2014/12/16

Science Disolves Self

Read an article about horizontal gene transfer, where "DNA passes from one organism to another generally unrelated one, rather than moving ‘vertically’ from parent to child".
In fact, horizontal gene transfer has happened between all kinds of living things throughout the history of life on the planet – not just between species, but also between different kingdoms of life. Bacterial genes end up in plants; fungal genes wind up in animals; snake and frog genes find their way into cows and bats. It seems that the genome of just about every modern species is something of a mosaic constructed with genes borrowed from many different forms of life.
It seems that genes frequently "jump" from one organism to another for the purpose of perpetuating the genes themselves -- regardless of the opinion of the whole genome. The genomes seem more permeable and dynamic than I had thought, as a layperson to the biological sciences.

2014/12/02

More China Impressions

This round in more depth.

1. Thanks to inspiration from friends, I held the intention of getting to know my grandparents on this trip, and record the "interviews" of their life stories. This is probably among the most meaningful things I have ever done in life. It filled me with awe and gratitude. I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone to ask their grandparents about their life stories and their ancestors. It will surely be an unexpected journey of discovery, remembrance, and thanksgiving.

I am lucky to have all four grandparents still living healthily. They are in their late seventies and mid eighties. Every meeting with them could be the last time I see them. This very real urgency added to my curiosity about their life, their times, and by extension, who I am, and where I came from.

2014/11/30

China Impressions

It's been two years since I last set foot on the homeland, so it was with eager and curious eyes that I observed the country on the recent 3-week trip. Here are some impressions that stood out.

1. Bad news first: the environmental crises, especially the air quality, are even worse than I expected. The APEC-blue did just a little to clear the skies. Driving from Inner Mongolia all the way to Shanghai, we were submerged in dense smog the whole way, except for a few rare relief in the mountains.

Talking to people in the government, business and the legal system provided some clue to the cause of the eco-crises. The systems (political, economic, and social) incentivize pollution, and provide no check-and-balance. The fragile moral fabric does not withstand the pounding force of state capitalism and greed. Many people are getting sick, and dying of cancer. It is heart-breaking. I used to think that I will bike across China in the next few years, but now it seems suicidal to do it to the lung.