cultivate culture

Drive clean or guard your seeds?
March 29, 2008, 12:11 am
Filed under: biology, environment, society

Isn’t global warming the phrase of the decade? I mean what other phrase has mobilized/forced politicians, consumers, and companies to have a say on it? You can’t avoid it … I don’t mean global warming; I mean having a say on it. Anyway, while some consumers may feel like they’ve done their part in the fight against global warming by buying a cleaner car, others are focusing on what may arguably be the larger issue: maintaining biodiversity.

An ecosystem is a complicated network of dependencies. The more diverse the group of species within an ecosystem, i.e. the more biodiversity it has, the more robust it is against being toyed with. In the same sense, reducing biodiversity means increasing the fragility of the biosphere and increasing inability of life to sustain itself through tough times.

So, global warming or not, a great way to strengthen life’s presence here on earth is to make sure there are lots of different species. Unfortunately, species are dropping like flies due to things like habitat destruction and, yes, to some extent global warming. However, with all the focus on global warming, other issues that affect biodiversity may not be getting the attention they deserve.

Take the politics of seed diversity as a case in point. The market and economy, through seed-selling companies, have had a huge effect in last hundred years on crop biodiversity. There has been a trend in the market towards a more controlled seed biodiversity enforced by ownership laws. In the strange world in which we live, as a company you can own a genetic strain of a crop. Anyone who is caught producing from those genes without your permission is liable. A natural consequence is that companies, even though they certainly have seed vaults of their own, are homogenizing the seed market by pushing only a few varieties: you push the strain you sell. A homogeneous seed market is just waiting for a bug to devastate it and we are back to the threat of dwindling crop biodiversity.

It seems we are entering an age of drastic measures when it comes to biodiversity: Global Crop Diversity Trust is building a seed vault under a mountain near the north pole as a safe guard to our extinctionizing tendencies. Filled with millions of strains of different crops, the Trust, funded by various government organizations, is like a Noah’s Arc for crops. Popularly known as ‘the doomsday vault’, it does seem a little drastic, perhaps overly so, but who are we kidding – this is important, not only for life on the planet, but more directly, for putting food on the table of our children. So, when driving your clean cars, be careful not to drive over your neighbors exotic garden, the future of our food may depend on it.

the unbelievable deep sea (even after you see it)
February 5, 2008, 3:53 pm
Filed under: biology

So Carmen and I decided to watch TV while eating dinner, a phenomena that happens just about once every 5 years. We came across this show from Blue Planet on the deep sea and, honestly, I have never been more stuck to the tube. I didn’t even finish my plate! Andrea came in and all we could do was mumble some sort vague explanation without taking our eyes off the screen.

The show displayed some of the most amazing evolutionary adaptations I have ever seen. The senses and ways of moving that some of these creatures have is mind boggling. The footage is phenomenal. I don’t know how they got it so clear.

in 5 parts (10 minutes each). If the links are dead, go to youtube and search blue planet deep sea.

Killer plants
January 21, 2008, 3:20 pm
Filed under: biology

Okay so what’s the difference between plants and animals anyway? Well, plants do photosynthesis (which we definitely don’t), and animals move around and eat stuff. Fair enough, but plants eat stuff too! Perhaps not designed for this level of carnage, the venus fly trap can handle alot more than pesky flies:

Are animals conscious?
January 21, 2008, 3:14 pm
Filed under: biology

That was a question put to Rudulpho Llinas, a famous neuroscientist, after he gave a talk on what he thought human consciousness was. He replied, “Nervous systems encode information about the environments in which the organism lives and therefore allow them to be in some sense aware of their environment. Consciousness has something to do with that process. Let me show you a video of another organism, and you can decide whether or not you think it is aware of its environment.” Here’s the video (watch the whole thing):

Robust Dynamics
January 21, 2008, 3:02 pm
Filed under: biology

In physics class, the professor would talk about ‘dynamics this’ and ‘dynamics that’, but really it would just be a particle flying around subject to some fairly standard force.

Complex systems research is rightfully adopting embryogenesis, the study of how an embryo develops. The zebra fish seems to be a popular organism of study. I was just shown this video in a presentation and have got to say physics has nothing on biology when it comes to dynamics. Check it out:
Recall that the embryo is intially ONE cell, which is what you first see. Those pulsations at the beginning…those are CELL DIVISIONS!!!!!!!!!

Also see the affect of alcohol on the development

The Spanish Rockery
December 4, 2007, 6:47 pm
Filed under: biology

Check out this dope rockery.