Oct 212007

IT seems that we have more in common with our distant reptilian relatives/ancestors than I thought. This from Discovery:

Dinosaurs probably did not enjoy many carefree teenage years, since most were parents before they reached adulthood, according to recently announced research.The find puts dinosaurs on the list of animals that had teenage pregnancies. Others on the list include crocodiles, lizards and humans.

And, they did it for to ensure large numbers of future generations.

“If these species had waited until full size to reproduce, they would have had very few years in which to produce offspring.”

I wonder if dinasaur parents hired dinosaur private eyes to keep a watch on their dinosaur kids….

Oct 192007

[tag]James Watson[/tag] seems to have been infected with the Prince Phillip Syndrome – this is a syndrome when otherwise intelligent men open their mouth in public and plunge head long into it…..

It is also sad to see once brilliant men, instead of evolving with society and new thoughts — remaining fossilzed in the past especially in areas of society and culture. These sort of views on matters of society are the social sciences equivalent of those who think that the universe was created over one week…

Sure we are all racially different – and we have different core abilities based on geography, history, culture, etal….. But, i would think that it would be more a function of ‘social & locational’ factors than genes.For example – a kid growing up at 18000 ft, who sprints 10 km to school everyday is probably going to have a great chance of being a marathon runner, but take that same child and put him in Mumbai and send him to school 10 minutes away walking — it is highly likely that he will be an asthmatic wreck in 10 years. But the same asthmatic kid in Mumbai may learn to speak four languages simultaneously while the kid in the village at 18,000 feet may just be comfortable in one language. …As with linguistic abilities or physical abilities, the same with intellectual abilities — if i am living to survive, then my survival skills will be honed, if survival and comfort is assured, then i will develop other skills… including academic etal…

Maybe, and his ilk will be better of figuring whether it is race that makes the powerful nations & corporations interfere in the affairs of African countries, perpetuating civil war across the board….. or is it pure selfishness….And maybe, just maybe, if this question is answered and peace comes to the continent as a whole… and children can grow up without drought, civil war, rape, hunger, poverty, destruction and a constant battle to survive…. then maybe, we can figure whether it is nature, nurture or third thing…..At this point of time you cannot compare someone living in peace with basic physical & emotional security taken care of…..with someone who isn’t….. It is basic bad science… be it social science or physical science.

Also read: wired — The Science & Assumptions behind Watson’s views on Blacks

Scientific American — on Won a Nobel, Go Nuts and on James Watson’s Greatest Hits..

Dec 182006

… not quite like walking like an Egyptian but close.

I used to wonder how my mother used to unerringly find out that any one in the family had been out drinking. After all none of us reached home reeking of the stuff. She used the same tactics to sniff out cigarettes hidden away. One can understand getting caught with lit cigarettes. But, cancer sticks hidden away in cupboards should be fairly undetected. Dad and I used to joke about how mom in the anti-narcotics squad will be a great national asset. I used to often wonder how she managed to trap us so very well. And now i know why

Humans can follow scent trails across a field in the same way that dogs can – and they improve with practice – a intriguing new field study has revealed.

Jess Porter and Noam Sobel at the University of California in Berkeley, US, and colleagues tested whether 32 people were able to follow a 10-metre-long scent trail of chocolate essence through open grass using only their noses. Two-thirds of them could.

They then trained four of the subjects three times a day for three days over a two week period to see whether they improved with practice. After training the subjects followed the trail more accurately and at more than double the speed.

The study doesn’t look at difference in genders, or the impact of marriage or childbirth on sniffing efficacy. But, give it time 🙂

Jan 152006

…seems to have taken on a new meaning. The Guardian reports:

British scientists are seeking permission to create hybrid embryos in the lab by fusing human cells with rabbit eggs. If granted consent, the team will use the embryos to produce stem cells that carry genetic defects, in the hope that studying them will help understand the complex mechanisms behind incurable human diseases.

The logic:

“The fertility of rabbits is legendary,” said Prof Shaw. “The most important thing is that with animal eggs, we have a much better chance of generating stem cells and if we wait for human eggs, it’s going to be maybe a decade before we can do this. If we can use animal eggs, we could maybe have stem cells within one or two years,”

At one level, of course one thinks about the ethics of the various uses of stem cell research. But at the other , there is no denying its obvious benefits to society. Be it in terms of germ resistant crops or in terms of cure of otherwise curable diseases.

The people who oppose it on religious grounds need to just look back at the history of science. every single major discovery has been opposed by religious organisations. And I don’t really buy the western (read fundamentalist Christian) religious argument – if ‘God” didn’t want us (humanity) doing these things she wouldn’t have given us curiousity.
People who oppose it on grounds of ethics – need only to remember that it is too early in the day to predict every single use or abuse the technology can be put too. I am sure I don’t want genetically engineered killer zombie rabbit (for the want of a better example) with an Uzi bearing down my highway – but that is , I am sure a long way off.And, by the time that we get to that point – the society then will make rules that it seems appropriate to handle the situation.
There is no point in agonizing about a tomorrow that may never happen, and give up the fruits that could make today better.