All posts filed under: Abstractions

Abstractions

How Many Genes Do Cells Need?

How Many Genes Do Cells Need?

By knocking out genes three at a time, scientists have painstakingly deduced the web of genetic interactions that keeps a cell alive. Researchers long ago identified essential genes that yeast cells can’t live without, but new work, which appears today in Science, shows that looking only at those gives a skewed picture of what makes cells tick: Many genes that are inessential on their own become crucial as others disappear. The result implies that the true minimum number of genes that yeast — and perhaps, by extension, other complex organisms — need to survive and thrive may be surprisingly large. About 20 years ago, Charles Boone and Brenda Andrews decided to do something slightly nuts. The yeast biologists, both professors at the University of Toronto, set out to systematically destroy or impair the genes in yeast, two by two, to get a sense of how the genes functionally connected to one another. Only about 1,000 of the 6,000 genes in the yeast genome, or roughly 17 percent, are considered essential for life: If a single …

Songs With Philosophical Themes

Most of the Beatles songs, like most pop songs, are about love.  But as the group’s music developed, so their subject matter moved beyond “She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah,” and “I want to hold your hand.” Some of their finest songs express, illustrate, or connect up with more philosophical ideas 01 of 10Can’t Buy Me Love “Can’t Buy Me Love is a classic statement of the philosopher’s traditional indifference to material wealth compared to what is good for the soul. It is true that Socrates was more concerned with truth and virtue than “love” (which as conceived in the song is presumably not purely Platonic). And it’s only fair to note that Paul later said that they should have sung “money can buy me love” given his experience of fame and fortune. Still, the core sentiment, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love, would be endorsed by many philosophers from ancient times to the present day. 02 of 10A Hard Day’s Night Karl Marx would have liked “A Hard Day’s Night.”  Writing …

Making money on youtube?

Making money on youtube?

Following several high profile scandals, YouTube is tightening the rules around its partner programme – raising the requirements vloggers have to meet to be able to monetise their videos. This means that for creators to make money from YouTube – and have ads attached to videos – they must have clocked up over 4,000 hours of watch time on their channel within the past 12 months. Channels must also have at least 1,000 subscribers. Channels that don’t have these numbers will simply no longer be able to make income from ads. This change will effectively make it harder for new, smaller channels and hobbyists to be able to make money on YouTube. It’s not surprising then that these tighter ad rules have been met with dismay by many YouTubers – who feel the changes are an unfair reaction to a small number of high profile events. Bad actors The main reasons for the changes are the widespread concerns about YouTube’s ability to regulate its content. And more specifically, monitor what content is inappropriate for adverts …

Sam Harris

Sam Harris is known for many things, from being one of the leading figures of the New Atheist movement to a controversial critic of Islam. he is also known for arguing that science can provide answers to questions regarding morality. For him, morality is within the domain of science. How is this possible, exactly? After all, science deals with facts, not values. Harris proposes that the term science is far more inclusive than we normally understand. There is no fundamental distinction, for instance, between a scientist working in a laboratory and a plumber identifying problems in a plumbing system. The distinction between them is merely conventional, because what really counts is that doing science means using reason and observation. As long as a given domain can be the subject of reasoned inquiry and observation, it belongs to the broader domain of science. Here is how Harris himself puts it in his essay responding to Ryan Born’s critique: “For practical reasons, it is often necessary to draw boundaries between academic disciplines, but physicists, chemists, biologists, and …

Women in gender-equal countries have better memory

Let’s try you. Read the title above once, then cover it and write down word for word what you remember. Having difficulties? How well you do may be down to which country you live in. That’s according to a new study, published in Psychological Science, involving an impressive 200,000 women and men from 27 countries across five continents. It revealed that women from more conservative countries performed worse on memory tests than those from more egalitarian countries. Demographics expert Eric Bonsang and his colleagues analysed national survey data from individuals above the age of 50. They used existing data on cognitive performance tests measuring episodic memory (memory of autobiographical events). These involved recalling as many of ten words read out by a researcher as possible in one minute either immediately or after a short delay. The team rated each country’s level of gender equality by looking at the proportion of people agreeing with the statement: “When jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women.” Women outperformed men on memory in …

When does borrowing become cultural appropriation in dance?

Dance has been a significant part of human culture since the very earliest civilisations. While today it is done more for entertainment purposes, its use can be traced back many thousands of years to ancient ceremonies and rituals. For as long as they have been moving, dancers have always borrowed from other forms of movement, using them as inspiration to evolve their own work. But in recent years, when too much inspiration is taken, critics have started accusing dancers of cultural appropriation. Take belly dance for example. One of the world’s oldest forms of dance, it originated in Middle Eastern and Northern African countries, such as Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon, but is now danced around the world. Belly dancing isn’t just one type of dance: there is no single set of moves to follow in time to a beat. Though there are certain moves that are similar – focusing on the hips, chest and shoulders being moved in isolation from the rest of the body – each culture has its own version of a belly …

Why people believe in conspiracy theories

I’m sitting on a train when a group of football fans streams on. Fresh from the game – their team has clearly won – they occupy the empty seats around me. One picks up a discarded newspaper and chuckles derisively as she reads about the latest “alternative facts” peddled by Donald Trump. The others soon chip in with their thoughts on the US president’s fondness for conspiracy theories. The chatter quickly turns to other conspiracies and I enjoy eavesdropping while the group brutally mock flat Earthers, chemtrails memes and Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest idea. Then there’s a lull in the conversation, and someone takes it as an opportunity to pipe in with: “That stuff might be nonsense, but don’t try and tell me you can trust everything the mainstream feeds us! Take the moon landings, they were obviously faked and not even very well. I read this blog the other day that pointed out there aren’t even stars in any of the pictures!” To my amazement the group joins in with other “evidence” supporting the moon …

What happens to openly gay athletes, in U.S ?

Journeyman basketball center Jason Collins came out as gay and later signed a contract with the Brooklyn Nets, making him the first openly gay player to get into a regular-season game in the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB. A few weeks after Collins’ announcement, Robbie Rogers debuted for the Los Angeles Galaxy, breaking a similar barrier in Major League Soccer. That October, U.S. women’s soccer superstar Abby Wambach married her longtime girlfriend. Finally, in football, SEC defensive player of the year Michael Sam became the first out player to be drafted when he was selected by the St. Louis Rams in May 2014. But if some were hoping the events of 2013 and 2014 would spark a wave of professional athletes coming out, little headway has been made. Since Sam was drafted, no active players have done so from any of the four major sports leagues. The closest have been players like David Denson, a minor league prospect for the Milwaukee Brewers who quit baseball this past spring, and retired NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who …

No more victimisation

At the end of this year’s Cannes Film Festival, actress Jessica Chastain – who was serving as a jury member – said that she found the portrayals of women in the festival’s films “quite disturbing.” To many, this isn’t exactly news. The lack of women in film – in front of and behind the camera – has been at the forefront of Hollywood criticism in recent years, with scholars and writers detailing the various ways women tend to be underrepresented or cast in stereotypical roles. University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith, who researches depictions of gender and race in film and TV, found that of the 5,839 characters in the 129 top-grossing films released between 2006 and 2011, fewer than 30 percent were girls or women. Meanwhile, only 50 percent of films fulfill the criteria of the Bechdel Test, which asks whether a film features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Despite the uphill climb for women in film, it isn’t all doom and …