Melville on Science vs. Creation Myth

From Melville's under-appreciated Mardi: On a quest for his missing love Yillah, an AWOL sailor...

Non-coding DNA Function... Surprising?

The existence of functional, non-protein-coding DNA is all too frequently portrayed as a great...

Yep, This Should Get You Fired

An Ohio 8th-grade creationist science teacher with a habit of branding crosses on his students'...

No, There Are No Alien Bar Codes In Our Genomes

Even for a physicist, this is bad: Larry Moran, in preparation for the appropriate dose of ridicule...

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Michael WhiteRSS Feed of this column.

Welcome to Adaptive Complexity, where I write about genomics, systems biology, evolution, and the connection between science and literature, government, and society.

I'm a biochemist

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The trial over gene patents, Association for Molecular Pathology, et al. v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, et al., is beginning. Discover summarizes the case:

When Lisbeth Ceriani, a 43-year-old Massachusetts woman, was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, her doctors recommended that she undergo genetic testing to see if she carried mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that increase risk of breast and ovarian cancers...
You're living as part of a small band of hunter-gatherers 30,000 years ago in what will later become France. How do you explain the fact that a stone, when dropped, falls to the earth? How do you even begin to think about gravity?

People sometimes wrinkle their noses when, in the context of explaining the meaning of the word 'theory' in science, you talk about the 'theory of gravity'. Gravity is a fact, isn't it? But from our 21st century perspective, we take too much of 2000 years of theoretical developments for granted. So try to imagine how you would even begin to think about gravity if you were living in a cave 30,000 years ago.

Go check out Carnival of Evolution # 20 at Skeptic Wonder. This month's issue includes a metagenomic analysis of the carnival submissions. (I get a fairly long phylogenetic branch of my own!) Go check it out! Read the feed:
The current system for allocating grant money favors senior investigators with established labs over junior faculty with smaller labs and shorter track records, and conservative projects that are almost guaranteed to work over high risk-high payoff projects that take a bigger step away from established knowledge. This isn't news; it's an issue that's been debated over and over in the biomedical research community. Richard Klausner and David Baltimore have laid out some solutions (yes, I know this is old - I'm getting caught up on back issues of Nature):
Those of you who primarily follow this blog by RSS should come check out some of the remodeling done around here: Hot Topics: Scientific Blogging has some outstanding writers, who are now coming together on a monthly basis to give you a slew of different perspectives on a current topic. The most recent topic is 2020 Science, and includes pieces on topics like home computing, particle physics, nanopore DNA sequencing, information filtering, and sustainability. Some of the best writing on this site goes up here.
This paper relates some neat work done at the University of Texas to understand signal processing by beta-adrenergic receptors:

In layman's terms: