What I'm Reading (June 23)

Related articles

Knowing our genetic structure is just the tip of understanding what makes us.
A public health victory in the time of COVID
The trees are talking to one another
For some, the gift of blood is more of a saleable commodity

“Humans, it seems, have far fewer genes than had been expected — in fact, only a third more than the lowly roundworm. How can this be? And what does it mean? Are we really so similar to, and so little more than, mere worms? … For the answer to this question, it seems that we will have to look to the regulatory dynamics that determine how the sequence information of the DNA is to be used by the cell. Here, in the complex regulation of genetic transcription, of translation, of protein structure and function, is where we will find what makes us human beings rather than worms, flies or mice. Knowledge of the sequence of our DNA can tell us an enormous amount, but it can almost certainly not tell us who we are.”

We need to think of life as a verb, not a noun. But let me leave the real nuance to the author, Dr. Evelyn Fox Keller. The century of the gene

With all the bad publicity, the public health response to COVID is considered a disaster. But is this the exception to the meme?

“The spiraling case count made clear how much individual behavior and local conditions mattered to the transmission of the virus. A tropical storm had churned up the coast that holiday week, and the weather had been cold and rainy enough to drive people indoors instead of enticing them onto beaches and balconies. And though federal guidance said vaccinated people were safe indoors and face-to-face, that didn’t account for the unique context of Provincetown—especially its thousands of seasonal workers, some unvaccinated or under-vaccinated, bunking in campgrounds and crowded temporary housing. The town government reacted by recommending masks on July 19 and mandating them on July 25, but the outbreak tore through the workforce.”

From Wired, looking back on the Provincetown “Cluster,” When Covid Came for Provincetown

“I’ve used the word intelligence in my writing because I think that scientifically we attribute intelligence to certain structures and functions. When we dissect a plant and the forest and look at those things—Does it have a neural network? Is there communication? Is there perception and reception of messages? Will you change behaviors depending on what you’re perceiving? Do you remember things? Do you learn things? Would you do something differently if you had experienced something in the past?—those are all hallmarks of intelligence. Plants do have intelligence. They have all the structures. They have all the functions. They have the behaviors.”

Are forests super-organisms; is the wood wide web real? From Nautil.us, Never Underestimate the Intelligence of Trees

“These days, most of us take for granted that human blood can be extracted, stored, and infused in patients. But this hasn’t always been the case. The history of blood donation tells a remarkable and optimistic story of human altruism, ingenuity, and social organization—but also of greed, racism, and negligence.”

I’ve written about how the American Red Cross sells the blood we donate and the significant traffic of blood products within the country and internationally. This article from Sapiens caught my eye, Is Donated Blood a Gift or Commodity?