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Evolution and the Illusion of randomness.

Evolution and the Illusion of randomness. (By Steve Talbott at netfuture.org)
posted by seanyboy on Dec 2, 2011 - 44 comments

Out of Africa

Australian Aboriginals were the first explorers, DNA research shows [more inside]
posted by mumimor on Sep 22, 2011 - 33 comments

Cat Color Genetics

After decades of breeding, the complexity of cat color genetics is quite well understood. Genes which control pigmentation, hair length, color dilution, banding (agouti), white fur (dominant, spotting, or albino, sometimes linked with deafness), tabby patterns, and more combine to create a wide spectrum of possibilities. Specific traits such as white gloving among Birman cats and the amber color found only in Norwegian Forest Cats (which comes from a single female born in 1981!) have also been isolated and studied, and can be affordably tested for. On top of all that, fur color is epigenetic as well as genetic, and sometimes responds to the cat's environment. If you clone a calico cat, you get a kitten which doesn't have a similar coat due to X-inactivation, and pointed cats (such as Burmese, Siamese, and Tonkinese) have temperature-sensitive coloration. [more inside]
posted by vorfeed on Aug 28, 2011 - 90 comments

Genetic portraits

Split Family Faces. "How much do you and members of your family really look alike? Quebec, Canada-based graphic designer and photographer Ulric Collette has created a shockingly cool project where he's exploring the genetic similarities between different members of the same family. By splitting their faces in half and then melding them together, he creates interesting new people that are sometimes quite normal looking and other times far from it. He calls this series Genetic Portraits."
posted by Bunny Ultramod on Aug 17, 2011 - 43 comments

Building Blocks Of DNA Come From Space

NASA Proves Building Blocks Of DNA Come From Space. "NASA researchers studying meteorites have found that they contain several of the components needed to make DNA on Earth. The discovery provides support for the idea that the building blocks for DNA were likely created in space, and carried to Earth on objects, like meteorites, that crashed into the planet’s surface. According to the theory, the ready-made DNA parts could have then assembled under Earth’s early conditions to create the first DNA."
posted by homunculus on Aug 9, 2011 - 44 comments

Genetics, PR, and meeting new people.

Non-Africans Are Part Neanderthal, Genetic Research Shows. [more inside]
posted by dglynn on Jul 19, 2011 - 139 comments

The Cartoon Guide to Life, the Universe, and Everything

Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
posted by Rhaomi on Jun 6, 2011 - 29 comments

all about the brain

Allen Human Brain Atlas - Brain Explorer 2 is a desktop software application for viewing the human brain anatomy and gene expression data in 3D. "Until now, a definitive map of the human brain at this level of detail simply hasn't existed," said Allan Jones, the nonprofit institute's chief executive. "For the first time, we have generated a comprehensive map of the brain that includes the underlying biochemistry." | Functional Neuroanatomy | 10 Great Sites for Reviewing Brain Anatomy | Harvard Brain Atlas. Bonus link: Brain massage with cosmic energy application in Pushkar, India. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Apr 14, 2011 - 12 comments

master of information

The New Biology - Eric Schadt's quest to upend molecular biology and open source it. (via)
posted by kliuless on Apr 9, 2011 - 35 comments

"Genetic engineers don't make new genes, they rearrange existing ones."

The Xenotext Experiment is Christian Bök's [Previously],"nine-year long attempt to create an example of “living poetry.” I have been striving to write a short verse about language and genetics, whereupon I use a “chemical alphabet” to translate this poem into a sequence of DNA for subsequent implantation into the genome of a bacterium (in this case, a microbe called Deinococcus radiodurans—an extremophile, capable of surviving, without mutation, in even the most hostile milieus, including the vacuum of outer space)." [Via] [more inside]
posted by Fizz on Apr 4, 2011 - 25 comments

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it

Could the three established domains of life - eukaryotes, bacteria and archaea - be joined by a fourth?
posted by Artw on Mar 25, 2011 - 53 comments

Happy 65th birthday to the MRC birth cohort of 1946

Epidemiology: Study of a lifetime. "In 1946, scientists started tracking thousands of British children born during one cold March week. On their 65th birthday, the study members find themselves more scientifically valuable than ever before." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 21, 2011 - 7 comments

Cell division = copyright infringement?

“To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” Craig Venter created synthetic life and inscribed this quote from James Joyce into its genome. Now he has been threatened with a suit for copyright infringement by the very litigious James Joyce estate.
posted by caddis on Mar 20, 2011 - 32 comments

Please Support Genetic Freedom

Should you be allowed unrestricted knowledge of your own genetic makeup? Or should your doctor be the one to decide how much you can know about your own genes? Currently direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic testing companies (such as 23andMe) allow consumers to discover which genes they have inherited. But some influential people are arguing that the general public is harmed by the ability to freely access this type of information. The American Medical Association is urging the FDA to make it so that genomic information is only available to a person through a personal physician or medical counselor. As a counterpoint the geneticists at the Genomes Unzipped website provide a six point statement on why People Have A Right To Access Their Own Genetic Information. [more inside]
posted by Jason Malloy on Mar 13, 2011 - 98 comments

The Missing Transposable Link

In the 1940s Barbara McClintock discovered the remarkable phenomenon of mobile genetic elements, or transposons: parasitic DNA that makes up a significant fraction of the human genome. (Here is a video segment about McClintock: Part 1 & 2.) The discovery remains highly important: we now know that transposons play a role in driving genome evolution. Where do they come from? A compelling hypothesis is that some evolved from viruses.

Now a marine biology group at UBC has found a virus whose closest genetic relative is a type of transposon. (The paywalled paper's abstract is here.) But that is not even the interesting part. [more inside]
posted by jjray on Mar 6, 2011 - 35 comments

Twenty-eight years and eight months

The Someone You're Not: "Our packed prisons are starting to disgorge hundreds of mostly African-American men who, over the last few decades, we wrongly convicted of violent crimes. This is what it's like to spend nearly thirty years in prison for something you didn't do. This is what it's like to spend nearly thirty years as someone you aren't. And for Ray Towler, this is what it's like to be free." Via. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 25, 2011 - 18 comments

Collect 'Em All!

This is a game about breeding flowers. Each flower's traits are determined by its genes. Pick two flowers and their genes combine to create new variations. There is no aim in this game... Feel free to set yourself one. -- Rare Breeds: Petunia. (Flash.) [more inside]
posted by Gator on Jan 30, 2011 - 44 comments

get your group on

The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jan 15, 2011 - 9 comments

Good News for Pregnant Needlephobes....

Invasive amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling (CVS) tests are commonly used to determine the chromosomal, structural and genetic abnormalities in fetuses. But could they eventually become obsolete? A Chinese study has found that a complete copy of the fetal genome exists in the mother's blood, suggesting many prenatal diagnoses could potentially be performed noninvasively. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 8, 2010 - 30 comments

Possible pre-Columbian Native American gene found in modern Icelanders

An Icelandic company called deCODE genetics (previously) has found evidence, though not conclusive, that an unknown American woman traveled to Iceland, possibly against her will, as early the year 1000 but not later than 1700. She had offspring in Iceland with natives. 80 of her descendants are still extant in that country. This finding has been announced in a pre-print online publication of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The work involved explorations of mitochondrial DNA, which are frequently employed to examine humans' centuries-old lineages. One surprising result is that this lineage does not seem to line up with previously known Native American genetic markers, but the authors believe that the explanation above is "[more] likely" than this common ancestor being European or Asian. (Via Daily Mail.) [more inside]
posted by knile on Nov 19, 2010 - 28 comments

Genetic basis found for ADHD

"Our findings provide genetic evidence of an increased rate of large CNVs in individuals with ADHD and suggest that ADHD is not purely a social construct." (abstract) Researchers find a genetic basis for ADHD, and the researcher hopes the finding will reduce the stigma associated with the disorder. But maybe it's more complex than just biology. In any case, children who are diagnosed at an early age are 10 times more likely to be depressed as adolescents. (abstract)
posted by desjardins on Oct 6, 2010 - 57 comments

"...endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."

Our minds boggle at how the wolf could become the chihuahua, the Saint Bernard, the poodle and the Komondor. Artificial selection was likewise responsible for transforming the humble wild mustard plant Brassica oleracea into cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and the breathtaking fractal Romanesco, all in the span of a few centuries. [more inside]
posted by overeducated_alligator on Aug 23, 2010 - 54 comments

The reanimated zombie gene

Noncoding "junk" DNA is a signature part of the genomes of eukaryotes. Scientists have now identified a case of such DNA causing a genetic disease (Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy) in certain genetic backgrounds by stabilizing the messenger RNA of a gene.
posted by jjray on Aug 19, 2010 - 20 comments

'Priceless collection' in Russia was never registered so is therefore worthless and does not officially exist, say developers

In 1926, Nikolai Vavilov founded the world's first modern seedbank, and amassed a collection which today contains over 90% unique varieties of plant, contained in no other collection in existence. For his opposition to Lysenkoism he died in prison, and several of his colleagues famously starved to death instead of eating their specimens during the Siege of Leningrad. Now the Pavlovsk seedbank facility has been seized by the Federal Agency for Public Estate Management, and pending a court ruling will be demolished - contents and all - to build a housing development. The collection cannot be moved in time because it is a working seedbank of living plants.
posted by mek on Aug 9, 2010 - 40 comments

The fastest white man in history.

The first European who is not of African descent to run 100 metres in less than 10 seconds. [more inside]
posted by three blind mice on Jul 28, 2010 - 103 comments

The Domestication of Man: The Social Implications of Darwin

New Adventures in Recent Evolution - In the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome have found evidence of recent natural selection. cf. Social Darwinism: 21st century edition [previously] (via ip) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Jul 20, 2010 - 19 comments

But will I be able to build my very own Milla Jovovich?

Sir, Your Liver Is Ready: Behind the Scenes of Bioprinting (Previously on MeFi)
posted by zarq on Jul 12, 2010 - 9 comments

Adaptation to High Altitude in Tibet

Tibetans May Be Fastest Evolutionary Adapters Ever. "A group of scientists in China, Denmark and the U.S. recently documented the fastest genetic change observed in humans. According to their findings, Tibetan adaption to high altitude might have taken just 3,000 years. That's a flash, in terms of evolutionary time, but it's one that's in dispute."
posted by homunculus on Jul 2, 2010 - 12 comments

Finding the past

There are some unique finds that tell us about the early lives of people. But of course there are other ways...
posted by rosswald on Jun 9, 2010 - 10 comments

"You Can't Patent Nature"

Followup to this post: A US District Court has ruled that Myriad Genetic's patents on breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which allow them to hold exclusive rights to a widely used genetic test for inherited breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility, are invalid. Genomics Law Report analyzes the ruling in two posts. The decision is likely to be challenged in a legal appeal — but if upheld, it could have huge implications for the biotechnology industry. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 31, 2010 - 51 comments

Mushroom Sex

"People who use sows to hunt for truffles often find it hard to prevent a sex-crazed animal from eating the truffle she has found and may lose fingers in the attempt." (via) The NYT on decoding the genome of the Périgord Black Truffle . Attempts to make truffles cheaper and more accessible in the past have been met with some resistance.
posted by The Whelk on Mar 30, 2010 - 32 comments

Whence Altruism?

A new study suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion in human history, as well as more complex economies. (Via). [more inside]
posted by zarq on Mar 22, 2010 - 49 comments

I'm sure this'll end well....

We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Feb 22, 2010 - 207 comments

"People are trying things; kettles are exploding. Everyone’s attempting magic right and left."

Do-It-Yourself Genetic Engineering at iGEM [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Feb 12, 2010 - 23 comments

More humans are alive today than had ever lived before 10,000 BC

The human population of Earth has almost always been about 50,000. [more inside]
posted by grobstein on Jan 19, 2010 - 85 comments

Cracking the Cancer Code

Cracking the Cancer Code: We already know that all cancers are caused by DNA mutations acquired during a person's lifetime. But what mutations actually cause cancer? We may be one step closer to finding out. International research teams led by the Cancer Genome Project at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute have now mapped the entire genetic code of two of the most common human cancers: lung and skin (malignant melanoma). Their findings have the potential to revolutionize preventative and treatment therapies as well as pave the way for new early detection tests. More. [more inside]
posted by zarq on Dec 17, 2009 - 36 comments

The Future Gets Closer, Again

Interesting developments in med-tech: gene testing machines for doctors, a plan to engineer stem cells to kill HIV, a new way to repair damaged nerves, the next generation of retinal implants, and the first bionic fingers up for sale. (Bonus for those uninterested in medicine: the newest take on a Minority Report-style interface, courtesy of MIT.)
posted by StrikeTheViol on Dec 11, 2009 - 2 comments

Orchids and dandelions

The orchid hypothesis “profoundly recasts the way we think about human [genetic] frailty.”
posted by oinopaponton on Dec 8, 2009 - 50 comments

Learn.Genetics

grumblebee's post about cell size and scale the other day was quite fascinating. Pulling back to the home for that site, the Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah delivers educational materials on genetics, bio-science and health topics ranging from stem cells to gene therapy, and from epigenetics to heredity. Explore the neurobiology of normal and addicted brains and the genetic contribution to this chronic disease.
posted by netbros on Oct 31, 2009 - 4 comments

synthetic biology

Our biotech century: the noocytes are coming... (previously)
posted by kliuless on Oct 4, 2009 - 25 comments

UK Asylum Seekers: Let The Right Ones In

The Home Office, the UK government department responsible for immigration control, has initiated a program to test the DNA from of potential asylum seekers in an attempt to confirm their true nationalities. The initial program is a six-month pilot limited to claimants arriving from the Horn of Africa. The program, currently using forensic samples provided on a voluntary basis, could potentially expand to other nationalities if successful. The Home Office spokeswoman said ancestral DNA testing would not be used alone but would be combined with language analysis, investigative interviewing techniques and other recognized forensic disciplines, but many are decrying the "deeply flawed" program, from refugee support groups to scientists in the genetic forensics fields (via). [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Sep 30, 2009 - 55 comments

A Few Strange Notes About Schizophrenia

Here's a strange one for the books: Science has taken notice that a really, really LARGE proportion of schizophrenic patients smoke. In fact, Scientific American Mind reports that an average of 85% of schizophrenic patients smoke cigarettes compared to only 20% in the general population. Many schizophrenics also appear to have abnormal thermoregulation, an impaired ability to understand body language, an inability to perceive an optical illusion called "the hollow mask illusion," an impaired ability to produce a brain protein known as the muscarinic M1 receptor, and an abnormally large number of genetic mutations known as CNV's or "copy number variations."
posted by mdpatrick on Sep 29, 2009 - 65 comments

Camp Sundown visits the Yankees

"The Yankees' best game this season came after the lights were dimmed." [more inside]
posted by zarq on Aug 14, 2009 - 39 comments

A sea of green

"Algae is the ultimate biological system using sunlight to capture and convert carbon dioxide into fuel... I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more [fuel] out." Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics partners with ExxonMobil in a $600M project to harvest biofuels from genetically engineered algae. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry." [previously] [more inside]
posted by Blazecock Pileon on Jul 14, 2009 - 45 comments

prehistoric woof

The Village Dog Project is an ongoing research project to document genetic diversity in pariah dogs. These dogs haven't been subject to breed pressure, and may be able to help researchers learn more about the transition from wolf to dog. (via)
posted by Pants! on Jun 23, 2009 - 5 comments

Discover Your Inner Frankenstein

"In Massachusetts, a young woman makes genetically modified E. coli in a closet she converted into a home lab. A part-time DJ in Berkeley, Calif., works in his attic to cultivate viruses extracted from sewage. In Seattle, a grad-school dropout wants to breed algae in a personal biology lab. These hobbyists represent a growing strain of geekdom known as biohacking, in which do-it-yourselfers tinker with the building blocks of life in the comfort of their own homes." They might be discovering cures for diseases or developing new biofuels, but are their experiments too risky? Via. [more inside]
posted by amyms on May 19, 2009 - 101 comments

Do they preserve scientific transparency, protect profits or both?

On behalf of medical organizations, universities, & individual patients, pathologists and genetics researchers, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the US Patent and Trademark Office. Myriad holds the US patents to the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, associated with hereditary causes of breast and ovarian cancers. Their patents guarantee the company the right to prevent anyone else from testing or studying those genes, which the ACLU says is unconstitutional and inhibits researchers from finding treatments and cures. [more inside]
posted by zarq on May 13, 2009 - 64 comments

The Neurobiology of Birdsong

The universal grammar of birdsong is genetically encoded. "A new study, published online in the journal Nature, shows that the songs of isolated zebra finches evolve over multiple generations to resemble those of birds in natural colonies. These findings show that song learning in birds is not purely the product of nurture, but has a strong genetic basis, and suggest that bird song has a universal grammar, or an intrinsic structure which is present at birth."
posted by homunculus on May 5, 2009 - 23 comments

The Sins of your Fathers

Familial genetic profiling of law enforcement DNA databases has already been used to succesfully establish both guilt and innocence. Legal and moral questions on these expanded techniques abound and are comprehensively explored by a speaker at a recent FBI symposium on the topic. In the author's words, scenarios previously limited to movies like Minority Report are unfolding quietly, before most of us have thought about the consequences. (Via)
posted by protorp on Mar 18, 2009 - 29 comments

Can't someone else do it?

Will the US become more progressive in the future or will advances in neuroscience cause the abandonment of the "equality premise"? [more inside]
posted by 445supermag on Mar 13, 2009 - 74 comments

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