Archive for May, 2006

Science is fantastic!

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

Technology aids discoveries in every scientific discipline. Without tools that can look into our double helix and identify separate genes researchers would never have discovered that we share so much with what we choose to term ‘lower animals’ such as chimpanzees, pigs, and the frog for heaven’s sake and I use the term ‘heaven’ loosely. Researchers publish discoveries and news reporters try to state facts and poor misguided souls, and I use the term ‘souls’ tightly, moan and complain that we take all the fantasy out of our lives by learning the facts. Just the age old desire to let a mystery be defined by self proclaimed prophets as if each did not possess the brain cells to look into the glory of the mystery itself.

They could not be more wrong! I do not have the time or inclination to research for myself. No need to when hundreds dedicate their lives to discovery. What is more amazing than to show that all life begins with the same proteins and other good stuff that you can name if you but look at research papers. Then with tools imbedded in those first cells, species and variations among species, all animals come into being. What could be fantasticer? Oh it is not by any means a simple process to figure out that zebras get stripes or puppies get spots or butterflies get color or we get arms or birds get wings from similar beginnings, but the marvel of it all is not diminished one bit. The truth is that makes our whole existence more exciting than ever. We can see how a very small glitch makes a very huge difference.

Sean Carroll in ENDLESS FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL, cites many papers, shows many illustrations and details proteins and switches that make those differences turn out yet separate perfect specimens by the billions. Well I suppose I am not the most perfect specimen, but good enough for me. And good enough to replicate more perfect specimens. Pleased I am that I had excellent assistance in the endeavor.

What’s the focus?

Saturday, May 6th, 2006

How strange it is that unusual things come to my attention and distract me from the activities that ought to be taken care of during each day. I have thought them over.

I must learn the ins and outs of my new computer operating system, Linux. OK that’s important to give me access to this page. There go several hours a day.

I am obcessed with the writing of an historic novel which requires the use of a word processor and Linux uses Open Office – another tool to manipulate. If I follow James Michener’s habit I will write at least 600 words daily. There go at least three hours each day.

The opportunity to influence thousands of children – and adults for that matter – in the way they think of nature and human relationships is open to me any day at McNary National Wildlife Refuge. Scheduled classes are held almost every school day. On the Second Saturday of each month, all year around the Refuge holds a special event featuring some aspect of nature. There go countless hours I find difficult to limit.

All of which means putting off enjoying my own nature connection in my backyard which is overcome with tall grasses that I humiliate with my weed eater, an electricity driven machine that goes where I want it to as long as I handle it properly. Maybe I renew my acquaintance with that technology a few hours each summer month.

Never mind that I live in a house that gathers dust and daily mail and dirty clothes. Now I am sure you live under similar circumstances. You have jobs you attend to daily as I do. I hope you have more good sense than to allow interferences as I do.

Bones of a dead animal, oh dear! I must attend the bones of a raccoon that had the audacity to die on the edge of McNary NWR wetland. Could I leave it alone? Well I did try to foist it off on the experts. I contacted taxidermists but the carcass had decayed too much for acceptance in their domain.

The rotting carcass was left to the hot sun and maggots and predators for over a week. Upon examination yesterday I found bones cleaned and simply crying out to be salvaged for artifacts on the Refuge touch table. How? I ask you? could I pass up such an opportunity? I have the four feet, upper and lower jaws, parts of the spine and pieces of vertebrae (I do a learning unit on family of verebrates), many ribs and leg bones. Predators removed some connecting pieces but I collected samples for which nature supply catalogs charge hundreds of dollars. You see another of my pasttimes is volunteering, therefore those samples are my donation to the Outdoor Learning Center of the Refuge.

OK something has got to give. I do what I can, eating, cleaning my teeth, showering, and my life comes together. One would think a seventy-eight year old would have developed a better sense of priorities than to clutter up her life with so many fun things she has little time to complain.

Little brains or not

Friday, May 5th, 2006

The more I try to get away from my computer, the more reasons I find to get back to it. To rest my body from the numbing position on this stolen computer chair, I go off to relax in my recliner and read. (Well sometimes I pull weeds or maybe even stop to cook a meal.) Last week I found a book describing the making of the animal kingdom. The author, Sean B. Carroll, a biologist, uses results from many studies to show how there is DNA in the most primitive animals that also exists in our being – little markers that tell the cells where to put apendages or many other particular parts to make our bodies what they are. The proof that these occur come from examples of those pieces of DNA being misplaced in fruit flies or other critters resulting in a leg coming out of the head or some other such impossible growth. Some of this type of research came from the study and discoveries noted after a condition of cyclops was found in a great number of sheep feeding on plants with a certain chemical that caused the monstrous development. The unusual alert brain seems to have been excited in a great many more folks enticed into studying science than I thought. The title of the book is ENDLESS FORMS MOST BEAUTIFUL – A few words lifted from some sentence written by Charles Darwin.

Alternately I am also reading THE ANCESTOR’S TALE, which I began month’s ago because I like to challenge my thought process and have done so by reading many books written by Richard Dawkins. In this huge volume he is tracing our ancestors and how we are all related and came one way or another from the heart of warmest Africa. But beyond that he gives plausible reasons why we developed as we did. Oddly he begins the trace from billions of years in the past through genes rather than going backwards through our parents and grandparents the way I am doing. At the moment I am on a chapter discussing why our brains are the size they are and the significance of the gray matter and its size to each species. Not a simple case of ratio to body weight and he has the mathematics from studies to prove his points.

Both books are thought provoking and have occasional humor. So what if my brain is smaller than yours.