05 August 2008

let. to ed. re. "It’s Still a Big City, Just Not Quite So Big" -- NY Times

Here's a letter to the Times that wasn't published:
I was very struck by the recent article, which explained that the figure for New York City's land mass had decreased by about 5%. We are accustomed to thinking that the size of the city is a fixed, unchanging number. But the fact that this number has changed so dramatically -- without any apparent cause -- underscores how many other numbers that we have come to regard as fixed and unchangeable can so easily be altered through better measurement and careful statistics. There are many other numbers that we regularly deal with in the commercial or natural world that we have come to regard as unchanging facts, but when probed in detail, actually are mere estimates. It seems that, with greater study, very large error bounds and systematic biases can have dramatic effect. This all goes to show that there's a somewhat shaky underpinning to the numerical foundations of our common sense.

Letter in response to:
It’s Still a Big City, Just Not Quite So Big
Published: May 22, 2008
Somehow, Michael S. Miller resisted the temptation when he got home not long ago. “Honey,” he would have been completely justified in proclaiming to his wife, “I shrank the city.” Mr. Miller, a geographer for the Department of City Planning, has calculated that New York City is 17 square miles smaller than it was long thought to be. For two decades, the city’s official directory, the Green Book, has stated definitively that the five boroughs encompass nearly 322 square miles of land....

03 August 2008

Being bossy without being a leader

Is protein evolution as duplication + divergence + recombination ?

Some interesting points in "Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution" by Sean B. Carroll

Enjoyed Making of the Fittest. Some things that caught my attention:

1 * Vision

- Old world monkeys trichromatic vision vs. new world ones . Duplication of opsin on X. Birds have 4 and can see UV! Only 2 for nocturnal vision.

- Whales and eels at similar depth converged on blue sensing of rhodopsin - an ex. of convergent evol.!

- Whales lost color vision

- Only 2 color receptors in primates & many other mammals since they're nocturnal .

- However, howler monkey (NW) has 3 color receptors & fewer olfactory receptors. Same dupl. of gene but smaller size and diff. AA. Represents convergence since only one in lineage.

2 * Smell

- Humans lost VR1 (vomeronasal) genes

3 * Related to other stuff

- MyH16 is pgene in humans but gene in other primates associated w. a big jaw !

- Glivec as tyr kinase inhib. against CML but evo. fights against this

- Incidence of malaria vs mosquito occurrence in Africa

- "Unique among primates, the colobine monkeys have adapted to a predominantly leaf-eating diet by evolving a foregut that utilizes bacterial fermentation to breakdown and absorb nutrients from such a food source." This monkey has a duplicated ribonuclease which works in more acid conditions as it is ruminant .

More of my notes on this book are at :

(Some even rawer ones are tagged with makingfittest0mg in my email.)