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58367.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 10:12 am Reply with quote

Denial is not a river in Egypt.

58369.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 10:15 am Reply with quote

Ah.....humour....isn't it wonderful? Especially the aged and infirm jokes that get wheeled out every so often....



58384.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 10:42 am Reply with quote

yep, and the irish/German/French/Welsh (Delete necessary) jokes!

58424.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 11:45 am Reply with quote


So DNA, pretty important stuff huh?

58446.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:33 pm Reply with quote

Yes indeed, before Watson and Crick invented it we had to tightly coil very small pieces of string with all the genetic code written on them longhand and put them into cells one at a time manually.

These days of course we just xerox from a master copy in a PCR machine (sort of like a toy oven but less complicated), wave the magic transformation wand and voila, a brand new life form (we call her Geemo).

58448.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 12:41 pm Reply with quote

Almost as important as the works of Douglas Noel Adams!

58527.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 4:51 pm Reply with quote

This is rather strange. 2 days after I wrote my post about the direction of human evolution and then suddenly on the front cover of NS is the question "Are we still evolving". It's a QI read and I would recommend buying an edition if you can. I would C&P but it is a rather lengthy one and I'm sure these lengthy articles are starting to get a bit irritating (plus I'm probably breaking some sort of copywrite).

58535.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 5:33 pm Reply with quote

Here's the start of it...

58557.  Thu Mar 09, 2006 7:36 pm Reply with quote

I dare say it's out of context, but Pinker's statement in that brief soundbite seems bizarre: he seems to be suggesting that scientists should favour a particular analysis of the evidence on the basis that it chimes with the contemporary moral viewpoint (ie if you accept that humans may still be evolving, this opens up the possibility that some humans are different from others, so you should reject that line of enquiry altogether).

58567.  Fri Mar 10, 2006 4:31 am Reply with quote

I didn't get that meaning, myself. I just hear him saying something like: "Everyone would rather consider everyone equal - because that's the viewpoint that causes the least social problems. But the scientific evidence that's around makes this more or less impossible, so scientists are having to weigh up the dilemma of choosing between social values and scientific values."

I noticed he touched on the continuing problem of identifying (or even distinguishing between) cultural evolution, which needn't be biological, and biological evolution, which is. The big problem being that biology and culture affect each other constantly, although often in ways too slow to 'see'. Consider the latest findings on genetic differences between culturally different peoples here. Environment is culture is race is biology.

Pinker's brilliant at talking about this kind of thing - his book The Blank Slate, which rubbishes the idea that we're born with no social 'programming' at all, expertly walks the tightrope between the useless biological and cultural determinisms, and keeps to the best kind of pragmatic, ignorance-admitting path of scientific enquiry. Splendid chap.

58570.  Fri Mar 10, 2006 4:53 am Reply with quote

Here's an interesting one:

Epigenetic changes Might cause depression...

gerontius grumpus
58769.  Fri Mar 10, 2006 12:24 pm Reply with quote

In my biology A level practical exam (or it might have been the mock) we were given lengths of coloured pipe cleaners and instructed to make a model of a double strand of DNA with a certain number of basic units and to demonstrate the double helical shape.
I made a good big model as directed, uising all the pipe cleaners I had been given. Then I turned the page of the exam paper and it said "now place the DNA model in the boiling tube provided".


58793.  Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:31 pm Reply with quote

These days practical is conducted as a coursework element (although time for data collection is restricted to one day only). I had the title of the affects of alcohol upon yeast. The result was a 14,000 word essay discussing the tolerance of two different strains of yeast to ethanol. I also came away with chemical burns on my hands (people never realise just how nasty the alcohol in their drink really is).

gerontius grumpus
58796.  Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:37 pm Reply with quote

Saccharomyces cerevisiae carlsbergensis. Bottom fermenting brewers' yeast.

58801.  Fri Mar 10, 2006 2:21 pm Reply with quote

Here's something quite interesting you can do with DNA:
Israeli scientists have devised a computer that can perform 330 trillion operations per second, more than 100,000 times the speed of the fastest PC. The secret: It runs on DNA.

A year ago, researchers from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, unveiled a programmable molecular computing machine composed of enzymes and DNA molecules instead of silicon microchips. Now the team has gone one step further. In the new device, the single DNA molecule that provides the computer with the input data also provides all the necessary fuel.

The design is considered a giant step in DNA computing. The Guinness World Records last week recognized the computer as "the smallest biological computing device" ever constructed. DNA computing is in its infancy, and its implications are only beginning to be explored. But it could transform the future of computers, especially in pharmaceutical and biomedical applications.

I mean, like, wow. Ironic that we'll be making it do (presumably) digital computation instead of the 'computing' framework of our own minds, which is distinctly analogue. A mixture of the two - i.e. digital implants for things like head-up displays bounced off the back of the cornea - might be fun.

Just imagine the kind of organism that can restructure its own DNA at will. Then imagine actually being that organism. Now imagine imagining it... It sure is an amazing time to be a human...


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