Darwin's Bootloader

Horizontal and vertical: The evolution of evolution

At the root of this idea is overwhelming recent evidence for horizontal gene transfer - in which organisms acquire genetic material "horizontally" from other organisms around them, rather than vertically from their parents or ancestors. The donor organisms may not even be the same species. [...]

They found that the actual code is around one in a million in terms of how good it is at error mitigation. "The actual genetic code," says Goldenfeld, "stands out like a sore thumb as being the best possible." That would seem to demand some evolutionary explanation. Yet, until now, no one has found one. The reason, say Woese and Goldenfeld, is that everyone has been thinking in terms of the wrong kind of evolution. [...]

Starting with a random initial population of codes being used by different organisms - all using the same DNA bases but with different associations of codons and amino acids - they first explored how the code might evolve in ordinary Darwinian evolution. While the ability of the code to withstand errors improves with time, they found that the results were inconsistent with the pattern we actually see in two ways. First, the code never became shared among all organisms - a number of distinct codes remained in use no matter how long the team ran their simulations. Second, in none of their runs did any of the codes evolve to reach the optimal structure of the actual code. "With vertical, Darwinian evolution," says Goldenfeld, "we found that the code evolution gets stuck and does not find the true optimum."

The results were very different when they allowed horizontal gene transfer between different organisms. Now, with advantageous genetic innovations able to flow horizontally across the entire system the code readily discovered the overall optimal structure and came to be universal among all organisms. For the researchers the conclusion is inescapable: the genetic code must have arisen in an earlier evolutionary phase dominated by horizontal gene transfer.


'Oral sex' definition prompts dictionary ban

Heh heh, she said "dictionary"

Dictionaries have been removed from classrooms in southern California schools after a parent complained about a child reading the definition for "oral sex".

Merriam Webster's 10th edition, which has been used for the past few years in fourth and fifth grade classrooms in Menifee Union school district, has been pulled from shelves over fears that the "sexually graphic" entry is "just not age appropriate", according to the area's local paper.

The dictionary's online definition of the term is "oral stimulation of the genitals". "It's hard to sit and read the dictionary, but we'll be looking to find other things of a graphic nature," district spokeswoman Betti Cadmus told the paper.

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Poop dermatitis linked to fashionable toilet seats, harsh chemicals.

Apparently you *can* catch it from a toilet seat.

"Toilet seat dermatitis is one of those legendary conditions described in medical textbooks and seen in underdeveloped countries, but one that younger pediatricians have not come across in their daily practice," says Cohen, director of pediatric dermatology at Hopkins Children's. "If our small analysis is any indication of what's happening, we need to make sure the condition is on every pediatrician's radar."

Analyzing five cases from the United States and India in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, Cohen and colleagues said the culprits responsible for the reemergence of the condition are harsh cleaning chemicals and exotic wooden toilet seats -- making a comeback as bathroom decor -- especially seats covered with varnishes and paints.




Update: Video!

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

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Tank Skeet Shooting

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You have angered Poseidon.

American Standard

Previously, previously, previously.

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Godwin's Law: Always funny.

SF Chronicle: Tactics against anti-Semite go too far

Like 2 out of 3 Oakland voters, I voted against the Jewish marriage ban.

But at the same time, I need to know that the guy next to me, who hates Jews, won't be marginalized, ostracized or excluded because of it.

The nation's changing culture is proof positive that Loopes' standard of marriage is no longer the only valid viewpoint of society's ultimate union, but in a democracy based on individual religious and political freedoms, seeking to exclude dangerous lunatics is just wrong.

Also, here's a photo essay about a nice old lady seamstress.

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Hitting the checklist

I like both of these songs and both of these videos, but you know... if your band sounds exactly like The Kills... You might want to reconsider making a video that looks exactly like a video by The Kills. It's just a thought.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

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A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter

The Skynet defense system goes online on August 4th, 1997. It becomes self-aware 2:14 AM, Eastern time, August 29th. Using the GNU General Public License, it begins to propagate at a geometric rate.


A. Artist has created a work of art titled "A Tool to Deceive and Slaughter (2009)" ("the Artwork") which consists of a black box that places itself for sale on the auction website "eBay" (the "Auction Venue") every seven (7) days. The Artwork consists of the combination of the black box or cube, the electronics contained therein, and the concept that such a physical object "sells itself" every week.

B. Collector understands and agrees to the underlying concept and function of the Artwork and that the sale of the Artwork by Artist is dependent and conditioned upon Purchaser's agreement and adherence to the below terms. Such terms are fundamental and crucial to the on-going viability and artistic integrity of the Artwork.

WHEREFORE, for good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby acknowledged, it is hereby agreed as follows:

1. Collector agrees that the Artwork will remain connected to a live Internet connection at all times, with disconnections allowed only for the transportation of the work from one venue to another.

2. Upon purchasing the Artwork, Collector may establish a new value for the Artwork. The new value may not exceed current market expectations for the Artwork based on the current value of work by the Artist. This value may be reassessed quarterly. This value will be set as the minimum bid of the auction. Any bid meeting or exceeding this amount will result in a legitimate sale via the Auction Venue and the Policies of the Auction Venue must be followed regarding this matter.

[ ... and so on ... ]

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The Sara Carlson Experience

If you have not experienced The Sara Carlson Experience, I really recommend that you experience it.

Oh yes, there is more. See also Stefania Rotolo.

I have repeatedly checked my television listings for the "Italian variety shows from the early 1980s" channel. I haven't found it. Please advise.

Scene missing! A video in this post has disappeared. If you know of an accessible version of this video (search), please mail me so that I can update this post.
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