Sunday, July 14, 2013
People I Met in Chicago at SMBE2013
I went to hear Masatoshi Nei give a talk on Monday morning (July 8) during a special session on "Ideas and Thoughts." The title of his talk was "Darwinism and the Theory of Mutation-Driven Evolution." This was the first time I had seen Nei in person and it was quite a thrill. I've been a huge fan ever since I read Molecular Evolutionary Genetics in 1987. That's when I first became aware of the power of population genetics and the importance of mutation and mutationism.
Later on that day, Dan Graur introduced me to Nei and I got him to sign my copy of his latest book Mutation-Driven Evolution. (Eat your heart out, Arlin!).
The Immortality of Television Sets.
I will be working hard to convince my colleagues to invite him to Toronto as part of the ENCODE tour.
Here's a picture of Dan with his Ph.D. supervisor. Did you know that Dan is an artist? He created the cover for the current issue of Genome Biology and Evolution. He's also a big fan of theatre (plays and musical). I'm told that he knows the scores of all the major Broadway musicals.
Zack Kopplin Defends Science].
Here's an interesting bit of history. Back in 1993 there was an online debate (HMS Beagle) on The Evolution and Origin of Introns. It was stimulated by Ford Doolittle who had just converted from being a proponent of "introns-early" to the correct side ("intron-late"). The Gilbert lab (and allies) defended "introns early" and the participants were Manyuan Long, Bill Martin, and Sandro de Souza. I talked to Bill and Sandro (see below) and they both seem to think their side won the debate. The actual winners, IMHO, were Arlin Stolzfus, John Logsdon, and William Fischer. John knows that his side won and so does everyone who followed the debate. The concept of "introns early" is dead as a doornail. It's one the few examples of a modern scientific conflict reaching a conclusion.
We need more debates like that.
(BTW, Bill Martin is not often wrong. It's good to keep reminding him that he lost this one!)
New Preprint: Uniform scaling of temperature dependent and species specific changes in timing of Drosophila development. The room was full and you could tell that everyone at the meeting had great respect for Eisen.
Michael is very smart in spite of the fact that I was initially a bit confused by his stance on ENCODE. Here's the correction: THIS Is What Michael Eisen Is Thinking!!!. I think he may be as smart as his brother.
I've been following Jim Lake's papers since the late 1980's when he first began to challenge Carl Woese and The Three Domain Hypothesis. Lake claimed that eukaryotes arose from within the archaebacteria and are most closely related to Crenarchaeota (formerly Eocytes) [Eocyte hypothesis].
The Three Domain HypothesisAt first I though he was a bit of a kook (sorry Jim) but gradually I began to realize that it was Woese who was wrong. Today, everyone who works in the field agrees that the archaebacterial component of eukaryotic genomes is more closely related to Crenarchaeota and the Three Domain Hypothesis is dead. The other component of eukaryotic genomes comes from traditional bacteria and eukaryotic cells probably arose by fusion of a primitive bacterium and a primitive eocyte.
Jim is a really kind person and he doesn't gloat over his victory. I think he deserves more credit.
I didn't realize it until this meeting but this is another example of a debate that is effectively over. I wonder how long it will take for textbook authors to remove those ugly, incorrect, three domain trees from their textbooks?
Reed Cartwright runs The Panda's Thumb. The server is in his lab. He has been prominent in the evolution-creation debate since the beginning. We talked quite a few times. Reed was one of the few people who stuck it out until the end of the last day so we had dinner with one of his students at Billy Goat. Cheezeborger, cheezeborger, cheezeborger.
Reed does computational biology. He tries to explain it to me but I have to confess I'm pretty helpless when it comes to that part of evolution. Reed did a post-doc with Dan Graur. It's amazing how many of my scientific friends are interconnected. I wonder why?
Nick Matzke is just finishing up his Ph.D. and will soon be off to a post-doc. He is an accommodationist but I don't hold that against him since he's on the right side of the junk DNA debate.
Nick made up the T-shirts but I don't think they attracted much attention. I have one but I don't wear T-shirts.
Sandro de Suza from Brazil and Bill Martin from Düsseldorf (Germany). Recall that they are the two losers (in the introns debate).
I didn't get much of a chance to talk to Sandro de Souza. This was the first time I met him. I did get to talk to Bill Martin. We share a lot of interests and I agree with just about everything he writes. He's on the right side of the junk DNA debate, the right side of the tree of life debate, the right side of the origin of life debate, and, besides, he understands biochemistry. He is very, very, smart. It's a bit scary.
I'm a huge fan of Bill Martin but he gets embarrassed when I tell him that. He is a true curmudgeon, but then, so are many of the other people in this post. I seem to be attracted to them for some strange reason. We need to invite Bill Martin to Toronto. He gives highly entertaining talks.