By James Trefil Physics Professor
James Trefil takes the reader on an exhilarating travel around the borders of present clinical knowledge-from astronomy to genetics, from info know-how to cosmology, the nice contested questions that preoccupy researchers at the present time and should turn into headlines the next day. In dependent, witty three-page summations, Dr. Trefil "makes feel of technological know-how for the remainder of us" (Washington Post).
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Extra info for 101 Things You Don't Know About Science and No One Else Does Either
With such vaccines we have eradicated smallpox worldwide and eliminated viral diseases like polio as major health concerns in this country. The spread of AIDS, however, is a deadly reminder of what a viral disease can do in the absence of an effective vaccine. Two things about viruses make them particularly lethal enemies: their mutation rate and their ability to transfer nucleic acids from one virus to another. When cells divide in your body, complex ''proofreading" mechanisms operate to make sure that the copied DNA is the same as the original at accuracy levels of better than one in a billion bases.
Many scientists in this fieldperhaps even mostnow think that life didn't originate by a series of chance events but was driven by natural laws. One < previous page page_54 next page > < previous page page_55 next page > Page 55 important test of this notion, of course, would be to find the remains of life that originated elsewhere (on Mars, say) and see if it's like us. Once we get into the chain of evolution that followed that first cell, the arguments become more murky. The major problem here, I think, is that the process of evolution is designed to fit an organism into its environment, and that environment is always changing.
Evidence to the contrary was considered misguided at best, heretical at worst. But times have changed. Just as we have come to understand that many diseases have their origins in our DNA, so too have we come to realize that genes play an important (but by no means exclusive) role in determining our behavior. The evidence that changed the view of the behavioral-science community came in many forms. Extensive studies of animals, from fruit flies to rats, showed clear genetic influences on behaviors such as learning and mating.