Four years ago, about a dozen credit cards equipped with chip-and-PIN technology were stolen in France. In May 2011, a banking group noticed that those stolen cards were being used in Belgium, something that should have been impossible without the card holders inputting their PINs. That’s when the police got involved.
It was a metallic gray box about the size of a desk, with a smaller box attached on top near the rear right corner. The front face of the smaller box was an incomprehensible control panel occupied by 28 metal toggle switches in five neat rows, each labeled with a numbered sticker. All of these switches were situated in the down position except for #23, which was toggled up—an oddly ominous asymmetry.
Each year around 50,000 people die in New York, some alone and unseen. Yet death even in such forlorn form can cause a surprising amount of activity. Sometimes, along the way, a life’s secrets are revealed.
Geneticists can’t see this machine, but they can see its works—and they say it might be the key to reshaping the genome.