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How Big Data Can Help Us Understand Our Own DNA
Don't be afraid of looking into your own genetic make-up.
A lot of people don't want to know, but I'd like to know if I have a 10 percent or a 90 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's some day. If I know I’m likely to develop it, I’m certainly going to start looking around right now to find if there is something that I can do to offset it. So Yasmine Delawari Johnson, who is the young woman featured in the book, is actually two months pregnant in this photograph [See below]. She’s about to have her first daughter, who was actually born recently.
Her dad is from Afghanistan; her mother’s from Italy, and she’s always been very interested in her family heritage and she thought it would be very valuable to know what genes and traits she’s passing on to her daughter. She was very happy to share those with the world, which I was grateful to her for.
The second story that deals with genes and genetic sequencing and understanding our own DNA is related to this site 23andMe. It’s Mohammed Ali, who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. What he’s done is team up with 23andMe, and they’ve invited 10,000 people around the world to basically donate their DNA. They’ll do this genetic sequencing test on their DNA because there's apparently a gene they've discovered that indicates you will probably develop Parkinson’s. But some people have the gene and never develop Parkinson’s. They're trying to figure out if there is some kind of switch that turns that gene on and off.
I think the whole idea is to not be afraid of looking into your own genetic make-up. Maybe you’ll find diseases that right now we don’t have a cure for. Other people just want to stick their heads in the ground and don't want to know about it. I would prefer to know and then again try to learn as much I can about what appears to ameliorate that or keep it at bay as long as possible.
In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.
"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.
- The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
- It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
- Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"We had to be really careful," Schmidt told St. Louis Public Radio. "We couldn't disturb anything at all, because at that point, it was under law enforcement investigation. They were telling us, 'Don't even make footprints,' and I was thinking, 'How are we supposed to do that?'"</p><p>Another difficulty was the mammoth size of the skull: about 7 feet long and more than 3,000 pounds. (For context, the largest triceratops skull ever unearthed was about <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02724634.2010.483632" target="_blank">8.2 feet long</a>.) The skull of Schmidt's dinosaur was likely a <em>Triceratops prorsus, </em>one of two species of triceratops that roamed what's now North America about 66 million years ago.</p>
Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College<p>The triceratops was an herbivore, but it was also a favorite meal of the T<em>yrannosaurus rex</em>. That probably explains why the Dakotas contain many scattered triceratops bone fragments, and, less commonly, complete bones and skulls. In summer 2019, for example, a separate team on a dig in North Dakota made <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">headlines</a> after unearthing a complete triceratops skull that measured five feet in length.</p><p>Michael Kjelland, a biology professor who participated in that excavation, said digging up the dinosaur was like completing a "multi-piece, 3-D jigsaw puzzle" that required "engineering that rivaled SpaceX," he jokingly told the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/07/26/science/triceratops-skull-65-million-years-old.html" target="_blank">New York Times</a>.</p>
Morrison Formation in Colorado
James St. John via Flickr
|Credit: Nobu Tamura/Wikimedia Commons|
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.
- One especially mysterious thing about the asteroid impact, which killed the dinosaurs, is how it transformed Earth's tropical rainforests.
- A recent study analyzed ancient fossils collected in modern-day Colombia to determine how tropical rainforests changed after the bolide impact.
- The results highlight how nature is able to recover from cataclysmic events, though it may take millions of years.