Sunday, March 16, 2008

Weird Science

I love being a biologist, even if I do more teaching of biology than actually doing biology these days. Call me if I can clarify that last sentence. At any rate, biology is easy to make fun for my students because there is no shortage of fascinating and weird stuff to bring in to the classroom (figuratively). I was just goofing off online and came across a paper, summarized at, that found a single mutation that caused a family to have a host of strange symptoms including shrinkage in certain brain parts and most interestingly, the inability to walk bipedally (on 2 feet). These folks walk on all fours (with palms down in a plantigrade fashion, as we nerds call it rather than on fingers, or digitigrade). Actually, there are 2 families that have these symptoms and researchers found two simple mutations that are the cause. Each family has a different mutation, both of which are simple single base pair mutations. This will make my discussions of mutations much more fun this least for me.


Debi said...

Oh come on, give yourself some's not just figuratively! How many teachers do you know that have a terrarium full of beetles so your students can watch them devour fish carcasses!

(In case you didn't know, your wife is generally quite happy when said beetles make their way to the classroom and out of her house each semester.)

Are those people in Turkey? I think there was a Nova about them not too long ago.

Rich said...

You are wise beyond your years, dearest wife. They are in Turkey. And I'm sorry I forgot to get rid of the beetles, they are overdue for a trip back to campus where they belong.

Jean said...

Beetles devouring fish carcasses? In the family room, I hope, or perhaps the master bedroom! And people think we're crazy, like when I describe Don and Steve's taking out our mailbox with a bowling ball from across the cul-de-sac (our trebuchet has an 8-foot throwing arm) after I told them I wanted to get a new one. There must be some sort of deviant behavior gene on the Stevens side.