The audience sat on the floor quietly in a big circle, squinting in the dim light. Wolves find large groups of standing people intimidating, and they dislike loud noises and sudden movements. Finally, we were deemed quiet enough, and the representatives from Mission:Wolf, a Colorado nonprofit wolf rescue facility, brought in two of their ambassador wolves on leads. As the wolves walked around the circle, occasionally sniffing audience members or licking someone's teeth (a standard wolf greeting), we were told that these are teenage wolves. They are already starting to lose interest in humans, and when fully grown they will probably ignore us.
Late last summer, thousands of people joined forces as records were being broken, not at the summer Olympics in Greece, but rather in Florida. Starting in August Floridians banned together as the peninsula became the only state to suffer four major hurricanes in one season since Texas in 1886.
How much force can a human face endure during an automobile accident? Can forensic scientists really tell how old a body is by the insect larvae that infest it? Does a human soul have a measurable mass? Questions such as these, though morbid, spark the curiosity of even the most gentle and kind-hearted person. It is in our nature to be curious of death, dying, and all the mysteries that surround the human corpse,for in truth, no one knows what lies on the "other side."
Whether your taste buds draw you to a bowl of spicy Thai shrimp seasoned with cumin and paprika, or if you lean more towards the mild flavors of Swedish meatballs with dill and parsley, you have probably recognized that traditional menus from tropical climates tend to be spicier than those of cooler climates. But have you ever wondered why?
Names are not always what they seem. The common Welsh name BZJXXLLWCP is pronounced Jackson.
- Mark Twain
In the beginning, naming was simple. Thomas Hunt Morgan, a geneticist who spent the earlier part of his career researching fruit flies at Columbia University, found a single mutant fly with white eyes and named it white. At the time of Morgan's discovery in 1910, no one knew how genetic information was passed on from one generation to the next. The term gene' had only come into use the year before and the idea that chromosomes had anything to do with the process was generally not accepted.
September 11, 2001 has etched a mark on the hearts of Americans. Decades from now, we will shudder as we recall the events of that tragic morning, etched forever in our memories. We will remember, also, the threat of bioterrorism ominously revealing itself afterward as a white powder interlaced in a few letters, which shocked our sheltered society.
Over the past decade, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been in the news for their potential benefits and harms to society. Before human cloning became an issue, the emergence of transgenic plants -- plants with foreign genes introduced to provide enhanced traits -- was the hot topic in biotechnology. These engineered crops seek to provide better flavor, disease resistance, and increased nutritional value just like traditional breeding methods (Kishore 1993; Ye 2000). Biochemical and molecular biological procedures provide the technology to genetically engineer plants, as well as the methods used to detect them.
For 11 years, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has amazed us with incredible pictures of stars, planets, and black holes. Eleven years is an eternity on the timescale of most technologies. For comparison, imagine a computer from 1991 still being used for the most advanced research, and it becomes obvious just how long-lived the Hubble has been. By 2010, a new telescope that promises to delve into the unknown reaches of space will replace the aged Hubble.
Biological molecules can be divided into roughly two categories: nucleic acids and proteins. As their full names imply, both deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are nucleic acids that function to store and encode the information used to build proteins. Chromosomes, the molecular units of heredity, are composed of DNA organized into genes, while RNA, a less stable nucleic acid, is used to direct the process of protein synthesis. Under regulated conditions, specific regions of DNA corresponding to particular genes are transcribed into RNA that is then translated into proteins. As the second major class of biological molecules, proteins are perhaps best known for their enzymatic role in biological catalysis, but they are also needed for structure and support, movement, and cellular communication.
On October 4th, 1957, the USSR launched the first manmade satellite into orbit. Consequently, American fears of Russian technological superiority caused a finger-pointing frenzy. Fear of Russia already existed due to the onset of the Cold War and nuclear proliferation, but Sputnik was physical evidence that Russia was quickly becoming a technologically-powerful country. After much debate, the finger of blame landed on education, as the U.S. watched Russia churn out scientists and engineers like a factory (Dow 1991).
On November 9, 2001, the FBI released a linguistic and behavioral assessment of the person responsible for mailing anthrax-laced letters on September 18, and October 9, 2001. At national and global levels, United States Government agencies have so far been unsuccessful at locating the alleged anthrax mail-sender. Investigations remain without decisive conclusions, and are instead filled with speculations and frustration.
Four days before Christmas, the family washing machine developed a bad case of incontinence. Toss in a load of towels, add a cup of detergent, flip the switch, and a soapy flood would emerge from the appliance's nether regions - nice for cleaning the floor, but not so great for cleaning clothes. After some mopping and a few tentative efforts at "percussive maintenance" - kicking the washer and banging on it with the laundry basket - it became clear that we needed a repairman with years of experience, specialized tools, and intimate knowledge of washing machines.
Use of stem cells for research may provide vital clues to the treatment and cure of many of today's most serious diseases. But what exactly are they?
One of the hottest debates both in the media and in Washington relates to the use of stem cells. We cannot go more than a day without hearing about them in the latest news. We hear who is in favor of stem cell research, who is not in favor of research, and much more. Several groups strongly advocate either for or against stem cell use, whereas other groups attempt to stay neutral as beacons of information.
Publication of working drafts of the human genome in February 2001 was the capstone achievement of two decades' work on deciphering the human "genetic code." It was coronated as one of the greatest scientific endeavors of mankind; it was certainly the greatest in recent history.
Just three years ago, James Thompson's laboratory reported successfully establishing human embryonic stem cell lines in vitro, ultimately sparking not only a new vein of scientific research but also an impassioned national debate. Both the debate and President George W. Bush's August 9, 2001 compromise decision to allow conditional funding for such research were well publicized. The President's determination must appear to many as a straightforward compromise between researchers and the patients who may benefit from their work on one side, and anti-abortion activists on the other. In fact, the decision raises even more moral, economic, and scientific questions. Here I will attempt to clarify some of the many factors leading up to the new policy, as well as its potential effects.
The idea of having a twin can develop into a fascinating daydream. The fancy of having "someone just like me" exist in this universe is a source of mystery and enjoyment. For some, human development clearly has rendered this dream into reality. Identical twins are a real phenomenon, and in some areas of the world, such as Nigeria, quite common. Twins are our family members, friends, roommates, and stars on the screen. And now more than ever, with the help of fertility drugs, human reproduction has brought into being the mystery and magic of twins, triplets, quadruplets, sextuplets, and even more! But how do twins come into being in the first place, and how do they develop inside the mother's body?
After a year and a half in the University of Pennsylvania's Materials Science Department I started getting bored with coursework. By the middle of sophomore year I was tired of sitting in class absorbing information. I wanted to adjust the astigmation on an electron microscope, leak-check a thermal evaporator, anything but read and regurgitate dry theory. After talking to a few professors I learned about a summer program called Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). Sponsored by the National Science Foundation, REU programs are summer research programs designed to give sophomores and juniors a mini-taste of high-level research. I participated in two of these programs, and found them to be a great way to try science without making the five-year graduate school investment.
Winter has arrived, and Cornell University student Julie DeMichele sits stiffly in a hardback chair of a packed lecture hall. In an attempt to begin her statistics exam, she looks at question one, but her eyes blur, and she braces herself for a muffled sneeze. She grabs a tissue to stop her nose from running. Behind her, someone coughs. Why did she have to get sick now? Why were her eyes tearing, or her nose running? Why were the symptoms of this cold, a non-life threatening disease, so unbearable? She wished that she had taken Sudafed earlier this morning. Then at least, she would have been able to concentrate on her exam instead of whether she was going to have enough tissues.