On BioScience and Life and Such

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Tidbits from the www that makes you think

In Uncategorized on January 24, 2013 at 9:25 am

From a comment on a post on my friendfeed (I hope its ok that I quote this from you Kamilah Reed):

This makes me think of the mantis oothecae that I saw the mother lay on the edge of our deck. I saw her stand guard there until the cold killed her. The egg cases still out there, toughing it out through all this nasty cold weather. I can’t wait to see if we’ll actually have dozens of baby mantises next year. We’ve had them before, but I didn’t see where the case was last time.

I recently finished The Social Conquest of Earth (recommended), and found myself buying into Edward O. Wilsons arguments on social evolution vs. kin selection. We have become social beings based on traits like compassion of and empathy with, other individuals of our kind.

Based on th quote above though, you might want to expand the reach of those human traits to include other species as well. This quote encompasses empathy, compassion and sympathy towards a species far removed from our own. Importantly, a species I do not particularly care much about myself. Without the particular context of the story, I would gladly have gotten rid of those eggs, but since I find myself intrigued by the sacrifice of the mother-Mantis, I probably wouldn’t.

So, to all of you out there dooming the human race, despair not, – there may be hope. There are individuals out there that will share stories and facts that saves us – be thankful for diversity and keep listening.

Mantis religiosa trademark

Mantis religiosa trademark (Photo credit: macropoulos)

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Qustions I can’t seem to find answers to

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2012 at 11:58 am

What is it with genetic information that is so scary. I honestly do not understand this.

The more we learn about the human genome the more we understand how little it by itself, determines. Sure, it is our genetic framework or DNA-recipe-book or whatever other analogy you want to use. But, for almost everyone of us, our DNA sequence itself does not mean much in terms of  personal or professional opportunities or even health. DNA-information is pretty useless without context basically.

DNA sequencing trace

DNA sequencing trace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Still you apparently need laws and regulations and ethical boards and counselors to protect your genetic information. Not only from the public, but sometimes even from yourself.

Your lifestyle and health (and that of your family), your friends, your living environment – those are things that really, really matters – the true life-determinators or the context if you will. Which by the way, is useful information (that can be misused or exploited) also in the absence of knowledge of your DNA-sequence.

This information however, most people are allowed to  put on the internet for everyone to see. And they do so gladly.

This is puzzling to me.

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Sorting your self out – the eugenics way

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2011 at 3:36 pm
Eugenics

Image by gennie catastrophe via Flickr

I recently heard a talk by Lone Frank (author of the book “My Beautiful Genome” where during the discussion after the talk, she made the point that we should not hide the fact that eugenics is coming. She continued to specify that we are talking about personal eugenics – not the kind of eugenics practiced in authoritarianism.

I think this is a very good point and one that is missed by almost all opponents of the new genomic era, an era which, let’s be Frank about this, is sure to bring the sorting society to reality.

Why is personal eugenics different ? Well simply because there is a choice involved – that really is the whole difference. It involves replacing the sentence “Only healthy seeds must be sown” in the illustration above with something like “You can choose healthy seeds to be sown”. In a near-future transhumanist society a poster like this would most likely be an add for some ART/IVF-company and not propaganda from some dictatorship government.

While these may seem like subtle changes, they make a huge ethical difference. The discussion we need to have is not about eugenics forced upon us, but about eugenics as a personal choice.

Criticism of transhumanism is certainly in its place many times, and constructive criticism is surely needed to restrain our sometimes naive enthusiasm for technology. But, using comparisons to authoritarian eugenics (like the one practized in nazi-germany) is however, not very constructive (or even valid), since the principle of free choice is so central in transhumanist thinking.

Any true transhumanist will acknowledge the universal and absolute right for anyone to say no to technology, if they wish.

Any true transhumanist believes strongly in equality for all – whether “natural” or “enhanced”. Some so much so that they seek to avoid harming any life-form whatsoever.

I resent any comparison of transhumanism to racist/nazi – thinking. I believe transhumanism is about the opposite – equality for all. In fact I believe that embracing most, if not all technological developments is the only way to achieve this.

On our way there, we need to sort out our response to personal eugenics.

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Honors to ….

In Transhumanism, Uncategorized on December 6, 2011 at 9:38 am

Professor Moran at Sandwalk who is relentlessly responding to (the same) intelligent design claims. It’s a battle that may never be won. Beliefs based on faith is impossible to argue rationally against. Converting them to science is doing it the right way – but, no doubt – the hard way.

English: Transhumanism H+ symbol Русский: Симв...

Mary Meets Dolly for fighting against transhumanism and human enhancement – even though at the root of transhumanism you will find improved artificial limbs and medical technology made to heal disease and improve health. Who is opposed to that ? Strange how religion justifies suffering.

The Biotechnology board in my home-country who keeps having conferences on how knowledge of our own genes is dangerous is so many ways – even though most of us live unharmed lives with most of our traits (inherited or not) exposed.

Temperature predictions from some climate mode...

To the environmentalist movement who keeps warning us about global warming . If nobody cares, then converting people to science may not be such a good idea after all. Could some divine force intelligently design us out of this mess or are we intelligently designed into it with no escape ?

To me for writing another blog-post even though blogging is dead.

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Certifiably certified

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

post to news.thinkgene.com

Our lab is now ISO-13485 certified. Let me assure you that a lot of hours went into this.

If you for any reason, need a lab to make you a molecular biology diagnostic test, we’re the ones to call.

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What really happened to will

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 11:28 am
The no free-will bus campaign
Image by morgantj via Flickr

There’s a lot of talk about free will these days.

Following these discussions the following questions occur to me:

1. Is will incarcerated ?
2. If so, why ?

You shouldn’t free anything or anyone just on a hunch….

More accurately:

3. Is freedom a term that can adequately describe the state of our will ?

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Quote of the month August 10

In Uncategorized on August 6, 2010 at 9:38 am

Bosco Ho in this friendfeed discussion:

democracy is great, not because it helps you choose great leaders, but because it helps you get rid of shitty ones.

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Generalized Dontreallyknow Amount (GDA)

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

For no particular reason, it’s been a while since I have been to a McDonalds. We did go today though and I noticed that McDonalds like many other fast- or processed-food suppliers have started putting %GDA (Guideline Daily Amount) tables on their products. This is the Quarter Pounder one for women (!?):

So….according to the nutrinionists making these tables, eating two Quarter pounders with cheese a day will give you all the protein you need, all the fat you need and a bit more salt than you actually need. Throw in fries, a coke and a multi-vitamin pill. Result: a bit to much salt, but in general – healthy eating.

Anyone but me spotting a problem with these %GDA tables ?

More crap from the junkies

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2010 at 12:09 am

post to news.thinkgene.com

My three favourite junkies (junk-DNA supporters) out there are Professors Dr. Moran, Dr. Gregory and post doc. fellow Dr. White. This week they received a strong argument for their junk-DNA cause, which was this paper on how there appears to have been a lot of noise in some of the larger RNA-studies over recent years. This was covered elegantly in this Sandwalk post by professor Moran.

Now if only the Adaptive Complexity blog written by White would have just jumped on the same solid bandwagon all would have been fine, but no. Instead he attacks a lead author behind some of the above mentioned RNA-papers. Again, this would have been fine had it not been for the argument he uses, an argument which has the quality of third grade primary school science:

Second, John Mattick is clueless, and he should not be quoted. So junk DNA holds the secret to human complexity? Then I supposed it also holds the secret to the incredible complexity of an onion, which has five times more non-coding DNA than humans.

He goes on to give us professor Ryans definition of “The onion test”

The onion test is a simple reality check for anyone who thinks they have come up with a universal function for non-coding DNA1. Whatever your proposed function, ask yourself this question: Can I explain why an onion needs about five times more non-coding DNA for this function than a human?

This “test” I hope everyone sees is utter crap. If you don’t I’ll explain: the assumption is “more DNA = more biological complexity/functions” – which of course is wrong since organisms who apparently have very few functions can have more coding genetic material than more complex organisms (try google the number og genes corals have vs. humans). The assumption is wrong also because the onion may need to meet it’s changing environment with an entirely different genetic arsenal than primates, – the comparison is just way off unless you specify more.

I think the first comment to this Adaptive complexity post is brilliant:

Just out of curiosity tho, what’s the standard explanation for junk DNA? Is it just structural or something? – kerr jac

That question emphasizes what has been my main point all along: Dismissing something as junk is contrary to my idea of science being driven out of curiosity and the need to explore. If you label this DNA as “junk”, how do you answer this question with any confidence ?

The Intermittent Fasting Challenge

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2010 at 11:21 am

post to news.thinkgene.com

Weight and height are used in computing body m...
Image via Wikipedia

I have accepted a dieting challenge and will give intermittent fasting a try.

The challenge is a twitter-challenge and it’s initiated by @NerdyScienceMom. The challenge is to loose 10 lbs (4,5 kg) by 31. May.

Since I have concluded that the amount of exercise that I have time for is not sufficient as a dieting tool, my exercise regime will stay as it is (medium to high intensity 1 hour exercises two to three times a week). The only tool left in the toolbox is controlling my diet. I have been reading up on calorie restriction, but that seems way too complicated, and besides – calorie count based dieting has recently been put into serious question. I have long been skeptical to any claim that says that you can diet by eating the “right” sugars and fats, – I honestly doubt that you change things more than marginally by changing sugar and fat types. Just eating less of a balanced diet containing the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, salts and vitamins that you need on the other hand…..

Thus, I’ll be trying out intermittent fasting. The principle seems easy enough – do not eat every other day. I am going for two to three fasting days pr. week. The science on this method says promising, but mostly the data is somewhat preliminary. What seems clear though is that this method does not seem to pose any risk of malnutrition.

My starting weight is 79 kg, which is up one kg since the challenge actually started just before Easter. I blame too much spare time combined with moderately elevated physical activity (snowboarding), which as I have blogged before – makes me gain weight.

The target weight I have pledged to reach is still be 73,5 kg, which means I now need to loose 5,5 kg instead of the 4,5 I started out with. I’ll be posting updates (if I come across any testosterone on the way I’ll be updating vigorously). Please also follow the other participants in the challenge through the Nerdy Science Mommy blog.

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