Georgia Tech President responds to protests

Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson sent a message to the main GT listserv Tuesday. I’m not sure I buy the bit about ‘outside agitators’–one of the three people arrested was a Georgia Tech student–but all in all I think it’s a pretty evenhanded response. Here’s the whole message:

The events of the past few days have been incredibly difficult and challenging for the entire Georgia Tech community. Consistent with our traditions and values, it is especially important that during times like these we come together and support one another.

One of our student leaders, Scout Schultz, has died and we all bear the tremendous weight of that loss. I met Scout last year at the Lavender Graduation ceremony, and our entire Georgia Tech community is mourning the tragic loss of this smart and passionate young person. Losing a student, friend, colleague, and campus leader is one of the most difficult experiences that any of us will have to face.

[Read more…]

Mechanics of Volvox inversion

Variation is everywhere in biology. Structural variation is present at molecular, cellular, organismal, and population levels, and functional variation occurs in processes from metabolism to development to behavior. In spite of this, we often describe biology in typological terms, and this is often a source of confusion.

Some variation is crucial; for example, evolution is dependent on genetic variation, and behavioral variation within ant and bee colonies ensures that all the necessary jobs get done. Much variation, though, is simply biological noise, an unavoidable consequence of the mostly analogue nature of living systems. In extreme cases, variation of this sort can complicate and even derail development, but in general development is remarkably robust. A variety of regulatory mechanisms prevent small amounts of variation early in development from being amplified into large variations in adults.

Pierre Haas and colleagues have posted a preprint to arXiv describing variation in the developmental process of inversion in Volvox globator. Facultatively sexual organisms such as Volvox are great for studying non-genetic sources of variation, because it’s pretty simple to produce millions of genetically identical individuals. When they are raised in identical conditions, variation due to environmental differences is minimized, and most of the observed variation is stochastic.

[Read more…]

Not much information

GTENS alert

CNN has the story now, but no real details:

Georgia Tech police urged students to stay inside and lock their doors as violent protests erupted Monday on campus after the fatal shooting of a student by police over the weekend. There was a planned vigil for the slain student on Monday.

That’s really all there is that we didn’t already know.

By the way (in case my mom is reading) I’m at home, a mile from campus.

A confused mess, part 2

xkcd Wrong on the Internet

Comic by Randall Munroe, xkcd (of course).

Maybe by the time I have part 2 written up, someone will tell me in the comments why we evolutionary biologists shouldn’t just hang up our hats in light of pre-antibiotic antibiotic resistance.

I really didn’t mean to leave that hanging for three weeks. That was the end of part 1 of my look at Phillip Cunningham’s video, “Darwin vs. Microbes,” in which Cunningham argues that antibiotic resistance is not an example of evolution because (among other reasons),

…contrary to Darwinian thought, it is now found that antibiotic resistance, instead of being an ability that is new for bacteria, is an ability that is ancient.

Boom, game over, creationists win, right? I mean, how can antibiotic resistance have evolved millions of years ago if Alexander Fleming didn’t invent penicillin until 1928? [Read more…]

In which I agree with Michael Egnor

Can you be good without God? Of the various questions raised in the theist/atheist debate, this question has, I believe, occasioned more witless commentary than any other.

–Michael Egnor, Evolution News & Views 2017-09-05

I couldn’t agree more. And you’ll find no better example of that witless commentary than Egnor’s article itself.

[Read more…]