I am only one machine in a long line of machines. Built from atoms forged in the heart of a dying star. I am not a perfect machine, parts of me are not optimal. My respiratory system is faulty. My digestive system is inefficient. My processing unit requires vast swaths of down time for repairs. I cannot fly as some machines do, I produce no natural defense system. I can only process atmosphere of a limited variety. I cannot consume the majority of the energy found in this world.
I have no purpose. I have the freedom to explore. I have the freedom to produce more machines of a new and unpredictable variety. I cannot exist forever, there are no replacement parts here. This place cannot exist forever. It too is ever changing. I am limited. My universe is limited. Continue reading The Echos of A Dying Star
My favorite flower is an Orchid.
It’s a specific subspecies of bee orchid, named as such because their flowers look like bees, and are paired to a unique species of bee.
They are evolved to work symbiotically with their unique bee partners, and over tens of thousands of years they slowly grew to look like their companions.
There is a certain subspecies of Bee Orchid, however, who’s bees are now all gone. Extinct, never to be seen on this earth again.
Continue reading A Fading Memory
Those who fear scientifically demonstrable truths often hide behind the cowering shield of self professed open mindedness.
What is open minded behavior? I so often hear complaints from normal people, who are just trying to get a hold of the world around them, that are frustrated by the seemingly constant shift in what it means to be open minded. There are not many people who are consciously interested in being intellectually dishonest or close minded, but it can be very difficult to understand who to trust when you yourself are not an expert. I have written previously about why it is important to identify and trust experts, but I did not touch on the subject of so called metacognition.
Continue reading The impossibility of learning what we already know
Think of something at which you are an expert. Really truly an expert. Try to think about how you feel when you hear a layman talking about that subject. Maybe it’s fishing, maybe it’s science, maybe it’s parenting. It could be the statistics for your favorite football player, something about cars, maybe you are an expert on a band you love.
Think about how ignorant people sound when they talk about your field of expertise.
Now try to remember that, outside your field of expertise, you are just as ignorant. You are just as full of misinformation and misconception about the entirety of the rest of the world, as those people who misunderstand your particular area of expertise.
Think about that every time you have an opinion, every time you think your voice deserves to be heard, and every time that your beliefs are challenged by something you have heard. Remember that listening to the news, reading a blog, and talking to your friends is not a substitute for reading primary research. No one will ever be able to consume all the information required to become an expert on everything, rather as you learn more about a subject you often find out how little you truly know or understand about the world.
Little is more damaging to a critical mind than undeserved self-confidence in one’s own ability, or the untouchable elevation of unsubstantiated belief.
Why should you read this:
This post is going to be a little different. I am going to write this one a bit more casually, and that may mean there will be some pg-13 language involved. If you are offended by that type of thing, I apologize in advance. Disclaimer aside, this article is going to cover a pretty broad range. It is not addressing a single small topic, but instead addresses a common argument I run into while discussing science with the public. I will go through that argument bit by bit and talk about some of the flaws, and provide some insights into the scientific method. Prepare yourself for some verbal adventure, and dive right in!
We start this story with you. Not the real you, but the hypothetical You. Got that? Just imagine yourself, but a story version of yourself. A You that is compelled to do what the plot says you are going to do. If ninjas attack the story You, it doesn’t matter what you would do in real life, because the hypothetical You in the story is compelled to do whatever the story says. I think you have it now, so please don’t be offended that I’m going to make story You sound like a total jerk!
Continue reading Wrongness, Rightness, and The Academics who never believed the Earth was flat.
Why should I read this:
The recent measles outbreak has been in the news a lot the last few weeks. Just about every single news outlet and blog in the country has written on the topic. My degree is specifically “human biology”, so I have strong opinions about how public health and disease should be treated. Whether I am preaching to the choir, or you are still certain that you should have personal choice in the matter, read along and we will go over some of the talking points.
Imagine a man with a gun. Not a soldier or an action hero, just imagine a normal man with a gun.
Imagine that man walking through a crowded public space. Imagine him walking casually, calm and unassuming.
Imagine him harboring no I’ll will against his fellow man.
Imagine that man casually drawing his gun as he walks, and firing. He fires with no particular target in mind, he doesn’t even seem to realize what he’s doing.
Continue reading A Man With a Gun – A Man With a Sneeze
Why read this?
The mitochondrion is, in my opinion, one of the most fascinating and incredible organelles in our cells. Really, I promise that mitochondria are going to surprise you. Stick with me here and I’ll try to tell you a story about mitochondria, and about your own body, that you likely have not heard before.
I promise to keep the science talk as colloquial as possible. A very basic knowledge of biology is all that is required to feel very comfortable here, 7th grade biology should cover you. If you don’t have that much biology knowledge rattling around in your head, then you will have at least some of it by the end of this article!
Don’t skip ahead, and try not to despair over the length. I realize that reading a long story is a big obstacle when it comes to making science seem fun, but this story could easily fall under science fiction if you didn’t know any better. Also, long doesn’t necessarily mean boring.
At minimum you will think, “Huh, that’s pretty neat”, but more likely than not, you will spend the rest of the day cleaning your brains off the wall, after this story blows your mind wide open!
Those readers who are even superficially familiar with cellular biology will probably remember mitochondria from their 7th grade biology class. You will possibly recall that the mitochondrion is an organelle responsible for manufacturing energy. The so called “Power House” of the cell. You might even remember it looking like the cross section of a kidney bean with a squiggly loop inside, much like the picture below. If you haven’t thought about mitochondria since the 7th grade, then your teacher flat out failed to tell you one of the most exciting stories in biology.
Before we get to the really cool part, let’s make sure everyone is up to speed on how mitochondria work in our bodies, what they are for, and where they are found.
|Yes, this is my best attempt to draw a simplified mitochondrion. Thanks college!
Continue reading Mitochondria and Your Other DNA