More than one set of genes? In the same person?

Except for blood cells, every single one of your trillion cells holds a full copy of your genome – which includes all of the genes that make up your DNA plus a lot of what’s called “junk” DNA, even though not every single one of your cells actually needs a full copy. For instance, the cells in your teeth do not need, nor do they use, thank God, your hair genes. Continue reading

Really? Evolution no longer works?

A naturalist, whom I respect a lot, recently said humans have stopped evolving. We now intervene in human survival in so many ways that we have eliminated natural selection. His point seemed to be that natural selection has the job of weeding out useless mutations, but our medical care and lifestyles were interfering with natural selection’s job of killing people off. Continue reading

Greenhouse gases do what?

This theory of greenhouse gases causing global warming is ridiculous, said my friend, the climate change denier. The theory doesn’t make sense, because if heat from the sun can get in, it can get back out again.

That’s a logical question. How could a barrier made out of greenhouse gases be only one-way? Are greenhouse gases some sort of swinging molecular door? Continue reading

Ulcers are not your fault

Remember how, back in the 20th century, we all believed stomach ulcers were caused by stress? Patients were told to eat baby food and try to calm their life down. There was a real flavor of blame the victim since the idea was you wouldn’t have an ulcer if you hadn’t let your life get so out of control, it was making your stomach crazy.

Turns out most stomach ulcers are caused by a bacteria called Helicobacter pylori. Continue reading

Great news for the senior crowd.

The traditional belief among medical types was that you were born with a certain number (billions) of neurons, and that was all you got. Period. Which was a problem, because along the way, you lose neurons. Why? The big reason for loss is simply time, but there are also health problems and head-involved accidents, even those you might have thought as not a problem. So you stumbled and cracked your head against the door jamb. So what? What’s a few thousand damaged neurons when you’ve got billions?

The problem is these incidents – the term medical types like to use is ‘insults’ – accumulate, along with, dare I say it, aging. You know, getting older. Senility city, here we come. Continue reading

Quasars

It was the 1960′s before anyone had an observatory strong enough to separate out quasars from the rest of the starlight, even though those quasars were the brightest spots of light in the sky.

Initially, there was suspicion that little green men or magic mushrooms were involved the observations (it was the sixties, after all) when astronomers spotted those intense beacons of light waves coming from as far away as it was possible to see. Continue reading

Eek, It’s Radioactive

We went through a period in the nineteen-fifties, when, even though we worried about nuclear fallout constantly, we also wore watches with radium dials, rode tourist buses to watch atom bomb tests, used X-ray machines as entertainment at state fairs (nothing like watching your toe bones wiggle), and allowed medical types to use enough X-rays and radium treatments on us to make us glow in the dark. Continue reading

How Do Evil Germs Develop Resistance to Wonder Drugs?

You saw it happen right in front of your eyes if you had children with recurrent ear or sinus infections. You saw your child’s pediatrician prescribe one antibiotic after another, starting with the one with the least side effects until finally finding one that worked.

How Does Resistance to Antibiotics Happen? Continue reading

Entanglement – and I’m not talking about Ted and Alice and Bob.

Entanglement is something very weird that goes on at the quantum particle level, but weird or not, it’s been confirmed by bucket loads of confirming experiments. The reason there have been so many experiments is because even the scientific types have trouble believing this. Continue reading

You’d be amazed who your ancestors are

In 1962 I took a college course called Physical Anthropology. We studied Neanderthals and humans. Oh, we knew humans like us were classified as Homo sapiens, but we rarely used that term, because even though there were people at that time who believed there were earlier, other species, of humans, it wasn’t an idea that had hit the mainstream. Continue reading

What Solid Ground?

I live on the Madrid fault line and have experienced two minor earthquakes. I thought the first was heavy trucks violating the local road weight limits, and called the police to complain. About the same time, my friend in the Seattle area was forced to run out into the street only wearing a towel. It had been a long time since she wanted to show off her thighs, but she didn’t have any choice. Her house was about to fall on her head, because she lives by the edge of a series of fault lines and volcanic activity called the “Ring of Fire.” Continue reading

The sun can mess with your cell phone

The sun has the potential to cause all kinds of problems with modern technology, but that modern tech stuff has developed so fast, the sun hasn’t had a good opportunity to show its stuff. Although in 1989 it did knock out the Quebec power grid leaving six million people  – including me –  in Canada and the US without power for several days. Continue reading

What was Heisenberg so uncertain about?

Werner Heisenberg said some information about subatomic particles is linked in an odd way. Maybe linked isn’t the right word. What he said was there are pairs of information about particles. The more you know about one part of that paired information, the less you can know about the other part of that information in the same particle. Continue reading