Monthly Archives: February 2015


The Higgs Boson was discovered by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in July of 2012. The LHC is just outside Geneva and half under France and the other half under Switzerland. It 27 kilometers in diameter, 100 meters underground and cost $9 billion dollars. It is also the largest man made machine of any kind in history.

(Great Courses – The Higgs Boson and Beyond)

It’s the small differences that matter

Genome sequencing is beginning to show how evolution works. Individual genes are being identified for particular traits. The single gene AH11 is believed to be responsible for walking upright and appears in the human genome but chimpanzees have a modified version. The chimp gene MYH16 is a strong jaw protein which prevents skull growth which would allow for a larger brain and humans have a mutated form of that gene. Chimps have the same number of base pair genomes as humans … 2.9 billion.

(The Great Courses – Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Application)

Some Chinese were willing to obey the Russians

In the 1920’s while China was fragmented and there were many different groups vying for control the new Chinese Communist Part was being completely controlled by the Russians. They contributed all the money and directed all the actions made by the Party and the military groups of the Party. Chou En-lai was often in Moscow to receive these orders and Mao Tse-Tung was a minor ‘bandit’ who was doing his best to gain an army and power. When they were first in a Communist group together Chou was the superior to Mao.

(Book – Mao: The Unknown Story – Jung Chang and Jon Halliday)

Conscious agricultural selection

Conscious selection of one plant, the mustard plant is responsible for many common food plants. Selection for terminal growth results in cabbage, leaf grow results in kale, stem and flowers result in broccoli, flowers in clusters results in cauliflower, and selection for stems results in kohlrabi.

(The Great Courses – Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Application)

Balanced but not fair

Normal blood cells live for about 120 days and they are then replaced by new blood cells from the bone marrow. Sickle cell disease creates abnormally shaped cells that only live about 16 days so bone marrow cannot keep up with the needed production of blood cells. The trait for Sickle cell disease is a recessive gene so that most carriers of that gene do not exhibit the disease. Normally a disadvantageous trait like this would eventually die out but this one continues. The organism that causes malaria lives part of its life in the red blood cells and scientists have proposed that this recessive gene which also keeps out malaria organisms so that the carriers are highly resistant to malaria. The term ‘balanced polymorphism’ described this situation where one disadvantageous trait is balanced against an advantageous trait.

(The Great Courses – Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Application)

One vote for Capitalization over Socialization

For the first two growing seasons after its landing in Massachusetts the Pilgrims grew their crops in the same communal style that other colonial settlements such as Jamestown used to grow their food crops. The result was disastrous and resulted in starvation situations for the first two winters. The leader of Plymouth, William Bradford decided to assign plots of land to each family and allow them to keep whatever crops they grew. The change in attitude of the Pilgrims was immediate and the result was that food was no longer a problem from that year forward.

(Book – Mayflower – Nathaniel Philbrick)

Who says we are at the top of the gene pool?

The number of genes in the genome of a species generally determines the complexity of that organism. Yeast has about 6000 genes, worms have about 19,000 genes, rice has about 35,000 genes. Humans have only about 24,000 genes! Human genes can be modified in more ways which is why we appear in reality to be more ‘complex’.

(The Great Courses – Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Application)