I admit this is a fairly random post, but I always appreciate a nice free picture to use in documents and presentations. In the spirit of open source, here are diagrams of the human and dog skeletons I touched up in Gimp and Photoshop.
Cheetahs are the fastest land animals on Earth. But why aren’t they even faster? And how did leopards, which live in the same habitat but run only half as fast, survive the competition? Obviously, other conflicting evolutionary factors exist besides speed. Cheetahs are worse tree-climbers than leopards, probably due to their semiretractable claws that are a disadvantage in climbing but an advantage in running.
We all know someone who believes he can do everything and be the best at everything he does. Metaphorically speaking, he thinks he can have the speed of a cheetah and the climbing ability of a leopard. Biology teaches us that as cool as that would be, trade-offs exist. I’m not trying to rain on your optimistic parade, but don’t deceive yourself; you can’t do and be everything.
In evolutionary biology the only measure of life success is reproduction; thus evolutionary trade-offs are only relevant as they impact reproductive success. In contrast, if you ask people to define success in life, few will cite maximizing their number of offspring. We as humans have redefined what it means to have a successful life, although we are not immune to the evolutionary consequences of such a decision.
Putting evolutionary consequences aside, if we as humans can choose how to define success, why do we often let others define success for us? I think this is especially foolish when common-held definitions of success do not result in happiness. Thinking of the end of life is a useful way to focus on a personally meaningful definition of success. If today was your last day to live, what would you regret? What would you wish you did more or less?
Living a fulfilling life begins with a personally meaningful definition of success.
One of my favorite sites to visit is the Cell Picture Show. What is the Cell Picture Show?
A place to showcase striking images in cell, developmental, and molecular biology; a place to learn about cutting-edge research with beautiful images.
This past weekend I attended the UT Arlington vs Utah State basketball game and experienced UTA’s new College Park Center for the first time. The game was highly entertaining as UTA put on a dominating performance in the victory.
I was impressed by the facility and agree with UTA President James Spaniolo who sees UTA becoming a basketball powerhouse in the next 10 years. When you experience a game in this facility you can’t help but see future greatness. It is just a matter of time.
The next time your parent or spouse suggests you need to lay off the video games, simply reply: I’m not wasting time, I’m practicing to become a surgeon.
In a study published yesterday in PLoS One, scientists found that playing the Wii improved laparoscopic surgery performance metrics. See figure below:
Here is an excerpt from the paper that summarizes the methodology and findings:
We performed a prospective randomized study on 42 post-graduate I–II year residents in General, Vascular and Endoscopic Surgery. All participants were tested on a validated laparoscopic simulator and then randomized to group 1 (Controls, no training with the Nintendo® Wii™), and group 2 (training with the Nintendo® Wii™) with 21 subjects in each group, according to a computer-generated list. After four weeks, all residents underwent a testing session on the laparoscopic simulator of the same tasks as in the first session. All 42 subjects in both groups improved significantly from session 1 to session 2. Compared to controls, the Wii group showed a significant improvement in performance (p<0.05) for 13 of the 16 considered performance metrics.
Perhaps medical schools should consider recruiting from the Wii leaderboards.
I have had a lot of things on my mind lately and was inspired to write my thoughts on the difference between debating and contemplating.
Debate is a discussion of opposing viewpoints.
You will often hear people claim that debates aren’t personal. Don’t believe them. Anytime there are winners and losers, it is personal. Those who tend to like debate are typically bullheaded and think they continue to rack up victories, although all that is really happening is people just get tired of talking with them and leave.
Rather than think about alternative views, debate simply argues opposing views. Arguing opposing views never solves problems because problem solving is a creative process. Look to politics to see how productive debate can be. With debate everyone loses.
Contemplating is to observe and study thoughtfully.
With contemplating the focus is on thinking, not mindlessly arguing. I have had the pleasure of contemplating many topics over the years with my lovely wife. When we contemplate issues we bring our viewpoints together and synthesize greater knowledge and understanding. The whole process is uplifting and never contentious. Everyone wins because everyone participates in the thinking and the learning. Contemplation is a creative process.
To me contemplating is embodied by the image of a bench overlooking a beautiful ocean. Take the opportunity to sit down together with people at this bench and thoughtfully observe and study issues.
ESPN just posted an article on Michael Vick restructuring his deal and signing with the Philadelphia Eagles for one more year. The article provides a great example of meaningless statistics.
Vick seems equipped to run the aggressive, up-tempo offense that Kelly is bringing to the Eagles from Oregon.
However, Kelly’s offense is predicated on designed runs, which Vick has struggled with. Over the last two seasons, he has averaged 6.7 yards per rush on scrambles but just 1.7 yards per rush on designed runs, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Is 6.7 yards per scramble good? Is 1.7 yards per designed run bad? We don’t know the answers to these questions unless we know how other quarterbacks in the league performed. With statistics context is everything.
Football, like many things, is complex. Maybe 1.7 yards per designed run isn’t great. Does that mean Vick can’t do designed runs? Maybe it means that the threat of him running has forced defenses to play more men on the line of scrimmage, thus opening up the passing game. The truth requires examining the whole story.
Speaking of examining the whole story, what is the difference between a scramble and a designed run?
A scramble means that the passing play has broken down and the quarterback is trying to salvage the play by running for a few yards. The number of yards gained in this situation is really a function of the quarterback’s Houdini skills and speed. If you watch film of Michael Vick it is clear he excels in both categories.
A designed run is when the coach calls a play that intends for the quarterback to run. The success of designed runs depends on a quarterback’s running ability, but it’s also heavily influenced by the design of the play and when in the context of the game it is called. Coaches, not quarterbacks, design and call plays. If Michael Vick failed at designed runs (which we don’t know is true since his 1.7 yards are not in the context of other players at his position in the league), it is probably the fault of the coaches since it is clear to anyone who watches him play, the man knows how to run.
The idea that Michael Vick is good at scrambling but not designed runs just doesn’t make any sense. Statistics should not replace common sense.
If you are into comparative genomics like me, I highly recommend the site AutoGRAPH for looking at synteny. According to the website, “It is designed for constructing and visualizing synteny maps between two or three species, determination and display of macrosynteny and microsynteny relationships among species, and for highlighting evolutionary breakpoints.”
Today I downloaded synteny maps for the dog and human and put them together in Adobe Illustrator. I think this is a fun way to visualize synteny for all chromosomes simultaneously. Note, this figure is dog-centric because it uses the dog for the reference chromosomes.