Thursday, August 11, 2005

Never Enough Science TV Department

If you have yet to see it, I strongly urge you to check out The Science Channel's six-part miniseries, Miracle Planet. I realize that documentaries is not everyone's cup of tea, but the information in here is very cutting-edge. I'm utterly amazed at how much more we've learned since my high-school years regarding how Earth was formed and how life came to be. It also drives home the point that life is a lot more durable than we believe, that it has survived catastrophe almost beyond imagining. (The graphics are a bit overdone--in one scene, you can clearly see the Milky Way behind the Earth, while in reality it would be lost in the glare of reflected sunlight off the surface of our planet. But I quibble.)

It got me thinking....

Junk DNA is genetic material which, to the best of our knowledge, serves no immediate function. Some of it is ancient hangovers--legacies from long-extinct ancestors currently suppressed. Some of it appears to be gibberish.

What if junk DNA was intended to be used as a buffer against mutation? I'm not talking about bad sci-fi mutations, like the Mutants from This Planet Earth; nor am I talking about the "Superior Mutant" used by my fellow SubGenii. Mutations in DNA can be fatal if they change the way our bodies produce vital proteins. So if you provide a lot of "junk" in the DNA sequence, your chances of mutations in vital code are greatly diminished.

Surely I wasn't the first to come up with it. Surely not.

I wasn't.

If only I could convince the anti-science faction to take this sort of thing seriously--and, simultaneously, not use life's hardiness as proof that we can safely trash the planet. Life may continue, but we may wipe out almost all life we know in the process. No, thank you.

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