Geneticists at Oxford University are making the astounding claim that a mere 8.2% of our DNA does something biologically important. That means upwards of 90% of the human genome is "junk" — a discovery that could dramatically hasten genetic research.
As a concept, junk DNA emerged in the early 1970s. The idea became famous at the close of the Human Genome Project in the 1990s, when researchers noted that over 98% of our genome had no apparent purpose. But results from the 2012 ENCODE project suggested that 80% of what was thought to be junk, or noncoding, DNA did in fact have some kind of biochemical function. Consequently, the concept started to fall out of scientific favor, but there's been a renewed push to see it reaffirmed. Earlier this year, for example, geneticists Alexander Palazzo and T. Ryan Gregory compellingly showed just how useless much of our DNA really is.