Today is Darwin Day. I didn't think I'd participate in this particular internet adventure.

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Man, I love it when scientists discover and publish things on a schedule that matches my state-mandated curriculum!  It really makes my job a lot easier.  (Also, the joke in the title line is a super-lame joke that my students tend to make when we get to the unit...they think they are quite the comedians.)
Economic, environmental, political and supply issues dictate that reliance on fossil fuels will be ephermeral on the scale of human history.  While developments in telecommunications and the information age are touted as revolutionary (e.g.,  the Internet and World-Wide-Web), these breakthroughs will pale in their impact compared to the economic and political renaissance that a revolution in sustainable energy promise.   How is it possible to engage the talent and resources necessary to drive the second industrial revolution?

Steven Chu, Secretary Of Energy and Nobel Prize winner, recently framed the role of science and technology in addressing tomorrow's energy breakthroughs.  Many of Secretary Chu's thoughts resonate with my own, among them (paraphrased):
One of my readers (via Facebook) said he loved my blog but still had no idea what I did.  Good point.  While most career scientists hyperspecialize, I've moved among multiple fields of astronomy, often confusing myself in the process.

Currently, I create computer simulations of the sun to understand and enable prediction of the brief but potent solar eruptions that can kill cellphones, GPS and airline pilots.  For those in the field, I say I study coronal mass ejections (CMEs) using data from the NASA STEREO satellites.
“As a young boy I was always very curious.

My parents didn't like to leave me at home alone, because they knew I would dismantle the radio. . .”

So begins an interview with

Ghana's rocket man


who is now working at NASA.   It’s short, but very informative: read it here.

A problem arises with abstract representational thought where we imbue more significance to the symbol… the word… than to what that word is a symbol of.

This is the major failing of most established memes throughout recorded history.

There are some big things happening this week so I will just take a minute to fill everyone in.   Of course, you must know by now Darwin Day is tomorrow and we are doing everything we can to boost understanding and acceptance of evolution by hosting a community-wide event.    You can reach it through us here or by going to www.darwinday2009.com.    

If you know people who are writing good stuff on Darwin or evolution, tell them to put the badge on their site so we see/get a notification and we'll include them.
The central dogma of Molecular Genetics is that information flow is unidirectional:  DNA to RNA to PROTEIN.  That is, DNA holds the blueprints, RNA is the messenger, and Proteins are the constructed functional units of life.

This dogma seems to hold for most of the species on the planet.  From bacteria to humans to insects, the central dogma acts as a unifying theory of life’s architecture.   But, there are a few key exceptions.

The first is that in some viruses, there is no DNA at all!  Instead, they used RNA exclusively for their coding.  Among these are the viruses that cause the common cold, flu, polio, and hepatitis.  In these, the flow of information is simply:  RNA to PROTEIN.

The big five extinctions  are  regularly the subject of   many investigations, and speculations regarding the causes, the main  culprits  being  often put  down to  asteroid, or other  extra terrestial impacts.  Ongoing investigations  by  paleontologists,  together  with satellite surveillance,  continues to reveal, more and massive impacts ,   some   leaving  evidence  of 1000   mile diameter  crater rims.   And this  precludes  hidden underwater evidence  from the Pacific Ocean.

Show Me The Science Month Day 14

Another abstract will have to do for today's extremely delayed installment; the grant proposal leaves my desk tomorrow, so I hope to be back in business as soon as my neck recovers from days of hunching over the laptop.

Today's paper, Sequencing human–gibbon breakpoints of synteny reveals mosaic new insertions at rearrangement sites, is not just interesting because two of the senior authors work one floor below my lab, or because the other senior authors is speaking to our department on Thursday. This paper is an interesting glimpse into the chromosome shuffling that went on in our evolutionary history: