Sunday, December 15, 2013

Some New Aspects Of Cellular Aging

The more theories there are to explain a set of facts, the less we understand it. There is no better example of this than the theories of cellular aging. A short list of the theories of the cause of the aging process include: the telomere length theory, the reproductive cell cycle theory, the DNA damage theory, the autoimmune theory, the free-radical theory, the cross-linkage theory, the error accumulation theory, the somatic mutation theory, the reliability theory, the wear and tear theory and so on. It resembles more the story of the blind men who feel a different part of the elephant. Researchers are describing some genetic and biochemical findings associated with aging, not the cause.

A recent study in Nature (1) makes the task even more difficult. Until now, most researches thought that aging is inevitable in most if not all species and starts occurring after the peak reproductive age. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute, however, found an extraordinary diversity in the processes of aging among the 46 species they studied, ranging from the lifespan of the fruit fly (a few days) to humans (roughly 100 years) to hydra (centuries, practically immortal). They studied 11 mammal species, 12 other vertebrates, 10 invertebrates, 12 plants and one algae. What they found was that most of our ideas on aging are false since they are based mostly on mammals and birds, which are not representative of all species on the planet. Some species become weaker with age (e.g. humans, other mammals and birds) others become stronger with age (e.g. tortoises and some trees) while other remain the same (e.g. Hydra and the hermit crab).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cambrian Explosion: Could Such Rapid Evolution Happen Naturally?


The Cambrian Explosion refers to a period around 540 to 520 million years ago during which arose an abrupt increase in the number and types of animal groups as evidenced by the fossil record. This sudden increase in the rate of evolution has caused some to argue that it could not have happened naturally. But there has never been an accurate measurement of the actual rate of evolution during this period, until now.

A new study in Current Biology (1,2) has found the rates of “morphological and genetic evolution during the Cambrian explosion were five times faster than today—quite rapid, but perfectly consistent with Darwin’s theory of evolution.” The study focused on arthropods, the most diverse animal group in the Cambrian period and today, but the results are considered to be generally applicable to the other animal groups. 

Theories of how the Cambrian Explosion happened generally fall into three main categories: genetic, ecological and environmental/geochemical. In the latest edition of Science (3,4) Professor Paul Smith of Oxford and Professor David Harper of Durham University propose that no one theory explains it all, but that a ‘cascade of events’ led to the sudden explosion in the number and diversity of species. It is becoming clear, however, that the oxygenation of the earth’s atmosphere played a major role. Large organisms cannot exist without a minimum amount of available oxygen (5). Large amount of evidence has shown that two geological periods of oxygenation occurred, one in the Precambrian period and another two billion years earlier (6,7). During the Neoproterozoic era that preceded the Cambrian Explosion, the geological conditions were chaotic, with the breakup of the supercontinent Rodinia and a period of prolonged global cold during which oceans were covered with ice from pole to pole and were low in oxygen content. During this time oxygenation occurred non-linearly and organisms evolved that were able to survive both aerobically and anaerobically, perhaps leading to even greater diversity.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Light Saber: Solid Photons, Fact or Fiction?


The light saber. It looked magical when Obi-One Kenobi first whipped it out in the bar in the spaceport town of Mos Eisley on the planet Tatooine; light energy that has the solidity of matter and which can cut through anything. I never quite understood its usefulness in an advanced world with laser guns and intergalactic travel, but never mind. It was graceful, beautiful, a wonderful combination of old world elegance and new world technology. But it is a work of fiction that isn’t real, right? Right. Until now.

In a September 25 paper in Nature (1), a team of Harvard and MIT scientists have created a new state of light that has properties of matter, much like the light saber. Photons are normally without mass and they do not interact with other photons. In this study, though, two photons were fired through a cloud of cold rubidium atoms just a few degrees above absolute zero. As the photons passed through the cloud, they started interacting with the rubidium atoms in a series of exchanges of energy (an effect called the Rydberg blockade) resulting in the two photons exiting together as a single molecule, bound together into “polarization-entangled photon pairs” which acted as though they had mass.

Are there any practical applications? Yes, in quantum computers. But I am still holding out for my light saber.




1.     Ofer Firstenberg, Thibault Peyronel, Qi-Yu Liang, Alexey V. Gorshkov, Mikhail D. Lukin, Vladan Vuletić. Attractive photons in a quantum nonlinear medium. Nature, 2013; DOI: 10.1038/nature12512

Monday, August 26, 2013

God, Myths, and Our Tired Concepts


The faithful referred to him as “The Light of the World.” He was born of a virgin who was referred to as “Mother of God,” he was part of a Holy Trinity, celibate throughout his life, extolled justice, renounced riches and sensual things, had twelve apostles and viewed life as a struggle between the forces of Good and Evil. He preached that there will be a Judgment Day at which time the dead will be resurrected, the earth will experience a final conflict between the forces of light and darkness and the present order will be destroyed. Thereafter, light will forever reign on earth. He preached that this duality continues in the afterlife in the form of Heaven and Hell. After he completed his earthly mission, he had a Last Supper with his twelve apostles and ascended to Heaven, after which his followers conducted ceremonies that included the drinking of wine and the eating of bread to symbolize his blood and flesh. Baptism was practiced as a ritual of purification. December 25th was celebrated annually as his birth and Sunday was the holy day of the week.

No, it isn’t Christianity, but Mithraism, the last pagan religion of the Roman Empire. It began in Persia in the 6th or 7th century BCE and eventually spread through India to China and throughout the Roman Empire. Relics of the Mithraic religion have been found in Britain, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Armenia and throughout North Africa. It was the favorite religion of the Roman soldiers because it celebrated brotherly love and physical action in the name of justice and truth. It lasted a little over three hundred years and was then overtaken by Christianity, which didn’t hesitate in borrowing a few items along the way.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Consciousness, Near Death Experiences, and Quantum Mechanics


Near Death Experiences

Near death experiences (NDEs) have been extensively documented, both in popular literature and in scientific studies. Though most older studies were retrospective, sometimes interviewing patients years after their experience, several new studies have been conducted prospectively. As reviewed by van Lommel (1), in prospective studies in Holland (2), the US (3), and Britain (4), cardiac arrest patients were interviewed as soon as possible after their resuscitation. Of these, 6-12% (depending on the study) reported an NDE with high enough clarity to be able to describe what they saw. In the Dutch study, for example, 50% of patients with an NDE reported awareness of being dead, 25% had an out-of-body experience, 30% reported moving through a tunnel, 13% had a life review, and 8% experienced a border. Neither the duration of the cardiac arrest, nor the need for intubation, nor induced cardiac arrest in electrophysiological stimulation had any influence on the frequency of NDE. Nor was the frequency of NDE related to the administration of drugs, fear of death before arrest, foreknowledge of NDE, religion or education. The frequency of NDE was higher in patients who were less than 60 years old, who had more than one CPR during their hospital stay, and who had experienced an NDE previously.

All of these patients had electrophysiological evidence of no brain function during the CPR. Many studies in both human and animal models have shown that electrical activity in both the cerebral cortex and the deeper structures of the brain are absent after a very short period of time. The first ischemic changes in the EEG are detected an average of 6.5 seconds, with progression to a flat EEG pattern occurring within 10-20 seconds, after the cardiac arrest (5-8). In all three studies it was concluded that all patients who experienced NDEs had a transient loss of all functions of the cortex and brain stem. Even though these patients were all unconscious with no EEG pattern they experienced clear, logical consciousness (in describing what went on in the room while being resuscitated during their out-of-body experience, the description of the tunnel, light, review of their lives and meeting with dead relatives, even those that some did not know were dead or even that it was their relative - in one case a patient met a man while in another dimension whom he did not know, yet who he found out years later was his dead father).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Universe Without Expansion


What if the universe were static rather than expanding? What if, in fact, it could even be shrinking? And what if there never was a Big Bang cosmological singularity? These are the possibilities proposed by C. Wetterich from the University of Heidelberg in a new paper published this month with the title A Universe Without Expansion. 

Einstein, among others, believed in a static universe. But after Hubble’s discovery that all objects in the universe have a red shift, which means they are traveling away from us, the conclusion was reached that the universe is expanding and all attempts at finding static solutions were abandoned. But, as Wetterich explains, there was always a “loophole in the argument.”  The assumption was that the masses of electrons and protons are constant throughout the evolution of the universe. But what if that were not the case? An atom with a higher mass would emit photons with higher energy than one with lesser mass. Since higher energies correspond to higher frequencies, the light from heavier atoms would be blue shifted, while those from lighter ones would be in the red part of the spectrum.

What if the masses of the electrons and protons were smaller at an earlier time in history? Since we observe the universe as it was millions or billions of years ago—the time it takes their light to reach us—if their masses were smaller than they are today their “frequencies of characteristic atomic lines” would produce the same red shift that we see today, without their moving at all. And the degree of red shifting would correspond to the distance from us. In this line of thinking, the Planck mass and the particle masses increase simultaneously with time, while distances remain constant or even shrink.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Creationists, Evolution, and Aliens


I have always found it difficult to understand why Creationists (and Intelligent Design proponents) are so against evolution. Even if evolution is true, it says nothing about the existence of God one way or the other. In the same way that physics may explain the development of the universe, evolution may explain the development of life on earth. Evolution is no more against God than quantum mechanics or the Big Bang Theory. God can be viewed as having created the universe with all of its laws, including the law of evolution.

So what is at the heart of the antagonism to evolution? One commonly held explanation is the Biblical reference to God having creating Man in His own image. If evolution depends on random mutations and natural selection, the thinking goes, it has no predetermined outcome and, therefore, it goes against the Bible. The human race could have evolved in myriad other ways. This thinking obviously follows a literal reading of the Bible rather than a metaphorical one.

According to one rough estimate, the Milky Way contains about 100 billion earth-like planets. Since the known universe contains about 500 billion galaxies that we know of, there are roughly 5x10^22 habitable planets in the universe. Even if that estimate is off by several orders of magnitude, it is clear that intelligent life must exist elsewhere in the universe. Do Creationists believe that this intelligent life looks exactly like us, Homo sapiens? From their point of view, are these intelligent beings any less “God’s creatures” than we are? Or do they really believe that we are the only intelligent beings in this vast universe?

Monday, June 10, 2013

Quantum Teleportation


Quantum teleportation involves the exchange of information in the form of quantum states, not matter, between two points with the use of quantum entanglement. In principle, the distances can be arbitrarily long and works even if the location of the recipient is not known.  Cryptography is a key element in quantum communications and quantum computers. It takes advantage of quantum entanglement, the phenomenon in which two objects, such as photons, are connected in such a way, even at great distances, that changing the state of one instantly changes the state of the other. If an eavesdropper intercepts the message, this entangled state is disrupted and the aggression is thus noticed.

The latest article in a recent series of breakthroughs in quantum teleportation involves researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute who have reported in Nature Physics (1) that they have succeeded in teleporting information between two clouds of gas atoms, and they have done so every single time they attempted. The experiment involves two glass containers, each containing caesium gas atoms. Information is teleported from one glass container to the other by means of a laser beam of light which becomes entangled with the gas atoms. Even though the glass containers were only a half meter apart, it “is entirely due to the size of the laboratory,” explains Eugene Polzik. “We could increase the range if we had the space and, in principle, we could teleport information, for example, to a satellite.” (2)

Anton Zeilinger’s group in Vienna have succeeded in teleporting information over long distances. In a paper in Nature in 2012 (3), an international team led by Zeilinger reported successfully transmitting quantum states over a distance of 143 kilometers, between two Canary Islands.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Evolution In Action


In a paper in the May 30 issue of Current Biology, (1,2) researchers have been able to solve a problem that has perplexed biologists for over two centuries: the evolution of the turtle shell. They have been able to fill what they deem a 35 to 50 million year gap by the study of an extinct South African reptile known as Eunotosaurus africanus. In doing so, they have given us a very good example of evolution in action.

According to the author, Tyler Larson, the turtle shell is a structure whose evolution started over 260 million years ago in the Permian period. The shell is actually composed of approximately 50 bones, the fusion of ribs and vertebrae, the only animals that have evolved their shell in this way. Other animals with shells use bony scales as a protective shell and retain their ribs in order to allow for the mechanics of breathing. The turtles have apparently solved this problem by the evolution of a muscular sling.

Eunotosaurus displays several characteristics—such as a reduced number of elongated trunk vertebrae and reorganization of respiratory muscles to the ventral side of the ribs, among others—which conform to predictions that the initial transformations occurred by the Middle Permian period. The known turtle fossils discovered until recently dated back about 215 million years and had fully developed shells. In 2008 the discovery of Odontochelys semitestacea, a reptile about 220 million years old, showed that it had a fully developed plastron, the belly side of the shell, but only a partial carapace. Eunotosaurus is 40 million years older and it has the broadened ribs and lack of intercostal muscles running between its ribs that are found only in turtles, but lacks broad spines on their vertebrae and other features common to turtles and Odontochelys.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

DNA Computing: Is It Here Yet?


In 1994, Leonard Adleman, a computer scientist at University of Southern California, introduced the concept of DNA based computing in a paper in the journal Science. (1) He used DNA strands to solve the well-known traveling salesman problem (given a number of cities, what is the shortest route for a salesman to take without going to any city more than once?) The entire process took days and required a lot of human intervention. Since then logic gates, essential elements of any computer, have been created using DNA code with a variety of approaches. The circuits can solve simple mathematical problems, recognize patterns, play games and even detect disease states inside a cell.

All modern computers have three basic functions: storing, transmitting and performing logical operations. In 2012, Endy et al. made the headlines by announcing the development of the first two of those functions for DNA computers. (2) Now they announced the last component, that of computation.

In a paper published March 28, 2013 in Science (3) a team of Stanford University bioengineers led by Endy describe a biological transistor made from DNA and RNA which they named a “transcriptor.” This transcriptor uses proteins called integrases to digitally control the flow of RNA polymerase along a strand of DNA, analogous to the flow of electrons along a circuit in electronic transistors. Using these transcriptors, the team has created “logic gates” that can function inside a living cell.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Mathematical Model for Evolution


One of the fundamental criticisms of the theory of evolution has been that it lacks a mathematical basis. From its inception evolution has used qualitative concepts such as “random mutations” and “natural selection” to describe how genes can spontaneously mutate and cause the organism to be more adaptive to its environment, thus giving it an advantage in the number and “fitness” of its offspring. Now that may be changing.

A team of scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, led by Professor Wang, has published a paper that examines evolutionary dynamics from a mathematical perspective. (1,2) The study uses mathematical formulas to describe a new theory of evolution in which two forces are at play: an underlying emergent 3-D “fitness” landscape and an evolutionary force called “curl flux” which causes individuals and species to move through the fitness landscape in a spiraling manner. The hypothesis envisions endless co-evolution between individuals within species or between two different species by movement through the fitness landscape via curl flux. The curl flux can be created by interactions between individuals of different species which can result in continuous and endless co-evolution, a version of the Red Queen Hypothesis.

Monday, April 29, 2013

How Many Universes Are There In a Multiverse?


Andrei Linde is Professor of Physics at Stanford University and the author of several important theories, including the inflationary universe theory, the inflationary multiverse theory and the theory of eternal inflation. These theories taken together envisage a multiverse with an eternally growing fractal structure in which universes continuously arise, with different laws of low energy physics operating in each of them.

In a 2009 paper (1) Linde and Vanchurin attempted to calculate how many universes there are in a multiverse. The initial calculation came to 10^10^10^7, a very large number and one which they admit could be wrong by many orders of magnitude. But they quickly point out that a multiverse has no meaning without an observer, if correctly viewed by quantum physics. 

“One of the implications of this result is that one can talk about the evolution of the universe only with respect to an observer. In the limit when the mass of the observer vanishes, the rest of the universe freezes in time. In this sense, the number of distinct observable histories of the universe is bounded from above by the total number of histories that can be recorded by a given observer. And this number is finite.”

Their calculation takes into account the total amount of information that can possibly be absorbed by a human brain during its lifetime, which they deem to be about 10^16 bits, “which means that a typical human brain can have about 10^10^16 different configurations, which means that a human observer may distinguish no more than 10^10^16 different universes.” From this number they hope to calculate the probability of a universe in which the laws of physics would allow intelligent life to evolve, the so-called anthropic principle.

So how many parallel universes are there in a multiverse? As many as your brain can fathom.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Quantum Physicists, Consciousness, God


With the introduction of relativity theory and quantum mechanics Newton’s mechanical view of the universe came to an end. Instead of the classical deterministic view of existence now developed an image of a universe that exists as a set of possible outcomes, a probability distribution. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle states that one cannot know both the exact position of a particle and its momentum at the same time. This led to the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics which states that an object acts as both a wave and a particle in a set of probability waves. The act of measurement by an observer causes the “collapse” of a set of possibilities into one randomly chosen one which becomes physical “reality.”

The question of what constitutes an observer has plagued quantum mechanics from the beginning. Schrödinger' cat experiment in which a cat in a box can be both alive and dead at the same time (a quantum superposition) until an observer opens the box was complicated by the realization that the observer may also be in a quantum superposition and would require yet another observer and so on ad infinitum. If the entire universe is a quantum universe then there needs to be an ultimate consciousness outside of the universe to bring it into existence.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How Many Scientists Believe in God?

The question "Do you believe in God?" has a different meaning for each individual. God can be a personal God, a God of a specific religion, a God who created the universe and its laws but who did nothing after that, and so on. Let’s begin with statistics asking the question, "Do you believe in a personal God?"

The US psychologist James H. Leuba in his survey of 1914 found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of a personal God. This figure rose to nearly 70% among the 400 "greater" scientists within his sample (1). Leuba repeated his survey 20 years later and found that these percentages among “greater” scientists had increased to 85%. (2). In 1998 Larson and Witham repeated Leuba’s study, using the term “greater” scientists to mean those who are members of the National Academy of Science. The results are shown in

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Chaotic Paths of Evolution

Evolutionary Paths. In a paper published in the November 2012 issue of BioScience (1) researchers led by Shozo Yokoyama at Emory University have labeled “highly questionable” assumptions relied upon to study the evolution of protein molecules. One of these assumptions is that changing a particular gene in a known location would affect the properties of ancestral and modern protein forms in the same way. That assumption allows computers to infer likely evolutionary paths leading to the forms of proteins found in modern organisms.

Doubts on Molecular Adaption. In experiments designed to test these assumptions, Yokoyama created hypothesized ancestral visual pigments and variants of them that might have been produced by mutation. What he found was that properties of related version of proteins often changed in different ways when the same mutation was introduced in each. This caused standard computational and statistical methods to rarely be able to identify the experimentally supported evolutionary pathway. Yokoyama concludes that his studies cast “serious doubt” on the “fundamental principles of molecular adaptation” used in thousands of papers.

No Going Back. In a related article (2), a University of Oregon team found that evolution can never go backwards. The team reconstructed the gene for a glucocorticoid receptor in the version that existed more than 400 million years ago. They found that over a rapid period of time, random mutations in other proteins caused changes in the protein’s structure which made it incompatible with the receptor’s primordial form. In other words, there is evolutionary bridge burning, which implies that the direction evolution took may be neither ideal nor inevitable.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mind and Cosmos

In his new book, Mind and Cosmos, Thomas Nagel, an atheist and professor of philosophy at New York University, joins a growing number of other philosophers and scientists in challenging evolution, albeit without offering an alternative.

Nagel’s argument is with reductive materialism, the idea that atoms and molecules and physical laws can explain everything in biology, including evolution. As pointed out in several reviews (e.g. NY Times) his knowledge of biology and evolution is superficial and, at times, outdated. As he readily admits, his discussion “is just the opinion of a layman.” But in his layman's opinion evolution is counterintuitive, it “flies in the face of common sense.” It doesn’t seem to occur to him that if that were the basis of scientific research, quantum theory, the most counterintuitive area of physics, would never have been accepted, despite the overwhelming evidence that it accurately describes reality as we know it.

Consciousness? Despite the false starts, Nagel’s argument eventually turns to more solid footing, that of consciousness. As he argued in his influential paper in the 1970s "What Is It Like To Be a Bat?" the experience a bat feels in its own mind is not knowable by simply knowing the chemistry of its brain. Nagel doubts that mind and consciousness could ever be explained by a materialistic description. Since Neo-Darwinian evolution is based on materialism, it can never explain mind and consciousness. Despite efforts to describe consciousness by invoking brain function, biologists have had a very difficult time in even defining consciousness.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Universe We Created

John Wheeler (1911-2008) was an eminent physicist, dreamer, colleague of Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, mentor to many of today’s most eminent physicists, and the coiner of such terms as black hole, quantum foam, and wormhole. And he is also the creator of an intriguing thought experiment in quantum physics which may mean that we are the creators of our own universe.

One of the main tenets of quantum mechanics is that our observation of the universe directly affects its properties and behavior. In the traditional double slit experiment, the way one observes a photon, for example, determines whether the photon travels like a wave or a particle.

Delayed Choice Experiment
Wheeler’s thought experiment, called the delayed choice experiment, took it one step further. What if one makes the decision of whether or not to observe the photon at the last moment, after the photon has already passed a certain point and “has already made its decision” of whether it will be a particle or a wave? Wheeler proposed this thought experiment on a grand scale by proposing that we observe light from a quasar, light which has been traveling for billions of years long before there were any humans to observe it. The measurements made now, according to Wheeler, would determine the photon’s past.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Sequestration

It has been an accepted fact that basic research is something that only government can invest in and promote on a large scale since private industry needs commercial payoff relatively quickly. Our leadership in the world has depended on government investment in basic research. Today, however, the NIH budget stands at a woefully low level.

Lowest Investment
In constant dollars adjusted for inflation, the NIH budget in fiscal year 2012 is $4 billion less than it was in 2003 and is at the lowest level since 2001. The number of research grants funded by NIH has declined since 2004. In 2012 NIH funded 3,100 fewer grants than in 2004.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Why Larger Species Live Longer

Adrian Bejan, the J.A. Jones Professor of mechanical engineering at Duke and father of the Constructal Law, is the author of a paper (1) in which he tries to explain the longer lifespan of larger creatures. What Constructal Law says is that anything that flows, be it blood, a river, a jet stream, a highway system, will evolve toward a similar mathematical configuration to maximize efficiency.

It's all about Math.
He then proposes to look at an animal simply as a flowing mass in motion. Mathematically calculating the size and age of both animate and inanimate objects, he found the same correlation: larger rivers are older, larger jet streams last longer, larger animals live longer. They all also cover larger territories of travel.

Breaths of Life.
Even more interesting, however, is the finding that if body size and lifespan of animals are plotted on a curve, they fall on a slope of about ¼. And then, if you plot the frequency of breathing to body size, it forms a slope of - ¼. Combining the two lines of inquiry he found that an animal has a constant number of breaths per lifetime. (2) The larger animals breathe more slowly in order to cover a longer lifespan.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Do We Really Want Physical Immortality? Part II

Psychological Consequences

· Belief in religion – One of the main functions of most religions is to provide an answer to the question of what happens after death. The immortality of the soul is an essential part of most religious traditions. If we have immortality of the physical body, would there still be the same need for religion?

· The big questions. Existing indefinitely in the physical world would prevent us from getting the answers to the big questions: is there a soul, is there life after death, is there a reason for our existence, does God exist? We will be forever relegated to living in the black box of the physical world. Or maybe there is a way of getting out of it without dying?

· Risk aversion. If life is indefinitely long, there would be a lot more to lose. People may restrict their daily actions to reduce the chance of being severely injured or losing one’s life. Sports like skiing, hokey, football, skydiving, mountain climbing, car racing and so on may no longer be tolerated. Even driving a car or traveling by any mode of transportation may be seen as too dangerous. A time may come when people will no longer even be willing to leave their homes. They will just live in cyberspace, letting their avatars take all the chances.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Do We Really Want Physical Immortality? Part I

There are many theories that try to describe the biological cause of aging. They include the antagonistic pleiotropy hypothesis, the astrocytic hypothesis, DNA damage theory, evolutionary theory, free-radical theory, network theory, reliability theory, reproductive cell cycle theory, stem cell theory and others. But to quote David Rollo, “In any field of science, the true degree of understanding is inversely proportional to the number of explanatory theories that prevail.”

Programmed to die.
Whatever the details, the fundamental basis for aging has to reside in our DNA. Each species has its own particular average lifespan (excluding a few that seem to be “immortal” by regressing to an earlier stage). DNA is a code—a very complicated code, but a code nonetheless. With our computational abilities increasing at an exponential rate, it is clear that one day—maybe in 50, maybe in 100 years—we will break that code and find a “cure” for aging.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Longevity Gene

A new study published on January 31, 2013 in the journal Cell Reports (1) found that by infusing the blood stem cells of old mice with a so-called “longevity gene,” SIRT3, they were able to rejuvenate their regenerative potential, in effect to become younger.

SIRT3 is a protein among a class known as sirtuins which are known to regulate the aging process. SIRT3 is found in a cell’s mitochondria, which has its own DNA apart from that of the nucleus. Previous studies have shown that the SIRT3 gene is activated during caloric restriction, and that caloric restriction extends lifespan in some species, though that hasn’t yet been shown in humans.

Studies have shown that having an extra copy of another sirtuin, SIRT2, extends the lifespan of yeast, worms and flies. (2) In mammals there are now known to be at least seven sirtuins (SIRT1-SIRT7).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Between Us and the Monkeys

In 2012 the genome of the last great ape—the bonobo—was published by a team led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. (1) Together with the chimpanzees, the bonobos are the closest living relatives of humans. The chimpanzee and the bonobo genomes differ from the human genome by about 1.3%. The chimpanzee and bonobo genomes differ by about 0.4% from each other.

The 'junk' difference
In 2011 researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology (2) determined that the differences between human and chimpanzee genomes were primarily not in the protein-coding genes but in the DNA between genes. These “transposable elements were once considered ‘junk DNA’ with little or no function. Now it appears that they may be one of the major reasons why we are so different from chimpanzees.”

More Complexity Doesn't Mean Evolution is Wrong

In recent arguments in ID blogs, ID proponents have used the immense complexity that is being discovered in the control and expression of the genome (epigenetics) as proof that evolution is wrong and that all of this complexity could not have happened without a designer.

Darwin's God: Evolution is Getting Slammed Again in This Transcription Factor Research

My comment posted on that blog speaks for itself and I will add it here.

"It is amazing to me that in the 21st century some are still using the ancient mechanism of deus ex machina. For those ignorant of Greek drama, deus ex machina was literally a mechanism made of pulleys by which a god was brought down on stage in order to solve a particularly difficult plot issue. If you didn't know how to fix a plot problem, you just brought down Ares or Zeus who decreed what would happen next and that was that.

"The same mentality is unfortunately being used in ID. We don't yet have the full understanding of evolution, I grant you, but that doesn't mean we have to immediately jump to God or a designer for the answer. And for those hypocrites out there who insist that the designer isn't God, well, who is it then? An alien? Then who designed him?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Quantum Evolution?

In his new book, Why Does the World Exist, (1) Jim Holt examines the age-old question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” After valiantly reviewing the ideas of philosophers, physicists, cosmologists, novelists, and religious philosophers throughout history, and arriving at no ultimate answer, he concludes that physicists have come the closest to an answer: the universe sprang out of nothing with no net expenditure of energy. The theory that allows this is quantum physics.

Out of Nothing?
But did the universe really spring out of nothing? Quantum theory states that, through quantum fluctuations, particles constantly appear and disappear out of the void. But the void is not really empty: it contains the mathematical equations that dictate the laws of quantum physics. In fact, physicists today consider mathematics to be the matrix, existing outside of time and space, upon which the universe is built.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Adaptive Mutations and Quantum Mechanics

Adaptive Mutations
A principle tenet of New-Darwinian evolutionary theory is that mutations occur randomly, after which natural selection chooses “the fittest” organism to survive and thus pass on the more adaptive genes. Yet over the past several decades a new phenomenon has been observed named adaptive or directed mutation which challenges the random nature of mutations. Cairns et al (1) placed ecoli bacteria that did not have the gene necessary to metabolize lactose into an environment with only lactose as a nutrient. The result was that mutant bacteria arose that were able to ferment lactose. Yet when the same lactose deficient bacteria were placed in a lactose-free medium, mutations for the lactose metabolizing gene arose at a much lower rate. This phenomenon was dubbed adaptive mutation because these new mutations occurred seemingly in response to the environment.

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Refreshing View

See this article: Science and Religion: A View from an Evolutionary Creationist: Pat Robertson Goes Rogue

My Comments:
It is refreshing to hear Pat Robertson accept the irrefutable scientific evidence of carbon dating of the age of the earth and of fossil evidence of dinosaurs or other prehistoric life forms which are millions of years old and have become extinct. The problem with some people is that they consider religion and science to be incompatible. This doesn't have to be the case. The Catholic Church, the Anglican Church as well as most other Protestant Churches accept the findings of evolution and the scientific method of study knowing that science always changes as more knowledge is gained.

One of the most significant recent discoveries in genomics is that the genome as well as the cytoplasm and the proteins of cells have chaotic fractal properties.