Poetry – Leaves

Leaves

Descending in technicolour glory,

Laid out in their finery,

In full regal costume.

Leaving behind skeletons

Of black silhouettes

To stand stark

Against the graphite skies

And crimson sunsets

Of winter.

Congregating in orange drifts

To whisper together in the breeze,

To cavort as whirling dervishes

In one last orgy of delight

Before subsiding

Into final rest

To give their strength back

To the soil.

Opher 9.11.2018

The remembrance services make me reflect on the futility of life. We are born, live our lives in a brief burst of colour and are recycled back to the soil from where we drew our strength.

Men in those trenches, a hundred years ago, were still green. They never had their chance to rustle in the summer breeze or feel the sun. Their autumn came sudden and returned them to the ground too early.

Yet there is such beauty in the autumn leaves, resplendent in their colours, and the skeletal trees stripped of their clothes. There is wonder in life, no matter how brief.

Poetry – Complex

Complex

I am complex.

Out of the simple

I select and combine

To refine

A being who is me.

I am sophisticated.

In a universe of simplicity,

Where basic is the rule,

My cells reflect

A more learned school.

I have structure

Beyond the crystalline;

A fluidity

Of biology

Incorporating chemistry divine.

In a world of laws

I buck the trend,

Initiating change,

Creating giants of order

In full organic range.

Out of this new chemistry

I am full of sparks,

Evolving spontaneously,

Awareness of planets,

Energy and quarks.

There is nothing simple

About me

Or my complexity –

But I think,

And that is still a mystery.

For me life is not divine –

Not constructed to a plan.

Life is self-perpetuating change,

Creating consciousness,

Just because we can.

Opher 31.12.2015

Complex

It is not because I am a biologist that I find the phenomenon of life, consciousness and the wonders of biological chemistry an amazing mystery; it is because I find these things marvellous that I am a biologist.

We do not have all the answers to the creation of life and its evolution into conscious beings. We may never have. But I like to think that one day we will; we will pierce all those mysteries and decipher the truth. Science is still in the dawn of its discoveries. A century or two ago we could not dream of understanding so much as we presently do. If anyone had suggested back a hundred years ago that we might one day know the operations of DNA, genetics, black holes, quasars, quantum mechanics or subatomic particles, they would have been considered mad. Most of those things were not even known.

Now we understand so much and are on the brink of so much more. Exciting times! In the next hundred years we may understand how consciousness works. We may understand the Big Bang and what lies beyond – beyond both the Big Bang and the event horizon.

I do not need divine intrusions of deities to explain the mysteries. That idea is, for me, mere human fantasy – an attempt to explain what we do not understand by imagining further layers of enigma. Many mysteries of the past have been fully explained, the rest, I believe, will follow. We have the intelligence and ingenuity. The world has been proved not to be flat. There are no angels in the heavens. There is no hell below the earth. These were myths. They have been dispelled.

Humans love to track down our mysteries and shackle them with explanations – no matter how bizarre.

Nowadays it is the religious fundamentalists who are still the apes. The rest of us have evolved into rational beings.

Perhaps there is a mystical dimension? But I believe that all scriptures, the works of men, contain little of it. The mystic buzz of the atom has no purpose for human beings. We are merely part of its flow.

Life and the universe are mysteries. The wonder is in the probing. The wonder is in the experiencing. The wonder is all around us. Science releases the wonder.

Poetry – The Magic Strand

The Magic Strand

A rollercoaster ride down the magic strand,

Through aeons,

Traversing a billion forms

All from the same,

Spiralling through time.

Replicating,

                Mutating,

                                Innovating.

Making carbon think.

Careering through genetic codes,

Through eras,

Creating myriad varieties,

The forms of life.

Reproducing,

                Generating,

                                Propagating,

Another living link.

Opher – 18.10.2020

There is magic going on in front of our very eyes. It’s called life.

It began through some amazing set of chance three billion years ago. Randomly. Just once.

We are surrounded by it and take it all for granted.

We are part of something stupendous.

It is time we realised what a wonder it is.

Poetry – The River

The River

It flows continuously,

Always different

Yet the same.

We grow continuously,

Always different

Yet the same.

Molecules flow through.

Replacing all,

Yet we remain.

Every three months,

New bodies,

The smile the same.

The river of the cosmos

Flows through,

An endless game.

Opher – 17.10.2020

For us the changes of age come slowly even though the changes are much faster. Cells die and are replaced. Every three months we have a new body, yet it is built to the same plan.

The molecules flow in and the molecules flow out like water flowing down a river.

We look the same but we are always different.

Poetry – The River

The River

It flows continuously,

Always different

Yet the same.

We grow continuously,

Always different

Yet the same.

Molecules flow through.

Replacing all,

Yet we remain.

Every three months,

New bodies,

The smile the same.

The river of the cosmos

Flows through,

An endless game.

Opher – 17.10.2020

For us the changes of age come slowly even though the changes are much faster. Cells die and are replaced. Every three months we have a new body, yet it is built to the same plan.

The molecules flow in and the molecules flow out like water flowing down a river.

We look the same but we are always different.

Boobs – what are they about?

Boobs – what are they about?

 

I was inspired to write a blog on boobs after reading a post by Jess from Half Girl Half Teacup.

Boobs – what a strange phenomenon or is it phenomena (there are usually two of them).

Everybody is obsessed with them.

boobs 2

Guys are nuts about them and can’t get enough.

Girls are worried about them all the time. They are either too big or too small. They pay billions for cosmetic implants. It’s the end of the world if they have to have a mastectomy. Young girls worry about not having any.

Boobs dominate everyone’s thoughts.

The Fugs

Boobs A Lot

Do you like boobs a lot?
(Yes, I like boobs a lot.)
Boobs a lot, boobs a lot.

(You gotta like boobs a lot.)
Really like boobs a lot.
(You gotta like boobs a lot.)
Boobs a lot, boobs a lot.
(You gotta like boobs a lot.)

But why?

They are obviously not there for the feeding of babies. Gorillas and chimps (our very close cousins) don’t have them and they feed their babies perfectly OK. In fact only 10% of a boob is glandular. 90% is adipose tissue (fat). If girls have boobs that are too big they find it hard to breast feed – the smaller the better is the rule.

So what are they for?

They are simply a secondary sex characteristic to attract males. Males like boobs a lot.

The trouble is that they are a bloody nuisance that women have been saddled with for thousands of years. They cause nothing but trouble (oh I know that a lot of girls like to flaunt their boobs and love the effect they have on men – but that hardly compensates in my opinion). Boobs get in the way. They are not built for running. They are not built for fighting. They have a short life (they head south rapidly if unsupported). They are cumbersome (guys – trying strapping two big bags of sugar to the front of your chest and see if they slow you down and get in the way).

They probably stopped women competing on a level playing field in primitive times. They could not hunt so well.

Women athletes tend to reabsorb their breasts.

The firmness of breasts denote fertility. Young girls are fertile. Older women are less so. The more pert the breasts the more fertile the girl.

Of course with modern technology women have conspired to keep their breasts pert longer and support them so they appear more pert than they are in order to subvert male proclivities. Men are easily fooled.

So why did something so useless and detrimental evolve?

Well Desmond Morris postulates that it is all to do with our bipedal evolution.

With chimps, gorillas and early man the quadrupedal nature of ambulation meant that the male face was lower down and the main focus of male attention was on the rump of the female – hence her rounded buttocks and reddened labia. The buttocks and labia were the main attractants.

When we walked upright the buttocks were nowhere near so visible so substitutes were evolutionarily selected. The boobs and big red lips took on the role of the buttocks and labia.

Aaah!! What does it tell us?

Men are such fools.

A little bit of lipstick and a push-up bra will take all the blood away from their brains. All they see and think about is boobs (and lips, labia and buttocks of course).

Humans and why we’re not evolving.

Humans and why we’re not evolving.

DSCF1549

Humans and why we’re not evolving.

It is unlikely that we are evolving much at present. We have removed most of the selection pressures that cause evolution. Our amazing brains have produced science and technology that have removed much of the Natural Selection that operated on our populations in the past – at least in the developed countries and increasingly in the undeveloped ones.

We have:

  • Killed off predators
  • Conquered most diseases that would previously have killed us off before we had a chance to breed
  • We have improved sanitation and clean water
  • We have gained a secure food supply.All that is killing us off early is war, accidents and selfish greed.However there is some evolution. The fact that some people choose not to have children while others have many will, in time, skew the numbers of genes in the population. Is it a worry that it is the least intelligent and least educated that are reproducing most? Probably in the long term, if it is a trend that continues. Education is probably the answer to that one.Overpopulation will lead to war, food shortage and disease. Probably a new virus will emerge to which we have no resistance. Only those with a mutation that provides immunity will survive – or maybe nobody.The only difference between all of them and us is that we will be the first to do it to ourselves through our own greed, arrogance and foolishness. So much for intelligence. Without other qualities it counts for little.Time will tell.
  • So will we evolve? Be a blip? A tiny layer in the strata of time?
  • Science has demonstrated that 99.9% of all animals that have evolved have passed into extinction.
  • But this state of affairs is a blip. It will not last. Soon the selection pressures will return with a vengeance. Our numbers have grown out of proportion and our intelligence will not outdo the threats.
  • 95% of us survive long enough to have children.

The most likely selection pressure will be a virus – though we could find ourselves victims of our own greed as we destroy the natural world on which we depend. We could precipitate a disastrous climatic change or even a radical change in our atmosphere.

The Evolution of Human Intelligence

Human intelligence is so hard to define. There is such a range of different types of intelligence aren’t there? The standard IQ test merely identifies certain attributes of intelligence which it consequently gives greater importance to. One thing is for sure – IQ tests are extremely limited and in no way reveal the extent of human intelligence.

 

As a teacher I have encountered students who were incredibly bright and academically capable but were also incredibly stupid. Some were so limited in other areas they were virtually unemployable. On the other hand I have encountered students who were very low down on the IQ scale and had limited academic prowess but were as sharp as needles and incredibly sharp witted and streetwise.

 

So IQ is not easy to pin down. There are different types.

 

Interestingly, as a biologist, I find it interesting to look at from a genetic and evolutionary perspective.

 

We humans are basically a third group of chimps. We are genetically very closely related to chimps – sharing 99% of our genes. The difference between us is largely the size and complexity of our brains. We have larger brains, are more intelligent and hence have developed greater language skills and tool making skills. We are better at solving problems and hence developing technology.

 

Intelligence is largely inherited. It is a polygene system. A number of genes all work together to create intelligence. There are different versions of these genes all chipping in their quota. If we inherit a set of genes with high values we will have a tendency towards high intelligence.

 

But that is where environment comes in. We can maximise the input of those genes through a number of factors:

 

Good diet to enable the brain to grow to its maximum;

Good exercise to enable good vascularisation and oxygen supply;

Good stimulus to help develop neuronal connections.

 

So good parenting and education can help a child reach his/her potential.

 

The two essential biological attributes that enabled us to develop intelligence, and tool making, probably both came from our arboreal ancestry. We have binocular vision which enables us to judge distance and do fine tool work. We have an opposable thumb which enables us to grip tools and use them with precision. So what evolved to enable us to swing through a tree canopy without falling now enables us to build nuclear weapons and the Hubble telescope.

 

Ain’t intelligence wonderful?

Some basic improvements to human biochemistry.

It is not just at the physical level that the human body is badly designed. There are numerous improvements that could be made at a biochemical level. Because our bodies have evolved and not been designed they have a number of inherent faults or areas that could function much better:

  1. The liver could manufacture and store all the 22 amino acids (like plants can). This would mean that we would not need to eat as much protein and we would not need to produce poisonous excretory products (such as urea) from the breakdown of excess amino acids that cannot be stored.
  2. We could have chlorophyll (like plants) which would enable us to produce some of our food from carbon dioxide and water (like plants do). It would mean we’d need less food and we’d produce some of our oxygen and use up some of our carbon dioxide – win, win, win.
  3. We could do away with deleterious genes. We all have a plethora of flawed genes which cause illnesses ranging from colour blindness to cancer, brain damage to heart disease and a range of other nasty illnesses. These are mainly recessive, which is why we are not allowed to marry close relatives (who will likely have the same damaged genes so the illnesses will be more prevalent) and it is best to marry someone from a different race (who is likely to have a different set of flawed genes so they are not likely to match up).
  4. We have many autoimmune problems that lead to such diseases as lupus, arthritis, multiple sclerosis. A better chemistry would deal with these.
  5. The liver could process lipids better so that cholesterol did not clog up arteries causing heart attacks and strokes.
  6. We could have more brown fat (rich in mitochondria) to burn off excess fats so that nobody became obese despite whatever diet they had.
  7. We could remove all the satellite DNA clogging up our chromosomes. Most of the DNA sequences are gobblegook, coding for nothing. They have built up over millions of years from defunct genes or copied sequences and have no purpose – like the old programmes and files clogging up our computers that require defragging.
  8. We could have a system that cleans the brain of impurities so that waste proteins don’t clog up the brain causing dementia.
  9. We could have articular cartilage that was more active at repairing itself so that our joints don’t wear out.

 

The possibilities for improving the human body on a biochemical level are endless. It is like it is because it is the product of evolution and not design. With a little thought the improvements would be immense.