As an animal develops from an embryo, its cells take diverse paths, eventually forming different body parts—muscles, bones, heart. In order for each cell to know what to do during development, it follows a genetic blueprint, which consists of complex webs of interacting genes called gene regulatory networks.
Biologists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have spent the last decade or so detailing how these gene networks control development in sea-urchin embryos. Now, for the first time, they have built a computational model of one of these networks.
This model, the scientists say, does a remarkably good job of calculating what these networks do to control the fates of different cells in the early stages of sea-urchin development—confirming that the interactions among a few dozen genes suffice to tell an embryo how to start the development of different body parts in their respective spatial locations. The model is also a powerful tool for understanding gene regulatory networks in a way not previously possible, allowing scientists to better study the genetic bases of both development and evolution.
I am amazed at the organizational ability and predictive power of nucleic acids. In the molecular world macromolecules as opposed to individual atoms, are huge. In genes they act as architects and planners. They decide what to build, how to build it, where it should go and its appropriate size for the moment. All of this math, planning spacial relationships and proportions are done without neurons playing a conscious role. Now, theoretically anyway, the computational model could be used by a computer some day to direct a vat of genes to start making a sea-urchin. From there one can imagine some reverse engineering to make, say an organ, a healthy one to replace a diseased organ.
An interesting look at how civil law enforcement has evolved over the last decade. Most of that change in response to 9-11-2001. While we saw some of the worse of it exercised against some protesters last fall, much of the public seems to have accepted it as the new normal. City Under Siege
The police presence was not about preventing criminality or violence. Rather, the officers were there both as a show of force and to fulfill what has become the NYPD’s signal philosophy since 9/11: pre-emption. Pre-emption is among the most important philosophical and strategic underpinnings for counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine, and after years of being honed in Fallujah and Kandahar, COIN has been imported to the West, where it compliments the growing militarization of law enforcement and the transformation of local police forces into hybrid paramilitary-intelligence organizations.
Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, a book published two years ago by Stephen Graham, a professor of cities and society at Newcastle University, may be the central text to understanding this new condition.
I’m not on an anti law enforcement binge today. Sometimes they are like the TV shows, the thin blue line that keeps people from becoming victims. Though like any institution – your local city council, school broads, web magazines, law schools, corporations – law enforcement can over reach and moral corruption. Officers in internal affairs divisions of civilian law enforcement and military law enforcement know this better than anyone. This is another instance where law enforcement becomes a blunt instrument of overreaction, Arresting Development: Why Zero Tolerance Policies in Schools Aren’t Working
A week before classes ended last spring, 13-year-old Diana Nava was waiting with her mother, Modesto, for the Los Angeles city bus that goes near her school. Even though her mother had awakened Diana early, she was behind schedule. An LA police officer patrolling for truants spotted them at the bus stop and gave Diana a ticket for violating the city’s daytime curfew. “My mother said, ‘She’s on her way to school,’ but the officer said it didn’t matter.” For being late, Nava and her mother would have to go to court and face a $350 fine, a loss in time and money they could ill afford.
Nava was one of a dozen LA students who testified in August 2011 about their experiences with the truancy sweeps by LAPD officers and LA school police that have resulted in nearly 50,000 tickets since 2004.
Richard Posner gave an interview to NPR this week in which he blasts current-day conservatives and says today’s “goofy” Republican Party has made him less conservative. Over the last 10 years, he said, “There’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking.”
Posner is probably the most respected judge in America who doesn’t sit on the Supreme Court, and a key thinker in the law and economics movement. His alienation is a reflection of how hostile the conservative movement has become to intellectuals.
Of course, conservatives will tell you they care a lot about intellectual grounding. These days, they especially love Austrian economists, such as Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises. I have a whole bookshelf dedicated to duplicate copies of Austrian economics books that conservative and libertarian organizations have given to me for free. I have four copies of The Road to Serfdom, which is like Dianetics for libertarians.
There are two big reasons today’s right loves the Austrians. One is that Austrian economists reject empirical analysis, and instead believe that you can reach conclusions about correct economic policies from a priori principles. It’s philosophy dressed up as economics; with the Austrians, there is never any risk that real-world events will interfere with your ideology.
If you’re the type of news reader that enjoys engaging in debate in comment sections you have no doubt run into the church of libertarianism. You have some facts and history on your side – Keynesian works and there are even examples of positive outcomes for using it and negative outcomes for not. Yet you never make much head way because you’re arguing facts and their arguing faith based economics. Dogma is dogma. Those who are strict adherents to the doctrine of Saints Hayek and Mises are sure they’ll to damned for eternity in a commune where people share stuff if they admit they have gone a gold standard too far.