Posts Tagged ‘life’

T.S Eliot and Ezra Pound Degrade Life

In Washington Square Park–I purchased 1951 collection of poetry from one of my favorite poets Pablo Neruda. It was published by a leftist magazine called Masses & Mainstream, and sheds some much needed light on two modern paragons of poetry–T.S Eliot and Ezra Pound.

The introduction states:

As Neruda has said, before the warhawks of Wall Street and Washington can hurl the atom bomb they must first annihilate men morally. That is the mission of of their poets–the T.S Eliot and Ezra Pounds who degrade life and stultify the will to resist destruction. To this literature of decay and death Pablo Neruda opposes an art of moral grandeur…

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07 2011

(The Not So) Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

Original Diagram (circa 1958). Nature 226: 1198 (1970).

The Central Dogma was coined by Francis Crick in the late 1950s as the following:

The central dogma of molecular biology deals with the detailed residue-by-residue transfer of sequential information. It states that information cannot be transferred back from protein to either protein or nucleic acid.

Hence, the end process, which is protein production can never be reversed and always originates from the DNA sequence. There have been many analogies that sought to describe this concept in simpler terms. The famous house example is just one of many. In this example the instructions are the DNA, the copies are the RNA and the end products, which is the house, are the proteins. The information flow originates from the DNA to the protein, with the RNA being the intermediary. These products are what makes us who we are- at least physically. Some examples of this are our eye color, skin tone, and the size of our bodies. This is a very common analogy that is sometimes used to describe how our specific traits and characteristics are generated from tiny regions and fragments of DNA. Each step in the process is important and any mistake and/or error may result in cell death, or more dire consequences. Essentially, if given a string of DNA, we can predict the proteins that would be produced.

This is traditionally taught in modern textbooks and courses. However, as we build upon our knowledge through research and discovery, we find that it is not  so simple. There are numerous exceptions that were found in the past as well as presently. The more one reads the latest articles, publications and journal entries the more one doubts this molecular biology paradigm. Nonetheless, it is still a very general and important concept to grasp as it illustrates a fundamental concept.

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06 2011

Is Life Possible?

Cell Life Cycle

Is life possible? At first glance, it certainly does not seem so, at least on a thermodynamic and molecular level. Our skin cells are replaced every six to eight weeks. Every atom in our body is replaced every year by other atoms that were once created billions of years ago, and light years away. So, in what sense are we the same person from year to year? Definitely not in the physical sense. Nonetheless, we consider ourselves alive, but in what sense do we actually exist? In what sense are we “alive?” Our genetic makeup, though thermodynamically fragile is dynamically repaired and transmits fidelity, but not perfect fidelity. Imperfections arise from time to time usually in the form of a mutation. Without these mutations evolution could not proceed and take its course. Hence, these same entropic forces that threaten to destabilize our very existence and form of life, simultaneously allow us to sustain, maintain and evolve life to higher levels. How and why is this possible? [1]

Food for thought.
[1] Plotkin, Joshua. Short Talk. University of Pennsylvania: Arts and Sciences. Philadelphia, Pa. 19 April 2009.


02 2011

Life’s Confusion

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Listening to Hamed Saghiri – Bar Madare Tambour

Vying for the votes of 43,000-plus healthcare workers across California’s Kaiser Permanente Healthcare System, The National Union for Healthcare Workers and the Service Employees International Union have been gearing up for this moment for a long time. It is the largest private union battle since 1941 and we are expected to change the shape of American, even international unionism with this election. We have been preparing for the GOTV (Get Out the Vote) stage of the campaign for over a week, about when I joined.

Here I sit in the conference room of the Longshoresman Local 17, a room that one day before we wallpapered with our intricate wall charts. In the corner of the room I am surrounded by binders, papers, records, hundreds and hundreds of names of workers who we believe will vote us, the National Union of Healthcare Workers into victory.

I am listening to the mix of sitar, dulcimer, ney, tombak, and other classical Persian instruments while updating the charts. While crossing names, highlighting boxes, updating binders, wall charts and checking them, the long lulled sound of Saghiri’s sorna, it suddenly hits me. Is it really worth it? I try so hard to be useful, to be as productive as possible. In managing the office, providing support to the field staff, and in serving as the liason for HQ in Emeryville, CA, I scramble to be meticulously accurate even creating work when I have none. But is it really worth it or is this my feeble attempt to keep myself busy? Is it even right? Here we are, union activists paradoxically working nonstop for weeks on end to maintain the 5 day, forty hour work week and so much more that forerunners like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta fought so hard to achieve.

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02 2011

Does your Life Matter?

Tomorrow if you were to pass away, would there be anyone to miss you?

I don’t mean just cry for you – of course your loved ones would be sad – I mean have you done anything in this life where there would be anyone to remember you?

Recently my friend’s grandmother passed away and my friend and I talked a bit about how her grandmother taught many people how to read Qur’an and pray. My friend was surprised at the number of people who showed up at the funeral talking about her grandmother and what a positive influence she was.

Naturally to my friend she was a grandmother and the loss is very great, but to all these other folks, her grandmother also meant something. She left the gift that keeps on giving – sadaqa jaariya, if you will.

This got me thinking about my life and if I were to die tomorrow – what would I be leaving behind?

Hazrat Ali says,

“Treat people in such a way and live amongst them in such a manner that if you die they weep over you and when you are alive, they crave for your company.”

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11 2010

Playing God or Breakthrough?

The advent of the news concerning the “creation of a living organism” has sparked much controversy. Headlines like “Craig Venter is not playing God yet”, or “Researchers create first ‘synthetic life’” (–wipe-humanity.html) play into the hands of those with a particular agenda and whom really base their rejection of this breakthrough not on the merits of the discovery itself, but on misguided convictions and beliefs that they possess. When understanding the actual methodologies and products produced as a result of this new development in science, the sacrilegious notion of “man-made” life becomes less apparent. For a better understanding of what this discovery means, we first need to grasp what exactly was “created” in this particular instance.

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07 2010