Welcome to Code for Life. I hope you get something out of my modest efforts to educate and entertain.

What’s with the name of the blog?

Code4Life was a name I considered for my consultancy, BioinfoTools. It plays on a number of things related to my work and what I write about:

  • My work involves programming (coding) for life sciences (molecular biology and genetics).
  • The data I examine and write algorithms for are the sequences of bases in DNA (genes, genomes), the amino acid sequences of proteins (enzymes, hormone receptors, etc.) and the three-dimensional atomic structures of proteins. These are the codes in life, the ’information base’ of biology and life. (If readers are interested in an introduction to this, let me know.)
  • It can mean moral codes and other ’rules’ people guide their lives with. I won’t be writing about this much about this in the sense of rules for life, but I may look at role of honest skepticism, logic and testing in science.
  • You can stretch it to be about writing about life sciences, writing being a code of sorts.
  • It has nothing to do with The Code for Life, an album of the heavy metal band Warrior. I am not a fan of heavy metal.

The banner photograph

My current banner image is temporary (but seems to permanent); I hope to later replace with something reflecting the title of the blog. The image shows where I was based in a village in the Otago peninsula, near the Otago harbour. The village is near the right of the image. (The image is open source, obtained from wikimedia and edited using GraphicConverter v6.5.1.)


Most articles will target a general audience. I’ll try remember to let you know if I think an article is a bit geeky for general readers; once in a while I may write assuming a little basic background for those with deeper interests.

Likely topic areas include:

  • Genetics, genomics and evolution. Stunning new findings pour out each week…
  • Human biology, esp. cognitive neuroscience and rare diseases or disabilities. The workings of our minds is fascinating stuff and it’s intriguing to explore others’ lives.
  • ’What science is’, what the basic terms mean, how to read a report on science, sorting out the good stuff from the bad.
  • Science and the media. (Journalists, publishers and editors take note!)
  • ’Natural remedies’ vs. science-based medicine. The naïve presentation of some of the ‘woo’ by various people (including, sadly, a considerable number of media reports) is appalling.
  • Vaccinations. (No ‘flame wars’, please. Seriously.)
  • Issues within science, especially within New Zealand. Science is a great enterprise, but there’s always room for improvement.
  • Developments in computational biology (my profession).
  • Computing & computers (the tools of my trade).
  • Plain old ruminations. We all have our navel-gazing days…

Please feel free to ask questions and suggest topics you’d like covered. If possible, I’d like to try base a few posts every month on a subject that a reader has brought up.

I don’t claim to be some gifted philosopher or an expert on matters far and wide, in fact I’m frequently embarrassed by my sheer stupidity… Aren’t we all? Some of my articles will be off my specialist expertise, in fact probably most will and I’ll let you know. Readers are most welcome to correct any errors but please substantiate your claims. You’ll also help yourself if you be polite about corrections, rather than be insistent or worse about them.

My background

By training I’m a computational biologist, a biologist who uses computers (algorithms, statistics, etc.) to explore biological problems, and who develops computer tools for biologists to explore data from genes, genomes and proteins. I work as an independent scientist through my consultancy, BioinfoTools, contracting to research groups and biotech companies. More about my research interests can be found on the consultancy website.

A more commonly-known name for the field is ‘bioinformatics’ but strictly speaking that term originally applied to a subset of the field. Some of us who started before the genome era prefer the computational biology label, for reasons I’ll explain sometime… BioinfoTools is a contraction of ‘bioinformatics tools’.

I have interests in science communication and am open to writing contracts or other work (e.g. editing) in this area.

Comment policy

More than two links included in a comment will cause it to be held up for moderation.

I would like to encourage friendly and open discussion. People are encouraged to put forward alternative views – don’t be shy, jump in!

To help keep conversation open and friendly, if a commenter persists in being argumentative, slighting others, etc., after being asked not to I may choose to block them from commenting for a week (or similar). If a commenter tries to write to me or the blog while they are ‘on probation’ the week gets extended, cumulatively. I only set the initial week – extensions are in the hands of commenter. For a little ‘geek flavour’, the cumulative increase follows a Fibonacci series. For each comment or message whilst on probation, the next in the series is added to the number of weeks off – i.e. best to just sit the time out. Finally: I would like to never have to exercise this, but if someone persistently disrupts what I would like to achieve with this blog, I reserve the right to ban them.

Comments that I consider are aimed at promoting a business rather than contributing to a discussion will likely be treated as spam and deleted. (It’s a judgement call; please don’t get annoyed at it.)

Readers are welcome to use pseudonyms, but please avoid using commercial companies’ names.


Journalists, editors & publishers, a gentle reminder: the material on my blog is copyright. You are welcome to contact me if you wish to use this material.

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