taking root.

Beginning with History Teacher Ben Ross showing his class a documentary on Hitler’s rise to power in Germany, his students struggle to understand how ordinary Germans could so easily fall for such inhuman ideologies. On day two he launches an experiment and begins teaching them about “The Wave”, an initiative designed to foster discipline and community by obeying authorities strictly.

At first, Gordon High’s experiment appears successful. The Wave quickly gains adherents among some of its brightest students – such as David Collins who enthusiastically introduces it to his losing football teammates and Robert Billings who frequently faces bullying but becomes one of its staunchest supporters. Yet as violence breaks out and Mr. Ross acts more militaristically than originally planned, students begin to suspect its true intentions.

As the movie progresses, some students begin speaking out against The Wave movement and its powerful leader’s abuse of authority. Laurie, editor of the school newspaper, rallies her friends to publish an expose exposing The Wave. This causes many students to abandon it but also reignites fanaticism among some devoted members.

By the end of the film, it becomes abundantly clear that The Wave is an extreme and oppressive cult. A particularly chilling scene occurs in which Frank (Justin Long), an insurance worker in The Wave, is given an injection of hallucinogens that causes him to bounce between board meetings, nightclubs, shootouts and alternate dimensions with ease.

Though The Wave deviates considerably from its source material, it remains a brilliant thriller. With its fast pace and stunning visuals helping to hide any awkward scripting issues. But had there been more focus and an unexpected conclusion, this could have been truly groundbreaking experience.

The technology

Storing digital movies has never been simpler with cloud computing, but biologists are taking steps towards developing an organic recorder. Synthetic biologist Seth Shipman and colleagues recently used CRISPR-Cas to embed an entire movie in E. coli genome using CRISPR-Cas.

Researchers selected five frames from British photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s Human and Animal Locomotion series and converted them to DNA fragments, then introduced one each day over five days into bacteria culture at a rate of one frame per day for five days before sequencing to reconstruct the original image.

Genome sequencing was heralded as a breakthrough that could potentially link diseases with specific genes. But as this episode of Short Wave shows, this ability also raises ethical concerns; furthermore, at-home genetic tests promise personalized medicine right in our living rooms; but can they really be trusted?

The future

Populist-authoritarian movements like The Wave (which does not appear to have any particular political ideology beyond nationalist claims and perhaps some leftist anticapitalist ideas) appeal due to their ability to unify disparate groups into one cohesive and powerful clique, suggesting liberal democracy has its downsides – in this instance cliquishness and inequality. Furthermore, liberal democracy may create its own dangers; one scene shows an enormous CGI rockslide careening towards an idyllic coastal town creating destruction and death.