Home: Scrying: Life and Chaos: A constant update

Life and Chaos: A constant update

March 09, 2006

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m asking for trouble by studying the nature of life and chaos. It seems whenever I become more involved in my study and understanding, the more chaotic life gets. I’d really hoped to get my fossil post up by now, and hit some of the other news on evolution that has been hitting the press this week, but I haven’t had much time. Instead, amidst other chaos, I’m pulling together a last-minute draft of my term paper on Deinococcus radiodurans. (Don’t you love how those deadlines can sneak up on you?)

I’ve no doubt that others in the science blog have pointed to these bits of science news already, so I won’t get into too much detail. A peptidoglycan cell wall, found in many bacteria, and likely in the earliest cells on earth(Saving that for “Conan the Bacterium.”) So, here are the highlights, starting with the dawn of life:

In the beginning (or so according to the latest theory):

Life was a gram-positive bacterium. (So is D. radiodurans, for the record.) It started out with a thick, gooey shell which protected it from the harsh, hot environment in the early earth. John Wilkins of Evolving Thoughts has blogged on this, covering the topic with more expertise than I could manage, and also links to an incredibly cool phylogenic chart:

Chart at sciencemag.com

The chart shows just how big we are (or are not) in the whole grand scheme of things. We’re lumped in with the rest of the multi-celled organisms in the upper right, while the rest of the table is dominated by bacteria. (D. Radiodurans is on the lower left near the thermophiles.) Wilkins makes an excellent point, emphasizing that our fondness for multi-celled organisms has made us biased:

“[T]he morphological diversity of eukaryotes rests largely on the fact that some of them are multicellular, and thus exhibit differences we find striking, nothing more.”

I ran across a news article on the subject, earlier in the week, but it appears to have slipped through my desktop. That’s chaos for you.

As it is now: 

I managed to hang on to this one: Humans are still evolving. (Er, were we  supposed to be surprised?) Nicholas Wade of the New York Times reported this Wednesday:

Providing the strongest evidence yet that humans are still evolving, researchers have detected some 700 regions of the human genome where genes appear to have been reshaped by natural selection, a principal force of evolution, within the last 5,000 to 15,000 years.

Of course we’re evolving. It is those waves…whether light our sound or whatever, we’re constantly inundated with the waves. We’re having to constantly re-adapt, and change our habits and our breeding preferences over time. Change over time—there you have it, evolution. Now, does this mean humans are speciating? By all means, I’d say not. Rather than finding ways to isolate and distinguish ourselves from one another, we tend to find ways to mix and mingle. We may be adapting and changing, but we’re growing together, rather than apart.

Now, concerning those waves, again. As I indicated above, I may have summoned a tsunami by writing on the subject earlier in the week… and sometimes it’s hard to keep riding when you can see the rocky shore. As I’ve said before, mostly in poetry, it beats the hell out of battle. You can of course, battle the waves… while it is refreshing and entertaining, it doesn’t get us anywhere…. the tide always comes back in. One of these days, I’ll have to write about the futility of battling the waves. But for now, how about a little surfing music?

Usually, I recommend the Ventures to accompany riding the waves (“The Cruel Sea“ is most appropriate.) They are all instrumentals, though, so it is hard to share lyrics. But, of course, this week has been chaotic enough to share something with a touch more of an edge:

Aloha From Hell

By the Cramps

Gonna take a week off, gonna go to Hell. A lovely picture from the cramps (ahh, how I miss punk rock.)
Send ya a postcard, “Hey I’m doin’ swell!”
Wish you were here… Aloha from Hell.
I’ll be dancin’ thru the flames, like a devil in disguise.
You can hear me sing, but not by satellite.
You can hear me sing: “Aloha from Hell.”
Gonna get a leid; ring o’fire round my neck.
Big ol’ she-devil kiss. Aw hell! What the heck?
I’m packin’ my duds… Aloha from Hell.
I’ll be glad to get away, up here everything’s so swell.
You know some like it hot and down there it’s hot as Hell.
Don’t forget to write, now, Aloha from Hell.

And, on that note… back to the bacterium. ;)

Note: Cell wall photo via Russel Kightly at rkm.com.au. Cramps Photo via the Cramps Page on Carrollsweb.com.