Saturday, June 30, 2007

Choosing a mate

One advantage of teaching this course many times is that I'm fairly familiar with the pace we need to go at. One thing I don't like to do is to rush through material at the end of a lecture just to finish off at a particular point. On Thursday I finished whist talking about non-random mating, having covered inbreeding but without covering other types of non-random mating. We will cover this on Monday. Basically ANY form of partner selection will make a mating system non-random. We know this goes on, in humans as well as other animals and plants, but it isn't always clear why particular mates are chosen.

In an interesting recent study that was in the press last week Lynda Boothroyd, in the Department of Psychology at the University of Durham in England, showed that women who enjoyed good childhood relationships with their fathers were more likely to select partners who resemble their dads. In contrast women who have negative or less positive relationships were not attracted to men who looked like their male parents.

In her own words:
' Does this mean that Freud was right? Well no - according to Freud normal people should resolve their 'complexes' in childhood and stop feeling attracted to their parents before puberty. This research shows that we learn what is good in a face partly from the faces of men to whom we have a strong positive relationship. Further research may show whether this is just fathers or, for example, whether elder siblings may play a role.'

This time last year: Extinction Vortex


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fun for all the Family

Following a link from Pharyngula, another highly recommended evolution related blog, I am pleased to announce that this blog is officially family friendly.

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words: breast (x1)


This time last year (one of my favorite posts): Pedigree collapse - you'll never look at bicycles in the same way again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Me and my budgie

I thought I'd give you some links to more information about budgie genetics and was thrilled to find a site called 'Me and My Budgie...' What a great name! Sadly I didn't find their genetic information the clearest and many of the links are broken. But still, great name. I hate to sound like a broken record but you could do worse than checking out the Wikipedia article on Budgie Genetics.

This time last year: Thirteen-year old girls storming the Bastille, It's either a thirteen or a forty five or maybe a fish (the color blindness links I mentioned), and The Y Chromosome - More than a Wasteland.


Fair Use and Fat Mice

Here's a question: What is unusual about this image of the complex interaction between genes and obesity in mice that I used in lecture today?

Give up? The answer is that I had permission to use it. The image was published in PLoS Genetics - a peer reviewed paper published by the Public Library of Science. Not only is the image free for me to use in class but I can link directly to the paper , which is also free for anyone to read.

"everything we publish is freely available online throughout the world, for you to read, download, copy, distribute, and use (with attribution) any way you wish."

Unfortunately this is still rather unusual - although hopefully it is a sign of things to come. It is an illustration of how well the policy works that I came across this article because Carl Zimmer, a science writer with an interesting genetics blog, the Loom, wrote about it. He also incuded a link to a recent article he wrote in Discover Magazine entitled Mendel's Mouse that is well worth a read and fits in perfectly with today's lecture.

I mention the issue of copyright because I get frequent requests that I make my Powerpoint slides available to you. I don't do this because I don't have copyright clearance for all the pictures, cartoons, diagrams etc I might use. Whilst it might be fair use to use them once in a lecture (even this is probably debatable) I doubt that would extend to distributing copies. You could argue that I should get permission for all the images I want to use - but this does not seem feasible. Not only would it take up an impractical amount of time but it would prevent me updating lectures. My next task tonight, for example, is to look through tomorrow's lecture and I may well add some new example, as I did yesterday. Getting permission to use images probably requires weeks if not months of time.

This is why I clearly give you the equivalent figure number in Campbell for
important figures and provide lecture outlines. Another option would be to just use figures I have permission to use, basically all the figures from Campbell, which would make for a fairly dull lecture. Then I could distribute the slides - but you wouldn't need them because they'd all be in Campbell!

This time last year:
Evolution in ten words, The 'theory' of evolution and Summer Reading.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Wallace, no Gromit

I want to draw your attention to Wiki1B, which is not actually a true Wiki, but is simply the Summer Bio1B lecture outlines linked to appropriate Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia certainly has its critics but I believe it is a tremendously useful resource for introductory classes, allowing you to easily follow up on anything that you find unclear or interesting. It is also a great tool for any curious person. Today it struck me that I didn't know whether Malthus had been as influential to Wallace as he had been to Darwin (I already knew that Lyell had been a tremendous influence to both men). In the past I would have had to go to the library, find some biographies on Wallace, hope they weren't checked out, and then hope that the indexer had done a good job and put Malthus in the index so I didn't have to read the whole book. But now, especially with Wikipedia, it was the work of seconds to pull up the Wallace article and search for Malthus:

'Wallace spent a lot of time at the Leicester library where he read An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Malthus'.'
'According to his autobiography, it was while he was in bed with a fever that Wallace thought about Thomas Malthus's idea of positive checks on human population growth, and came up with the idea of natural selection.'

Question answered. Whether Wikipedia is a suitable tool for primary research is a contentious topic but it sure is handy for answering quick questions - most of which I'd never bother to find out otherwise.

Just today Wikipedia helped me find the name of the guy in the hat who won the 800m at the Munich Olympics : Dave Wottle - and there's a link to a YouTube video of the race! I can even make this relevant to the class because slow and steady really DOES win the race sometimes. Although it looks like he sprints past everyone at the end Wottle actually runs a perfectly evenly paced race and it is everyone else who is slowing down.

This time last year: A Wizard did it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Finding Erasmus

You can find Erasmus Darwin's work at the Internet Archive Open-Access Text Archive - a wonderful resource with over 200,000 items, most of them out of copyright or otherwise in the public domain.

Here are links to the Temple of Nature, and Zoonomia. Select the format you want to download from the panel on the left.

You can also find Erasmus at Project Gutenberg, the first producer of free electronic books. They have Zoonomia and the Botanic Garden. They also have most of Charles Darwin's books, including the more obscure ones.

Whilst I'm pointing out resources I should also mention Librivox, which provides free audiobooks of books that are in the public domain. This includes a nice reading of Darwin's Origin of Species. (Full title:
On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.)
This time last year - The Politics of Mastodon.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Welcome to Summer 2007

Just checking I could remember the password. Check the main Bio1B site for useful information about the class. Here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions I've been getting (or 'FAQ' as the cool kids say), one for any Berkeley newcomers and one that I got a lot last year.

Q. Can I use Campbell 6th edition?
A. Yes. If you have to buy a book, and especially if you have yet to take other Biology classes (eg Bio1A), then I'd recommend getting the 7th edition even if it costs a bit more. But if you already have the 6th then you don't need to buy the 7th just for this class.

Q. Is there a lab. manual to buy?
A. No. There used to be but all the lab exercises are online now.

Q. When is the final?
A. There is no cumulative final in summer. We have three, slightly longer midterms than in the regular semester. These are held in regular class time on Thursday July 12, Tuesday July 31 and Thursday August 16.

Q. Will there be labs. in the first week?
A. Yes. In fact there are labs and discussion sections on the first day and some of them may take place before the first Lecture. So check the schedule and make sure you don't miss your first lab or discussion section.

Q. Why does the class always start late?
A. Classes at Berkeley start at ten minutes after the hour and end on the hour. We will start promptly each day so please be ready to start at 12.10.

Q. Do I need to have an account to comment on posts here?
A. No, it just looks like you do. When you hit the 'Comment' link at the end of any post a pop-up window should appear. After the space for you to enter your comment is a set of three buttons. You can pick any one of these three (Blogger, Other, or Anonymous). Because the first one seems to be the default it has spaces for your username and password. But if you pick either of the others these disappear. Choosing 'Other' allows you to enter your name, or alias, and choosing 'Anonymous' requires neither.