Ropes are multiple strands of hemp coiled around each other. DNA consists of two nucleotide strands coiled around each other. To prevent fraying in a rope, the ends are wrapped around with cording. To prevent fraying in DNA, the strands are capped with long sequences of non-functioning DNA called telomeres. Eventually any rope frays, and so does DNA. Each replication shortens the telomeres until the cell can no longer replicate itself, eventually resulting in cell death. Telomere shortening keeps cells from turning cancerous. It’s also what keeps us from living forever. You could call it the ultimate twist of fate.
April 8, 2015
Walking along a beach, watching the waves roll in as they have done for millions of years, our time here does indeed seem short. But if you think of each generation as a single wave washing up against the shoreline, then you can begin to sense our cumulative impact. Unfortunately, in geologic terms we are not waves gently lapping up against the shoreline. We are a sudden and powerful tsunami, a cataclysmic tidal wave washing away everything in its path, forcing every living thing to either flee to higher ground or perish. And our human wave has yet to peak.
April 5, 2015
Waking up and knowing it was Easter Sunday … my mother’s heels clicking on the sidewalk as we quick-marched to St. Anthony’s Church … incense curling up my nostrils … the lamb cake with its mysterious Mona Lisa smile made from an apricot slice … coconut … peering intently through the glass porthole at the tiny scene inside the candy Easter egg … sweet-smelling Easter bread my mother conjured out of flour and eggs like a magician … Jordan almonds … ham scored and dotted with little clove spikes … the crinkly fake grass lining the Easter basket … Paas
April 3, 2015
The world is filled with mysteries so common-place that we don’t always see them as mysteries. One that hits close to home is being left-handed. Science still can’t explain why most folks are born right-handed. It could be tied to that right-brain, left-brain thing. There’s a theory that mankind started out pretty even-handed, but as tool-making ramped up during the Bronze Age, right-handedness became dominant. If early man had decided that making cave paintings was more important than making spears, who knows … maybe we’d be mostly left-handers. Could be we all got dealt a bad hand on that one.
April 1, 2015
We sometimes forget that the First Amendment is as much about freedom FROM religion as it is freedom OF religion. The mess in Indiana began with a 1990 Supreme Court case involving two Oregon men seeking to be exempt from laws against smoking peyote, claiming it was part of their religion. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that society would be "courting anarchy" to create exceptions every time a religious group claimed that a law infringed on its practices. Politicians couldn’t wait to jump on the “preservation of religion” bandwagon. For once, Scalia seems to have gotten it right the first time.
March 31, 2015
A recent study measured academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being and found “no relationship between the amount of parents’ time and children’s outcomes.” This will be breaking news for those parents who feel compelled to be with their kids every spare minute. When I was growing up, we had to fit ourselves into our parents' lives not the other way around. Family time was mainly meals and visits to relatives. Otherwise, we were on our own, learning life’s lessons as we went along. There is no one way to parent, but there may only be one way to grow up.
March 29, 2015
All things living have memories. All brain cells reach out to embrace each other ... some dancing to remember, others to forget. Scientists struggle to understand the tangled web of neurons we weave into the sightlines to our past. Some think memories are stored in these connections between the cells. New evidence suggests that alterations in the brain cell’s chemistry or DNA may yield a more persistent reservoir of memories. A million years from now when beasts unimaginable roam the earth and we are ghosts in their machinery, what memories of us will rise from the depths to haunt or inspire?