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The Flaming Goldfish

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  1. It's probably a question of protein structure. Different amino acid sequences confer different structural properties to proteins, so a change from leucine to isoleucine might result in a different 3D structure for the protein. The result would be a different protein, or one that's similar but with diminished biological activity. I don't know an article off the top of my head, but if I find one, I'll post it here. Could you explain what you mean a little further? I'm not quite grasping what you're saying.
  2. I'll not refute your answer, but isn't that a bit short for a cognizant thought to anything? Perhaps, but I'll throw my point of view in there. Billy Graham's point of view is that his religion is the only right one, and that to be accepted into heaven, I must accept Jesus as my saviour and such. Where the argument falls down logically is why Christianity is any more "correct" than another religion. If there were evidence for such a thing, it might not be so illogical, but since religion is a matter of faith rather than evidence, it leads to the question of whether any religion is more correct than the others. So I guess in that sense, you could say that yes, his argument is totally wrong from many standpoints.
  3. There are multiple genes that contribute to eye colour determination, but the dominant eye colour among humans is brown. Blue eyes follow a recessive inheritance pattern, but it's not considered a recessive trait because the determination for eye colour is polygenic. Other eye colours are due to a combination of optical effects, possible genetic contribution, and the distribution of melanin pigment in the iris of the individual person. There are ways to predict eye colour--using a few SNPs, scientists were able to predict eye colour with about 90-93% accuracy, depending on the SNPs. Here's the article if you're interested: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20126992.100-dna-test-for-eye-colour-could-help-fight-crime.html
  4. Not quite. Technically speaking, the sperm and the egg are still living cells independent of each other. All that happens at fertilization is the combination of two "half-genomes", as it were, to form a full genome not completely identical to either of its parents. I think the question is really about personhood rather than life, as y'all are talking about (I think). There are animals that reproduce asexually, or that do sexual reproduction with themselves (ie C. elegans, etc).
  5. Hello, LEDlump. Welcome to SFN! It's a good question. As far as I know, I'm sure it theoretically can be changed with gene therapy were the proper targeting mechanisms to be found and such. They would have to target the bone marrow, since that's the part that's producing the blood cells. I'm not very well versed on nanogenetics, but I'm sure traditional gene therapy could do it with the proper advances. I do think there'd be factors to consider though, such as how to condition our immune system to accept the change. There's a good chance the immune cells would see the newly typed blood cells as hostile foreign cells. I think to get further into that you'd have to tinker around with things like the MHC (Major Histocompatibility Complex), which handles the foreign vs. host cell recognition. Interesting question though.
  6. Been a while since I logged on here...nice to be back :)

  7. It sounds like an intriguing storyline. As far as I can see, there's only a few points you might want to change: That would work, but again keep in mind that speciation does not happen instantly. Evolution takes time, even for bacteria that divide in a time of minutes to hours. Whatever gene therapy was done, it would have to be drastic enough to plant the seeds for speciation but not make it happen then and there. Scientifically speaking, the changes would probably be more subtle, and so the initial children wouldn't be exactly like the alien girl. Most importantly, they would still be human, not this alien species. They would have to undergo extremely vigorous training, because keep in mind that Mars has a lower gravitational field than Earth, so what may seem superhuman strength on Mars might actually be around normal on Earth (maybe perhaps equal to a relatively strong human). The way the Superman films did it, Superman's people were actually from a world that had higher gravity than Earth, so he was born with naturally much denser muscles, making him superhuman. Sounds good, but make sure you make the timeline realistic...ie. terraforming would probably have to begin decades beforehand (possibly more) to ensure that there was enough O2 to sustain a population. A hundred years is a bit too soon for a population to become a new species altogether. This is where it gets a little blurry because there's not really an exact point in time when a population becomes a different species. However, keep in mind that 100 years is about 1-2 generations for humans and apparently <1 for your species. Consider for instance that E. coli, which has a generational turnover time of ~17-44 mins, takes ~30000 generations for mutations that confer evolutionary benefit to be observed. However, enough time had not passed for a speciation event (likely because the environment change wasn't significant). Now, in your scenario, the fact that there has been extensive genetic change done before birth will shorten some of that time, since a lot of that time is for a spontaneous mutation to occur and be passed on successfully. However, I still think that 1-2 generations isn't enough for your population to become a different species. You could make it so they're on the way to becoming a different species, or make your show set a lot later in time. All that said, I think it's an intriguing plot. I'm actually really happy that you're considering the science behind it, because it really irritates me when writers take creative license and the suspension of disbelief so far that it becomes ridiculous. Kudos to you!
  8. It's a bit tough to answer specifically what genetic changes could cause that. To genetically change a person drastically enough to cause speciation would be a feat, because one major definition of a species requires that the two populations 1. either cannot reproduce (or do not do so in real situations), or 2. if they do, their offspring cannot contribute to the gene pool (is sterile). Examples of the first condition: dogs and wolves can and do reproduce in real life, and are classified as the same species (canus lupus); walruses and seals either cannot or do not reproduce in real life, and are different species. A great example of the second would be the mule (offpsring of a horse and a donkey), which is sterile. So your alien girl's species would be either mostly unable/unwilling to mate with humans, or the mating would not contribute much towards the gene pool. Either the alien-human couple could not have kids or those kids would be mostly sterile. The best answer I can give is that the genetic alteration to Patient A did not directly cause the two species to diverge. Rather, the genetic alteration was coupled with a drastic change in environment. Patient A and the next two or three generations of his/her family went to live in an environment totally different from Earth's. The genetic alteration done to Patient A caused changes to his/her offspring's gene pool that were widened and exploited due to natural selection throughout later generations. Basically, the biggest thing is that there must be an environmental change. By itself, gene therapy cannot cause speciation, especially if it was only done to one person, as that person will then be a different species and will have no one to breed with. Your patient and/or immediate descendants must go to an environment drastically different from Earth's, and it must be a place where the qualities you describe either confer some evolutionary advantage or are a side effect of it (the explanation for superhuman strength used in the Superman films is that Krypton's gravity was far higher than earth's and Kryptonians were by necessity far denser/stronger than humans). I'd also say that to make it more scientifically credible, perhaps have it so that your alien species is not just descended from one altered individual? Remember, if you have a drastic change of environment, there might be limited options for breeding. Instead, an initial group of several hundred or several thousand might make it easier for a population to grow quickly and a speciation event to occur. Hope this helps!
  9. Possibly, yeah. It would need to have a genetic basis that could be easily corrected, obviously. For instance, type I diabetes has to do with an autoimmune disorder as well. The pancreatic cells that produce insulin are destroyed by the host's own immune system. Its genetic causes are polygenic, meaning it has multiple genes that contribute to the disorder, and it can be dominant, recessive, or somewhere in between. Obviously targeting and altering multiple genes effectively is more difficult than if it's a single gene. Basically, it goes down to the gene(s) affected and the kinds of cells affected.
  10. Possibly, though what you're referring to generally falls under the area of gene therapy rather than genetic engineering. Basically, you use targeted segments of DNA as KO pieces or replacements for a nonfunctioning/improperly functioning gene. Also, it depends on what the disorder actually was, what genes were affected, etc.
  11. Not really...by that logic, a donut proves you right as well. I think what we're trying to get at is, do you have any empirical evidence from other sources that supports your claim? As far as I can see, what you've posted above is mostly a philosophical treatise (a somewhat incomprehensible one at that).
  12. I think this thread is getting a tad sidetracked...everyone take a breath and calm down, please? I understand your point, iNow, and I've actually had a number of discussions with my friends and family on the level of scientific awareness in the country, and it is disappointing. That said, I don't think that being unaware necessarily makes them bad people or stupid. It's not necessarily a good thing, and it would be better if they were more knowledgeable, but it doesn't make them stupid. After all, the level of exposure after leaving the school system is remarkably low. I think Xittenn's point is correct in that we need more community outreach. I had a discussion with my cousin on this, who's currently working on a PhD in English. He pretty much said that it would be nice if people were more aware, but also pointed out that scientists are remarkably uncommunicative when presenting things, and the news media needs to find a better way of presenting this information as well. What I'm getting at it is that it needs to be an all-round effort, not just one-sided. Also keep in mind that the OP refers to one specific issue, which is heavily coloured by religion in this country; there are other issues in science beyond evolution. If we're going for scientific awareness of the public in general, the influence of religion in this particular issue makes it a poor gauge of scientific literacy (in my opinion, anyways). I'm sure that even though many churches might find the idea of evolution objectionable, they don't really have any problems with other scientific theories, like photosynthesis, gravity, etc. Point being, the fact that religion is involved makes it a heavily twisted issue. Even lifelong scientists sometimes have crises of faith when they try to reconcile their beliefs with their scientific knowledge; just because we spend our lives studying the natural world through the lens of the scientific method, doesn't mean that we aren't confused when we find two contradictory explanations for it. Also, going back to what Xittenn said in her first reply to the OP: I think a large part of the problem is that science isn't an ideology. Ideologies are usually static and very wide-ranging, and some lack observational support. Science is very dynamic and can change very quickly (when compared to religion, at least). It's very nature as a consensus on the best explanation for something means that new evidence provides new insight, and I think that if science were to be seen as a static ideology, it would be a distorted view of what science really is. I also have to agree with her, in that changing views isn't as easy for some people, especially if it's a view they've held on to for their entire lives. For some people, religion is a very deep-seated belief that provides hope and a foundation. It's not easy to just let go of all that in a flash. Even changing scientists' minds can take a long time with logic and experimental data. It took 20-some odd years for scientists to accept that DNA was the genetic material; even after it was shown so by an experiment, some still thought proteins carried genetic information. Also, I'd keep in mind that not all religions are incompatible with science. Obviously the big one here is Christianity, because the majority of Americans are Christian. However, there are thousands of different systems of belief, and to say that they are all incompatible with science is wrong, because you can't know exactly what they preach. I think the issue of scientific literacy of the public is overshadowed by the war of two dogmas: one supporting evolution and stating that any who disagree with it are ignorant and backwards; and the other supporting the Biblical interpretation and casting any who agree with evolutionary theory as evil godless sinners. This perception of an America split along lines of atheist evolutionist vs. Bible-thumping hillbilly is counterproductive and wrong. I actually think that if we start working on the problem of general scientific literacy first, and then move on to the "controversial" topics of science, we may have a chance. If you're trying to educate someone on something, telling them that everything they've believed for their whole life is wrong will only irritate them and cause them to ignore you. Instead, if you introduce new information, concepts, and ways of thinking to them you may hook their interest. It's dually beneficial: 1) before you start delving into the controversies, you could impart a lot of knowledge, and 2) when you start talking to them about the controversial stuff, they would be more willing to listen, because you didn't start right out by attacking their system of beliefs. I'm just throwing my opinion out there, feel free to add/correct/discuss/whatever, but please, let's keep it courteous, yeah? (I know I'm not a mod or anything, but this thread does need a little de-escalation)
  13. I still don't understand how this could be compared to the New Testament...Maybe a better comparison would be, "if a tree falls in a forest and no one's around to see it, should you believe it really fell?" Not sure... Also, as others have said, why would the government lie about something as significant as a hurricane? It seems illogical, especially since there are independent weather reports out there. Not quite sure what you mean there... Totally agree...even if a hurricane is not in sight, its gigantic size means it impacts weather many miles away as well. In fact, governments usually issue these kinds of warnings very early (possibly before even minor weather changes are seen? Correct me if I'm wrong, Moontanman), to ensure that people have enough time to evacuate in a safe manner and there isn't a mad rush on the highways.
  14. What kind of pants do clouds wear? Thunderwear!
  15. Theoretically, yes. Pepsin is a protease that would break down pancreatic enzymes in an acidic environment.
  16. I think dimreepr meant that the ability to genetically engineer people could lead to stuff like eugenics. As far as I know, genetic engineering of people is still a while away, at least to the level that we're talking about here. Part of the issue is locating the particular genetic segments that code for each of the particular phenotypes, then identify the genotypic changes that would be required to create that phenotype, etc, etc. A lot of the research going on right now is curing disease, etc through insertion of DNA fragments using vectors. The problem is that this method produces a lot of other unwanted gene products, and even if you purify out the stuff you want, the physiological effects in vivo may not always be what you expect. For instance, there was a trial underway to treat SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) through gene therapy that was stopped because the researchers realized that whatever they had done had the side effect of triggering an oncogene, causing cancer in some patients. The other part of it is obviously legal and ethical, which is what i think dimreepr was getting at; the ability to sort of "pre-select" your child (even if it is years from fruition) could take us into some really dangerous ethical territory. One of the biggest things to consider is that if genetic engineering at that level were to take place, it would be at the embryonic stage. The kid would have to live with the effects of the modification, and more importantly, whatever side-effects it may have.
  17. I think it depends on the species as much as the circumstances. For instance, cheetahs hunt based on their speed and agility rather than brute strength. They won't fight for a kill, preferring to surrender it because they would most likely lose in an open confrontation with another predator. I think it's because they want to avoid injury at all costs...any injury that slows them down could impact their hunting ability for weeks to come. If they're discovered in an ambush but the prey is alone, they'll most probably give chase, but if there's even a sign that they'll have to engage in confrontation (either with the prey or with another predator), they'll probably back down. Other species may choose differently, depending on how much they rely on speed vs. strength and endurance vs. the element of surprise.
  18. As far as I see, your genotypes are partially correct. The only thing is that the second Z chromosome for the male chicken would also have to have a genotype for this allele. So the phenotype The red ZbZb is your non-barred male, and the ZBW is your barred female. The reason this is the only genotype that works is because all the others would produce the wrong results.
  19. Sorry, I didn't mean to come off as negative or disparaging. My intention was not to say it was impossible or to discourage Dragonstar, but rather to just point out some things that would need to be taken into consideration. I'm simply trying to offer another perspective with some things to take into account when planning it. True, true. Like I said above, just adding some things to take into account.
  20. I'm not by any means an expert on engineering, but just through logic a few more things suggest themselves that have not been mentioned much yet: You'd need some way to bring in huge amounts of food and water without damaging local flora/fauna. I'm assuming there will be some food salvage from the local environment but you can't just rely on seafood. It's not all encompassing (nutritionally), and it doesn't taste very good after a while. You'd also need to simulate sunlight to a degree, as it is somewhat beneficial to human health. You'd need some way to get rid of a large amount of waste in some way without damaging local flora/fauna. Keep in mind this includes gaseous CO2 and the like. You'd need to have a highly sophisticated hospital there, with facilities for any imaginable emergency. I mean, this hospital would need to be completely and totally self-sufficient in almost every respect, because in the event of a disease outbreak the city would go under quarantine. In the event a patient comes in with serious trauma or a time-sensitive health problem, they wouldn't have the time or physical strength to be hauled to the surface. Every problem would have to be treated locally. Also, tying in to no. 2, you'd need to find some way to get all the biohazardous waste and chemical waste out of there safely, again without damaging local flora and fauna.Supplementary to no. 3, how will you treat disease in the city? The briny deep contains pathogens and microbes that don't show their faces here and that are rarely seen in hospitals today. [*]This one's a major one: you'd have to have some sort of measure that would protect the city in the event that the structural integrity of the outer barrier is compromised. Not sure exactly what kind of barrier you are thinking of to keep water out, but obviously it has to be air and watertight. Beyond that, you need some sort of secondary barrier - in the event the main barrier fails, this secondary structure must be able to withstand not only the crushing pressure of tonnes of water suddenly coming down on it, but also of the pieces of the first barrier. What would happen if a boat sank or something, crashing into the main barrier and a piece of it pierced the second one, creating a small perforation that widened due to the sheer weight of the water?[*]The city would have to be able to independently acquire all the raw materials for its functions. In your earlier post, you talk about simplicity/complexity of assembling the city, but keep in mind this city would be underwater, isolated from the rest of the world, permanently. It's not exactly easy to haul a city's worth of raw materials down to the seabed. Even if you do it, what would happen if there was some sort of natural disaster or emergency at the surface that disrupted the supply chain? Supplementary to no. 5, your city would have to have the facilities required to turn those raw materials into all the products necessary for everyday life without generating waste that would detrimentally impact the city's long-term survivability or the environment the city is in. Overall, I think a project like this would go well above the billion dollar mark, possibly into the trillion dollar mark. Where would you find the money and the raw materials? Just some things to think about. By all means, correct me if I am wrong or point out any solutions you might see.
  21. Hello all. Just realized I should probably introduce myself here...I joined some weeks ago, and I've been on the IRC a few times already. I'm a 3rd year undergraduate student of biology, hopefully going on to be a grad student. My area of interest is cell and molecular biology. Other than that, I'm mildly interested in computers and stuff. Anyway, hope to have a fun time here.
  22. Agreed. One of the major classical definitions of a species is that it is reproductively isolated from other such groups, ie. different species either cannot (or do not) mate; and if they do, they do not produce fertile offspring (example: the offspring of a donkey and a horse is a mule, which is sterile). Whether or not two different groups produce fertile offspring is a simple indication of whether they have enough in common genetically to be considered part of the same species.
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