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  1. martens is fed up commented on Mike Luckovich about 11 hours ago

    Good point. I think the questions you posed here are “why” questions. What I was going after, given the word “mechanism”, was a “how” question. I don’t do “why” very well, but I wouldn’t question the validity of why questions—I’m just not very good at them, so I’ll leave the whys up to you all who are good at them!

  2. martens is fed up commented on Mike Luckovich about 12 hours ago

    Maybe you have to go into the how (as, say of pruning). Activities have to be modified and this can be done by means of signaling that modifies transcription, translation, post-translational modifications and stability to degradation. From my point of view, coordination of the organism with its environment is about signals being detected and acted upon. Some of these are outside the organism, some are within. At this point we haven’t the tools to look at this comprehensively. You can look at the exome or proteomics for any individual, but interpretation of it in its totality is not possible at present (and I’m not sure if it ever will be—the amount of data involved is overwhelming).

  3. martens is fed up commented on Mike Luckovich about 13 hours ago

    Not a single mechanism. There’s more than one way to skin that cat, as I said. Genetic expression is extremely complex and involves complex interactions with multiple feedbacks. Is the neural pruning that happens during development as the organism is exposed to varying environmental factors a type of learning? I sort of think it is, but then I am speaking as a biologist, not a psychologist.

  4. martens is fed up commented on Jerry Holbert about 14 hours ago

    Not that simple. The root of this is most likely the failure of the EU to make a federal union when they made a monetary union. There is also the job that Goldman Sachs and similar financial “advisors” did to get Greece into the EU. They collected their fees and left. The Greeks were stuck with the results. Finally there are the demands made by the Troika, and even Strauss-Kahn who was in charge of the IMF when the Greek plan was put in place 5 years ago now says it was a mistake and not a good plan.
    Bottom line: No one has behaved responsibly, and the Greek people are now the ones suffering for that. (The rest of us may get burned a bit too if it all spins too far out of control…)

  5. martens is fed up commented on Chip Bok about 14 hours ago

    Doesn’t this cartoon refer to the ACA ruling, not the marriage ruling? Has everyone here conflated those two?
    Roberts actually read his minority opinion on gay marriage from the bench, an unusual proceeding at best.

  6. martens is fed up commented on Mike Luckovich about 15 hours ago

    Well, as we have discussed before, the genomic complement of an organism defines a set of possible outcomes, and the development of that organism then modifies the expression of the genomic complement and thus the various possible outcomes. I think what you are calling learning is the result of the varying inputs to the organism that lead to the differing outputs. I don’t think most of us who work on genetic questions are simplisitc enough to say that the gene defines the behavior. Rather we would say that the genomic complement makes possible the behavior. Even in my very simple example above, a single gene’s expression is totally inadequate to explain the outcomes that we observe. We have to consider the interactions of our gene’s product with other gene products as well as possible differences in environmental input to the affected individuals that may change the functional consequences.

  7. martens is fed up commented on Mike Luckovich 1 day ago

    The project is interesting, but I am afraid it’s a bit too technical to go into here. Basically we have a single amino acid mutation that sometimes (but not always) is correlated with a functional failure. The problem is that when we try to reproduce it in our model systems, it doesn’t seem to do much of anything. We have crystal structures of the protein and of family members of that protein which we are examining because the mutation is in an area that is called a signature sequence—all members of this family from bacteria to humans and plants have it. We haven’t been able to find any evidence of alternative splicing of the messenger RNA (a possible way to get the results we see), so now we have to consider that the whole pathway is affected in an indirect way by this mutation and that that effect may be on an interaction with other proteins in the pathway. Mother Nature sure has ingenious ways to fool us!!

  8. martens is fed up commented on Views of the World 1 day ago

    Stiglitz has another one about this. He is mincing no words here!

    I have found the Project Syndicate site to be very useful:


  9. martens is fed up commented on Mike Luckovich 1 day ago

    I don’t really understand about behavioral dominance, at least as applied to a grouping as large as mammals, so I can’t speak to that. My gut feeling is that social species will be very different from solitary species in the spectrum of sexual behavior, because the functions of such behavior in a social species are likely to be very different. Comparing the bonobos and chimps in their sexual behaviors seems to me to show how different even social species can be. However, getting from genes to behaviors is incredibly complex, and I don’t think we’ve really even begun to understand that. And there may also be more than one way to skin a cat, as they say, in that the behavior may have more than one way to occur genetically and developmentally. That seems to be the case in the little isolated pathway we are studying, so it’s can only be more so for whole organisms.

  10. martens is fed up commented on Mike Luckovich 1 day ago

    Since sexual preference most likely involves an assembly of genes, it is not too useful to bring in the concept of dominance. In our lab we are right now working on a problem of an allele that in some cases looks dominant but in others not (same allele). Our suspicion is that the apparent dominance is more a permissive aspect of the allele than a true dominance, i.e., in the presence of certain other genes with multiple alleles, the combination may give the appearance of dominance. (This is probably more than anyone wanted to know, but…)