Posted in Evolution, Fun links by Mike Stay on 2011 January 31

Australia’s massive forest fires in 2006 were followed by 10cm of rain, which washed all the nutrient-rich ash into the lakes, which caused a bioluminescent algae bloom in 2008.

Buckyball Bacteriophage

Posted in Design, Evolution, Math by Mike Stay on 2011 January 11

The t4 bacteriophage infects e. coli.

The Word of God

Posted in Astronomy, Chemistry, Evolution, General physics, History, Poetry, Theocosmology by Mike Stay on 2010 November 3

From desert cliff and mountaintop we trace the wide design,
Strike-slip fault and overthrust and syn and anticline…
We gaze upon creation where erosion makes it known,
And count the countless aeons in the banding of the stone.
Odd, long-vanished creatures and their tracks & shells are found;
Where truth has left its sketches on the slate below the ground.
The patient stone can speak, if we but listen when it talks.
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the rocks.

There are those who name the stars, who watch the sky by night,
Seeking out the darkest place, to better see the light.
Long ago, when torture broke the remnant of his will,
Galileo recanted, but the Earth is moving still.
High above the mountaintops, where only distance bars,
The truth has left its footprints in the dust between the stars.
We may watch and study or may shudder and deny,
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the sky.

By stem and root and branch we trace, by feather, fang and fur,
How the living things that are descend from things that were.
The moss, the kelp, the zebrafish, the very mice and flies,
These tiny, humble, wordless things–how shall they tell us lies?
We are kin to beasts; no other answer can we bring.
The truth has left its fingerprints on every living thing.
Remember, should you have to choose between them in the strife,
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote life.

And we who listen to the stars, or walk the dusty grade,
Or break the very atoms down to see how they are made,
Or study cells, or living things, seek truth with open hand.
The profoundest act of worship is to try to understand.
Deep in flower and in flesh, in star and soil and seed,
The truth has left its living word for anyone to read.
So turn and look where best you think the story is unfurled.
Humans wrote the Bible; God wrote the world.

-Catherine Faber, The Word of God

Colorblindness cured

Posted in Evolution, Perception by Mike Stay on 2009 September 18

Following up on my previous comments here, scientists have cured color blindness in monkeys:

Neitz’s team injected their monkeys’ eyes with viruses carrying a gene that makes L-opsin, one of three proteins released when color-detecting cone cells are hit by different wavelengths of light. Male squirrel monkeys naturally lack the L-opsin gene; like people who share their condition, they’re unable to distinguish between red and green.

At first, the two monkeys behaved no differently than before. Though quick to earn a grape juice reward by picking out blue and yellow dots from a background of gray dots on a computer screen, they banged the screen randomly when presented with green or red dots.

But after five months, something clicked. The monkeys picked out red and green, again and again. At the biological level, Neitz can’t say precisely what happened — the monkeys, named Sam and Dalton, are alive and healthy, their brains unscanned and undissected — but their actions left no doubt.

They think it will work identically in humans. If so, this means that we could do the same thing for the mutant version of L-opsin that tetrachromat women have, and make anyone (even a man) into a tetrachromat. Or, even more excitingly, a gene for infrared or ultraviolet light.

Fun article on information theory and flu genetics

Posted in Evolution, Math by Mike Stay on 2009 September 12

Two separate organisms on their way to becoming symbiotic

Posted in Evolution by Mike Stay on 2009 July 6

The single-celled Hatena and the algae Nephrosolmis live independent lives: Hatena has a “mouth” with which it eats smaller creatures and organic material; Nephrosolmis gets its food from sunlight. But when Hatena eats Nephrosolmis, the algae grows inside it, discards its organelles, changes its mouth into an eyespot, and swims toward light. The algae makes enough food to keep them both alive. When Hatena reproduces, one daughter keeps all the algae, and the other goes hunting again.

See also solar-powered sea slugs.

Nice exposition about the math driving evolution

Posted in Evolution, Math by Mike Stay on 2007 January 31

One of the rare, really thoughtful posts on Slashdot.

Dinosaur blood

Posted in Evolution, Fun links, History by Mike Stay on 2006 October 3