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Bio 103, week 7

Paul Grobstein's picture

Welcome to the on-line forum for Biology 103.  This is a place for thoughts in progress, a place to leave thoughts and questions that others may find useful and find ones that you might find useful, a place for conversation.  Join in, and let's see what we can make of life together.  If you're registered for the course, be sure to sign in before posting.  Others are welcome to join in as well but posting of comments will be delayed to check for spam.  You're free to write about whatever has struck you.  If you need something to get you started though, we've wrapped up (for now) our discussion of evolution and are moving on to what we can learn about life starting at small scales and moving progressively to larger ones.  Are observations at the scale of atoms and molecules useful for making sense of properties of life we've observed/discussed at larger scales?  In what ways?   

lcorhan's picture

the little guys matter too :'(

Are observations at the scale of cells and molecules useful for making sense of properties of life we've observed/discussed at larger scales?  In what ways? 

I think properties are kind of innate and therefore start on the microscopic level then move out to where we as humans can notice them. Everything has a reason behind it or a perspective of its own. Sometimes i feel that by digging deeper (i.e. seeing things on a smaller scale) we can start to find the reasons and see the persepctives.  

Anne Dalke's picture

Transcending classification?

On Thursday, November 5, from 10-11:30 a.m., author, playwright and performance artist Kate Bornstein will be holding an "Informal Conversation about Transcending Gender" in the Quita Woodward Room @ Bryn Mawr. Sandwiches and drinks will be served.

You may have seen one of Kate's performances; you may have read one of her books--Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women and the Rest of Us; My Gender Workbook; or (most recently) Hello, Cruel World: 101 Alternatives To Suicide For Teens, Freaks, and Other Outlaws. Or you may not have heard of her and her work. But here's your chance to talk with her about artistry and activism; about sex positivity, gender anarchy, and building a coalition of those who live on cultural margins. She's eager to hear your thoughts and questions.

Sponsored by the Bi-College Program in Gender and Sexuality and the Greater Philadelphia Women's Studies consortium.
Questions? Please contact Anne Dalke:

Terrible2s's picture


This class does a great job of scaring me. On Wednesday we talked about extinction and how there is a high chance that we will one day become extinct. 90% of all species have become extinct?? Our chances are low...

With all the green movements and environment consciousness, we tend to try to send out the message "save the earth." But as professor grobstein said, the earth is pretty resilient. We're killing ourselves.

I feel like that would be a much better message--"save us!" Yes I care about the environment and all the other species we are killing along the way, but they put the message out like a nagging mother about a dirty room, "save our planet, keep our home clean." I think we need to start thinking about ourselves to maybe make some change, because goodness knows we humans don't care much about the rest of the earth.

I guess I wish we could care about both ourselves and the rest of the earth. Either case we have to stop doing damage that might bring us to extinction!

Karina G's picture

Week 7

"Life is a particular assembly of atoms."  It was about time to finally know the difference between an elephant, a human and a desk :)

The difference is the assembly of atoms. However this raises more intriguing questions that we are just beginning to explore. Since there are over 100 atoms there is an infinite number of possible assemblies.  This could mean that there are things/ species or features that we haven't seen and that can pop up all of the sudden. How do these combinations happen? I think that is the question we are beginning to respond since we are learning some of the properties of these elements.

So far we can say that some atoms have the need to stabilize and other atoms are willing to help. :) That is how bonds happen. But we also cannot forget the charge of these atoms. How does the net charge of atoms affect life?

Our discussion on polar bonds was not clear to me. What I understood is that oxygen doesn't take away the electron from Hydrogen unlike Cl from Na. The electron becomes more associated with the oxygen. What does this mean and why does it happen?

Are there any instances where the electron is shared?

So many questions.....



Yashaswini's picture

Humans and supreme power?

 The discussion about the possibility of the human race wiping out every other form of life on Earth seemed very disturbing. Since the very beginning, human beings have taken undue advantage of their environment which has resulted in the loss of a variety of flora and fauna, as seen by the extinction and endangering of several species such as the.. dodo, and the Royal Bengal Tiger, respectively. We have managed, in the past, to wipe out entire species to fulfil our vested interests and nothing will prevent us from doing so in the future. If anything, we are technologically more advanced and have greater greed and need to satisfy.

However, as pointed out by several others during class discussions, life on Earth is interlinked and interdependent, and as much as we would like to believe otherwise, our existence is dependent, if not completely determined, by the existence of other life forms. If we set out to disturb the environmental equilibrium and wipe out various species, we will be courting self-destruction. And going by past probability, I fear the courting will prove to be fruitful. Sort of like a suicide bomber setting out to destroy his target, skillfuly succeeding, but ending up destroying himself as well, in the process.

JPierre's picture

Humans vs. Everything else

I thought Friday's discussion about humans having the power to destroy all living organisms was interesting. As we noted in class, this would be impossible simply because humans are dependent on all other life to live themselves. The relationship ebtween humans and other organisms is interedependency with both needed one anotehr to survive. The realization although obvious, is a bit profound for me and it draw backs to some of the themes that we spoke of in previous weeks. Nothing in this world is independent of one another and all these organisms need each other to live, even the "great and mighty" humans. This reminds me of the discussion we had concerning evolution and how aspects of current life stem from  other previous and ancient aspects of living organisms.

cejensen's picture

Small Scales to Large Scales

Again, we return to the topic of scale. As I have said previously, viewing things at scales other than the one we primarily use is key to finding similarities. Therefore, viewing things at small scales is very important. Indeed, viewing things at such small scales does reveal some similarities. For example, everything is comprised of atoms, and, as we discussed in class, we have more kinds of atoms than we do building blocks for atoms. Already we find that, even though things are made up of different kinds of atoms, all atoms are comprised of the same building blocks. With this knowledge, when we "zoom out" and look again at things on a larger scale, we can appreciate that things are more similar than they seem.

Kalyn's picture

Scaling Pesepctives

I agree about finding similarities. Humans strive to gain multiple perspectives through scaling things for the purpose of finding similarities. Even if similarity does not exist the human mind requires a method or concept to grasp. This is necessary in order to teach a concept to others. If you can not explain something it is difficult to teach and proves even harder for another person to comprehend. It's our human curiosity to understand that has produced the understanding we have now and this knowledge will foster additional understanding in the future.

People bother to scale because we are aware of our own biases and such that limit a person from seeing "the big picture." When you really think about all the things that shape one person's outlook on life the influences become endless. From this you can get a true glimpse of how much possibility exists for seeing something in various perspectives. These discoveries lead to new insights in various disciplines that can lead to the discovery of new ways to scale something.

ktan's picture

Time, Evolution and Human Extinction

Our discussion about the extinction of the human race really intrigued me because there are so many ways of viewing this debate. There is the scare that the human race will wipe itself out due to its own actions, thus the ever-present "Global warming" issues that have sparked several debates of whether it is an actual issue, or something that people don't need to worry about.

My viewpoint on this issue? There are some events which could most definitely wipe us out, but it would have to be a one-time, sudden, big enough impact, such as a meteor (or other space-related object) collision, or nuclear in terms of MAD (mutually assured destruction), or to include a religious side, divine intervention. Don't get me wrong--I do believe in the potentially catastrophic effects of global warming--I have witnessed its devastating effects on my own people, my own country just very recently, but I doubt that humanity would go extinct because of it. We're pretty smart and very adaptable. And we can be pretty tough when it comes to survival.

The dinos didn't develop our kind of technology as fast as we are able to, and I believe humans have more resources in their favor than any other species, in terms of brain power, being on top of the food chain, physical attributes, etc, so I truly believe that the human race will continue for a long time. The idea of evolution in this line of thought is very welcome as well, because as I mentioned, I do believe that global warming (or if you don't believe in that, then the natural way the world will change and how human presence is changing it) will inevitably lead to human evolution. Whether we need to adapt to living underwater or outer space, I believe we (or our descendants) will live to see that day.

But of course, the above is my viewpoint. But I do know that we will NEVER know what will happen, we can only guess. Along with the idea that we don’t know what is real—human intelligence is SO small and limited that something so completely out of our understanding can interfere with the reality or life, or whatever as we know it. It's pretty exhilarating, actually.