The Ghost in Your Genes

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It was late Wednesday night, and I, in my unfortunately developed routine, was up at 2:00 am wanting to go to sleep, but still wide awake. So, plodding through the internet, I came across this amazingly captivating documentary The Ghost in Your Genes.

The Ghost in Your Genes is a documentary about the groundbreaking new field of epigenetics. Wikipedia defines epigenetics as referring to heritable traits that have had changes in “phenotype (appearance) or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. These changes may remain through cell divisions for the remainder of the cell’s life and may also last for multiple generations.” As there is no change in the underlying DNA sequence of the organism, non-genetic factors cause the organism’s genes to behave or “express themselves'” differently.

In other words, epigenetics proposes that genes are not as static and one dimensional, as was once believed. It suggests that not only does traditional molecular DNA inheritace effect human characteristics, health, and personality, but that environmental factors effect human traits and health, as well, by modifying the way the inherited DNA chromosomes function. It also suggests that these epigenetic modifications can last generations past the environmental experience which caused the alteration. This implies, simply, that how our ancestors lived, ate, and even argued is directly influencing our health and psychology today.

The Ghost in Your Genes (Horizon 2005)

The scientists who believe your genes are shaped in part by your ancestors’ life experiences.

Note: This original documentary was broadcast in 2005 on the BBC. PBS NOVA has aired an updated version on October 16, 2007, which has new scientists and new data, and which is worth the watch.

See the updated NOVA version here.

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Six Degrees of Separation

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The science of networking is totally fascinating to me. I have always, personally, been interested why things function the way they do, and more specifically why humans function the way they do.

Why does one blush when another says something flattering about them? And why, in relationships, does it seem that people like the chase, but not like being chased?

The understanding of how things are built, or organized, is the basis of understanding why they function in a particular way, from the microscopic to the macro cosmic. For example, if I understand how emotions work within the brain, and then how that relates to blood flow, then my question about blushing is answered. The science of networks addresses this issue of organization. Understanding networks informs us about how things are, and, therefore, why things behave the way they do.

The following documentary is about networks, and how the science of networks is being used today in a variety of ways.

Six Degrees of Separation (BBC)

Documentary unfolding the science behind the idea of six degrees of separation. Originally thought to be an urban myth, it now appears that anyone on the planet can be connected in just a few steps of association. Six degrees of separation is also at the heart of a major scientific breakthrough; that there might be a law which nature uses to organize itself and that now promises to solve some of its deepest mysteries.

The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow

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Years ago I heard about the accomplishments of Dr. Temple Grandin with regard to slaughter houses and animal welfare. I was so curious about this woman, who she was, and how she had come to this fundamental understanding of cows, which until then had never been understood. The documentary below explains her story.

The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow (Horizon 2006)

Dr. Temple Grandin has a unique ability to understand the animal mind – and she’s convinced her skill is down to her autistic brain.

Temple believes she experiences life like an animal. Her emotions are much simpler than most people’s and she feels constantly anxious. It’s this struggle with overwhelming anxiety that led her to discover just how much she has in common with animals and, in particular, cows.

Using her ability to observe the world through an animal’s eye, she has been able to make an enormous impact on animal welfare. Her greatest achievement has been in the area of slaughterhouses – she has fundamentally changed the way animals are held and slaughtered.

Today she’s an associate professor of animal science, a best-selling author and the most famous autistic woman on the planet.

Dr. Money and the Boy with No Penis

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It is a lazy Saturday afternoon, and I am relaxing at home. As I don’t have cable, I have been watching hulu and looking for some good documentaries online to watch, as well. Today I came across this powerful documentary, which left me in tears, by then end.

Dr. Money and the Boy with No Penis (Horizon 2004)

This is the story of twin boys, Brian and Bruce, born healthy babies, who would come to live tragic lives because of one scientist’s radical theory.