Zimmer on bioinformatics

Carl Zimmer has a very nice post describing recent work in bioinformatics, with a view toward explaining what the field is and how it works.

Here's a quote:

The classic method for figuring out what a gene is for is good old benchwork. Scientists use the gene's code to generate a protein and then figure out what sort of chemical tricks the protein can perform. Perhaps it's good at slicing some other particular protein in half, or sticking two other proteins together. It's not easy to tackle this question with brute force, since a mystery protein may interact with any one of the thousands of other proteins in an organism. One way scientists can narrow down their search is by seeing what happens to organisms if they take out the particular gene. The organisms may suddenly become unable to digest their favorite food or withstand heat, or show some other change that can serve as a clue.
Even today, though, these experiments still demand a lot of time....
This dilemma has helped give rise to a new kind of science called bioinformatics. It's an exciting field, despite its woefully dull name. Its mission is to use computers to help make sense of molecular biology--in this case, by traveling through vast oceans of online information in search of clues to how genes work.