Recalculating Round Numbers

The price of human genome sequencing has fallen spectacularly since the turn of the century; what then cost $100,000,000 is now promised for only $1000. This race toward zero makes even Moore's Law look like a snail's pace, but the $1000 price tag does come with a couple asterisks. For one, providers will need high demand to pay off the multi-million dollar sequencing array that makes it possible, and low demand should result in higher prices.  For two, $1000 will only buy you a rough draft of your genome. On Discovering Biology in a Digital World, Todd Smith writes "While some sequencing technologies claim they can produce data with errors as low at one in 10 million bases, a six billion genome sequence will still contain thousands of false positive variants." To separate the sequencing errors from the actual DNA mutations, you'll need to double-check (at least).  Meanwhile, Chad Orzel cautions America about getting its billion back. Advertisements for a tax prep service claim Americans overpaid the IRS by $1,000,000,000 last year.  That's about $3 per citizen, but after cutting out the young, the old, and Mitt Romney's "47% percent," Chad estimates about $48 per two-income household. So while the promise of a billion dollars may lure in new customers, the vast majority of them will not come out ahead.

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