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What we're talking about DNA: The Web Inside the Strands Saturday, August 2, 2014

DNA: The Web Inside the Strands

Science and its interpretation is wonderful. Today I saw a post on Twitter from @LAbizar, referencing an @GEN, post that stated 8.2% of Human DNA is Functional with a link to a GEN article: “Surprise: Only 8.2% of Human DNA Is Functional.” The GEN writeup cited a PLoS Genetics article, “8.2% of the Human Genome Is Constrained: Variation in Rates of…

But we have to be clear that it is only a hypothesis at this point. I was reading about domestication syndrome (DS) — selecting animals for domestication has a whole collection of secondary traits that come along for the ride, in addition to tameness. We are selecting for animals that tolerate the presence of humans,…

Researchers have successfully created a draft sequence of the complete genome of a 700,000 year old horse from a bone fragment extracted from permafrost in the Yukon Territory (Canada). This is the oldest specimen ever sequenced by almost 10-fold. Prior sequencing of the whole genome from a hominid from Siberia who lived 80,000 years ago…

Only 1% of the human genome codes for proteins, which might make you wonder what the rest of the nucleotide sequence is good for. In 2012 the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (or ENCODE) announced that a full 80% of the genome played a biochemical role, interacting with proteins in some way. But a new study says it takes only about 8% of our non-protein-coding genes to make us human. This is the percentage of genes that are 'conserved' by the human species: change one of these genes, and you'll alter the fitness of the individual. These genes evolve slowly (although not as slowly as protein-coding genes). The rest of the genome is free to drift about and see what happens.

On Pharyngula, PZ Myers wonders why, when you tame a canine species (thus reducing the size of its adrenal gland), you automatically get floppy ears, spotted coats, and neoteny. PZ Myers says of genes, "everything is tangled together in interacting patterns of connectivity, so you often get unexpected results from single inputs." A new paper argues that an embryonic population of cells known as the neural crest explains why domestication causes changes throughout a mammal's body.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Physiologist Laurie Goodyear (Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, MA) and her colleagues recently published a study in the American Journal of Physiology that shows how overexpressing a protein can increase exercise capacity. The protein of interest was tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), which is a mammalian form of the tribbles protein found in fruit flies…

Kate Clancy comments on a ‘satire’ published in a serious journal. Genome Biology published a satirical piece by Neil Hall today, and since I’m American and he’s British I don’t find it funny. No wait, it’s that I’m female and he’s male. Or maybe that I’m junior and he’s senior. I’ve got it, it’s because…

We’re doomed. The Pacific striped octopus is exhibiting complex social behaviors. Panamanian biologist Aradio Rodaniche first reported the Pacific striped octopus in 1991 off the coast of Nicaragua, noting its strange behavior—living in groups of possibly up to 40, laying multiple egg clutches, and mating face-to-face and sucker-to-sucker. Most other octopus species, for instance, come together…

Physical Science

“In my better sense of mind, I know that I’m far from alone and far from the worst, and the earth keeps spinning. Everything keeps moving, with or without me.” -Phil Anselmo The Universe is a chaotic place, where nothing truly exists in isolation. Even if, at the moment of the Big Bang, nothing in…

“Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves…” -William Shakespeare It isn’t every day that I pause to make an announcement, but it also isn’t every day that I have news quite like this! Thanks to the new Starts With A Bang digs over…

I took a short nap yesterday, and of course as soon as I lay down on the bed, Emmy erupted in the furious barking that signals the arrival of a package. When I went out to get it, I found shiny new bound galley proofs of Eureka: Discovering Your Inner Scientist: I knew these were…

Environment

On April 24, 2014, an exclusive group of visionaries presented to over 4,000 students at the USA Science & Engineering Festival’s inaugural X-STEM Symposium sponsored by Northrop Grumman Foundation and MedImmune. The all day event included interactive presentations and workshops with some of the top scientists and engineers in the country. In the presentation below, renowned oceanographer Dr. David Gallo dives into…

The US Drought Monitor produces an assessment of drought conditions every week. The drought in California has taken a large jump over the last few days, with the highest category, “Exceptional,” jumping from 36.49% to 58.41%. At the start of the calendar year, that category was represented in California by 0%, so this is a…

The cause of “angel wing”, a deformity found in waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans has been uncovered. Sadly, it is often caused by well-intended people feeding birds foods that are too high in proteins or carbohydrates (bread, crackers and popcorn anyone?). Not surprisingly, this condition mainly impacts birds that live in public areas.…

Humanities

For 17 years, Salvadora Roman deboned chickens on the processing line at Wayne Farms in Decatur, Alabama. Because of the repetitive movement and speed of the processing line, Roman developed a chronic and painful hand injury that affects her ability to do even the most basic household chores. About three years ago, she was fired from the plant for taking time off work to visit a doctor for the injury she sustained on the line.

It’s still a sprawling action movie, complete with boilerplate plot, senseless acts of violence, and the satisfying crunch of large-scale destruction. But make no mistake: Guardians of the Galaxy is a riot, and Marvel’s master plan to take over Hollywood is well under way.

The incident report details are horrific and heartbreaking. If this was a radio broadcast, my editors and I would likely preface what I am about to relate with a warning: “The following report contains material that may be disturbing.” On July 2nd, 28-year old Joel Metz became the eighth cell tower worker to die on the job this year. OSHA and the industry have initiated new safety measures but nothing seems to be changing.

Education

Physiologist Laurie Goodyear (Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, MA) and her colleagues recently published a study in the American Journal of Physiology that shows how overexpressing a protein can increase exercise capacity. The protein of interest was tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), which is a mammalian form of the tribbles protein found in fruit flies…

On April 24, 2014, an exclusive group of visionaries presented to over 4,000 students at the USA Science & Engineering Festival’s inaugural X-STEM Symposium sponsored by Northrop Grumman Foundation and MedImmune. The all day event included interactive presentations and workshops with some of the top scientists and engineers in the country. In the presentation below, renowned oceanographer Dr. David Gallo dives into…

What’s the first you think about when you see a spider?  Running away?  Danger?  Fairies? Spiderman? Do you wonder if spider silk is really strong enough to stop a train, like they showed in Spiderman 2? Whatever your thoughts, you’re probably not thinking about 3D printing in space.  Yet, the time might be near when…

Politics

For 17 years, Salvadora Roman deboned chickens on the processing line at Wayne Farms in Decatur, Alabama. Because of the repetitive movement and speed of the processing line, Roman developed a chronic and painful hand injury that affects her ability to do even the most basic household chores. About three years ago, she was fired from the plant for taking time off work to visit a doctor for the injury she sustained on the line.

I hadn’t intended to turn this into assisted dying week, but that’s how it’s turning out. After his recent debate with Christian apologist William Lane Craig, Sean Carroll expressed frustration that the debate followed a certain pattern. Craig would make an argument, then Carroll would rebut it, then Craig would simply repeat the same argument…

McDonald’s ruling could be a major turning point for the fast food worker movement; federal commission clarifies rules for pregnant workers; miners with black lung may have been wrongly denied benefits; and a new OSHA whistleblower partnership is launched to support commercial carrier workers.

Medicine

In the light of the current Ebola outbreak, I thought this post from 2007 was once again highly relevant.  As another Ebola outbreak simmers in Uganda (and appears to be increasing), I recently was in touch with Zoe Young, a water and sanitation expert with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF*, known in the US as Doctors without Borders), who was working…

It’s odd to see otherwise pretty rational folks getting nervous about the news that the American Ebola patients are being flown back to the United States for treatment. “What if Ebola gets out?” “What if it infects the doctors/pilots/nurses taking care of them?” “I don’t want Ebola in the US!” Friends, I have news for…

Physiologist Laurie Goodyear (Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, MA) and her colleagues recently published a study in the American Journal of Physiology that shows how overexpressing a protein can increase exercise capacity. The protein of interest was tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), which is a mammalian form of the tribbles protein found in fruit flies…

Brain & Behavior

Physiologist Laurie Goodyear (Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, MA) and her colleagues recently published a study in the American Journal of Physiology that shows how overexpressing a protein can increase exercise capacity. The protein of interest was tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), which is a mammalian form of the tribbles protein found in fruit flies…

Like Aesop’s fable, rats have another reason to be envious of elephants. Elephants also have significantly more genes that can detect different smells (i.e. olfactory receptor genes) than other super-sniffers like rats and dogs. In fact, compared to 13 other species, African elephants have 1,948 genes related to smell putting them ahead of the previous…

The discovery of  this non-avian dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi, that lived 125 million years ago suggests that flight came before birds. The fossil was discovered in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China by Luis Chiappe from the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, CA. At nearly 4 feet long, it is the largest so-called 4-winged dinosaur discovered. The term “4-winged”…

Technology

Physiologist Laurie Goodyear (Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, MA) and her colleagues recently published a study in the American Journal of Physiology that shows how overexpressing a protein can increase exercise capacity. The protein of interest was tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), which is a mammalian form of the tribbles protein found in fruit flies…

The incident report details are horrific and heartbreaking. If this was a radio broadcast, my editors and I would likely preface what I am about to relate with a warning: “The following report contains material that may be disturbing.” On July 2nd, 28-year old Joel Metz became the eighth cell tower worker to die on the job this year. OSHA and the industry have initiated new safety measures but nothing seems to be changing.

Like Aesop’s fable, rats have another reason to be envious of elephants. Elephants also have significantly more genes that can detect different smells (i.e. olfactory receptor genes) than other super-sniffers like rats and dogs. In fact, compared to 13 other species, African elephants have 1,948 genes related to smell putting them ahead of the previous…

Information Science

In a recent post on his Whatever blog, science fiction writer John Scalzi makes some very fine points related to the ongoing controversy surrounding the way Amazon treats various publishers and how this affects authors. He makes great points throughout the post and with a little tweaking we can very easily apply his remarks to…

I have some theories about both children’s books and about science-themed graphic works. There are basically two kinds of children’s books: those that are designed to please children versus those that are designed to attract the adults that buy most children’s books. There are also basically two kinds of science-themed graphic works: those that are…

When Bethany Boggess first debuted her online mapping project, she didn’t expect it to attract so much attention. But within just six months of its launch, people from all over the world are sending in reports and helping her build a dynamic picture of the lives and deaths of workers.

Jobs

For 17 years, Salvadora Roman deboned chickens on the processing line at Wayne Farms in Decatur, Alabama. Because of the repetitive movement and speed of the processing line, Roman developed a chronic and painful hand injury that affects her ability to do even the most basic household chores. About three years ago, she was fired from the plant for taking time off work to visit a doctor for the injury she sustained on the line.

The incident report details are horrific and heartbreaking. If this was a radio broadcast, my editors and I would likely preface what I am about to relate with a warning: “The following report contains material that may be disturbing.” On July 2nd, 28-year old Joel Metz became the eighth cell tower worker to die on the job this year. OSHA and the industry have initiated new safety measures but nothing seems to be changing.

Mine safety penalties are pretty meaningless if they aren’t paid, and more so if they aren’t assessed.