We recently covered Taxonomy here at AmoebaMike.  Taxonomy, a way of classifying organisms, fits very well with evolution.

There is of course an issue with evolution: the hot topic that pits “religion vs science”.  That of course is hogwash as the Pope (more than one) came out and said that evolution is not some fad hypothesis. But then of course, plenty of other Christians really dislike Catholics so that’s not enough for some people.  It’s an argument that probably takes over 6% of the internet already, and I won’t replay it here. I just wanted to point out that it is a hot button issue.

So moving past the issue of man being created in the image of God, evolution can actually tell you a lot. It shows how different species are related to each other. For example, did you know that you have more in common with a whale, than a whale has in common with a shark?

While sharks and whales both live in the ocean, sharks are actually a type of fish that doesn’t have bones. Whales, on the other hand, are mammals. And like humans, which are also mammals, whales suckle their young. Sharks are cold-blooded and whales are warm-blooded. Sharks breathes through their gills underwater and whales breathe air through their lungs.

You are even more closely related to a sea anemone than the sea anemone is to an oak tree despite the fact that they pretty much just stick around in the same place.

How do you determine who you’re closely related to?

The same way you do with people!

Let’s take person A.  You’re related to person A.  How do you know is person A is your sibling? Look at your parents. Do you share parents? No? Do you share grandparents? If yes, person A is either an uncle/aunt or a cousin!

Looking at other organisms, primates like chimps are closely related to humans because a long time ago (a very, very long time) they shared a common ancestor.  Even further back, we share a common ancestor with a cat. Further in the past, we share a common ancestor with a jellyfish. And still further, we share an ancestor with a rose plant.

Does that mean you came from a chimp? a cat? a jellyfish? a rose plant? Of course not!  You didn’t come from any of those organisms any more than you came from your cousin or your uncle just because you share a common grandparent!

Through much hard work, including gene sequencing, a giant family tree is being constructed. Only it’s not like Geni where you can how closely you’re related to President Obama; it’s actually a tree of all life.  Fittingly, it’s called the Tree of Life. Check it out!

See also:


Science Cards – No Catchy Subtitle This Time

I spent 8 out of 9 days on the road since the last time I posted a science card.  So you’ll have to give me a bit of a break on the lack of a catchy subtitle.  Feel free to come up with one of your own and make me feel bad for how easy it was for you to think of.

(If this is your first experience with my science cards, here’s the brief synopsis: cards that include a “legend” are made up by me.  In most cases, the current scientists are providing their own info to me.  When reading a star rating, 1 star is indicative of the level in which normal mortals reside.) Continue reading

Another Use For Breasts in Humans

Being a post-pubescent male, I have an appreciation–an affinity even–for female breasts.  Perfectly natural and normal for me to feel this way.  Breasts in humans have the function of providing nourishment to young, as is the case in all mammals.  But unlike other mammals, human female breasts stay engorged full-time after puberty.  Other mammals’ breasts simply enlarge for the benefit of their young.

Scientists aren’t completely sure of why humans are different.  A female human’s breast size is not indicative of their ability to produce milk.  One very popular theory is that breasts evolved as humans began to walk upright.  Instead of having, say an engorged or colored butt like some primates, a bipedal woman’s breasts would be more noticeable to an upright man.

You may say, “but I like big butts.”  And while that may be the only thing you have in common with Sir Mix-a-Lot, there’s no arguing that in a face to face situation, no matter how much “junk in the trunk” she has, you’re going to notice a woman’s breasts before her butt.

And while women like Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are popular, in part, due to their posteriors, it turns out that men are willing to go above and beyond for a woman with large breasts that needs something.

courtesy Simon Howden

In a study published in 2007, a woman was put on a French road and stuck her thumb out.  Scientists recorded how many people stopped.  They did this and adjusted her apparent breast size.  As her breast size went up, so did the number of men who stopped to offer a ride (A cup to C cup went from 15% to 24%). –hat tip

Some may think that’s an obvious result, but just like they don’t play football games in the papers, it takes real observation to make science.  Somewhat surprisingly, the rate at which woman stopped stayed more or less consistent.  We’d expect that in a show of competition, women would be less likely to help if the hitcher had larger breasts.

In another study, the same scientist also found that hair color of the hitchhiker affects frequency of stops in cars–turns out, smiling also does.

In the unfair world we live in, if you ever need help with something your best luck is if you are blonde, smiling, and have large breasts.

Just please don’t take it as far as Heidi Montag.

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The Roundup

I got a lot of great links quickly after the last The Roundup post, but I wanted to get that post on plant and prokaryote cells out first.  So now that it’s out of the way, here’s what I found for you:

How do you feel about jumping out of an airplane without a parachute? Some guys are working on it, and if you don’t see the science connection yet, it’s only because you haven’t taken physics.

Going really green, literally: using algae oil for fuel.

$9 million hack turns out to be not so profitable after all.

Heart disease isn’t just a modern problem because of Big Macs and 2000 calorie drinks.  Turns out it’s a little older than fast food.

They’ve quantified a lot with regards to attraction.  Now scientists claim to have found an ideal amount of exposed skin.

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