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Category Archive: Molecular biology

Feb 14 2014

The state of modern evolutionary theory may not be what you think it is

Selectionist, neutral and nearly neutral theories. a | Selectionist theory: early neo-Darwinian theories assumed that all mutations would affect fitness and, therefore, would be advantageous or deleterious, but not neutral. b | Neutral theory: the neutral theory considered that, for most proteins, neutral mutations exceeded those that were advantageous, but that differences in the relative proportions of neutral sites would influence the rate of molecular evolution (that is, more neutral sites would produce a faster overall rate of change). c | Nearly neutral theory: the fate of mutations with only slight positive or negative effect on fitness will depend on how population size affects the outcome.

I was rather surprised yesterday to see so much negative reaction to my statement that there’s more to evolution than selection, and that random, not selective, changes dominate our history. It was in the context of what should be taught in our public schools, and I almost bought the line that we can only teach …

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Dec 07 2013

The reification of the gene

Razib Khan poked me on twitter yesterday on the topic of David Dobbs’ controversial article, which I’ve already discussed (I liked it). I’m in the minority here; Jerry Coyne has two rebuttals, and Richard Dawkins himself has replied. There has also been a lot of pushback in the comments here. I think they all miss …

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Nov 22 2013

A rather remarkable deficiency

There’s a much ballyhooed article from Science going around that promotes the surprising conclusion that dogs were first domesticated in Europe. Dan Graur points out that there is one little problem with the data: The take home message of the Thalmann et al. paper is simple: Dogs were not domesticated in the Middle East or …

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Nov 22 2013

Sexy T-rex meets lecherous creationist

Charlie Stross has written a story, A Bird in Hand, which rather pushes a few boundaries. It’s about dinosaurs and sodomy, as the author’s backstory explains. And as everyone knows, every story is improved by adding one or the other of dinosaurs and sodomy, so it can’t help but be even better if you add …

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Nov 12 2013

Remedial reading for big-time scienticians

I don’t understand how this happens. You’ve got a good academic position. You’re bringing in reasonable amounts of grant money. You’re publishing in Nature Genetics and Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. And you don’t even understand the basic concepts in your field of study. For instance, here’s a press release titled “Cause of genetic disorder …

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Nov 07 2013

Ill-informed science making a case for a liberal arts education

Last month, I wrote about the terrible botch journalists had made of an interesting paper in which tweaking regulatory sequences called enhancers transgenically caused subtle shifts in the facial morphology of mice. The problem in the reporting was that the journalists insisted on calling this a discovery of a function for junk DNA — the …

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Oct 12 2013

microRNAs and cancer

I’m trying to raise money for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and I promised to do a few things if we reached certain goals. I said I’d write a post microRNAs and cancer if you raised $7500. And you did, so I did. I kept my clothes on this time, though, so here’s a …

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Oct 07 2013

And the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine goes to…

Randy Schekman and Thomas Südhof for their work in vesicle trafficking. We’re working through metabolism in my cell biology course right now, but clearly when we get to translation and export of proteins in a few weeks, I’m going to have to put together a new lecture to cover this subject.

Sep 25 2013

What are tumor suppressor genes?

nf1gap

I’m trying to raise money for the The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and I promised to do a few things if we reached certain goals. I said I’d write a post explaining what tumor suppressor genes are, while wearing a pirate hat and nothing else, if we raised $5000. Shiver me timbers, I did! And …

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Sep 21 2013

What are oncogenes?

madpiratemyers

I’m trying to raise money for the The Leukemia &amp Lymphoma Society, and I promised to do a few things if we reached certain goals. I said I’d write a post explaining what oncogenes are, while wearing a pirate hat, if we raised $2500. So here you go, arrr. If you want more, go to …

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