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genetics

Essay

Clones Are People Too: The Science and Science Fiction of BBC America’s Orphan Black

As BBC America’s Orphan Black heads into its second season, many critics have focused on Tatiana Maslany’s supremely impressive feats of acting and the many compelling female characters as the draw of the series. If you haven’t watched the show, you’ve still likely heard that the lead actress plays no fewer than seven distinct characters, just in the first season. However, Orphan Black also stands out as a piece of science fiction, and it does so in a very relevant manner. The series is a distinctly modern science fiction story and focuses on two crucial themes: individuality and gene patenting. By posing serious questions about humanity, Orphan Black serves as an effective analogue for real life events, which elevates its science fiction status. Read on to find out how the show is reflecting our society, perceived stereotypes, and why they’re way ahead of the sci-fi game.

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Things We Saw Today

Things We Saw Today: When AT-AT’s Crash A Jedi’s Wedding

Photo editor Steven Kowalski altered this wedding photo for newlyweds Mindy and John to feature AT-AT’s approaching the couple as they stand arm in arm, prepared to defend their wedding. (via The Frisky)

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Today in Boobs

Super Woman Angelina Jolie Describes Her Double Mastectomy In Surprise New York Times Op-Ed

Angelina Jolie has never been one to sit back and let the world happen around her, so we probably shouldn’t have been surprised when news broke of the actress undergoing a double mastectomy as a preemptive move again breast cancer. That’s just how she rolls.

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Gender Bendery

Fellas, This Animation Will Explain Why You Have Useless Nipples, In Case You Were Wondering

AsapSCIENCE is back with another marker animation to explain a bit of science some may not understand. Last time it was how Plan B works, this time it’s to explain why men have nipples that serve absolutely no purpose. Which I’m pretty sure I learned in middle school but hey, you might still be out of the loop and this is a fun way to learn.

Disclaimer: If you don’t agree with the science presented this video, just remember, we didn’t make it. (Just had to say it, we get that kind of thing a lot.)

(via Jezebel)

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Your Stupid Minds! Stupid! Stupid!

Scientist Confirms Your Suspicions: Humans Really Are Getting Dumber

OK all you “those kids today!” naysayers, it appears that you’re at least partially right about the decline of humanity. A study by Stanford University geneticist Gerald Crabtree has found that humanity is getting stupider… albeit very, very gradually. Human intelligence peaked about 2,000 years ago, says Crabtree, and we’ve been on the slow train to Stupidville ever since.

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You know nothing Jon Snow

Science, Please Stop Promising Me Wooly Mammoth Clones

One of the more ironic effects of global warming is that it’s giving us a better look at some creatures who lived during the last ice age. With the various new extremes of weather comes warmer temperatures in Siberia, and less permafrost.

Where there’s less permafrost, there’s more exposed mammoth remains, released from their ten thousand year prison for paleontologists and mammoth hunters. This has lead to the discovery of immaculately preserved remains earlier this year, and most recently, an “international expedition in Russia’s northeastern republic of Yakutia” says they’ve found “living cells” from a mammoth.

Imma stop you right there, science.

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she blinded me with science

Awesome Harry Potter Fan Decodes Wizarding Genetics: It’s All About Trinucleotide Repeats

Magical ability could be explained by a single autosomal dominant gene if it is caused by an expansion of trinucleotide repeats with non-Mendelian ratios of inheritance. - Andrea

Biology major Andrea admits she was not a biology major yet when she read the Harry Potter books. So it is only recently that she’s come across J.K. Rowling‘s statement that the wizarding gene is dominant (that is, it’s much more likely to be passed from parent to child, and much less likely to be present in the genome unexpressed). Andrea also noticed the confusion surrounding Rowling’s statement, with a lot of folks seeming to think that the author had gotten one of the basic foundations of genetics wrong. If the wizarding gene was dominant, how could you explain muggle-borns, wizards born to non-wizard parents? And how to explain squibs, the rare non-magical offspring of wizard parents?

Andrea wants Rowling to know that she’s got her back, and sent her a six page scientific paper supporting her claim. Fortunately, she also shared it with the internet. And while I would be the first to admit that I don’t remember much from AP Biology and have a childish enjoyment of the simplicity of the Punnet square, I believe this is the crux of her argument:

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she blinded me with science

Science May Have Figured Out Why Women Live Longer Than Men: RNA

It’s common scientific knowledge that women have better life expectancies than men, even in the womb and in premature birth. And the efforts of science, anthopology, and sociology have come up with any number of reasons why. According to Wikipedia:

Traditional arguments tend to favor socio-environmental factors: historically, men have generally consumed more tobacco, alcohol and drugs… and are more likely to die from many associated [with drug use] diseases… Men are also more likely to die from injuries… and most of the leading causes of death (some already stated above) than women…

Some argue that shorter male life expectancy is merely another manifestation of the general rule, seen in all mammal species, that larger individuals tend on average to have shorter lives. This biological difference occurs because women have more resistance to infections and degenerative diseases.

Dr. Claude Libert fixed upon this last fact, that women are more immune resistant, and decided to inspect it’s causes. And he found a lot of RNA.

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Misleading Headline of the Day

Single Protein Could Be the Achilles Heel of All Men

The frighteningly prophetic vision of Y: The Last Man might be closer than we think.

A recent study of fruit flies, which are distressingly similar to humans in the way their genes operate, has shown that male flies use a special protein to make up for their lack of a second X chromosome. There are thousands of genes in the body that need to be regulated, and male flies need some way of multiplying their X chromosomes in order to do that.

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