More basic concepts

A couple more Basic Concepts posts have been put up. Chaz Orzel at Uncertain Principles defines "Force" in physics. And PZ Myers at Pharyngula defines "Gene". However, PZ does this as a molecular biologist would, and ignores the phenotypic effects of genes, and some complications such as alternative splicing, which make the same stretch of DNA "code" for different products. John Hawks gives an example of this in human DNA. The complexity of the concept of a gene is well discussed here [PDF].

Larry Moran has a nice piece on ethics in science teaching. Not a "basic concepts" piece, but worth reading for the "take no philosophers prisoner" approach.

UPDATE: Mark Chu-Carroll has added Mean, Median and Mode, basic concepts of statistics.

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Hey,'s right up front in the premise that this has to be a simplified presentation of a basic concept. You don't get to complain that I didn't cover this advanced topic or that odd exception!

And I didn't quite ignore phenotypic effects -- I alluded to it with the ideas of pleiotropy and polygeny. I'm thinking the next one really ought to be "allele", but maybe "phenotype" can be a later edition, too.

First off, I'm not criticising. Second, if other people can criticise my posts, I can criticise others. Third, sure, make it a series. "Phenotype" would be a lot of fun. The whole point of a basic concepts series is that you can add to it or address related matters in other posts. I'm going to do a follow on for "evolutionary tree" for the Clade one.

My point about alternative splicing is that it fundamentally undercuts the start-sequence-stop definition of "gene". In my view, the term is basically a homonym for a number of somewhat different concepts. For instance, the "one gene one trait" definition remains a decent definition... in Mendelian genetics. Outside that, it's useless. And there is no simple mapping from Mendelian "genes" (which are, in my view, just traits that are inherited in Mendelian ratios) to molecular "genes", and within molecular "genes" there are competing and inconsistent conceptions.

Your definition was fine, for a Basic Concept post. You need to ignore alternative splicing, although you might say something like "This concept gets progressively more complicated as we take in the details" to CYA.

A couple more Basic Concepts posts have been put up. Chaz Orzel at Uncertain Principles defines "Force" in physics.

I wouldn't really bother, except this post is currently topping the "Buzz" on the front page: It's "Chad," like the country in Africa, not "Chaz" like the villain in an 80's teen movie.