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#1- Synthetic Biology



Synthetic biology is the study/practice of making completely new genetic codes from scratch. Instead of trying to make changes to the already existing DNA, scientists are making headway in actually making their own organisms from the ground up. Theoretically, this new organism will be "programmed" to do what we want faster and better than other life forms, like producing life saving drugs to eating nuclear waste. However, there is a problem with the science, DNA is made up of an assortment of chemicals and simply creating a new genetic code and putting it in a test tube will not spawn life. In order to speed up the process, scientists are trying to take an already living organism and remove its DNA, then insert their own artificial DNA and see if the organism lives. If not then they will have to go back to the old drawing board.

The possibilities of synthetic biology are endless; it could lead to new cancer treatments or a solution to global warming. Some people fear the possibility of a potentially dangerous artificial life form that could attack the human race or even the parallel of computer hackers only with DNA. These fears are misplaced though most scientists say, due to the implementation of restrictions set on testing. I believe that although these restrictions are necessary they should not stand in the way of human advancements.
Citation-M. Krauss, L. (2010, February). Life from a test tube? the real promise of synthetic biology. Scientific American, Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-real-promise-of-synthetic-biology#2- Possible Extraterrestial Life?!

New scientific papers now suggest that there is a possible source of extra terrestrial life on one of Saturn’s moons, Titan. Although a non biological explanation is feasible, the chemical makeup of Titan’s atmosphere satisfy two important conditions necessary to support the theorized “methane based life form”. One of these key conditions is that hydrogen molecules seem to be flowing down to the surface instead of the expected result. Hydrogen is very light and buoyant, it should escape out of the upper atmosphere, but instead “it's as if you have a hose and you're squirting hydrogen onto the ground, but it's disappearing," as stated by Darrell Strobel. A biological explanation could be that some sort of organism is using the hydrogen like we use oxygen.


The other key condition is that there is a lack of the hydrocarbon acetylene. This is very important because hydrocarbons have been suggested as the most likely source of food/energy of methane based life. Hydrocarbons are the best option of food/energy because all of the hypothetical mechanisms of methane based life involve hydrocarbon consumption. Due to the extreme temperatures on Titan, water only exists as ice and is far too cold to support life as we know it. Due to that, there are many sceptics and it will only be until further data is gathered that we will be able to know more.
titan-moon-300-269-4.jpg
Titan
Citation-
Cook, J-R. C. (2010). What is consuming hydrogen and acetylene on titan?. Retrieved from http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/titan20100603.html
#3- New Evolutionary Theories


Scientists at the University of Liverpool have given the first experimental evidence that shows that evolution’s biggest driving force is not an organism’s environment, but its competition and interaction with other organisms. The team observed viruses as they evolved over hundreds of generations and found that when the bacteria could evolve defences, the viruses evolved at a greater rate and diversified greater. This compared to when the bacteria were removed of their ability to evolve new defences to the viruses. It is the first real evidence that biologist Leigh Van Valen’s theory called the “Red Queen Hypothesis” which says that species are in a constant race and need to evolve to defend themselves. The overall conclusion of this study is that evolutionary change was created by “tit for tat” adaptations by species in constant combat.


University of Liverpool, ULIV. (-, - -). Scientists reveal driving force behind evolution. Retrieved from http://www.liv.ac.uk/news/press_releases/2010/02/scientists_reveal_driving_force_behind_evolution.htm#4- Gold Nanoparticles Could Transform Trees Into Street Lights
Streetlights are an important part of our roads and are necessary to shine light on streets at night. But what if we could have natural streetlights that didn’t need any electricity? Scientists in Taiwan have just discovered that putting gold nanoparticles in the leaves of trees cause them to give off a luminous reddish glow. Using tree as street lights would not only save electricity costs worldwide, but also reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Another great benefit is the decrease of light pollution in major cities which affects astronomical observatories and may cause adverse health effects (still being researched). This project was motivated by the need to find a safer, cheaper method to stimulate light at different wavelength. As a result Dr. Yen-Hsun Wu implanted gold nanoparticles into the leaves of Bacopa caroliniana which induced the chlorophyll to emit red light. In the future be sure to look out for your neighbourhood street lit by trees!

Glowing Tree
Glowing Tree


Dr. Yen-Hsun Wu, Dr. Y-H W. (2010, November). Gold nanoparticles could transform trees into street lights. Retrieved from http://inhabitat.com/gold-nanoparticles-could-transform-trees-into-street-lights
#5- Gleeking?


Have you ever yawned and then suddenly shot a jet of spit out of your mouth accidentally? This process is completely natural and is known as gleeking. It occurs sometimes as a result of yawning or eating hard candy and spicy foods. Usually the tongue is there to protect against the stream of saliva, but when the tongue is out of position, the spit escapes through a duct in the submandibular gland. Gleeking is more specifically triggered by mental or physical stimulation of the salivary gland just before eating or drinking. Gleeking is mostly water as it does not mix with other liquids in your mouth.

Some people have learned to induce gleeking by pressing their tongue against the top of their mouth and then slowly moving their jaw forward. However, it takes lots of practice and too much gleeking could result in a sore tongue. Although gleeking is completely natural and harmless, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is slightly embarrassing and may soak anything in front of you.

Gleek
Gleek

Pollick, M.P. (2010, October 19). What is gleeking?. Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-gleeking.htm


#6- Artificial Blood

For many years, people have been donating blood so that patients in need of it could have it on hand. But now, doctors and scientists are teaming up to create artificial blood. Aside for sounding a little “mad scientist-ish” artificial blood could be the solution to many problems. There are currently two types of artificial blood. The first is known as volume expanders, which do absolutely nothing other than to fill veins and organs so major blood loss doesn’t cause damage. Surprisingly, our bodies can function at 3/4th full oxygen levels with only half our blood and can still be stable at 1/7th real blood.

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSrsIeKjjMS2ccNPCuwMDpfxzassVQQK-ShxMTgDPPGlIgXubta

The second type of artificial blood is oxygen therapeutics or artificial blood that carries oxygen. This type was harder to make and consists of two methods. One uses perfluorocarbons along with salt, antibiotics, nutrients, and vitamins to make a product close to real blood that carries oxygen. It is smaller than real blood so it can reach more places. The other method uses animal, human, or created haemoglobin that must be treated. The US military is most interested in this method for the field.



McGuigan, B.M. (2010, December 01). What is artificial blood?. Retrieved from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-artificial-blood.htm

#7- A Tribute to Balaenoptera musculus
The blue whale, for those of you who don’t know it by the scientific name, is the largest animal ever known to live in the history of Earth. It averages thirty three meters in length and an astonishing one hundred and eighty metric tons! As a member of the class Mysticety, it has the defining characteristic of baleen plates in its mouth allowing it to filter feed on krill. Unlike most whales, the blue whale has a somewhat stretched body compared to other whales like the humpback. Though called the blue whale, they can also be varying shades of gray. Their ventral surface is lighter then the dorsal.





external image 220px-Blue_Whale_001_body_bw.jpg
Blue whales used to be quite abundant in oceans all around the world. Their populations nosedived during the twentieth century, however, due to the whaling industry which hunted blue whales to near extinction. Due to their massive size and power, blue whales have virtually no natural predators (one case reported orcas attacking but not killing a blue whale). Although, the rise of their population could be halted by the increase in ocean vessels as well as sound pollution (see Mark’s wiki post on it).

external image 220px-BlueWhaleSkeleton.jpg

Despite the blue whale being the largest animal ever, their kind is disappearing because of man. If nothing changes then this magnificent creature will vanish forever.


Natural History Notebooks. Canadian Museum of Nature, -. (2010, December 02). Blue whale. Retrieved from http://nature.ca/notebooks/english/bluwale.htm

Cool Biology Facts!!! (just for fun)
  • If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months, and 6 days, you would have
    produced enough sound energy to heat up one cup of coffee.
  • A pig's orgasm lasts for 30 minutes.
  • Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour.
  • Humans and dolphins are the only species that have sex for pleasure.
  • On average, people fear spiders more then they do death. HAHAHA!!! It's not just me!
  • The strongest muscle in the body is the tongue.
  • A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.
  • The ant can lift 50 times its own weight, can pull 30 times its own
    weight, and always falls over on its right side when intoxicated.
  • Polar bears are left handed.
  • The flea can jump 350 times its body length. That's like a human
    jumping the length of a football field.
  • The male praying mantis cannot copulate while it's head is attached
    to its body. The female initiates sex by ripping the male's head
    off.
  • Some lions mate over 50 times a day.
  • Butterflies taste with their feet.
  • Elephants are the only animals that can't jump.
  • An ostrich egg is the largest existing single cell 
#8- ESP is Real!

Have you ever seen a movie or television show that had something to do with psychic abilities? Have you ever had that feeling of knowing the future? After eight years and nine experiments with more than one thousand participants, recent studies now suggest that humans do, in fact, have some psychic ability to anticipate the future. "Of the various forms of ESP (extrasensory perception) or psi, as we call it, precognition has always most intrigued me because it's the most magical," said Daryl Bem, professor of psychology emeritus. Instead of presenting a stimulus and then measuring a response, Bem measured the response before the stimulus was presented. One pervious test was to monitor a test subject as they are shown a variety of pictures. These pictures ranged from landscapes and neutral pictures to erotic or crime scene pictures.


"Your physiology jumps when you see one of those pictures after watching a series of landscapes or neutral pictures," Bem said. "But
the remarkable finding is that your physiology jumps before the provocative picture actually appears on the screen -- even before
the computer decides which picture to show you. What it shows is that your physiology can anticipate an upcoming event even though
your conscious self might not."

external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSb2eVM5bfiXnsN8bvK6MbkqmTG5noA4au91zxCYlPaJu-rjd6u
Eight of the nine experiments have confirmed that psi exists. The probability of all the results being accounted for by chance or statistical error are roughly 74 billion to 1.


Lowery, G.L. (2010, December 06). Study showing that humans have some psychic powers caps daryl bem's career. Retrieved from http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/Dec10/BemStudy.html

#9- ADRENALIN!



When humans are suddenly faced with fear or a dangerous situation, our bodies undergo an amazing chemical process to try and combat the circumstances. When we see a stressor, your son pinned beneath a car for example, it activates our hypothalamus which is responsible for maintaining a balance between stress and relaxation. When the hypothalamus is notified of danger, it sends a chemical message to the adrenal glands. These glands then release adrenalin (epinephrine) and noradrenalin (norepinephrine) which creates a state of readiness to confront the danger.

These two hormones together increase heart rate and respiration, dilate your pupils, slow digestion, and allow muscles to contract. By slowing digestion and other non vital bodily functions, our body can put all of its energy into surviving. All of these changes in our normal physical state allow us to react faster, take in more information, and use more energy. However, it is adrenalin’s effects on muscles that accounts for amazing strength. Some people theorize that only a small percentage of our muscles potential is used on a regular basis. When adrenalin is released, it allows more oxygen to flow in the blood and gives a sudden burst of glucose which temporarily gives us superhuman strength.

But why don’t we have this incredible strength all the time? The answer is simple, if we were always in this extreme state, our bodies couldn’t handle it and we would die. Our muscles would rip and tear out of their joints and our immune system would begin to weaken. With a weakened immune system, we would be more susceptible to disease and infection. It’s for this reason that it is important to maintain our homeostasis.

Adrenalin structure
Adrenalin structure


Clark, J.C. (2010, - -). How can adrenaline help you lift a 3,500-pound car? . Retrieved from http://health.howstuffworks.com/human-body/bodily-feats/adrenaline-strength1.htm


#10- Sne... Sne... SneEEEZING!!


We’ve all felt it, the tingle of an approaching sneeze. Despite the fact that a sneeze may sometimes occur at unfortunate times, they are essential tools in our body’s arsenal for defending against colds and diseases. A sneeze is triggered when foreign particles somehow gets past all of the tiny hairs inside our nose, we know them as cilia. A sneeze is in itself an amazing thing, looking past the embarrassing spasm that occurs it is a perfect unison of the nervous and muscle systems. After the foreign particle has somehow managed to get past the cilia, it tickles never endings along the inner wall of the nose. These never endings instantly send a signal to a lower section of the brain stem which then sends additional messages to the eyes, throat and chest muscles. Your eyes quickly shut and your throat and chest contract so aggressively that a sneeze explodes out of the mouth, also clearing the nose. The foreign particle is rocketed out of your body at 160km/h along with whatever was in your mouth at the time.
Common sneeze etiquette:
· Try to sneeze into a tissue at all times, if not, use the inside of your elbow or crook of your armpit.
· If you do sneeze into your hands, wash them immediately before touching anything.
· Try to steer clear of environments that cause you to sneeze such as high pollen count days or pets with dandruff.
· If you’re really protective of your nose, you can wear a scarf or mask to defend against any floating particles that may enter your nostrils.
· After a loud sneeze in a public place, a polite “excuse me” should make people slightly less grossed out.

DAMN! Now that's a sneeze.
DAMN! Now that's a sneeze.

Toffelmire, A.T. (2010, - -). The science of sneezing. Retrieved from http://bodyandhealth.canada.com/channel_section_details.asp?text_id=4749&channel_id=1020&relation_id=10875


Stem Cells- My Opinion


Stem cells, in my opinion, are the future of medical advancement and by default, human advancement. It is unreasonable to stand in the way of pushing our race forward. The potential for stem cells far outweighs the fact that they are future humans. I know human life is sacred, but for me, an organism that is not capable of thinking, moving, feeling, or anything else for that matter does not qualify as a significant life form. Although they have the ability to grow into a person, it is not yet recognizable in any way. However, stem cells should only be used to help humankind and not for personal interest.

Existing Stem Cell Lines- controlled, almost anything is allowed within reason.

Excess IVF Embryos- controlled, there is no point in not using what we are going to throw out anyway.

IVF Embryos for Research- prohibited, we have enough from excess IVF so we don’t need to make more.

Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer- controlled, the cloning of tissues and organs should be allowed but not the cloning of humans as that creates many problems.