I went to grad school in Boston, and my baseball allegiances were completely overwhelmed by the Red Sox. But now I’m back in the Midwest where most of my friends and family have Cubs fever. Since my team has won the whole thing three times already in the 21st century (and has been particularly lousy the last two years), I’m pulling for the Cubbies now, who are well into their 2nd century without a World Series.
I plan to spend a fair amount of time this weekend on the couch watching the baseball playoffs—though undoubtedly with the laptop in position, trying to clear out my inbox. That’s what’s so great about watching baseball: you only need to glance at the TV for a split second a couple of times per minute, and you can still follow what’s going on! But perhaps baseball is not your cup of tea, and you’re looking for something else to watch. Here’s a 48 minute presentation on genetics that is well worth the time.
I met the presenter a couple of weeks ago at a conference in Buffalo. Dr. Stephen Schaffner is a computational biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT (he mentions he’s a Patriots fan, so I can only assume he’s a fellow member of Red Sox Nation). His talk was on the genetic evidence for human evolution, and it has just been posted on YouTube. Here are the points about evolution he makes and illustrates:
- Populations change genetically from generation to generation
- We carry a record of those changes in our DNA
- Shared changes come from a shared ancestor
- Continuing change produces new species
- The process does not stop
Then he gives particularly compelling genetic evidence for human common ancestry with the great apes, with detailed (yet accessible) discussion of the gene we’re missing to produce vitamin C and of retrovirus “fossils” in our DNA . If you’ve wondered how geneticists come to the conclusions they do, this is a good place to start.
What do you find compelling or confusing about this? Let’s talk in the comments. I’ll try to contribute to the discussion between pitches (and sometimes Dr. Schaffner himself can be spotted in the Forum).