Read about Raffelesia and wear the flower to support free enterprise and profit making.
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P.S. As I was about to publish this post I did a quick check to see when the movie was released. It was 1985. This means that none of the students in my molecular evolution class were alive when it came out. I feel old.
[Image Credit: The map is from The Human Journey.]
1. As Ricky Gervais said recently, "Just because you're offended doesn't mean you are right."
The delivery of organic matter to the primitive Earth via comets and meteorites has long been hypothesized to be an important source for prebiotic compounds such as amino acids or their chemical precursors that contributed to the development of prebiotic chemistry leading, on Earth, to the emergence of life. Photochemistry of inter/circumstellar ices around protostellar objects is a potential process leading to complex organic species, although difficult to establish from limited infrared observations only. Here we report the first abiotic cosmic ice simulation experiments that produce species with enantiomeric excesses (e.e.'s). Circularly polarized ultraviolet light (UV-CPL) from a synchrotron source induces asymmetric photochemistry on initially achiral inter/circumstellar ice analogs. Enantioselective multidimensional gas chromatography measurements show significant e.e.'s of up to 1.34% for (13C)-alanine, for which the signs and absolute values are related to the helicity and number of CPL photons per deposited molecule. This result, directly comparable with some L excesses measured in meteorites, supports a scenario in which exogenous delivery of organics displaying a slight L excess, produced in an extraterrestrial environment by an asymmetric astrophysical process, is at the origin of biomolecular asymmetry on Earth. As a consequence, a fraction of the meteoritic organic material consisting of non-racemic compounds may well have been formed outside the solar system. Finally, following this hypothesis, we support the idea that the protosolar nebula has indeed been formed in a region of massive star formation, regions where UV-CPL of the same helicity is actually observed over large spatial areas.The authors assume that the primodial soup speculation about the origin of life is the most reasonable explanation. According to this widely believed scenario, life originated in a soup of organic molecules that supplied most of the molecules of metabolism such as glucose and amino acids (and nucleotides?). Presumably once life got underway these molecules were used up and only then did metabolic pathways evolve to synthesize these molecules.
1. We're talking about a primordial soup where the concentration of L-alanine might be 0.50 pM and the concentration of D-alanine might be 0.49 pM. That's supposed to be enough for life based on amino acids to evolve and to lead to the subsequent preference for synthesizing exclusively L-amino acids. How, exactly, does that work?
... churches do that very well. They are a safety net of last resort for many people, and not just poor people, ... churches open their doors to these people and they can do a better job at this than government agencies.He's talking about churches as safety nets and sources of social support. What he's talking about is the (possible) necessity of churches in a country that rejects socialism. He's talking about America but he doesn't admit it.
The main culprit for lack of academic progress of students, according to the authors, is a lack of rigor. They review data from student surveys to show, for example, that 32 percent of students each semester do not take any courses with more than 40 pages of reading assigned a week, and that half don't take a single course in which they must write more than 20 pages over the course of a semester. Further, the authors note that students spend, on average, only about 12-14 hours a week studying, and that much of this time is studying in groups.Who's to blame for this sorry state of affairs?
Debra Humphreys, vice president for communications and public affairs of AAC&U, said that she viewed the book as "devastating" in its critique of higher education. Faculty members and administrators (not to mention students and parents) should be alarmed by how little learning the authors found to be taking place, she said. Humphreys also said that the findings should give pause to those anxious to push students through and award more degrees -- without perhaps giving enough attention to what happens during a college education.None of this is news my colleagues and me. Problem is, there's not much we can do about it. If we increase the rigor of our biochemistry courses and start demanding more of our students then the result won't be increased learning. It will simply mean that undergraduates will avoid biochemistry courses. In fact, that's already happening since the University of Toronto has developed dozens of new programs that will award degrees in the biological sciences without ever forcing students to take a rigorous course.
"In the race to completion, there is this assumption that a credit is a credit is a credit, and when you get to the magic number of credits, you will have learned what you need to learn," she said. What this book shows, Humphreys added, is that "you can accumulate an awful lot of credits and not learn anything."
[Hat Tip: Uncertain Principles]
This Friday night at 7:30 p.m. CFI Canada launches the much awaited Extraordinary Claims campaign with three lectures, a panel discussion and an audience question-and-answer session, for a critical analysis of Psychics, Homeopathy and Christ. The invitation has also been respectfully extended to hundreds in the Toronto area who support one or more of these claims. The night promises to be an exciting and fascinating experience. Don't miss out!
Professor James Alcock of York University will address Psychics, Dr. Iain Martel of the Committee for the Advancement of Scientific Skepticism (CASS) will analyze Homeopathy and John Loftus, a former Christian Minister and apologist, will take on Christ. The night will be moderated by Michael Kruse, co-chair of CASS.
Date and time: Friday, January 21, 7:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. CFI members have advance access to seating beginning at 6:45 p.m. Non-members will be seated shortly before the presentation begins.
Location: University of Toronto - MacLeod Auditorium - 1 King's College Circle, Room 2158 Google Map
Admission prices: $8 general, $5 students and FREE for CFI members. Become a CFI member or renew.
Prepaying admission by PayPal is offered HERE. Please print out your PayPal receipt and bring it with you.
CFI members please bring your membership card and check the expiration date to ensure you can get in for FREE. If you are unsure then call Centre for Inquiry Ontario at (416) 971-5676 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
A members-only reception is being held at 5:30 p.m. at CFI Ontario (216 Beverly St.).
Of course, you might want to discuss it with the scientists and scholars themselves. To that end, comments will be allowed on selected articles. All comments are held for moderation. The debate over evolution and intelligent design attracts all kinds, including those who detract from the conversation by their obnoxious behavior. In order to maintain a higher level of discourse, we will not publish comments that use foul language, ad hominem attacks, threats, or are otherwise uncivil.By way of contrast, this blog and many others run by defenders of evolution will allow all comments except spam. We're not afraid of contrary opinions or uncivil behavior from creationists. We get them all the time.
[Image Credit: Institute for Creationist Strategies: Show pride in your anti-scientific beliefs]
Like the stories of the Bible, there’s no evolutionary psychology hypothesis that can be disconfirmed by data. If your story doesn’t hold up, simply concoct another story. Of course, there’s no evidence for the alternative stories, either.In 1979 Gould and Lewontin wrote,
The admission of alternatives in principle does not imply their serious consideration in daily practice. We all say that not everything is adaptive; yet, faced with an organism, we tend to break it into parts and tell adaptive stories as if trade-offs among competing, well designed parts were the only constraint upon perfection for each trait. It is an old habit. As Romanes complained about A.R. Wallace in 1900: "Mr. Wallace does not expressly maintain the abstract impossibility of laws and causes other than those of utility and natural selection... Nevertheless, as he nowhere recognizes any other law or cause... he practically concludes that, on inductive or empirical grounds, there is no such other law or cause to be entertained. The adaptationist programme can be traced through common styles of argument. We illustrate just a few; we trust they will be recognized by all:Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
(1) If one adaptive argument fails, try another. Zig-zag commissures of clams and brachiopods, once widely regarded as devices for strengthening the shell, become sieves for restricting particles above a given size (Rudwick, 1964). A suite of external structures (horns, antlers, tusks) once viewed as weapons against predators, become symbols of intra-specific competition among males (Davitashvili, 1961). The eskimo face, once depicted as "cold engineered" (Coon, et al., 1950), becomes an adaptation to generate and withstand large masticatory forces (Shea, 1977). We do not attack these newer interpretations; they may all be right. We do wonder, though, whether the failure of one adaptive explanation should always simply inspire a search for another of the same general form, rather than a consideration of alternatives to the proposition that each part is "for" some specific purpose.
Cure or Con?
Erica Johnson investigates one of the fastest growing alternative health treatments in the country: homeopathy. Ontario homeopaths are about to become the first province in Canada to regulate homeopathy — lending credibility to this unproven practice.
Canada's leading consumer ally takes a long hard look at the theories, and the remedies. For the first time in Canada, we conduct a test of homeopathic medicines, investigating the science behind these so-called medicines. In light of our results, we ask both the Ontario government and Health Canada why they are lending credibility to the homeopathic industry. Johnson also meets up with a rep from the world's leading manufacturer of homeopathic medicines, who admits that even the company doesn't know how homeopathy is supposed to work.
Watch, as we witness a Vancouver group of skeptics taking part in a group overdose of homeopathic remedies. Perhaps most disturbing we learn that some homeopaths are treating cancer patients with homeopathic remedies — this despite a leading cancer specialist saying there is no role for homeopathy in the treatment of cancer, that it is a "scam that is not evidence-based".
Gould, S.J. and Lewontin, R.C. (1979) The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences, Vol. 205, No. 1161, The Evolution of Adaptation by Natural Selection (Sep. 21, 1979), pp. 581-598. [AAAS reprint] [printable version]
Another physical object with enormous longevity is DNA. Our bodies contain some genes that have remained little changed in 100 million years. An alien expedition to Earth might have used biotechnology to assist with mineral processing, agriculture or environmental projects. If they modified the genomes of some terrestrial organisms for this purpose, or created their own micro-organisms from scratch, the legacy of this tampering might endure to this day, hidden in the biological record.Here's the question. Assume that the aliens inserted a 1000 bp message in the same place in the genomes of every member of our ancestral population from five million years ago. At that point every organism in the species had exactly the same message in a region of junk DNA.
Which leads to an even more radical proposal. Life on Earth stores genetic information in DNA. A lot of DNA seems to be junk, however. If aliens, or their robotic surrogates, long ago wanted to leave us a message, they need not have used radio waves. They could have uploaded the data into the junk DNA of terrestrial organisms. It would be the modern equivalent of a message in a bottle, with the message being encoded digitally in nucleic acid and the bottle being a living, replicating cell. (It is possible—scientists today have successfully implanted messages of as many as 100 words into the genome of bacteria.) A systematic search for gerrymandered genomes would be relatively cheap and simple. Incredibly, a handful of (unsuccessful) computer searches have already been made for the tell-tale signs of an alien greeting.
Photo Credit: Lieutenant Ellen Ripley communicates with aliens.
There is one feature I notice that is generally missing in "cargo cult science." It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty — a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid — not only what you think is right about it; other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked — to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.Think about Feynman's words next time you read a paper on the importance of alternative splicing, the disappearance of junk DNA, or anything about evolutionary psychology.
Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can — if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong — to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.
In summary, the idea is to try to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgment in one particular direction or another.
Richard Feynman, "Cargo Cult Science" in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
While the majority of multiexonic human genes show some evidence of alternative splicing, it is unclear what fraction of observed splice forms is functionally relevant. In this study, we examine the extent of alternative splicing in human cells using deep RNA sequencing and de novo identification of splice junctions. We demonstrate the existence of a large class of low abundance isoforms, encompassing approximately 150,000 previously unannotated splice junctions in our data. Newly-identified splice sites show little evidence of evolutionary conservation, suggesting that the majority are due to erroneous splice site choice. We show that sequence motifs involved in the recognition of exons are enriched in the vicinity of unconserved splice sites. We estimate that the average intron has a splicing error rate of approximately 0.7% and show that introns in highly expressed genes are spliced more accurately, likely due to their shorter length. These results implicate noisy splicing as an important property of genome evolution.
Most human genes are split into pieces, such that the protein-coding parts (exons) are separated in the genome by large tracts of non-coding DNA (introns) that must be transcribed and spliced out to create a functional transcript. Variation in splicing reactions can create multiple transcripts from the same gene, yet the function for many of these alternative transcripts is unknown. In this study, we show that many of these transcripts are due to splicing errors which are not preserved over evolutionary time. We estimate that the error rate in the splicing of an intron is about 0.7% and demonstrate that there are two major types of splicing error: errors in the recognition of exons and errors in the precise choice of splice site. These results raise the possibility that variation in levels of alternative splicing across species may in part be to variation in splicing error rate.
Pickrell, J.K., Pai, A.A., and Gilad, Y., Pritchard, J.P. (2010) Noisy Splicing Drives mRNA Isoform Diversity in Human Cells. PLoS Genet 6(12): e1001236. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1001236
Photo Credit: chimpanzee.net
Conor Cunningham is a lecturer in theology and religious studies at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom.