Saturday, October 11, 2008

our profound environment*

When I sit down to write these blogs it’s always hard to get started. I think it’s stupid of me because there’s biology going on all around me, I myself contain millions of biological processes and yet it seems to take forever for something to come to mind. But here we go. Do you ever wonder how & why your DNA was fashioned together to make you the way you are? Or how exactly your environment has impacted your genetics? I do. The other day my younger brother & I were in the living room standing around talking while listening to this song playing off his ipod /stereo. Well at this one point in the song we both stopped what we were doing and randomly busted out in our own little dance move. It was funny because we didn’t mean to do it at exactly the same time & we hadn’t planned it at all. It just sort of happened that we felt like moving at the exact same moment. Sometimes we are so similar but other times he’s like on the opposite end of the spectrum. I think our environment has greatly influenced our genetic make up and so that’s why we’re often in synchronous. I know runs deeper than that, but biologically that’s the only explanation I can give for those weird instances. This whole environmental impact stuff reminds me of this episode I saw on PBS one morning. I can clearly remember scenes of a hospital nursery room being shown while the narrator spoke about how it is really difficult to tell the sex of a baby who’s wrapped comfortably in a receiving blanket. I thought about it for a second, and found the observation to be true, girl or boy, they all pretty much looked very similar-little eyelids, noses, toothless gums, small mouths yawning, taking a breath. The narrator went on to discuss how as we move on into childhood, adolescence and adulthood, our environment influences us to give us our own perceptions of what it means to be female or male. We adjust, in our own ways to fit the mold. We grow up to play soccer and avoid crying/showing emotion if born male; wear dresses and agree with Oprah if born female. I remember giving a presentation on schizophrenia last semester. My focus was on determining whether the causes of developing schizophrenia had more to do with ones genetics or on their environmental influences or maybe a combination of the two. Based on the studies I looked at, it was both factors coming together and interacting in a particular way to result in what we call schizophrenia. Sometimes one identical twin developed it, while the other did not. It was the first time I had encountered case studies & so information like that fascinated me. Now I’ve come to know that identical twins are often studied in order to try to understand the genetics behind a number of debilitating disorders or diseases, but I still find it an interesting subject. I think our environments impact us in ways that we are only just starting to understand.

on roaches

I think Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are gross. I’m sorry; you might think I’m just being a girl, but I in general do not like bugs. It might seem stupid but if I find an insect in my home and it isn’t a tiny dust spider, or a mosquito, most of the time I will try to get it to crawl on a piece of newspaper & then toss it outside, a few meters from the edge of the driveway. If it is a mosquito or cockroach, I have no problem killing the thing & tossing its remains in the trash because I guess I’m just cruel like that. Dust spiders I know may grow large & multiply but for some reason seeing them crawl along my windowsill every once in a while, does not bother me, so I leave them alone. Last week in Ecology lab, we observed that the larger an organism is physically, the smaller its surface area to volume ratio. I think. Well anyway, the point of the matter was that larger ectoderms will take longer to warm up after being cooled than smaller ectoderms because the smaller the organism, the more readily it exchanges heat with the environment to achieve a stable internal temperature. So when we took the ladybugs out of the fridge they began to move about after just a few minutes had elapsed. But then we got to the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches and our all girl group got uncomfortable-except Liz because she’s awesome like that. She handled them with ease and laid them out, placing them on their designated spots. We waited around for more than half an hour without seeing them start walking around as we (or really only Liz) had hoped they would. The people in my group thought it was funny that in the beginning of the experiment, I named them so that if they started moving we could tell who was who. I gave them male names just because in my opinion, they were big, grotesque things that in no way reminded me of anything female. It wouldn’t have been right to name them say I don’t know, Annie or Mae or Bridgette, but then I was criticized for being gender-biased. Geeze man, you can’t please anyone these daysJ! Anyway, the only thing they did was move around in place a bit but none of them were able to move out of their starting circle, which was a tiny bit disappointing but in the same respect also kind of cool because that meant we wouldn’t have to do any cockroach wrangling. In truth, I did not want to see them start crawling around, possibly in my direction or have to save one from falling off the edge of the lab counter like we did with the ladybugs. I did not want them to get upset about being shoved together into an undersized container and begin hissing as their name implies they might. So overall, it went well and I think I grasped the concept. <<<>>> But alas, the insects went back into the fridge & I felt a bit guilty.