Archive for: November, 2011

Maybe later

Nov 30 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I had a snarky and perhaps pessimistic post about academia ready for today. That will have to wait, not really in the mood anymore.

It seems that I have landed a TT job interview.

7 responses so far

Intro post

Nov 28 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I may have been a little asleep at the wheel here. Blame it on the tryptophan (or not.) This edition of the Scientopia Guestblog will be hosted by me, Bashir. I have been blogging for a year or so here. My topics include science tidbits, professional musings and occasional remarks on under-representation in science (leaky pipelines and all that). I’ll try to do a little of each here.

Just to let you know who I am, I'm a postdoc in some magnificent area of science. I stand out a bit, if only because of my demographics, I’m an African-American male. The numbers for that group are quite low and get lower as you climb the science ziggurat. Take a look at the departmental webpages for your university, or look around at the next conference you’re at. That’s part of the reason I started the blog, just to be out there and visible.


9 responses so far

So Long and Thanks for All the Thinking

Nov 06 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It has been fun and I hope that I have made a useful contribution to your blogging community.  I can't thank you enough for allowing me to post here for two weeks.  I do hope that you won't hold a certain internet stalker of the creationist variety against me.

I hope that you will visit Cassandra's Tears.  I promise to finish my summary of The Emergence of Life... someday.  And now I have a new one to add to the list.  Perhaps a review of Kimura in the same vein would be useful to someone as well.

I'll leave you with a powerful message

Carl Sagan - Pale Blue Dot

7 responses so far

Whippets, Bullies, and Genetics

Nov 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

I'm not a dog person.  I'm a cat person.  However, the sight hounds have always fascinated me.  They are some pretty stunning creatures.  So, while doing a little research today, I came across this older article and thought I would share.

Whippets are like small greyhounds.  The fastest of them can top out at 40 mph.  There is a not-unique mutation in them though.  And that mutation brings up an interesting point that a lot of people miss.

The mutation is in the myostatin (MSTN)  gene that develops muscles.  Here's where it gets interesting.

If you get a dog that has one of these mutated genes (from either mom or dad), then you get one of the fastest Whippets.  That dog could easily be a race champion.  The mutation basically increases the amount of muscles in the dog.  So, no mutated genes and you get a dog with normal muscles.  One mutated gene and you get impressive muscles.  What happens when you get two mutated genes?

Super dog!

Well... no.

You end of with freakishly large muscles that actually cause some significant problems and constant threat of massive cramping.  Dogs with two genes are slower than dogs with one gene.

Here's  a normal Whippet.  Notice the sleek shoulders and hips.


Gorgeous animal right?

Here's a so-called 'bully whippet' with that is homozygous for the mutated gene.


Yes, those two dogs are the same breed.

This is a really neat concept and one that is actually quite common.  The heterozygous condition (one mutated gene and one non-mutated gene) is more fit than either of the two homozygous conditions (two mutated genes or two non-mutated genes) in the same environment.

Can anyone think of another case where, in some environment, the heterozygous condition is more fit than either homozygous condition?  Yes, you in the back.

Yep, sickle cell anemia.  In environments with malaria, the heterozygous condition is more fit than either homozygous condition.

A similar case can be found in my preferred species of discussion (Felis catus).  the tailless condition of the Manx breed is due to a heterozygous condition.  The tailless condition is dominant, but a homozygous dominant cat never survives.  They are always stillborn.  In a sense, there can be no pure-bred Manx cats.

Why is this cool, it takes care of one of those things that some people complain about in evolution.  That is diversity.  If everything moves towards maximum fitness, then why does diversity exist?

Well, that's not a bad question and there are two answers.  The first is that what is 'fit' changes based on the environment.  If the environment does not contain malaria, then a homozygous non-sickle cell person is most fit.  If the environment contains malaria, then a heterozygous person is most fit.

Since a cross between two heterozygotes can produce either homozygous condition or the heterozygous condition, then diversity in the population will remain higher than if one of the dominant conditions were most fit.

The other answer is that the environment can change (and does frequently).  Take a look at the Galapagos finches and the change in morphology between droughts and rainy seasons.  Note that if one environment persisted for a significant amount of time, then the most fit condition could become fixed in the population (if the most fit condition wasn't the heterozygote).

Here's the actual research on the muscles in whippets.


23 responses so far


Nov 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

So, Tuesday I left for New York Tuesday morning.  Flew to Chicago, then on to New York.  I checked in to my $400 a night hotel and then wandered around New York for a while.  I've never been there before.

It was New York.  Just like the TV shows.  Garbage piled on the sidewalks, lots of honking horns, construction, constant police whistles.  I walked to Rockefeller Center, took some very Meta pictures of the LEGO store's model of Rockefeller Center and the LEGO Store made out of LEGO.  I walked down to Central Park, which was very much like you hear about on TV.  Five minutes of walking in, you couldn't hear the city anymore (though you could on the 8th floor of a hotel with sealed windows and heavy drapes).

I walked down to Times Square... lots of lights.  Ate a nice dinner and went to my hotel, where I fought with tech support for three hours before giving up on having an internet connection.  $400 a night and an internet charge of $20 a night and I couldn't get a wireless connection.  I couldn't get a wired connection.  They brought me a wireless bridge.  No dice.

So I get to my meeting in the morning (after a $20 Omelet in a deli across from the hotel).  And get on the internet to find dozens of work e-mails.  from the day before... with an emergency... that they needed fixed the day before (while I was in the air).  sigh.

All day meeting.  Leaving the building on Avenue of the Americas into a fully armed police SWAT team.  Trying to get a taxi and then the insane ride to the airport.  Waiting at the airport for a suddenly delayed flight and finally arriving home at 2:30AM Thursday.

Wake up at 6:30 to get to work and fix all the issues that cropped up during the day.  Worked for an hour at home and realizing that all of my files were at the office.  Go to the office and work like mad to fix something that someone else broke and do it three days ago.

I come home and it's picture day with the family.

I finally check in here and see 85,289,832 e-mails about the discussion.  I'm too tired to deal with it at this point.  If the Scientopia mods want to delete it, cool.  If they want to keep it, that's cool too.

I have no intentions on discussing ID with JoeG and I have no intentions on engaging him further in any way, shape or form.

I guess I'm definitely a wired individual.  After 3 days without personal internet availability I feel so disconnected from everything.

It's like when you take 2 weeks off from work, it's really hard to get back into it and you kind of feel bad that everyone else has had to muddle through without you being there.  It's frustrating.  Which is another reason I don't take a lot of time off.

I'd hate to leave the original discussion, whatever it was, here.  We'll see if I can get it together tomorrow.



2 responses so far