Monday, December 31, 2012

The American Conservative and the Hurdle of Endangered Species

I have frequently read complaints online by American commentators, usually conservative or libertarian, about the way government administrations handle issues regarding endangered species, and blocking projects to save them. The most frequent examples over the last few years is a tiny kind of fish in the desert of the American southwest, and a frog. Currently, Texas seeks to block the addition of a lizard to the Endangered Species List in fear it would threaten oil exploration and development there.

Having studied for a biology degree, and being pretty darn conservative, there is an aspect I should add that conservatives would appreciate. The scorn heaped upon "liberals" and statists blocking projects over nigh inconsequential species is due to the religiosity of "environuts", or environmentalists, and essentially being willing to harm humanity in the name of some minor animal. But those familiar with scientific matters in biology know that there are unimaginable benefits to preserving the genetic (and now, epigenetic), protein, and physiological libraries we call "species".

And it is not an abstract ideal, form of utopianism, or mere hope for finding benefits buried in a genome or body, but a prejudice grown of already reaping billions, per year, in quantifiable terms alone--far more in unquantified benefit, of learning from biology and implementing it wherever a creative mind happens to stumble. Here is an example, where researchers just discovered a potent chemical in the blood of pandas, and because of the study of pandas, it was not only found but found to act as an antibacterial and antifungal agent, one that kills both normal and drug-resistant strains. For the many ignorant of the facts, microbes are becoming resistant to every known and currently usable kind of "antibiotics", for overuse (such as on cattle and plants) and underuse (such as when people stop taking them too early), meaning that the most important discoveries are new methods of treatment; this because the current happy estate of mankind where most live beyond childhood, survive infections, and beyond thirty, is one we don't want to become a recollection, but persist.

Meanwhile, the mere cocooned state of a certain critter in China was discovered as the source of a new anti-inflammatory compound, already used (at great expense) by the natives, now under development for use in fighting a myriad of diseases, including cancer.

Because elements and molecules recombine infinitely, and those involved in biology (i.e. most important to us) are more complicated than nearly anyone can imagine, the loss of species is a grave loss to humanity: we can't just produce molecules to do what we desire within an organism--such as our own body--. Species loss will surely happen, but we don't want to be the cause of it. Texas is worried, for instance, about loss of immediate revenues*, about "the economy", about "jobs", but within any given species are many treasuries worth more billions than can yet be dreamed . I am on the side of drilling...just taking extreme measures to prevent destruction of the species in the area.

As far as learning from biological organisms, the difficulties are in figuring out "how", what there is to be learned, doing so without destroying them (while some discoveries require killing and organism, many of the benefits are found only in living things), and how to apply it, that is difficult.

* And perhaps some Americans about threats to "energy independence" (or less energy dependence).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Miracle?

A Greeley, CO. murder case solved after thirty years by matching an inmates DNA to blood on a piece of evidence, a sock, found near the crime scene is, says one interviewed (on nightly news, Channel 7), "a miracle of science".

What a contradiction of terms; modern science explains mechanisms, or utilizes them, to some ends--such as matching DNA; a miracle can be said to be the suspension of mechanisms and the natural laws that dictate them, such that though science can understand miracles in these terms, it cannot explain the suspension, how it occurred or was done.

Jesus 'restoring' (putting to health) a withered hand of a man who's been like that since birth, surrounded by all who have known the man since birth, is a miracle; matching DNA through mechanistic technology developed scientifically, is not.

Too often when someone is awed by the products of science, they call it a miracle; it is just as bad as when something extraordinary (extra ordinary)--uncommon--is acclaimed 'a miracle': the words spewed are evidencing the quality, and carelessness, of thought. Scientists, Philosophers, and Theologians often have some things in common: they have propensity to be irked by words used un- considered or poorly considered, or understood.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Little Sleep

This one is interesting; it is a discovery of a 'gene' that enables (or corresponds with) a lesser need for duration of sleep. Some are already speculating it as the beginning of a day where treated persons would need sleep less: that just tells me underestimation of the difficulty, indeed purposeful obstacles, to genetic safe (relative) modification.

It also tells me an ignorance of genetics and biology; for every perk there is a trade-off. There is a downside, probably many, somewhere in there. There are probably many who also need little sleep, and function (as these two found) with little, and also recover quickly without it, but nevertheless suffer other biological consequences; perhaps there are some with the genes for healing quickly, such as those persistent marathon runners: indeed that might mitigate some of those consequence--yet bring its own. Quick healing usually corresponds with fewer, or defunct, genetic checks, for instance: and should permit reasoning the consequent of higher rates of genetic errors and likelihood of cancer.

I don't know that it's genetic rather than custom, but when my health* is up I can live off about four hours of sleep with little issue: actually it's not just "can live off", but rather I wake without help, and stay wakeful without stimulants, minus those four hours; I go about, studying, working, exercising (heavily). When I was a young kid and teen it was different, but at twenty one I just started waking one day after four hours, on the dot. *(In the past few months I've been sleeping much more than eight hours for cause of antihistamines for hives.) I like this, it gives me a lot more time, and yet knowing what I do could be worrisome to wake knowing the time on the dot will be four hours past leaving wakefulness.

The point is this, that we should meddle with people who aren't broken: I don't care if they need twelve hours a night, so long as their health is well (that can be detrimental if gotten without necessity). In the event someone sleeps far too few hours, however, it could be a good idea to see about ratcheting their hours slept UP! Not too much...naturally the body seems to do worse* when it gets more than it wants naturally, but there could be such a thing as too few hours--the body needs time for its natural cycles and whatnot, for damage repair and healing, and for sorting information in the brain as well as repairing its tissues and connections. *(I, for instance, feel terrible for sleeping more than my usual needs: for doing so I feel drugged when trying to rise, but great if I just get up the first time I wake.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

An Example of (Superficial) Scientific Criticalness, Handgun Severing Finger - Myth Busters

Just a Critique of something I just saw at 7:45PM MST on The Discovery Channel; the "Myth Busters" used chicken bones and meat to simulate a myth that a hand gun's gases might, perhaps, sever a finger misplaced thereupon.

I have a problem with their methods. First, chicken bones (and avian bones in general) are not like human bones; they are structurally meant to be porous and light for flight (chickens do, in fact, fly, by the way--not far, but they do it).

[Expanding the above statement:]

Personally I'd prefer knowing the densities involved, as well as structural properties (comparatively) of the interwoven fibers in each bone type; for instance, animal bones are, typically, a weave, while human bones are stacked (they are like segmented tubes); deeper detail on avian bone structure than the aforementioned, particularly chickens, however, is a mystery to me.

To be more scientific I'd prefer a simulation utilizing an intact hand from a cadaver, what's more, from a recent cadaver, with the hand attached to the arm, since the force can be distributed through the point of impact down the course of matter to which it is most directly affixed; this is not ideal, (that would be a brave volunteer to mis-handle the gun at firing), but the results, quantified, as well as quantifying the parameters, along with a knowledge of the properties of the hand, its structure, chemical advantages, elasticities involved, etc., pertaining to a human hand, rather than a substitute "hand", would be excessively more accurate, and therefore preferable; even better if there are several tests repeating the experiment in the same, similar, and varied parameters.