Wednesday, September 5, 2012

You've Come a Long Way Baby! Or Have You?

Tantalizing bits from this book on human DNA include:

1) "...humans have ten times more microorganisms feasting inside us than we do cells" (Kean, p. 301)
2) "The name HUMAN Genome Project even became something of a misnomer, because it turned out that 8 percent of our genome isn't human at all: a quarter billion of our base pairs are old virus genes. Human genes actually make up less that 2 percent of our total DNA, so by this measure we're four times more virus than human." (Kean, p. 302)
3)  Zipf's law: "It says that the most common word in a language appears roughly twice as often as the second most common word, roughly three times as often as the third most common, a hundred times more common than the hudrendth most common, and so on. In English, THE accounts for 7 percent of words, OF about half that, AND a third of that, all way down to obscurities like grawlix...These distributions hold just as true for modern Hindi, Spanish, or Russian." Zipf's law can be applied to music, city population ranks, income distributions, mass extinctions, earthquake magnitudes, the ratios of colors in painting...." (Kean 163)
4)  Creationism vs. Evolution? A lot of the greatest work in genetics has been done by those in religious orders. Mendel of biological fame (the Mendelian laws of inheritance) was a monk and the Dominican
nun, Sister Miriam M. Stimson was a pioneer in DNA research in the 1940s and 1950s. "Women
at the time usually had to relinquish their careers upon marrying, while unmarried women (like Franklin) provoked suspicion....Catholic sisters, meanwhile, respectably unmarried and living in church run     convents, had the financial support and independence to   pursue science." (Kean, pp. 201-3)

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