Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 8.5

Amanda

Amanda is a science grad student in Boston whose favorite pastimes are having friendly debates and running amok.

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  1. From the first article: “The research could pave the way for advanced methods of enraging monkeys.”

    How perfect of a sentence is that? Not just enraging monkeys, but enraging them using “advanced methods”.

    This, my friends, is what science was made for. Next up: the search for advanced methods to make water buffaloes cry.

  2. Also, the “Human Cells a Chimera of Ancient Life” is a fascinating read, and raises some very interesting points. The rise of multicellularism is one of the most interesting mysteries in biology.

    1. This isn’t about multicellularism, this is much earlier, the origin of the eukaryotic cell.

      All multicellular organisms are eukaryotes, but not all eukaryotes are multicellular (e.g. the malaria parasite/germ.) Eukaryotes were around for perhaps a billion years or so before they came up with multicellularism. (I’m not sure if there is fossil evidence of when eukaryotes started.)

      As of a few decades ago, we have divided life into three domains – eukaryotes, bacteria (or eubacteria) and archea (or archaebacteria). DNA sequencing let us see that what we had thought of as one monolithic ‘bacteria’ domain was in fact two.

      It has long been known that the genetic machinery part of eukaryote cells (DNA duplication, translation into proteins etc.) seems to be more closely resemble archea, whereas the genes which code for structural and enzyme proteins seem to more closely resemble bacteria. This observation leads to the hypothesis that the eukaryote cell is descended from an archea/bacteria chimera. While this is undoubtedly the front runner explaination for the origin of eukaryotes, the issue is not yet settled.

      This is separate to the endosymbiosis origin of mitochondria (in all eukaryotes*) and chloroplasts (in plants and some others), which is not controversial. Mitochondria and chloroplasts have ancestors which were free living bacteria, and we can even tell which modern bacteria are related to them.

      * Some single celled eukaryotes do not have mitochondria, but there is reason to believe they had ancestors who did.

      An alternative to the chimerical origin would be that eukaryotes and archea are related, but after they diverged the eukaryotes acquired many genes from bacteria by horizontal gene transfer. (Sort of a natural version of genetic engineering, where you mug some other organism for some genes rather than inheriting them from your mother. We can see this happen sometimes in modern bacteria, via mini-chromosomes called plasmids.) The ‘command and control’ genes are much less prone to horizontal gene transfer (as they are so critical) so they remain the archea-related ones, but other genes are replaced by bacterial derived ones.

      I haven’t read this new paper, nor do I have the expertise to pass judgement on it, if I did. I am doing research in evolutionary biology, but I’m developing algorithms for data analysis, not looking at the origin of eukaryotes. Also, my background is not biology, so the information above is what I’ve picked up as I went, not the result of deep study.

  3. I guess when I was playing WoW, my guild was almost half made up of women since many of them were playing with spouses or significant others. We didn’t hear much in the way of gender-based stupid in any case on vent. Just regular guild drama stupid.

  4. From the Vent article:

    For those of you who have gone through really rough times in game, I know this is over-simplifying. Yes, those encounters hurt. Yes, they’re unfair. Yes, it’s scary and infuriating to have some stranger’s voice coming into your home while you’re trying to unwind after work or school, preying on you solely because of your gender. But you’re still here. You’re still playing, just like the girls who fought for their own baseball gloves forty years ago. Hang in there. It is getting better. It’s just going to take some time.

    And yes, gentlemen, some women take their ire too far. I know that many of you would never dare to say the things that get spat at us. Try to remember that the anger you’re encountering is often a defense mechanism. Tell the jerks to shut up and welcome the ladies who want to play.

    Change doesn’t just take time. Those girls didn’t fight for their own baseball gloves forty years ago and solve problem. They kept fighting and barely stayed in place. Change doesn’t take time; it takes anger and effort. (There’s a reason subsequent generations have more liberal outlooks about women and it isn’t people evolve to be nicer.) Telling guys to excuse the women who take “anger too far” because they have psychological “defense mechanisms” completely diminishes and dismisses the women’s authentic anger. And buttering up the guys in the same paragraph by saying that of course most of you are perfectly nice and would never do those things does not, in my opinion, sufficiently call most guys to task for enabling hostile behavior towards women. It’s also an icky dynamic that taps into a long tradition of women having to tell guys how great they are before they can ask them for help solving problems guys have caused.

    I feel a blog post coming on.

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