Molecular Biology

Pharyngula

Category archives for Molecular Biology

Give that fish a hand!

I have a bit of a peeve with a common analogy for the human genome: that it is the blueprint of the body, and that we can find a mapping of genes to details of our morphological organization. It’s annoying because even respectable institutions, like the National Human Genome Research Institute, use it as a…

Aaargh! Physicists! Again!

A while back, two physicists, Paul Davies and Charles Lineweaver, announced their explanation for cancer with a novel theory, which is theirs, that cancers are atavisms recapitulating in a Haeckelian reverse double backflip their premetazoan ancestry. They seemed very proud of their idea. I was aghast, as you might guess. They even claimed that human…

The CephSeq Consortium has a strategy

I approve this plan. A number of researchers have gotten together and worked out a grand strategy for sequencing the genomes of a collection of cephalopods. This involves surveying the phylogeny of cephalopods and trying to pick species to sample that adequately cover the diversity of the group, while also selecting model species that have…

The ENCODE delusion

I can take it no more. I wanted to dig deeper into the good stuff done by the ENCODE consortium, and have been working my way through some of the papers (not an easy thing, either: I have a very high workload this term), but then I saw this declaration from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.…

The NY Times is touting a computer simulation of Mycoplasma genitalium, the proud possesor of the simplest known genome. It’s a rather weird article because of the combination of hype, peculiar emphases, and cluelessness about what a simulation entails, and it bugged me. It is not a complete simulation — I don’t even know what…

Vertebrates are modified segmented worms; that is, their body plan is made up of sequentially repeated units, most apparent in skeletal structures like the vertebrae. Arthropods are also modified segmented worms. Look at a larval fly, for instance, and you can see they are made up of rings stacked together. So here’s a simple and…

A while back, I told you all about this small piece of the biochemistry of the fly eye — the pathways that make the brown and red pigments that color the eye. I left it with a question: if even my abbreviated summary revealed considerable complexity, how could this pathway evolve? Changing anything produces a…

I’ve been guilty of teaching bean-bag genetics this semester. Bean-bag genetics treats individuals as a bag of irrelevant shape containing a collection of alleles (the “beans”) that are sorted and disseminated by the rules of Mendel, and at its worst, assigns one trait to one allele; it’s highly unrealistic. In my defense, it was necessary…

Techniques to go with the tools

So you read that cool summary of how to build a molecular biology lab for $500. But wait, you don’t know what you’d do with the mobio toys! Here’s how to correct that: go to a workshop. THE MICHAEL SMITH LABS AND ADVANCED MOLECULAR BIOLOGY LAB PRESENTS OUR MOLECULAR BIOLOGY WORKSHOPS 2012 WINTER/SPRING Session. ONE…

Mad scientists, start drooling

The future is arriving fast. Here are the instructions for assembling a $500 home molecular biology laboratory — you can do it! And it’s getting cheaper all the time! The widespread and increasing availability of second-hand professional laboratory equipment or inexpensive new commercial surrogates means that it is now unchallenging to set up a fully…