An evolution revolution

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
well yeah, for example all the biochemical reactions in the body have obey the laws of thermodynamics. all bodies have to obey some kind of mechanics, whether classical or quantum (& I know special relativity lurks somewhere in there as well). biology doesn't really have the laws in the same sense that chemistry & physics do, but we make use of their laws in biology.

I read a story about this professor of neurobiology at Princeton - apparently he was originally going to become a physicist. as an undergrad at Caltech, he was taking a mechanics class & another course in molecular & cellular bio. he went up to the physics prof w/some question & the prof was like "oh yeah that's already been thought of" & wrote down a bunch of equations on a sheet. then he went to his bio professor & asked dude a question about something with synapses, can't remember what, & the bio guy, in classic fashion, said "I have no f**king clue." upon which the Princeton guy decided to switch fields.
Linus Pauling, maybe? Nevermind....didn't catch the link before...
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
Cheers Padraig, that's some great stuff there, thanks a lot.

Interesting points re. physics vs. biology - I can see the appeal of both the hard-n-fast rigour of physics (obviously) and the, I dunno, "mushiness" of biology, the huge profusion of phenomena even the field's experts can't claim to begin to understand. Whereas in physics (other than in the outer theoretical reaches of cosmology/field theory/particle physics) I think people are mainly filling in the little gaps in our knowledge within well-established paradigms, rather than venturing out into the great unknown.

This discussion reminds me of a physicist called George Zweig - who independently proposed the quark hypothesis back in the '60s, although it was Murray Gell-Mann's version that won the Nobel - who left particle physics and then did pioneering work on the physiological basis of hearing and how sound signals are transmitted down the auditory nerve. Interesting career change, anyway. Roger Penrose's forays into 'quantum consciousness' are pretty out-there, but it remains to be seen how much of it is testable...
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
Cheers Padraig, that's some great stuff there, thanks a lot.

Interesting points re. physics vs. biology - I can see the appeal of both the hard-n-fast rigour of physics (obviously) and the, I dunno, "mushiness" of biology, the huge profusion of phenomena even the field's experts can't claim to begin to understand. Whereas in physics (other than in the outer theoretical reaches of cosmology/field theory/particle physics) I think people are mainly filling in the little gaps in our knowledge within well-established paradigms, rather than venturing out into the great unknown.

This discussion reminds me of a physicist called George Zweig - who independently proposed the quark hypothesis back in the '60s, although it was Murray Gell-Mann's version that won the Nobel - who left particle physics and then did pioneering work on the physiological basis of hearing and how sound signals are transmitted down the auditory nerve. Interesting career change, anyway. Roger Penrose's forays into 'quantum consciousness' are pretty out-there, but it remains to be seen how much of it is testable...
The downsides to being a biologist versus a physicist are

1) physics, sort of like proverbial "rocket science", gets more awe and respect, based on the fact that more people fail high school physics

2) the smell of the fucking autoclave
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
This is kind of unrelated to the thread but MIT has a bunch of really good lecture videos up.

Eric Lander
, who is known for his role in sequencing the human genome and who's a good teacher to boot, has a bunch of neurobio lectures on there.

There are some good chemistry ones up too but those are hard to get anything from if you dont have any background.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
Staff member
The downsides to being a biologist versus a physicist are

1) physics, sort of like proverbial "rocket science", gets more awe and respect, based on the fact that more people fail high school physics
In fairness, I think it's very easy to teach physics badly. Or tricky to teach it well, at least.

The funny thing is, I'm sure rocket science isn't actually particularly tricky (these days I mean, not in the '40s/'50s when it was being developed). Rocket science isn't exactly rocket science, in other words. Or rather, rocket science isn't exactly orbifold cohomology.
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
In fairness, I think it's very easy to teach physics badly. Or tricky to teach it well, at least.

The funny thing is, I'm sure rocket science isn't actually particularly tricky (these days I mean, not in the '40s/'50s when it was being developed). Rocket science isn't exactly rocket science, in other words. Or rather, rocket science isn't exactly orbifold cohomology.
Physics is also counterintuitive, even more so than a lot of biological concepts (which are more counterintuitive than people would assume, even though the calculations are generally trivial).

There's this one kid in my program who's pre-med and also interested in neurology. He's Asian and really good at math, and we're in all the same classes, so we study together all the time. In chemistry right now we're doing thermodynamics, building on thermochemistry from last semester. For some reason this he just can not understand that an exothermic system has a negative charge so the deltaS of the surroundings has a positive one (after the double negative in the formula corrects itself). I'm sure you know which formula I mean, it's one of the simple one that's based on q-rev/T, I think it's deltaSsurr=-deltaHsys/T. Yesterday we went over that for like a half hour while he tried to argue that this equation was a stupid way to formulate that. (Usually in bio we use Gibb's Free energy equation...) He generally beats my grades in math but I beat him in chemistry, because for some reason he's good at following rules but bad at conceptualizing things.

It's weird when someone is generally very good at math but still can't get physics. I have to take physics and it worries me when one of the smartest kids at my school doesn't get some of this stuff right off the bat.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
He generally beats my grades in math but I beat him in chemistry, because for some reason he's good at following rules but bad at conceptualizing things.
my lab partner in chemistry - where again, I think I'm in the same class (i.e., second semester of General Chemistry) as you - is an engineering student. he's taking, I think, Differential Equations right now & is generally like 100x time better than me at math, but I'm absolutely slaughtering him in this class, I think he's barely pulling a C. I mean, the math for chemistry (at this level, at least) isn't really complicated, just algebra. it's more about being able not only to conceptualize, but also to apply the concepts. I don't know if there's that same level of application in physics, which seems more purely theoretical. like, if I see something on a chemistry test I don't understand at first, I can usually logic it out as long as I have a general familiarity with the background material.
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
my lab partner in chemistry - where again, I think I'm in the same class (i.e., second semester of General Chemistry) as you - is an engineering student. he's taking, I think, Differential Equations right now & is generally like 100x time better than me at math, but I'm absolutely slaughtering him in this class, I think he's barely pulling a C. I mean, the math for chemistry (at this level, at least) isn't really complicated, just algebra. it's more about being able not only to conceptualize, but also to apply the concepts. I don't know if there's that same level of application in physics, which seems more purely theoretical. like, if I see something on a chemistry test I don't understand at first, I can usually logic it out as long as I have a general familiarity with the background material.
I love chemistry...my lab partner this semester is a complete slacker who goes on facebook on his phone the whole time and whines at me to hurry up. We had a 100 on most labs till he completely messed up one of those resin titrations by pouring in an extra 50ml of HCl through the buret. I was annoyed but it wasn't worth starting over...

I have an easier time with chem calculations in lecture, sometimes the labs are harder to figure out. It's never hard math, but it sometimes it takes a while to figure out which equations to apply where. Still fun...although I'm getting sick of uv spectrophotometry...

Taking orgo next semester, but biochem and p chem is when it gets really fun.
 
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padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
99% sure you don't need p chem for med school. well unless you're majoring in chemistry, although I thought you already had a B.A. (in like English or Philosophy or something) and were just doing the year+ of required sciences. also pretty sure you don't need biochem, although it seems a more relevant - & interesting - class to take.

I was planning on just the year of general & the year of organic, tho I could see myself taking a biochemistry course if I had the chance (i.e. the time) to do it.

also your pm box is full.
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
99% sure you don't need p chem for med school. well unless you're majoring in chemistry, although I thought you already had a B.A. (in like English or Philosophy or something) and were just doing the year+ of required sciences. also pretty sure you don't need biochem, although it seems a more relevant - & interesting - class to take.

I was planning on just the year of general & the year of organic, tho I could see myself taking a biochemistry course if I had the chance (i.e. the time) to do it.

also your pm box is full.
Oh you definitely don't need P chem...

But biochem is a big help if you have time to take it. I'm going to take 3 years and just get the BA. I figure I might as well-- they just asked me to be in the biology honor society. And I want to do some kind of lame research project. Maybe even with the chem dept instead of bio.

My advisor tells me to get an MD/PhD because he thinks I would like research. If I do that, I'll have two BAs, two MAs, an MD, and a PhD. But then, apparently they really need practicing doctors now too. It'll all depend on what schools I get into.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
My advisor tells me to get an MD/PhD because he thinks I would like research. If I do that, I'll have two BAs, two MAs, an MD, and a PhD. But then, apparently they really need practicing doctors now too. It'll all depend on what schools I get into.
lord but we are a pair of sad, hopeless nerds. not that there's really any other option when it comes to med school. I join every freaking honors thing I can sign up for. not that I attend the meetings or anything. really, it's just more fluff to stick on your apps & CV. personally - while I understand the focus on grades & (especially) MCAT scores, I think the whole idea of having a checklist of stuff you do to show that you're both a super overachieving nerd and not a "typical" med school applicant (i.e. a super overachieving nerd) is kinda stupid, but oh well. that's the game & we're all stuck w/it. I'm hoping my weird, non-traditional background will continue to work in my favor; I think it's kinda hilarious that all those years spent riding freight trains & living in squats - when I had no thought of even going to college, let alone med school - now function as a "hook" in applications & interviews, but hey, if it's there I'll take it.

I am quite glad I'm just doing the sciences & everything in one go. I know a bunch of people who got their degrees in communications or anthro or whatever and are now stuck doing that year & a half of community college just to get the basic sciences & prep for the MCATs. I'm kind of paranoid about excess school, it runs in the family - my mom has 2 MAs & a PhD, my stepdad has didn't get his PhD (in physics - hey Tea!) until he was like 32 - but I'm ok with as long as it has a purpose with a clearly defined goal. which is one big advantage of med school over doing a PhD. all that said, I'd love to do a MD/PhD with the latter in molecular bio; I really like doing research, tho I'd still much rather do patient care. I should have the research background by the time I finish up & I have good grades & stuff, but everyone has good grades & good test scores & there just aren't that many MD/PhD programs. I'm not even going to start worrying about all that stuff for at least another semester tho.
 
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nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
lord but we are a pair of sad, hopeless nerds. not that there's really any other option when it comes to med school. I join every freaking honors thing I can sign up for. not that I attend the meetings or anything. really, it's just more fluff to stick on your apps & CV. personally - while I understand the focus on grades & (especially) MCAT scores, I think the whole idea of having a checklist of stuff you do to show that you're both a super overachieving nerd and not a "typical" med school applicant (i.e. a super overachieving nerd) is kinda stupid, but oh well. that's the game & we're all stuck w/it. I'm hoping my weird, non-traditional background will continue to work in my favor; I think it's kinda hilarious that all those years spent riding freight trains & living in squats - when I had no thought of even going to college, let alone med school - now function as a "hook" in applications & interviews, but hey, if it's there I'll take it.

I am quite glad I'm just doing the sciences & everything in one go. I know a bunch of people who got their degrees in communications or anthro or whatever and are now stuck doing that year & a half of community college just to get the basic sciences & prep for the MCATs. I'm kind of paranoid about excess school, it runs in the family - my mom has 2 MAs & a PhD, my stepdad has didn't get his PhD (in physics - hey Tea!) until he was like 32 - but I'm ok with as long as it has a purpose with a clearly defined goal. which is one big advantage of med school over doing a PhD. all that said, I'd love to do a MD/PhD with the latter in molecular bio; I really like doing research, tho I'd still much rather do patient care. I should have the research background by the time I finish up & I have good grades & stuff, but everyone has good grades & good test scores & there just aren't that many MD/PhD programs. I'm not even going to start worrying about all that stuff for at least another semester tho.
You in tri-beta? I had no idea it existed till the other day. Don't know exactly what it entails, but I feel like I probably won't participate much in the activities.

The most ridiculous part about med school apps isn't even the ridiculously high GPA req or the MCAT standard scores...it's all the other politicing you have to do to make your application "stand out". I remember jumping through similar hoops when I applied to private colleges/unis the first time. My 'hook' then was that I graduated two years early, then worked as a pharmacy technician and shadowed surgeons while taking extra AP courses. This time I don't feel I have a solid one. I guess the non-trad angle looks good though; they consider you a more serious candidate who is less likely to drop out if they accept you.

I'm such a nerd that my summer is already taken up by calculus and fucking PE reqs. I have a feeling it would look really good to do EMT courses and work as an EMT, but I feel that with 4 labs and 4 classes next semester, it just ain't gonna happen...
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
tri-beta doesn't have chapters at community colleges. I'm in phi theta kappa (the two year equivalent of pbk) & just the college's honors society. planning on joining tri-beta when I transfer, & trying to get into pbk. I also do various science-y extracurricular things, mostly related to scholarship $. your CV is undoubtedly far more impressive than mine. I didn't take any AP classes or anything in high school. hell, I almost didn't go back and do my senior year, I was going to just get the GED a year early & say f**k it. otoh I have super-high test scores and, as noted, I've been pumping up the ol' CV at every turn since I went back to school, so I dunno. it's a rat race for sure. I got into my safety school (U of I Urbana, which is pretty good in its own right), still waiting to hear back from all the elite private schools, tho even if I got in they'd have to give me serious $$$ to go there. really hoping for U of Chicago.

also taking calculus in the summer. not looking forward to it. I already took the EMT course, last semester, too busy this semester to be pulling 2-3 13 hour shifts a week, going to starting look for work w/a company when the semester ends. I need the $ anyway. the class was a lot of fun tho, I recommend it.

what the hell are PE requirements?
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
what the hell are PE requirements?
Good luck! Sounds like you have a lot of options...

PE= gym. Srsly. Gym. The state budget is completely screwed, so they'll fire teachers of real subjects, but gym? Can't cut that shit. It's important to force people to throw a ball around three days a week.
 

padraig (u.s.)

a monkey that will go ape
well it seems like w/r/t options, but then I'm sure you know time has a funny way of creeping up on you...I was just talking to the PhD I do research with earlier & he was telling me that an MD/PhD is usually about 9-10 years, maybe longer, cos you have the first 2 years of med school (the classroom work), then the PhD (5 years minimum), then the last 2 years of med school (clinical). I'm 26, so I'd be almost 40 by the time I got done. I suppose it really depends what you want to go into. if you really want to focus on research then it's great, otherwise overkill. & then, again, there's the always the problem of actually getting in when everyone has good grades & good test scores and a compelling story...sweating bullets already I tell you...

& PE? in college? for real? incidentally I'm strongly in favor of having PE as a core requirement for kids & teens - definitely over the arts if not over maths & sciences, or English/history etc., in terms of either/or funding. but I've never heard of PE as a college requirement. well, maybe it'll be a good time, I dunno...
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
well it seems like w/r/t options, but then I'm sure you know time has a funny way of creeping up on you...I was just talking to the PhD I do research with earlier & he was telling me that an MD/PhD is usually about 9-10 years, maybe longer, cos you have the first 2 years of med school (the classroom work), then the PhD (5 years minimum), then the last 2 years of med school (clinical). I'm 26, so I'd be almost 40 by the time I got done. I suppose it really depends what you want to go into. if you really want to focus on research then it's great, otherwise overkill. & then, again, there's the always the problem of actually getting in when everyone has good grades & good test scores and a compelling story...sweating bullets already I tell you...

& PE? in college? for real? incidentally I'm strongly in favor of having PE as a core requirement for kids & teens - definitely over the arts if not over maths & sciences, or English/history etc., in terms of either/or funding. but I've never heard of PE as a college requirement. well, maybe it'll be a good time, I dunno...
MD/PhD is 7 years total, sometimes with post-doc work. But that's no longer than med school-- which is 4 years plus two years + residency/intern.

I know of someone who got into an MD/PhD program with less than a 3.0...but he had good recommendations from professors.
 

nomadthethird

more issues than Time mag
I just got around to reading the article linked in the OP, and boy was that infuriatingly dumb.

Epigenetics is not at all inconsistent with evolutionary theory or molecular biology as we've known both for a century. There's nothing revolutionary about it. And environmentally influenced gene regulation/expression of blastocysts is not some kind of earth shattering discovery... the fact that the conditions under which an organism is gestated can affect its development is well-established and has been for quite a long time. In fact there's an entire discipline devoted to this called developmental biology. It's well-known that the environment gametes and zygotes and differentiating cells live in can have effects on gene regulation and expression. This has literally nothing to do with Lamarck's theory of acquired characteristics.

Horizontal gene transfer? Mindblowing? Whaaa?

Uck and it even ends with some legend about Darwin on his death bed.
 
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