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About biologywatcher

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  • Birthday April 27

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  • College Major/Degree
    Biological Sciences, Mathematics
  • Favorite Area of Science
    Comparative Biomechanics
  • Biography
    I spend an unusual amount of time thinking about comparative biomechanics and ecophysiology.
  • Occupation
  1. Wouldn't a lot of the traits we associate with beauty be polygenic, and largely controlled by developmental networks? I mean, there's definitely a genetic component to appearance, but lots of morphology is dictated by the complex interactions of transcription factors and networks. I'd imagine condition is important too. Overall, I find it very hard to believe that there would only be one gene (and a protein-coding gene at that), that accounts for "general ugliness"--even without debating the subjectivity of "ugliness".
  2. Thank you for posting the pentacene image. That is very incredibly cool.

  3. I was looking at some of the plates from Robert Hooke's Micrographia today, and thinking about how beautiful some of the imaging in science is. I really enjoy Hooke's drawings--The Flea is really worth a look. I also like the Mandelbrot set (who doesn't? I know I'm unoriginal.) So I was wondering, inspired by the Book Talk forum, what are some of your favorite images from science? Photos, drawings, figures, x-rays? I'll bet there are some great ones.
  4. I think the assumption that you're making -- that evolution has a point, and that some structures will provide advantage no matter what-- may be dangerous. Evolution has no point, and no motive--it just happens. Sometimes I think 'natural selection' is a misleading term for the simple phenomenon of some things living and reproducing, and others not. In some instances, there may not be any advantage of some genes over others--it may just be the luck of the draw. Such would be the case with some founder effects or bottlenecking events, as someone mentioned. Natural selection, where adaptive variation persists over deleterious variation, is certainly a mechanism of evolution--but not the only mechanism. To suggest that it is the only mechanism, and that it is determinant, only lends credence to the ID argument, and undercuts the subtlety and complexity of the process. As Stephen Jay Gould said, if we were to replay the tape of life, I'm sure things would come out differently. If evolution were determinant, that would not be the case.
  5. Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher by Lewis Thomas -- It's a little dated now, but this collection of essays is a great read. Actually, anything by Lewis Thomas is a great read. Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment by Patricia Fara -- a wonderful collection of biographies The New Science of Strong Materials: Or Why You Don't Fall Through the Floor by J.E. Gordon -- I cannot recommend this book enough. Prime Mover: A Natural History of Muscle by Steven Vogel -- Or, again, ANYTHING by Steven Vogel. EDIT: I forgot one! The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature by Matt Ridley -- A bit controversial, this one. I disagree with some of what he says, but I quite enjoyed this book overall.
  6. Hi everyone! I'm biologywatcher--but 'K' works just as well. I'm a phd student studying comparative biomechanics and ecophysiology. When I can tie those in to evolution, it makes me even happier. I'm looking forward to participating in the forums with you!
  7. Marat-- As far as limitations to growth go, there are physiological ones as well. If we were tall enough, what sort of a circulatory system would we need to supply blood to the brain? Giraffes are a good example... their hearts are about 11 kg. Maybe there would be thermoregulatory considerations too, just because larger organisms retain more heat--in extreme environments, anyway. There would also have to be some serious bone remodeling if we were going to get that tall. Organism mass scales to the cube of a linear dimension, and cross sectional area of bones for instance, which are responsible for supporting the mass, only scales to the square of the linear dimension... So if humans were to get really tall, we wouldn't have the same general shape that we do now. I feel like D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's On Growth and Form touches on some of this stuff. With whales--the ocean allows them to get that big because of buoyancy. If something the size of a blue whale were to exist as a terrestrial animal, it wouldn't be able to support its own weight. I think. I really have no idea about the more proximate (within one generation, say) limits on height.
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