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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'Copy Number Variants' (CNVs) are hot. A CNV is a sizeable chunk of DNA that's either missing from your genome or present in extra copies. Chunks of DNA get copied or deleted on a surprisingly frequent basis. We've all got CNVs, most cases they are probably benign, but CNVs are becoming an increasingly appreciated as a significant source of medically important genetic variation. 'Recently appreciated' because we now have the technology to detect CVNVs reliably.
There will be no survivors

Exactly what nuclear world war would look like was a matter of diverse opinion in the nuclear apocalypse novels of the 1950‘s.

Many post-apocalyptic novels of this decade portrayed World War III as an essentially known if more extreme extension of the destructive experience of World War II, much the way that World War II was like World War I jacked up a notch.
Survivalism, British Style

John Christopher’s 1956 No Blade of Grass is an extremely compelling page turner that portrays our moral traditions and social glue as being so fragile that they can be swept away in a day. Compassion, mercy, and even friendliness are not as hard-wired as we would hope, and they quickly dissolve when the urgency of survival forces us to view all other people as competitors.
Post-apocalyptic Fundamentalism

Leigh Brackett's The Long Tomorrow is one of many post-apocalyptic novels that envision society returned to a 19th century agrarian state. The rural settings of these novels are commonly used to explore life in a society driven by fear, fear or technology, or change, or those who are different. A society based on fear of technology is what Leigh Brackett explores here.
Nature is never inexplicable
Alien Invasion and Evolutionary Succession

The possibility of human extinction in End of the World sci-fi is sometimes paired with a consideration of our next evolutionary step - a concept that is less scientific than it sounds (evolution shouldn't be considered in such linear terms), but one that does make an effective fictional tool for thinking about human impermanence.