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Everything posted by Derin

  1. It's always worth listening to a new idea from anyone, but it's worth noting that in a lot of biology, the general public's understanding of a theory isn't even close to the actual theory. So it depends how you define "layperson", how likely it is that an idea is going to contain major fallacies. It is not necessary to be a professional (that is, paid) scientist, it is not necessary to be published, and it is not necessary to have a formal university education... but all of these things help immensely, because they tell the person you're talking to that you're less likely to make amateur mistakes and thus more likely to be worth their time. You MUST be familiar with the field you're trying to affect. You MUST be well-read and relatively up-to-date. Before you approach anybody else with your ideas, troubleshoot them yourself. I assume you've already done this. When you approach a scientist with your ideas, here are the things they're going to be looking for: - Lingo. You should use the language and tone used in the relevant field. This shows that you are reasonably well-read in the field. - Referrence. Are you affiliated with another scientist that this scientist knows? The best way to do this from outside the field is to make friends with a Masters or PhD student (or even an undergraduate who is known by name) affiliated with the scientist. They don't have to be famous. You just have to not look like you're contacting them randomly. If you're affiliated with a university or business in the sciences you don't need this. It still helps but being in the sciences is enough to not be considered random. If you absolutely cannot get into their professional network, read their papers and open a dialogue about those first. And make sure you understand them! - Avoid extremely basic mistakes. If you try to talk about current evolutionary theory and describe Lamarckian evolution, or if you talk about bacteria and protists as if they're the same thing (if you're going to lump them together just call them microbes instead), the scientist knows they're wasting their time. They might, if they're not busy and they like you, take the time to educate you, but they won't consider your ideas very reliable on their own. - Don't tell people you're looking for an 'open-minded' person; it raises red flags. "Open-minded" has been used as code for "non-critical" and "gullible" for a long time and it sounds preemptively defensive; it makes your argument look weak before you've even made it. Scientists know the standards of open-mindedness and critical thinking in their field. They assume that you do too. Phrases like this throw doubt on that. - Explain things as clearly and concisely as possible. With diagrams as necessary. Don't try to be fancy. A little fancy is necessary in a paper or presentation; before then it looks amateur. Don't be vague. There's time to be vague and brainstorm after you've piqued interest. It's considered good manners and professionalism at this stage to be as clear and easy-to-understand as possible. Trying to look smart with flowery language won't impress scientists, it just looks amateurish. EDIT: Also, I forgot -- asking for advice or information goes over a lot better than asking to partner up for something. There are exceptioons, but as a general rule, scientists like to share information. They're a lot more likely to answer questions and help troubleshoot ideas than get involved in another capacity.
  2. Humans only use the things that enter our digestive tracts as a source of matter (barring obvious exceptions like intravenous feeding), so assuming you're counting water in your food weight, you're correct. In fact, humans breathe out some of what we consume (the carbon part of CO2), so even if you don't take into account perspiration, obvious forms of waste elimination and the negligible amount of mass lost through energy use, it's still impossible to weigh as much as is taken in in the long run.
  3. I can't comment on the subjective experience of blind individuals, but if their blindness is the result of eye problems and not brain damage, their visual processing usually works fine, it simply lacks data. So I would hazard a guess that they should be able to conceptualise the world in the same way we do, albeit with less detail. The area of the brain that we use for visual processing is what some blind people use for acoustic wayfinding, and is also used by the tongue visual aids pioneered by Bach-Y-Rita. (Subjects who could previously see described also the tongue device input as similar to sight once they became accustomed to using them.)
  4. Birds generally have one working ovary, presumably to save on weight. Their body layout can accommodate two, it's just that one withers away. We have two ovaries, two kidneys, two lungs, etc., because we are bilaterally symmetrical. It's "easier", if you like, for a body to develop basically symmetrically on either side, with some modifications to organs that need to be asymmetrical (such as the larger left side of the heart, due to the pumping requirements of each side, the appendix, and the birds having only one functioning ovary.) This works really well because, as Delta and magna explained, it provides redundancy, so the organism has a backup in case of injury, infection or developmental defect.
  5. Actually the article you initially provided says "A study of identical twins concluded that hand clasping has at least some genetic component. However, other scientists have not found evidence that genetics plays a significant role in determining this trait." The broader literature can't seem to agree on what genetic influence is present. I double-checked but I still couldn't find the science/maths stuff in the link. Could you fix the links in your last post, please?
  6. Derin


    I don't know what reproductive advantages means in this case, but we do use inbreeding to human advantage. Not just for show animal breeding (which is a brilliant example of the problems caused by extreme inbreeding), but to create genetically near-identical subjects for animal trials. Phi, any mating between somebody and the person who raised them is morally questionable due to the element of power. I don't think their genetics are relevant. Dmaiski, the human aversion to incest is probably based on a mixture of general disgust at the idea due to the Westermarck effect (look at the banning and/or penalties against homosexual unions in many countries based on personal disgust), and the fact that the ban is how the laws currently stand, so is considered default. (The laws themselves came in to encourage royalty to marry outside their own families and help strengthen ties with other countries.)
  7. The article you provided says nothing at all about a tendency towards science or maths. It also says that whether there is a genetic component is inconclusive. Most of the reports I can find also claim that whether there is a genetic influence is inconclusive, or that there is a genetic influence but it's complicated and not easily modelled. I can't find anything remotely reliable on the science/maths thing. Anybody had any success?
  8. Derin


    I meant that it's not consistent with other mainstream opinions and practises of eugenics. A ban on inbreeding has enough support to be law and a ban on cystic fibrosis sufferers having children with each other does not, despite the chances of inheriting CF in such circumstances far outweighing the dangers of inbreeding (where the inbreeding subjects are not knowingly carrying a particularly bad genetic disorder). Our society is generally anti-legally enforced eugenics except for an inbreeding exception. I don't think you would get high rates of inbreeding by abolishing such laws. There is the possibility of adopted individuals inbreeding, but by and large the Westermarck effect is pretty good. Inbreeding is usually related to marriages of social, diplomatic or economic advantage, which doesn't happen much with modern Western society, although I don't know enough about the rest of the world to have a stance on them. (Indeed, the taboo on cousin marriages is a result of encouraging royal families to interbreed with each other to strengthen ties, instead of within their own family to cement royal claims.) But that's getting off-topic.
  9. There are exceptions. I work with metal-reducing bacteria, which respire anaerobically but don't ferment. Instead, they donate the electron we give to oxygen to an oxidised (rusted) metal. Otherwise, the chemistry is the same as aerobic respiration. Many bacteria also ferment lactic acid like animals do, most famously Lactobacillus. In fact, it's this reaction in these bacteria that makes yoghurt and cheese.
  10. Derin


    The reason that defects are more often ties to recessives is simple: they're less likely to get weeded out. The more dominant a gene is, the more it arises and the more it is "exposed" to evolutionary forces. So dominant genes tend to succeed or fail more rapidly. Recessive genes will "hide" in a population in heterozygous individuals. (This is of course a simplification, as many genes will have a small amount of influence in heterozygous bodies and a lot in homozygous bodies, and that influence won't necessarily have the same effect -- a common example being sickle cell anaemia in malaria-infected countries.) It's not that we have a lot of deleterous recessives, it's that we have very few deleterous dominants. They can't "hide". So far as inbreeding goes, the dangers are greatly exaggerated and the morality is inconsistent. (Why is it morally good to insist that cousins don't breed and morally bad to insist that cystic fibrosis carriers don't?)
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