43
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
39
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
18
votes
1answer
468 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 ...
9
votes
6answers
1k 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' ...
7
votes
1answer
130 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 ...
34
votes
4answers
7k 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 ...
24
votes
5answers
694 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 ...
19
votes
4answers
5k 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 ...
20
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 ...
14
votes
6answers
1k 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?
11
votes
3answers
704 views

What evolutionary explanations are there for 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?
24
votes
1answer
593 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 ...
11
votes
1answer
259 views

What elements are a possible basis for life?

I've been told that life on earth is carbon-based, Then I got curious about one thing: What are the possible bases for life and under which circumstances could lifr based on other elements exist? If ...
9
votes
1answer
2k 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?
6
votes
3answers
213 views

How does a person get AIDS?

I am inquisitive to know about how a person contracts AIDS. Among the common masses it's still the belief that having sex with multiple partners causes the disease but that is not the case when read ...
42
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
18
votes
7answers
4k views

Why does evolution not make our life longer?

Why does evolution not make life longer for humans or any other species?
6
votes
3answers
285 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 ...
19
votes
1answer
294 views

Extremely rare occurence of Heart cancer?

The occurrence of Heart cancer (similar, but not the same as Rhabdomyosarcoma) is extremely rare, about 1 per year according to MayoClinic. The reason for this rarity is explained to be the ...
18
votes
2answers
813 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, ...
15
votes
5answers
3k views

Why are not all species hermaphrodites?

If a hermaphrodite animal (like slug, snail, etc) finds a partner they can mate immediately. If another animal with "normal" reproduction (lets say a mouse) finds a partner they can only mate if they ...
27
votes
4answers
499 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
4answers
1k 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 ...
14
votes
3answers
607 views

What causes a 'stuffy' or 'runny' nose when you have a cold?

When humans get the common cold, a common symptom is a stuffy or runny nose. Is that the body's immune response or is that the virus's doing?
14
votes
1answer
520 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 ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Do apes and humans share 99% of DNA or 99% of genes? What is the difference?

I made an answer on the Scifi.SE that can be read here. It is about how the characters in the story Jurassic Park might have gotten DNA for all the species shown. In my answer, I said this: Apes ...
18
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
17
votes
2answers
399 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 ...
15
votes
5answers
633 views

How is evolution possible in contemporary humans?

I would like to know if evolution is continuing to happen in modern humans, assuming things like existence of the nuclear family structure, fidelity to one partner, etc. It seems to me the answer ...
14
votes
1answer
868 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?
8
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 ...
25
votes
2answers
4k 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?
25
votes
3answers
385 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 ...
13
votes
3answers
988 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
143 views

Can life subsist on anything else but water?

Inspired by an answer to a previous question. It's hypothesized that extraterrestrial life could be based on silicon rather than carbon as its main structural element. Are there similar theories ...
7
votes
1answer
423 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
608 views

What gives things their colour?

My 6 year old daughter asked me 2 biology-related questions yesterday and I tried my best to answer them with the aid of YouTube videos. One of the questions (I may post the other one too) was ...
3
votes
3answers
733 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 ...
3
votes
3answers
854 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.
18
votes
2answers
3k 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 ...
17
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?
8
votes
1answer
318 views

Could humans and chimpanzees hybridize?

In some cases two species can hybridize. For example, Tigers and lions can hybridize to produce "Ligers". Would it also be possible for humans and chimpanzees (or any other species) to hybridize ? ...
8
votes
1answer
170 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
239 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
219 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
1answer
102 views

Do genes play a role in the athleticism and shape of a person?

I am an Indian with a small thin stature with some deposition of fat around my belly.I was wondering if genes play a role in fat deposition in the body for Indian, Chinese, European or African people. ...
2
votes
1answer
73 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 ...
1
vote
2answers
81 views

Transitivity of Species Definitions

There are many definitions of "species" which usually take the form Two individuals are of the same species if ... An implied (rarely made explicit) property of any sensible species definition ...
-3
votes
3answers
441 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 ...
48
votes
3answers
23k 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 ...

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