International Darwin Day Foundation.
Can’t let the day go by without acknowledging the 200th anniversary of the day Charles Darwin was born. Arguably one of the most brilliant scientists ever to grace this planet. I have to agree with Razib, I just recently reread Origin of the Species and like every time I’ve read it (4th now I think), I am struck by how amazingly perceptive and prescient the man was.
Though I know it was fictionalized and there are of course some quibbles with the portrayal, I enjoyed the new movie, Creation, about the writing of that book. If anything, it’s spurred me on to learn more about the man and his life and read Voyage of the Beagle. WHich, surprisingly since I’ve read others like Descent of Man, Variation under Domestication, and Expression of Emotions, I’ve never read.
In the movie, Darwin tells his children, particularly his daughter, different stories about his voyage and adventures as bedtime stories. Listening to those and watching the reenactments got me interested in reading the book. And I have a vague idea about rewriting it as a children’s adventure book, I think my daughter would like it. I’ll just chalk that up to one of those “in the future” projects (or maybe someone already did it?)
So, yesterday was the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. Lots of festivities and NPR stories surrounding that day including a few announcements like UCSC announcing their v200th browser code a day early so as to coincide (they couldn’t resist the coincidence :)). Another announcement that was apropos was the announcement that researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have finished the draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome. Since only about 63% of the genome is actually covered (3.7 billion bps covered of the 3.2 billion bp genome, with duplications), when one announces a “draft” can be a bit arbitrary, so the 200th anniversary of the of the man who wrote “The Descent of Man, and selection in relation to Sex” is as good a time as any. And we are learning a few things like, Neanderthal’s might have had the physical ability for language, but couldn’t stand milk as adults (didn’t agree with their digestion). It is expected a draft and research will be published at the end of this year. We’ll report on that of course, and link to any browsers they might be setting up :D. Ancient genomes are teaching us some things.
Speaking of which, the Exploratorium, an excellent science museum in my fair city, has a great exhibit (on site and online) on the ‘how we know things’ and how science works. This exhibit is specifically on the origins of humans and Neanderthal DNA and the research at Max Planck figures prominently.
NHGRI asks if Darwin is relevant today….and guess what the answer is?
You can go here for a page devoted to the festivities: http://genome.gov/27529500
You can launch the video there if it doesn’t work here:
My favorite part of the video is when Leslie Biesecker takes us from Darwin–>software, of course. Later on he also talks about how important evolutionary concepts are to our interpretation of health and disease. I mean, I know you guys get this–but I think it is the piece that makes me craziest about the people who want to deny evolution and its relevance today.
Couldn’t they have found at least 1 woman to interview, though? I saw them in the background….I know they were there…
Ok, that got your attention didn’t it? It got mine. It’s not really a genomics post, it’s not really a database post, but like almost every evolutionary biologist I know (and most biologists and a lot of others), a visit to the Galapagos has been something I’ve always wanted to do. Only thing is, it’s expensive to get and stay there, and eco-tourism is having it’s not-so-great side effects. Well, the University of Cincinnati, in order to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s “Origin of Species” has set up a “Second Life” tour of the Galapagos.
I’ve resisted roaming Second Life, even though Nature has a presence there as “Second Nature.” But for the Galapagos? I’ll go :). Now, I wonder if they could do a tour of the Genome in Second Life?
HT: Discovering Biology in a Digital World