Sunday, April 11, 2021

Ego vs The Weedy Reality Of Biology


Im walking past a weedy patch and i imagine someone apologizing for it - yeah that should get cleaned up and i say -oh no thats the most beautiful patch in gloucester, thats earth doin its creative beautiful thing, and she goes -oh no its messy ugly disease will come from there...

and so then i think.. what IS disease?  genetic diseases, cancer, us treating our bodies poorly and they fail and all maner of infectious germs and whatnot tryin to live in us and ultimately that bodies DO come apart horribly and die

and i realize that's the wrong question.  disease isn't the thing to wonder about as an oddity.  disease IS life.  disease is the act of life growing exploring failing creating.

the oddity to wonder about is ego, what are these egos that we've come to hold onto so tightly that we've long ago imagined some perfect eternally static riskless infantile bliss heaven where we were once perfect eternal souls and then we performed some crime (the cime of growing up and becoming adults!) and got sentencd by our raging alcoholic father to this nighmare of what we percieve as corruption.

I wonder when humanity will come to embrace adulthood? (he muses... while we contemplate electing an 11yr old as president of 300,000,000 people)

Friday, April 2, 2021

Sketch of 50 Activities To Do With Kids At Nature Camp/Summer Camp With Science Activities


                        PHYSICAL STUFF
3) begin day with  tai chi inspired by natural rhythms
                   mad rannung around in circles
16) morning hike to warm up

44) walking around in the field spacing ourselves out:
    how far is a 100 ft ?
    how far is 1000ft ?
    how much is an acre?  can 12 of us surround it?
    can we spread ourselves out in a line a mile long?
    whats it like to run 100ft, 1000ft?
    walk a mile, 5 miles?

    make pilobolus like animal and tree sculpture acts

35) learn some yoga.  learn to stand on your head

36) move like different animals

30) how from how far away can we hear each other? see each other?

31) can we discover what's happening out there by smell?  track people
animals by smell?

32) what's it like to wander around in the woods blindfolded, can you
recognize stuff, find your way?  do it in pairs: one blind one not

33) sit in front of a patch of grass pond etc.. for an hour and just watch!
pretend your a frog.  take notes?

25) contests/games:
    which team can find the most insects/leaves etc..  maybe over the whole week
    track animals
    one team hides stuff or makes some kind of puzzle... and the other team solves it...

34) scavenger hunt with teams

                            INTERPERSONAL STUFF
5) getting to know each other:  what nature stuff do you like, sports games,

13) are they really into baseball, nintendo taiquando pop music...

7) find out which kids are into running around and playing games, and which are quieter, want to explore things...

27) make teams by the second day of 3-4 kids to stick together during the week for diff activities?

6) on this week long nature expedition each of you is the group's expert at something, let's find out what it is.

14) each kid gets to lead an activity of their choosing related to their interests like tai quan do, music, sports...

42) different group adopts a diff area of the farm to get to know and has to take the rest of us on a walk to show us what's there

                                SHAMAN STUFF
4) first day: "this is a special place, it has things to say to you, can you hear it?  let's listen before we begin all our busy activities

17) each kid finds an animal guide/study at the beginning and sticks to it all week and sees what he finds

44) do some simple surveying and make a map

45) make a topo map!

21) spend the week on a project to find something new to report to science     write it up

30) do a bird plant tree... survey to keep on record.

31) each week my group makes observations on something that accumulates all summer

22) make an (animal story?) puppet show

23) make up a symphony of the meadow with recorders, drums, whatever

10) find stuff to make crafts out of

11) find stuff to make every day useful items out of

12) make paper

28) make jewelry

26) carve different kinds of woods.  are they allowed to use knives?

27) make animals, puppets out of plant stuff

37) find natural dies to paint with

1) its beautiful out here, draw it, paint it

2) pressed plant collection

28) if a bunch are into computers, lets make computer programs to do simple ecology simulations

32) collect stuff to take home?  (what are they allowed to take off the grounds)

33) collect a jar of pond water to take home and observe

24) make terrariums to take home

38) leaf collection

8) learn to use an Identification key

9) who think there are a 100 different creatures out here?

29) teach em conway life, to play GO.  compare chess and go?

39) collect stories, ie watch and find things that happen, as many
interactions between two diff creatures as possible.

40) look at the place using only nouns for objects.  then look at the place using only verbs for interactions

43) what can we count and calculate?  how many leaves on a tree?  total surface area?  how high?  how much does a tree weigh?  How many snails in the pond?  how much water flows through the stream every minute, hour, year?
how much soil gets moved every year, century, million years?...
    time sound delays, get speed of sound
    if thunderstorms calculate how far
    how high are clouds?

18) Native american stories: coyote!

19) spenser holst stories!

25) if they have summer reading assignments talk about them

23) get em all recorders, teach em to play

24) imitate bird calls

25) find good songs to learn

29) repair/maintain a path  or do some kind of work project around the farm.

15) build a fort  (can we?)

16) or at least lashing poles, make a shelter, a (the carrying injured
people thing we did at scouts),

20) who lived on this land before us?  find evidence?

26) whole foods lunch. enjoy its aliveness. discover where it came from
how it grew

41) come up with the best names for different plants and animals
that don't have common names

46) how diverse is a population of individuals?  how about us?  who's the fastest, longest endurance, see the farthest, best hearing, strongest, lightest, heaviest, tallest, shortest, best memory, best at balancing, sing the highest note, lowest note, most limber...

Friday, February 12, 2021

Why We Can Forgive EACH OTHER, Thoughts On Darwin's Day 12 February, 2021

Darwin: a planetary view of life.  

He started in the woods collecting beetles and bird nests... then went to the beaches in college studying the little slimy ineffable creatures, creatures in the inbetween place between plants and animals: sponges and sea anemonies, asking "what at the root of things is the difference between plants and animals, what at root, IS LIFE ITSELF"

and the answer he got was to go on a long 5 year jouney exploring the entire Earth itself as a planet, reading the latest ideas about geology as a long continous process of repeating similar events over and over again, explaining the mountains and islands and coral reefs he explored by imagining surface processes he saw carrying on for unimaginable lengths of time...

and after seeing the breadth and detpth of diversity of creatures in different settings, their weird distribution on continents and islands...

and taking all that quest HOME to his own countryside, watching eatthworms do the slow work in the soil and breeding his pigeons and wondering if the processes he saw in his pigeons of variation and natural selection could be imagined all the way back to his tiny creatures in the ocean in that crack between animals and plants slowly originating and splitting and diversifying over that immensely long geological time that geologists where finding in the record of the strata in Earth...

what WAS the creator? was he a benign cozy god creating some cows and wheat for his beloved humans or was he a WILDER geological process of MANY MANY free agents jostling against each other over these immense spanns of time, WILDER than our cozy desires for an eternal comforting father, for this wild evolutionary process produced a vast array of creatures totally ambivalent about us, creatures that lived inside each other, parasitoid wasps eating their prey from the inside out while their prey still lived,  and even to illness coming home, consuming his own bright burst of life 10 yr old daughter who died from a severe caugh and fever who's nature he did not understand (it was probably tuberculosis, a bacteria that finds human lungs to be a paradise...)

When Darwin saw this vast span of RIDICULOUS creatures, created in the most peculiar of fashions, not by conscious willful planning... for instance if a creator wanted to create flying creatures.. why not invent wings from scratch like we did aeroplanes?  why was he CONSTRAINED to use the bones that mammals had to make bats, the bones that dinosaurs had to make birds, why when he looked at really WEIRD creatures like barnacles did he find that as peculiar as they were looking like mollusks, with their VERY DIFFERENT KINDS of parts and lifestyles that the creator was constrained to use the exact same parts as shrimp had?

why when the creator built outrageous orchid flowers with their almost miraculous contrivances to trick insects into mating with them in order for plants to get sex on the wing (why not create wings for plants too?), was he constrained to use the exact same parts that every flower on the earth has, but strained into preposterous proportions to contrive the traps..

as for the peculiar animals he found on new continents and distant islands, why did the creator not create AFRESH new parts for their new ecological challenges, why was he constrained to use the same  related structures that Darwin saw in the animals he found on the nearest continental masses?  It seemed that creatures were created out of creatures that came before them, not afresh, by fiat.

just WHAT kind of being WAS this creator?  When Darwin read Malthus and Smith about human demographics and food and economy, and saw how humans breed like rats and constantly overgrow their ability to grow crops and die in famines, he watched humans slowly select from variation of domestic animals and plants from generation to generation, he watched life out in the woods and fields, all manner of animals and plants, selecting EACH other by competition between children that are always produced in numbers too many for the fields and woods to support,

not the careful craftsmanship of a loving father but a WILD earth, wild mothers creating by TRIAL AND ERROR with their children, overproducing and tossing away the plentiful MISTAKES that occur, that are the necessary adjunct to all creativitry

and who, ultimately, did this selecting of children? the tossing away of mistakes and selection of creatures that solved new ecological problems on new islands that the breeding creatures found themselves in?  Adam Smith gave a clue, not a planned economy, but the jostling interactions of thousands of creatures chasing each other, eating each other, selecting each other as mates, cooperating with each other in adhoc symbiotic arrangements

and so Darwin was the first to envision a working model of a human like, creative mind, the overproduction of random variations, selecting each other as countless free agents jostled with each other in the vast drama of life, of trial and error over geological eons of generations over the surface of an unimaginably wide landscape of time and space.  creating the myriad 2million wildly different or often subtly different creatures we share this planet with.

it is a humbling yet inspiring vision because it means that we ourselves, today, along with our fellow critters are the ones responsible for this creation.  

and if wild diversity, wild overproduction of variation, possibly blunders, STUGGLE, FAILURE, working together, is the root of the creativity of life on Earth...

that means the deepest terrors of human existance, failure, all manner of human variation which we have always been horified about, the congenital birth defects of body and mind that we have always stigmatized (always BLAMED OURSELVES for), the horrifying dying of cancer, which is, shockingly, actually the FOUNTAIN OF VARIATION in our own bodies,  we watch in our family members  causing much pain... all that we have called sin, that seems to require for us to seek some kind of divine forgiveness, is actually the OPPOSITE, it is the source of creativity that makes us human and so there is NO SIN at all that reqires forgiveness, there is no divine forgiver needed, we can accept each other in this cooperative frightening adventure, worship the variation and failure amoung each other and forgive each other.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Texture of Tales Told From Generation to Generation

     This furzy old lion
     deeply wrinkled face
     texture of tales told from generation to generation
     still amazes this chemist
     who's forced to see a whirlwind of silly atoms
     coming together for a party.
     In and out they go
     some leaving some arriving
     the very house itself made of themselves coming and going
     a dynamic structure strong enough to withstand the wolf's
huffing and puffing
     ever constant stream through the door of breath.
     All getting drunk on sunlight cought in grasses cought in
sleek running muscles of gazelles
     then vomitting it up as body warmth to the cold dark hungry
reaches of outer space.
     This void of outer space forever pulling sunlight through us
     playing us,
     pulling his bowstring of sunflow accross the laws of physics
to set atoms dancing
     And how, how, how does it whip up this jumble of atoms rushing
     into the textures , the vast intricate orders we see on this
tired relaxed face?

     What story brings these atoms momentarily together
     in a lion more deeply textured than a Shakespere play?

     That God or Michaelangelo can make faces is a commonplace
     But that molecules and four forces and seven differential
equations can come together to make faces brings awe.

     There's an amazement of concentration to hear in a Beethoven
symphony  notes make up phrases, phrases make up songs , sections
of orchestra mesh with sections of orchestra, long patterns of
develpment.  All to make one symphony.  This whirlwind of sound
dance resembles merely one single cell creature out of this lion's
living flesh.  But lion is a bustling confederacy of cells.
     Flesh does not rot.
     form goes on to children.
     Atom goes on to mushroom and bacteria.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Humans good at inventing distinct cultures, but also good at mixing them. curious.

 In fact I think human language evolved specifically for this purpose.  It's crazy that we can learn language, but CRAZIER to me that we can learn MULTIPLE languages and keep them separate in our heads!

Anyway please enjoy this cross cultural wonder of Nina Simone singing Israeli song  “Eretz Zavat Chalav U’dvash" in African beats on and European bastardized equal tempered tuning.


does it work? it does.  even when i log out of twitter.  however for some reason twitter decided this video is sensitive material and you have to click extra to watch it.  it IS sensitive material, it is WILD material.  listen to it.  safe for work and all that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Bringing Back New Moon Rocks Might Help Us Nail Down Timing For Origins Of Life On Earth

Chang'e -5 just landed on the moon!  half the operation accomplished!  now just to collect samples, blast off, and return the samples to earth!

China's Change'e-5 rocket has now reached moon orbit!  yay!  It's goal is to bring back more moon rocks!  We haven't collected samples since the Russians brought back samples in 1976.

This excites me because more samples might help us date meteoric impact events that affect the origins of life on earth.  It used to be thought that life had billions of years of Earth randomly trying different chemical reactions that eventually lead to life.  

but we've found fossils that go all the way back at least to 3,600 million years ago.  This is surprising because analyzing moon rocks suggest the surface of the earth was being completely vaporized as recently as 3,800 million years ago.  This leaves a smaller and smaller gap of time for life to form, only 200million years or less.

The difficulty of fossils from that far back or further surviving, means that life might have started even EARLIER giving it even LESS time to start.  Maybe life is EASY to start, not random!

recent re-analysis of moon rocks brought back to earth in the Apollo days however suggests that this date of 3,800 million years ago is incorrect and life again could have started as far back as 4,100million years...  at that far back, it would be dissapointingly difficult to find records in fossils...

We need more samples!  And China is starting the way.  The samples that Chang'e -5 brings back might not help us with this exact task, but surely this will open the way to more missions bringing back more diverse samples

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Correct Protein Function Depends On Sequence and RATE Of Folding. Genes Code For BOTH!


Some fascinating technical biology. 
When we figured out how genes, which are like blueprints in a library, specify how to make proteins which are nanomolecular robots that make the chemical transformations that is life, that act as mini computers to process information that come together to make the mobile scaffolding that builds us... we thought we knew how the sequence of letters in each gene specified the correct sequence of the 20 different amino acids we snap together one after the other, like different tools, to make each robot. This beaded string of amino acid tools then folds into a stiff or flexy chemically active robot.
The code allows for specifying up to 64 different amino acids, but biology, world wide from bacteria to oak tree to human only uses 20. So there is some redundancy in the code. This has been a mystery.
It has also slowly become apparent that we don't understand how the strings of amino acids fold into the right shape. And indeed, under some conditions they don't!
A recent paper describes a clever way this redundancy allows for a gene to not only specify the correct sequence of amino acid tools to build the right protein but also to specify the speed at which the protein is built, which is essential for it folding into the correct functional shape.
New work hints at a reason why the genetic code is redundant! Needs to code not only for sequence of aminos but also the RATE at which the sequence gets translated to get the right shape and right function. Clever! Explainer:
Reading genes with 4 possible bases 3 at a time can lead to 4x4x4 possible words, translated to 64 possible amino acids to build proteins. Yet biology uses only 20! Presently most aminos are represented by 2 to 6 possible base combos. Redundant! or is it?
Protein function is dependent on shape. We knew shape is dependent on amino acid sequence specified in genes. But it's not like computer code, it's also physics, so shape is also dependent on RATE of building a protein. Cells need to regulate THAT. wait for it...

The redundancy in the genetic code allows for this. For each amino, different codons that code for it can have a different tRNA molecule translate the code to amino. Different versions of tRNA for each amino are made in varying amounts.
Needing a tRNA of low abundance will slow down the protein building process. By coding for a rare tRNA or abundant one the genes can also code for the RATE of translation (=building) of the protein and therefore its correct finally folded shape. 4/4