Daily Archives: January 5, 2010

The human ACTN3 gene

Soccer practice was brutal. The hot summer heat made every drill twice as hard as usual. Everybody was a little bit off of their game, however I was particularly sluggish. The coaches called for a water break after finally noticing that our dehydration was significantly affecting our performance. I was dragging my feet on the way to the water cooler when one of my coaches, Brett, pulled me aside from the rest of the players.

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Tuna High

A tuna has been sold at auction in Tokyo’s fish market for 16.28 million yen ($175,000, £109,000), the highest price paid in Japan for nine years.

The bluefin tuna weighs 232 kg – nearly four times as much as the average Japanese man.

It was caught off the northern tip of Japan’s main island of Honshu, in waters famed for high quality fish.

Mind boggling.


Whenever I see something like this I go and read the Guilty Planet blog for a while. Today I will eat salad garnished with tofu for lunch.

What to do with Bible thumping students (a repost)

…. Have you ever had this happen: You are minding your own business, teaching your life science course, it’s early in the term. A student, on the way out after class (never at the beginning of class, rarely during class) mentions something about “carbon dating.” This usually happens around the time of year you are doing an overview of the main points of the course, but before you’ve gotten to the “evolution module”…


Jeanne d’Arc was a very influential 10th grader. I understand she gave her Life Science teachers a very hard time. This is the only contemporary depiction of Joan of Arc. Some say the banner reads “IHS” but I’m pretty sure it says “AIG.”

The student is talking about C14 dating and how it “has problems.” But you are a life science teacher and can’t think of a single point in your class that you really touch on C14. Dating in the evolution section does not involve C14. This is for later time periods, more in the area of archaeology, and you know nothing about it. So you brush off the question but are left with an uneasy feeling.

Next class, probably just after class, the same student, again at a moment that gives you zero warning and usually no time to think of how to respond, mentions something about the Laws of Thermodynamics. This question you find more interesting and possibly even useful as the starting point of a “teachable moment…” The nature of life itself includes the fact that life works upstream against entropy. That one utterly mind-blowing aspect of life is really all you need to define life itself. If that was the only thing you used to define life, you would have very few non-life entities or events accidentally included. If you can truly understand … I mean really, really truly at a detailed level understand …. how the heck life works against the gradient of entropy, then you will understand a LOT (like, at the MA level, at least) of what is going on. To get a believable and reasonable level of understanding of this, you must get more than just basic cell function … it is not good enough to just say “The mitochondria are the tiny little powerhouses of the cell” because you have not explained how that works. You need to know about ATP and stuff. Really, you even need to know why cells use ATP as energy but none of the other obvious forms of energy that they could use … the phylogenetic effect at a very
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