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Rapid DNA Test

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DNA testing takes seconds to minutes instead of hours to months

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
zarpaulus on Aug 4th 2018 at 11:03:06 AM
Last Edited By:
zarpaulus on Aug 10th 2018 at 5:27:33 PM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

In real life, DNA fingerprinting takes a minimum of a few hours, more often months given the backlog most labs have, and requires a whole array of different devices and chemicals. However, in fiction it's not uncommon to have devices that can read DNA as quickly as a biometric scanner.


Examples:

Comic Books

  • One arc of Transmetropolitan introduces a new device called a "G-reader" that can read someone's genome from a distance. It's first used by Spider to indite a politician in a porn ring, and then by a bunch of skinheads to find someone with an unpopular genotype and kill him. Spider later uses one to bring down the Smiler.

Film

  • The central technology behind the plot of Gattaca is DNA scanners that can determine one's identity from a drop of blood or urine in seconds and indicate whether a person has any genetic disorders. This makes laws against genetic discrimination impossible to enforce.

Live Action TV

  • Tricorders in Star Trek can usually scan DNA samples.
  • Andromeda: The lineage-obsessed Nietzscheans tend to carry DNA scanners on them, and in "Music of a Distant Drum" a DNA biometric lock is one of the three locks on Tyr's safe.
  • In Altered Carbon Kovacs' expense account is tied to his sleeve's genetic profile, so he usually makes payments by slapping his saliva or blood on the register.
  • In Stargate Atlantis nearly all Ancient technology only works for humans with a specific marker gene inherited from them. Which includes a fair number of the expedition, and the royal families of at least two Pegasus galaxy worlds.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer40000:
    • Gene scans are sufficiently advanced that large cities can have their population scanned and see if they've been attacked by genestealers (Tyranid scouts who inject their own DNA into the victims and make them slaves of the Hive Mind, so that each new generation becomes closer to a pure Tyranid).
    • They're also used in standard Space Marine medical examinations (to monitor possible breakdowns of the geneseed that gives them their superhuman abilities) and to reinforce security against infiltrators and genestealers (although this can be fooled).
    • Tau battlesuits include DNA scanning to prevent Gundam Jacking, as one human found out when he tried to steal one and was instantly fried.

Western Animation

  • Parodied on The Simpsons in the second half of "Who Shot Mr. Burns". Chief Wiggum presents an eyelash for DNA analysis, and the technician warns that it may take days or even weeks for the results. Then the machine dings and the technician says it's ready.

Feedback: 8 replies

Aug 4th 2018 at 5:52:31 PM

Usually done for plot conveniences.

May be justified in futuristic settings.

Aug 5th 2018 at 3:04:50 AM

  • Examples section
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples section.
    • Changed the wording of a sentence in the Gattaca example to (a) eliminate a sentence fragment and (b) make it clear what the laws are forbidding.

Aug 5th 2018 at 3:44:10 AM

  • Warhammer 40 K:
    • Gene scans are sufficiently advanced that large cities can have their population scanned and see if they've been attacked by genestealers (Tyranid scouts who inject their own DNA into the victims and make them slaves of the Hive Mind, so that each new generation becomes closer to a pure Tyranid).
    • They're also used in standard Space Marine medical examinations (to monitor possible breakdowns of the geneseed that gives them their superhuman abilities) and to reinforce security against infiltrators and genestealers (although this can be fooled).
    • Tau battlesuits include DNA scanning to prevent Gundam Jacking, as one human found out when he tried to steal one and was instantly fried.

Aug 5th 2018 at 7:17:10 AM

Parodied on The Simpsons in the second half of "Who Shot Mr. Burns". Chief Wiggum presents an eyelash for DNA analysis, and the technician warns that it may take days or even weeks for the results. Then the machine dings and the technician says it's ready.

Aug 5th 2018 at 6:02:41 PM

Why is it so hard for us all to remember the proper namespace for Warhammer 40,000? They really should have more redirects for the possible variations.

Aug 10th 2018 at 9:25:21 AM

Any other examples? I know I've seen this a million times.

Aug 10th 2018 at 11:01:17 AM

1) Make sure to add this to the Plot Time index if it's launched.

2) How does the Altered Carbon example work? Does he lick the cash register?

Aug 10th 2018 at 3:24:23 PM

^ In the Netflix series he slaps his bleeding hand down on the touchscreen. I seem to recall him flicking saliva off his thumb in the book.

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