Blog

Of interest

17 June 2018

Listen to John O’Donohue read his short poem on grief, “Beannacht”

10 June 2018

Why our brains can’t see the future

 “If you wonder why we have a brain, it’s to predict the future,” Kurzweil said. “But the kind of challenges we had 50,000 years ago, when our brains were evolving, were linear.”

Humans weren’t flying jets and building microprocessors when our brains were first developing. Instead, our minds were focused on more fundamental challenges, like hunting game.

“We can track an animal in the field and we don’t expect it to speed up as it goes along, we expect it to go at a constant pace,” Kurzweil said. “That worked very well, and that became hardwired in our brains.”

26 May 2018

33 Scientists Publish Paper Suggesting Octopuses Arrived As “Extraterrestrial Imports” To Earth

“The genome of the Octopus shows a staggering level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes more than is present in Homo sapiens. Its large brain and sophisticated nervous system, camera-like eyes, flexible bodies, instantaneous camouflage via the ability to switch colour and shape are just a few of the striking features that appear suddenly on the evolutionary scene…The transformative genes leading from the consensus ancestral Nautilus to the common Cuttlefish to Squid to the common are not easily to be found in any pre-existing life form – it is plausible then to suggest they seem to be borrowed from a far distant “future” in terms of terrestrial evolution, or more realistically from the cosmos at large.”

Science Reveals Yet Another Reason Octopuses and Squid Are So Weird

But when Stanford University geneticist Jin Billy Li heard about Joshua Rosenthal’s work on RNA editing in squid, his jaw dropped. That’s because the work, published today in the journal Cell, revealed that many cephalopods present a monumental exception to how living things use the information in DNA to make proteins. In nearly every other animal, RNA—the middleman in that process—faithfully transmits the message in the genes. But octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish (but not their dumber relatives, the nautiluses) edit their RNA, changing the message that gets read out to make proteins. {…}

Although most organisms posses the enzyme needed for gene editing, it isn’t widely used. In fact, University of Michigan evolutionary biologist Jianzhi George Zhang says RNA editing is, in most cases, deleterious. The consensus among folks who study such things is Mother Nature gave RNA editing a try, found it wanting, and largely abandoned it. {…}

When the scientists studied octopuses, squid, and cuttlefish, they found that these species had retained those vast swaths of genetic information at the expense of making the small changes that facilitate evolution. “Editing is important enough that they’re forgoing standard evolution,” Rosenthal says.

There May Be a Type of Caribou That Science Never Noticed

“They came from the ocean,” he says. “That’s how they described it.”

Scientists Transferred Memories From One Snail to Another

25 May 2018

Bacteria Hidden Under Our Feet May Be a New Weapon Against Superbugs

“Every place you step, there’s 10,000 bacteria, most of which we’ve never seen,” lead researcher Sean Brady told The Washington Post. “Our idea is, there’s this reservoir of antibiotics out in the environment we haven’t accessed yet.”

Books

Excerpts

“Love, love, until the night collapses.”

— Pablo Neruda, from section VIII of “The Heights of Macchu Picchu,” translated by Nathaniel Tarn

Advertisements