Posted on December 9, 2012 No Comments
Evolution Follows a Predictable Genetic Pattern
Posted on November 1, 2012 No Comments
Though separated by 300 million years of evolution, these diverse insects — which include beetles, butterflies and aphids — experienced changes to a key protein called sodium-potassium adenosine triphosphatase, or the sodium-potassium pump, which regulates a cell’s crucial sodium-to-potassium ratio. The protein in these insects eventually evolved a resistance to cardenolides, which usually cripple the protein’s ability to “pump” potassium into cells and excess sodium out.
Andolfatto and his co-authors examined the sodium-potassium pump protein because of its well-known sensitivity to cardenolides. In order to function properly in a wide variety of physiological contexts, cells must be able to control levels of potassium and sodium. Situated on the cell membrane, the protein generates a desired potassium to sodium ratio by “pumping” three sodium atoms out of the cell for every two potassium atoms it brings in.
Cardenolides disrupt the exchange of potassium and sodium, essentially shutting down the protein, Andolfatto said. The human genome contains four copies of the pump protein, and it is a candidate gene for a number of human genetic disorders, including salt-sensitive hypertension and migraines. In addition, humans have long used low doses of cardenolides medicinally for purposes such as controlling heart arrhythmia and congestive heart failure.
Cool stuff. It makes sense to me which is nice (it is nice to get confirmation that I find what actually exists is sensible). When things that are true just seem crazy it is a bit disconcerting – like quantum mechanics. It is fun to read stuff that totally shakes up preconceived notions, but even then it is nice once I think understand it to find it sensible.
Brian Cox – Lecture on Science and Quantum Mechanics
Posted on December 27, 2011 1 Comment
Brian Cox gave a wonderful lecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. This is one more great thing the internet makes possible: have great fun while you learn. Enjoy.
Quantum Information Theory Postulated As Source of Emergent Theory of Gravity
Posted on August 15, 2011 No Comments
I love the advances we have made using our understanding of science and engineering, like the internet, air conditioning and antibiotics. I also love the discussion of research where we really have only educated guesses about what the scientific inquiry process is telling us about the way things are. This research from the University of York is very interesting.
Dr Patra adds: “We cannot claim to have proven that escape from a black hole is truly possible, but that is the most straight-forward interpretation of our results. Indeed, our results suggest that quantum information theory will play a key role in a future theory combining quantum mechanics and gravity.”
It is too bad the University of York supports closed science and allows work to be withheld from the public to support outdated publishers business models. Luckily scientists often support open science and publish material openly – I have provided a link for those interested in science instead of the link the University of York gives to a publishers closed system.
Ten Things Everyone Should Know About Science
Posted on March 20, 2011 3 Comments
As the writer of this blog (which is located at engineering.curiouscatblog.net) I am a strong believer in the importance of scientific literacy. Neil Degrasse Tyson stated the importance very well, as I mentioned in a previous post, the scientifically literate see a different world
The Financial Times has complied a list of the 10 things everyone should know about science
- Evolution – previous posts: Evolution is Fundamental to Science – posts tagged: evolution
- Genes and DNA – tags: genes – genetics – DNA – RNA
- Big bang – tags: physics, posts mentioning big bang
- Relativity – General Relativity Einstein/Essen Anniversary Test – posts mentioning relativity
- Quantum mechanics – Quantum Mechanics Made Relatively Simple Podcasts, Quantum mechanics
- Atoms and nuclear reactions
- Molecules and chemical reactions – posts on chemistry
- Digital data – I must admit, even reading their comments, I don’t understand what they are thinking here. There certainly is a great deal of digital data and the future certainly going to involve a great deal more, but this just doesn’t fit, in my opinion.
- Statistical significance – Seeing Patterns Where None Exists, Statistics Insights for Scientists and Engineers, Correlation is Not Causation post on statistics – experimentation
It is a challenge to create such a list. I agree with most of what they have. I would like to look at changing the last 2 and radiation, though. I would probably include something about the scientific method rather than statistical significance. Another area I would consider is something about bacteria and/or viruses. You can maybe include them under genes, but viruses and bacteria are amazing in the very strange things they do with genes and I think that is worthy of its own item. Another possibility is thinking of separating out a second spot for things related to the scientific method – causation, randomized testing, multivariate experiments… I would also consider one, or more of the following or something related to them biology – chlorophyll, the the life of bacteria in our bodies, something related to human health (how drugs work, medical studies…), etc..
An important feature of Darwinian evolution is that it operates at the level of the individual. There is no mechanism for natural selection to change the species as a whole, other than through the accumulation of changes that lead to the survival of the fittest individuals.
The rate of evolution varies enormously between different types of organism and different environmental circumstances. It can proceed very quickly when the pressure is great, as, for example, with bacteria exposed to antibiotics, when drug-resistant mutations may arise and spread through the bacterial population within months.
Why does it matter? Evolution is coming under renewed assault, particularly in the US, from fundamentalist Christians who want creationism to be taught in schools. Although evolution has had virtually unanimous support from professional scientists for at least a century, polls show that American public opinion still favours creationism.
Gravity Emerges from Quantum Information, Say Physicists
Posted on April 1, 2010 1 Comment
perhaps the most powerful idea to emerge from Verlinde’s approach is that gravity is essentially a phenomenon of information.
Over recent years many results in quantum mechanics have pointed to the increasingly important role that information appears to play in the Universe. Some physicists are convinced that the properties of information do not come from the behaviour of information carriers such as photons and electrons but the other way round. They think that information itself is the ghostly bedrock on which our universe is built.
Gravity has always been a fly in this ointment. But the growing realisation that information plays a fundamental role here too, could open the way to the kind of unification between the quantum mechanics and relativity that physicists have dreamed of.
This speculative physics is fascinating. Open access paper: Gravity from Quantum Information.
Before the Big Bang
Posted on December 16, 2008 1 Comment
LQC is in fact the first tangible application of another theory called loop quantum gravity, which cunningly combines Einstein’s theory of gravity with quantum mechanics. We need theories like this to work out what happens when microscopic volumes experience an extreme gravitational force, as happened near the big bang, for example.
If LQC turns out to be right, our universe emerged from a pre-existing universe that had been expanding before contracting due to gravity. As all the matter squeezed into a microscopic volume, this universe approached the so-called Planck density, 5.1 × 1096 kilograms per cubic metre. At this stage, it stopped contracting and rebounded, giving us our universe.
In classical cosmology, a phenomenon called inflation caused the universe to expand at incredible speed in the first fractions of a second after the big bang. This inflationary phase is needed to explain why the temperature of faraway regions of the universe is almost identical, even though heat should not have had time to spread that far – the so-called horizon problem. It also explains why the universe is so finely balanced between expanding forever and contracting eventually under gravity – the flatness problem. Cosmologists invoke a particle called the inflaton to make inflation happen, but precious little is known about it.
2007 National Medals of Science and Technology
Posted on October 9, 2008 3 Comments
Paul Baran for the invention and development of the fundamental architecture for packet-switched communication networks, which provided a paradigm shift from the circuit-switched communication networks of the past, and later was used to build the ARPANET and the Internet.
Armand V. Feigenbaum for his leadership in the development of the economic relationship of quality costs, productivity improvement, and profitability, and for his pioneering application of economics, general systems theory and technology, statistical methods, and management principles that define The Total Quality Management approach for achieving performance excellence and global competitiveness. See the Curious Cat Management Improvement portal.
Adam Heller for his fundamental contributions to electrochemistry and bioelectric chemistry, and the subsequent application of those fundamentals in the development of technological products that improved the quality of life across the globe, most notably in the area of human health and well-being.
Carlton Grant Willson for the creation of novel lithographic imaging materials and techniques that have enabled the manufacturing of smaller, faster, and more efficient microelectronic components that have improved the competitiveness of U.S. microelectronics industry.
Posted on August 6, 2008 1 Comment
Read a very nice biography from Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics for Werner Heisenberg, the founder of quantum mechanics, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle:
He relied instead on what can be observed, namely the light emitted and absorbed by the atoms. By July 1925 Heisenberg had an answer, but the mathematics was so unfamiliar that he was not sure if it made any sense. Heisenberg handed a paper on the derivation to his mentor, Max Born, before leaving on a month-long lecture trip to Holland and England and a camping trip to Scandinavia with his youth-movement group. After puzzling over the derivation, Born finally recognized that the unfamiliar mathematics was related to the mathematics of arrays of numbers known as “matrices.” Born sent Heisenberg’s paper off for publication. It was the breakthrough to quantum mechanics.
Related: 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics – photo, 1927 – Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science by David Lindley – 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics – posts on physics
Explaining the Missing Antimatter
Posted on March 19, 2008 2 Comments
In its early days, the cosmos was a cauldron of radiation and equal amounts of matter and antimatter. As it cooled, all the antimatter annihilated in collisions with matter – but for some reason the proportions ended up lopsided, leaving some of the matter intact.
Physicists think the explanation for this lies with the weak nuclear force, which differs from the other fundamental forces in that it does not act equally on matter and antimatter. This asymmetry, called CP violation, could have allowed the matter to survive to form the elements, stars and galaxies we see today.
“It is tantalisingly interesting at the moment,” says Val Gibson, an expert on B meson physics at the University of Cambridge. “If it is true, it is earth-shattering.” Jacobo Konigsberg, who leads the CDF collaboration, says that Tevatron researchers are “cautiously excited” about the analysis. He points out that more data needs to be analysed to rule out a statistical fluke, which has happened several times before in particle physics.
Related: First Evidence of New Physics in b <--> s Transitions (research paper) – posts tagged physics – Matter to Anti-Matter 3 Trillion Times a Second – Quantum Mechanics Made Relatively Simple Podcasts
Scientists and Engineers in Congress
Posted on March 9, 2008 2 Comments
A list of Congressmen with science PhDs: Vernon Ehlers, Michigan, physics PhD; Rush Holt, New Jersey, physics PhD; John Olver, Massachusetts, chemistry PhD; Brian Baird, Washington, psychology PhD; and now Bill Foster, Illinois, physics PhD. Other scientists, engineers and mathematicians include: Ron Paul, Texas, biology BS, MD; Jerry McNerney, California, math PhD; Dan Lipinski, Illinois, mechanical engineering BS, engineering-economic systems MS; Nancy Boyda, Kansas, chemistry BS; Cliff Stearns, Florida, electrical engineering BS; Joe Barton, Texas, industrial engineering BS. Please comment with additions.
Vernon Ehlers – “After three years of studying at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Ehlers transferred and received his undergraduate degree in physics and his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from the University of California at Berkeley in 1960. After six years teaching and research at Berkeley, he moved back to Grand Rapids to Calvin College in 1966 where he taught physics for 16 years and later served as chairman of the Physics Department. During his tenure at Calvin, Ehlers also served as a volunteer science advisor to then-Congressman Gerald R. Ford.”
Russ Holt – Rep. Holt earned his B.A. in Physics from Carleton College in Minnesota and completed his Master’s and Ph.D. at NYU. He has held positions as a teacher, Congressional Science Fellow, and arms control expert at the U.S. State Department where he monitored the nuclear programs of countries such as Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and the former Soviet Union. From 1989 until he launched his 1998 congressional campaign, Holt was Assistant Director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, the largest research facility of Princeton University and the largest center for research in alternative energy in New Jersey. He has conducted extensive research on alternative energy and has his own patent for a solar energy device. Holt was also a five-time winner of the game show “Jeopardy.”