Alias: Geek / Spy Lovefest

By Deane Barker on April 12, 2004

I was watching Alias last night, and I realized just what a hacker/geek-fest this show is becoming. Here are some details from the plot last night:

A computer worm is spreading across the globe, specifically targeting hospitals. It turns out that it’s searching databases of DNA (do these exist?) for a specific match.

My boy Marshall manages to find the hacker on an IRC channel and finds out that he’s going to be in a club in Berlin. Too bad no one knows what he looks like.

Never fear — Marshall was able to detect the MAC address of the wireless card the hacker uses in his PDA. Sydney and Vaughn go to the club and use special sunglasses to detect the PDA and then send the hacker a message by what I think was a case of bluejacking.

The hacker gets shot (truth be told — anyone within a 100 foot radius of Sydney usually gets shot at some point), but manages to pass Vaughn a USB Flash drive that contains the code of the worm. Sydney and Vaughn then decrypt the code to try and stop the worm before it kills everyone…or something (I kind of lost track here).

This isn’t the first time they’ve geeked out. There have been numerous other geek references in the show, including the use of Trillian, which has got to be a first for prime time. If you’re a geek and your Sunday nights are a little slow, check this show out.



  1. I’ve never watched that show but it sounds like I’ll have to check it out. And yes, there are searchable databases of genetic code. Both Expressed Sequence Tag (EST) databases–which contain short sequences of interest (usually derived from cDNA clones)–and whole-length genome databases not only exist, but are absolutely essential for many modern molecular biologists. Searching of these databases is usually accomplished via BLAST algorithms, which compare a given genetic or protein sequence to other known sequences within a set degree of slop and spit out data which has been entered by users around the world. The single best example of this is the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) database, which is searchable on the web ( You can also download several complete genomes and search them with BLAST on your own computer, if you have space. Of course, despite the best wishes of Alias’ creators, these databases are not the slightest bit dangerous–nobody, even at the heights of the molecular biology world, is capable of developing an automated virus that could interact between computers and biology. Just developing the technology to create long stretches of synthetic DNA is proving to be a bear. Science just don’t work that way, though it is an interesting idea.

  2. Jennifer Garner was just on Jay Leno promoting her new movie. They showed outakes and bloopers from the promotional video she made for the CIA. Pretty funny.

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