Ancestry.coms Racist Ad Tumbles Into a Cultural Minefield

On Thursday, the world’s largest DNA testing company, Ancestry.com, pulled a video advertisement amid a cascade of criticism on social media. The ad, titled “Inseparable” and cinematically shot to portray a gauzy, gothic moment on the streets of the antebellum South, depicted a white man offering a black woman a ring and imploring her to “escape to the North” with him. In the captions, they are referred to as “lovers.” As the video ends, a stylized Canadian marriage certificate for the two characters dated 1857 appears and the voiceover urges the viewer to “uncover the lost chapters of your family history with Ancestry.” The ad appeared online earlier this month, but as BuzzFeed first reported, it didn’t draw much attention …

DNA Crime-Solving Is Still New, Yet It May Have Gone Too Far

DNA is one of the most powerful substances in the universe. In the same structure it can encode the instructions to make uranium-munching microbes, giant flying lizards, or a stand of quaking aspens five miles wide. It can store every movie ever made in a single test tube. And it can stick around for tens of thousands of years. Just this week, Japanese scientists revealed they’d awakened some ancient wooly mammoth DNA by sticking it into mice embryos. What is dead may never die, indeed. It’s DNA’s ability to resurrect more recent history, though, that delivers the biggest emotional punch. In the last week alone, investigators in two separate cold cases from the 1970s and ’80s revealed how DNA helped …