evolution of language

Evolution: Science & Language

Like Words, Like Genes Languages, like living organisms, change and evolve over time. Some languages have survived in isolation, while other languages have taken over large populations. Just like our genes, we humans are the vessels in which language spreads. In this post, I’ll show you some pretty cool examples of language evolution; it’s surprising how similar it is to biological evolution. Cerevisiae The scientific name for beer yeast, specifically ale yeast, is Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This yeast, as you’ve learned, has been used in both beer and bread-making for thousands of years. It is, if you will, the OG of…

Neural Networks, Genetic Algorithms

Mimicking Biology Neural networks and genetic algorithms are a type of machine learning that mimics biological systems. Like the name suggests, the way neural networks work is similar to how the nervous system works. Same thing with genetic algorithms, they mimic how genomes evolve over time. Neural Network Nodes make up the different layers of a neural network. These nodes act like neurons and accept or process information. The diagram below is an example that you commonly see when talking about neural networks. The hidden layers between the input and output layers are the algorithms that process information. Hidden Layers…

Machine Learning 101

Follow the White Rabbit The field of artificial intelligence and machine learning has exploded in the last decade. And thanks to The Matrix and Keanu Reeves, it’s all a bit scary and sexy. In this post, I’ll talk about some basic concepts of machine learning. Like with kids, there are different “learning styles”; in the case of the machines, they’re known as either supervised or unsupervised learning. Semantics You can teach a child to do something. You can even teach a dog! But, you cannot teach a machine. The word is train. Write that down because machine learning people will…

How Nerves Fire

Whack! OUCH! Ever wonder how pain from a whacked hand gets to your brain so quickly? Also, what do people mean when they say we have electrical impulses inside our bodies? In this post, we’ll take a look at how nerves send messages throughout your body. Though, let’s not call it “firing nerves”, in biology we use the term “action potential”. Anatomy of a Neuron A neuron is a nerve cell. It resembles a smashed spider with a long, frayed tail. The spider part is analogous to the cell body, the long tail is the axon, and the frayed end…

Nanoparticles

Tiny UPS… or something You’ve learned about phage therapy, quorum sensing and quorum quenching, which means, hello PhD! I’m just kidding, no grad student has the time to jump from topic to topic like this. But for us curious nerds, the next topic in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria is nanoparticles. Specifically, using them to deliver drugs. Sometimes, antibiotics don’t reach the cell because of the biofilm, and this physical problem requires a physical solution: tiny delivery systems. Nanoparticles Nanoparticles are usually some sort of metal or carbon polymer. They have a positive charge so that they can interact…

Quorum Sensing

Chattering Bacteria Ever notice how animals are able to communicate, move, hunt, and travel in large groups? Bacteria are no different. Quorum sensing, in the simplest sense, is bacteria chatter. Instead of using words, they use chemicals. Once these communication chemicals build up to a certain level, they affect gene expression and transcription. Antibiotic Resistance If you’ve been following along, you probably read about phage therapy, one of the novel ways to treat antibiotic resistance bacteria. As promised, I’m introducing another method: quorum sensing. The goal of quorum sensing research is to figure out how bacteria talk to each other….

Phage Therapy

Evolving Bacteria Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem. This shouldn’t be a surprise though, because if you exert pressure on a population, it will evolve. What we are seeing today is the evolution of bacteria from our overuse of antibiotics, from farms to hospitals to personal use. We don’t have any clear answers at the moment, but phage therapy looks quite promising. Using Phages Phages or bacteriophages are viruses that target bacteria. You can find phages on the table, on you, in ponds, etc. Delivery of isolated phages (via injection or inhalation) to the site of infection is what phage…

Correlation, Causation, and the NFL

It’s Football Season… Tom Brady posted about the Madden “curse” the other day and it got me thinking, “Is it really a curse or just clever manipulation of events?” Of course, this reminded me of how often people confuse correlation with causation. My initial example (on my Instagram account) was about vaccines and autism (that’s a link to the retraction), but it drew too much heat. So, let’s try this again with football and the NFL. What is the Curse There are currently 21 Madden covers (1999-2019) and 24 players that have graced the covers. But before I begin my…

sterilization

Sterilization of Milk

Ah! Milk on the Shelf If you’ve ever traveled to Europe, you’ll notice something interesting. In the grocery stores, milk and eggs sit out in the aisles unrefrigerated. What kind of magic is this?! The secret to Europe’s room temperature dairy products is sterilization and vaccinations. Milk Bacteria While pasteurization kills most of the bacteria in milk, sterilization kills all the bacteria. It may not seem like a big difference, but without any living microorganisms in the milk, there‚Äôs no chance of it spoiling at room temperature. Milk can be stored at room temperature as long as the container is…