40
votes
4answers
4k views

Why 22 amino acids instead of 64?

This question got me thinking about amino acids and the ambiguity in the genetic code. With 4 nucleotides in RNA and 3 per codon, there are 64 codons. However, these 64 codons only code for 22 ...
16
votes
1answer
388 views

Do trees age on a microscopic level?

Most animals age via at least two mechinisms: at a "macroscopic" level, basically wear and tear to the point where (on evolutionary time scales) it's more genetically advantageous to optimize for ...
8
votes
6answers
930 views

Human evolution: Where *exactly* did the first human come from, whose parents were not?

Layman here. So I have never really quite understood this facet of human evolution, (or any other for that matter), in that, I understand the evolutionary process, but I get lost on the 'border' ...
5
votes
1answer
97 views

Why must a planet be in a star's “habitable zone” to have life?

I have seen many articles that talk about a star's "habitable zone" as the ring around it which is just the right temperature for planets to have liquid water, which is necessary for life. My question ...
32
votes
4answers
6k views

How does the brain's energy consumption depend on mental activity?

What is the impact of mental activity on the energy consumption of the human brain? I am most interested in intellectually demanding tasks (e.g., chess matches, solving a puzzle, taking a difficult ...
23
votes
5answers
598 views

Why do we age? or Do we have a theory of senescence?

There seem to be a number of ideas about why we age. Hypotheses include the gradual accumulation of cell metabolic products affecting organism function and the reduction of telomere length during cell ...
18
votes
4answers
4k views

How many genes do we share with our mother?

Somewhere I have read we share more than 99% of our genes with every other other person and 98% of our genes with chimpanzees. What does this mean? Don't we share 50% of our genes with our mother and ...
19
votes
3answers
1k views

Is it necessary to conduct a power analysis before beginning an experiment?

I know that power analysis is the statistically valid way to ensure you use the correct numer of samples or repeats in an experiment. But I have never seen any biologist actually conduct a power ...
22
votes
1answer
478 views

How long will a vegetable live for after being harvested?

I understand this might depend on the types of vegetables, but is there an average or studied specifics? Does it die immediately? Is there a way to precisely diagnose death in plants? If so, what are ...
8
votes
1answer
1k views

Why can hair grow without limit while eyebrow cannot?

I cut my eyebrow and it grows until reach a certain length. Hair can grow without limit. Why can hair grow without limit while eyebrow cannot?
40
votes
3answers
1k views

Why did the process of sleep evolve in many animals? What is its evolutionary advantage?

The process of sleep seems to be very disadvantageous to an organism as it is extremely vulnerable to predation for several hours at a time. Why is sleep necessary in so many animals? What advantage ...
36
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do plants have green leaves and not red?

I know plants are green due to chlorophyll. Surely it would be more beneficial for plants to be red than green as by being green they reflect green light and do not absorb it even though green light ...
5
votes
3answers
276 views

How does “be altruist to those who are similar to you” evolve?

There are many cases when people commit altruism. One is relationship. I am willing to die for 2 of my children or 8 nieces, say an evolutionary psychologist. Another is reciprocal altruism, which is ...
26
votes
4answers
460 views

Why are amino acids in biology homochiral?

Why are nearly all amino acids in organisms left-handed (exception is glycine which has no isomer) when abiotic samples typical have an even mix of left- and right-handed molecules?
17
votes
2answers
657 views

Why Is Most Life Symmetrical Externally But Not Internally?

Mammals, reptiles, arachnids, insects, etc are all as far as I am aware symmetrical in appearance. Take a human for instance, make a line from the top of our head right down the middle. However, ...
16
votes
4answers
740 views

How do trees manage to grow equally in all directions?

I was walking down a road with these beautifully huge trees when this question occurred to me. Large trees with many thick branches have to grow equally in all directions, or they would tip over. Is ...
13
votes
1answer
462 views

Do large animals often evolve into smaller animals?

There are several examples where the largest animals were killed off preferentially due to a major ecological shift: The KT extinction event The Holocene extinction, as well as the major megafauna ...
17
votes
2answers
951 views

Can rats pass on memories of a maze to their offspring?

A friend of mine told me once about a documentary movie he saw some years ago. On this movie he saw scientists talking about particular experiment. This experiment involved rats and probably ...
16
votes
2answers
365 views

How is temperature sensed?

Can anyone summarize the mechanism by which when an object of a given temperature is placed in contact with, say, the skin on a human fingertip, the average speed of the particles of the object is ...
13
votes
1answer
799 views

What is the smallest number of amino acids required for life?

Is there any hypothesis on the minimum number of amino acids required for life?
12
votes
6answers
997 views

Why isn't a virus “alive”?

The recent news about a new supermassive virus being discovered got me thinking. What biological differences between viruses and cellular organisms have made viruses be deemed non-living?
9
votes
3answers
544 views

What is the evolutionary advantage of death?

I know death and cancer doesn't hurt humans' reproductive success. It's not helping either. Why do we die? Why dying humans (all of us) are common? What's the point of dying?
7
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is saltatory conduction faster than continuous conduction?

How does spacing apart sodium and potassium channels allow the action potential to travel faster down the axon? This is the reason always cited for saltatory conduction and myelination, but my mental ...
23
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the advantage of circular DNA in bacteria?

From what I understand, bacteria have circular DNA. What advantages does it have over linear strands like for eukaryotes? Do there exist bacteria with more than one ring of DNA?
23
votes
3answers
352 views

Is telomere length a reliable measure of health/lifespan?

Several companies are commercializing tests for telomere length such as this one here. I understand the basic mechanism for why telomeres shorten during DNA replication, but how good is the evidence ...
11
votes
3answers
863 views

What implications has the missing 2'-OH on the capability of DNA to form 3D structures?

The chemical difference between RNA and DNA is the missing 2'-hydroxyl group in the nucleotides that build DNA. The major effect of that change that I know of is the higher stability of DNA compared ...
6
votes
1answer
319 views

Which sex has higher variance of reproductive rate in modern societies - male or females?

Who has a more varied reproduction rate in modern western societies - men or women? The average rate is the same of course, but I wonder which sex have higher variance - higher variance means that ...
2
votes
3answers
630 views

Polymorphism in cnidarians?

To me, the phenomenon of polymorphism in cnidarians is particularly troubling. I gather that it essentially refers to existence of various different forms or kinds of individuals, i.e. zooids and ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

Why are there exactly four nucleobases in DNA?

Does someone know why DNA is composed of four nucleobases? In particular, is there an explanation for the number? Why four and not two, or eight?
16
votes
2answers
2k views

What actually happens when my leg 'falls asleep'?

Most people have experienced the temporary loss of feeling and tingling in their leg resulting from sitting in an abnormal position for a short while. Usually you get a loss of feeling in your leg ...
7
votes
1answer
159 views

Why is maintaining a circadian rhythm important?

What are the real consequences of never maintaining a circadian rhythm? How is circadian rhythm important for health and function? Where did it arise in evolution?
5
votes
1answer
195 views

What causes humans to be sleepy?

Is there a hormone or group of hormones that regulates when we feel sleepy late at night, or in the morning? Or is sleepiness caused by some other non-hormonal mechanism? (e.g. pure psychological, ...
3
votes
2answers
214 views

Short-term Lamarckism in asexual single cell organisms

I was reading through the Karr et al. (2012) whole-cell computational model. One of the things they did was to induce single-gene disruptions in their model. They observed several to be fatal, but: ...
2
votes
3answers
626 views

How can homosexuality evolve despite natural selection?

I would imagine that the answer to this question would be population control, especially since even if one sibling is homosexual this does not necessarily mean that the other siblings will be too.
2
votes
1answer
69 views

Do plant-plant interactions inhibit growth?

Plants produce lots of compounds that inhibit (kill or irritate) microorganisms and insects. They have defenses against plant viruses and infections. What kinds of compounds or hormones to plants ...
-3
votes
3answers
361 views

How does the modern theory of evolution solve these apparent problems? [closed]

I hold to the truth of Evolution, but I've encountered several problems with it, that I can't answer, and I can't find an answer for, despite much research. If would be great if anyone can answer ...
42
votes
3answers
20k views

Why is uracil used in RNA rather than thymine?

What is the advantage gained by the substitution of thymine with uracil? I have read previously that it is due to thymine being "better protected" and therefore more suited to the storage role of ...
27
votes
3answers
1k views

Why are there no wheeled animals?

In physics, "almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes." (See Jolly.) Therefore, on Physics SE, people are veering off into different directions: ...
24
votes
3answers
9k views

Death because of distilled water consumption

One of my friends said that I would die if I drank distilled water (we were using it in a chemistry experiment) I gave it a go and surprisingly did not die. I did a bit of Googling and found this ...
17
votes
2answers
1k views

Which organism has the smallest genome length?

Which animal/plant/anything has smallest length genome?
13
votes
3answers
23k views

What is the difference between orthologs, paralogs and homologs?

These three terms are often misused in the literature. Many researchers seem to use them as synonymous. So, what is the definition of each of these terms and how do they differ from one another?
10
votes
3answers
429 views

Mathematical Modelling of Natural Selection

I'm a math undergrad looking for some papers on modelling the process of natural selection. The only paper I've been able to find is by the pre-eminent mathematician Herbert Wilf from 2010, There's ...
15
votes
3answers
685 views

Are single-celled organisms capable of learning?

I've read that the amoeba is capable of learning. Since these protists have no nervous system, it's safe to assume that even highly simplified learning mechanisms of the Aplysia are miles off in the ...
22
votes
4answers
6k views

Is there any advantage to one blood type over another?

All humans can be grouped into ABO and Rh+/- blood groups (at a minimum). Is there any advantage at all to one group or the other? This article hints that there are some pathogens that display a ...
21
votes
4answers
534 views

How many times did endosymbiosis occur?

According to the endosymbiont theory, mitochondria and chloroplasts originated as bacteria which were engulfed by larger cells. How many times is it estimated that this occurred in the past? Are there ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

When has an organism evolved enough to be called a new species?

Imagine that we take a population of horses, split them in half and place them in completely different environments. The two species will evolve separate from each other and because the environment is ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

How did the first self replicating organism come into existence?

When people try to explain evolution, they tell me that evolution is a cumulative result of mutations & natural section of the more superior individuals of a particular species. I think I'm fairly ...
13
votes
1answer
2k views

Why do we grow so much hair on our heads compared to our bodies?

I've been wondering about head hair, facial hair in particular. Human males can grow very extensive beards should they choose to not shave - however you do not really see this in our chimpanzee ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

What makes a gene dominant or recessive

We all carry two copies of each gene (outside of male sex chromosomes). If the two differ from each other often one is dominant and one recessive. How does this mechanism work on a molecular level? ...
6
votes
1answer
443 views

Can you consider a human as alive, or is it the cells on the body that are alive?

Sorry if this question seems strange, but in the recent time I have been interested in the question of what life is and how you can define life. My question: How long can individual cells live on a ...

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