Thursday, 10 December 2015

46 Words to live by

Friday, 4 December 2015

45 Epigenetics: Why Inheritance Is Weirder Than We Thought

Epigenetics has been likened to software, where the hardware is the gene, the DNA itself.

We've thought for some time now that reproductive inheritance is determined by genes, which experience evolutionary change relatively slowly through random mutation and natural selection, and more recently added the concept of punctuated equillibrium.

Until recently, the idea that the acquired characteristics or experiences of an individual could be inheirated by offspring has been, to put it politely, generally dismissed (see soft inheritance, Lamarckism).  

There has now, in just the past half-dozen years, been something of an upheaval in the scientific fields that look at heredity, from microbiology to neurology to psychology.  The legacy of inheritance had been neatly divided between 'nature' (biology and genetics) and 'nuture' (psychology and environmental factors) - to grossly oversimplify: physical character was inherited biologically, while behavioral character was solely the result of environmental influences on the individual.

But now we are suddenly having to consider the prospect that the acquired characteristics of one generation can be passed on to future generations through biology.  And this changes everything.

So here are three (extremely oversimplified) high points, as pertain to us humans: 

1. The Nature vs Nurture Wars have taught us that the genes we hand down to our children carry only our slow-changing physical legacy, not our own life experiences. This turns out to be wrong. 

Individual life experiences that may contain survival-benefit relevance can be passed to many succeeding generations via epigenetics. 

2. The idea that, as individuals, we are the sum of (our genes + our environment) is wrong.  

Through our epigenetic inheritance we are the (sum of our genes + our environment + (our parents' environment + (their parents' environment + (...)))).

3. Consider the case where your grandmother was the victim of an utterly hideous childhood that scarred her for life.  

Now let's say that your grandmother was an utterly brilliant individual who did a lot of work to make sure her children were raised in the best possible environment.

Even so, epigenetics suggests that you and your children may still be dealing with the echo-on effects of her trauma.  

This does not mean that you're screwed - rather, it means that you get to help nurture your epigenetic line through the healing, without blaming yourself, your parents, or your children. 

And your freedom from blame may help you maintain the very environment you need to benefit yourself and your generations.

Epigenetics in a brilliant 3-minute cartoon:

44 The 10 types of people

(Does onyone know who originated this joke? Please comment.)

"There are only 10 types of people in the world,
those who understand binary and those who don’t."

Sunday, 8 November 2015

43 Rumours of my disappearance slightly exaggerated...

Yes, I am still among the living, and yes, it's been quite  a long time since I've published anything.

I am in the process of revamping this blog, so you might see something new here in a little bit...

Thank you so much for sticking around,

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

42 I'm A Photographer, Not A Terrorist!

Do you take photographs in public? Then best check this out.

Two more pages for UK photogs: and a good video slideshow here.

If you photograph in the USA, then look here.

For those who snap in Canada, go here.

If you're down in Oz, here's a link.

Français, you say? Cliquez ici (if the site is down, try the Google-cached page ici).

While I'm at it, I'll include links to other countries -- got one?

Galena Alyson Canada 11 August 2009 Vashon Island Washington USA
Last updated 13 August 2009

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

41 The Common Epony Mouse

Photo by George Shuklin

The Common Epony Mouse — a minor creature of little note, given to efforts to aggrandise itself through attempts to name things after itself. Thrives especially in environments recently wrested from their former inhabitants. See eponymist, empire, conquest, graffiti, manifest destiny, &c.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

40 April Fool

Photo by Lars Andersen.
It has been snowing here all morning, which is absurd.  It's too warm to stick, but still, snowing in April?!

[Note Google has taken down all their April Fool stuff.  I did save one CADIE screenshot, which is at the end of this article. GAC]

Google is up to it's usual 1 April shenanigans, this time announcing CADIE a successful AI, which appears to be "getting loose." 

The nice, light-weight Google browser Google Chrome is, this morning, offering a PDF download of 3-D glasses to enhance your Web experience. 

There is, also as usual, an April Fool Gmail hoax (you have to be logged-out to see it), this time an "intelligent" utility that answers all your mail for you. Some pretty funny samples here.

Of course the free service Gmail was itself announced on 1 April (2004), with an "impossible" amount of free storage, and was presumed at the time to be a hoax.  It wasn't.  So...CADIE?  Are you there?... Oooooh.... 

(Those Google folks are pretty "special."  Look fast  it'll all be gone by the end of the day...)

local radio morning show reported receiving calls that the landmark Seattle P-I Globe had been relocated by April Fool pranksters and was floating in Puget Sound.  A 'witness' even sent in a photo, which they showed on the radio ;-P  The globe weighs over 18 tons.  You can figure it out.
(Having failed to find a buyer, the P-I is soon going the way of so many hard-copy newspapers these days, and that is not a hoax.)

About April Fool's Day: a Wikipedia entry, the top 100 April Fools of all time, and some history.

So, y'all keep an eye on your gullibles today...

By the way, I'm pregnant.  And moving to Australia.

Galena Alyson Canada 1 April 2009 Vashon Island, Washington, USA