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back to article Intelligence a genetic mistake

It’s not quite the “key to intelligence”, but a study published in the journal Cell at least offers a hint to how human brains changed post-hominid: a miscopied gene that seems to let the brain form more connections, faster. The paper finds that a gene dubbed SRGAP2 has, during cell divisions, been incompletely copied three …

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Mushroom

so and so begat so and so

1 million years ago? There is not near enough begats in genesis to cover that long. Oh wait nm this is story was placed by Satan to test the faith of chosen.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: so and so begat so and so

What I want to know is how inorganic matter transubstantiates into living stuff. Oh wait, nm we'll just wave our magic wand of "billions of years" and say, "Believe our religion - or lose your funding."

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Anonymous Coward

bugger the inorganic way ..

err, most living stuff transubstantiates from organic matter. It's a little bit easier that way.

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Re: so and so begat so and so

"What I want to know is how inorganic matter transubstantiates into living stuff. "

With such an ambitious goal you will need to study hard. Given that this year is his centenary, you might want to start with Alan Turing's 1951 paper, 'The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis'.

http://www.dna.caltech.edu/courses/cs191/paperscs191/turing.pdf

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Joke

Re: bugger the inorganic way ..

Is that some sort of "self help" title?

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Re: so and so begat so and so

""What I want to know is how inorganic matter transubstantiates into living stuff. ""

it's called GRAVITY

sigh some people are so ignorant of science

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FAIL

Re: so and so begat so and so

but Gravity is only a "THEORY" like natural selection.

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Facepalm

Re: so and so begat so and so

>"What I want to know is how inorganic matter transubstantiates into living stuff. "

After you've taken Turing in your stride, you might also want to consult a dictionary on the word 'organic'.

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Facepalm

I for one ...

No actually I don't, we don't need smarter mice

How about trying this on politicians?

What could possibly go wrong?

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Re: I for one ...

You know what could go wrong. Politicians are highly successful at grabbing wealth and influence, despite their mental limitations. I hate to think how well they could do if they were actually intelligent as well.

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Devil

Re: I for one ...

they would quit politics.

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FAIL

Didn't take long did it?

Within 3 posts we get remarks on religion and politicians.

what's this? the Daily Mail?

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Re: Didn't take long did it?

> Within 3 posts we get remarks on religion...

The first 3 posts (presumably all by the same person given the repetition of "Oh wait, nm") are all critical of religion yet there are no religious comments criticising the article.

Makes you wonder who is holding fixed views that ignore the available evidence.

Our anonymous coward could also do with brushing up their knowledge of Christianity if they want to criticise it in public. The subset of Christianity that holds to creationism tends not to overlap with the subset that holds to transubstantiation.

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Re: Didn't take long did it?

Presumably asdf had a knee-jerk reaction to the fact that the article appeared in the Christian Science Monitor and felt no need to read further. It's probably worth pointing out that "Christian Science", in this sense, is well outside anything that could be considered mainstream Christianity.

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Re: Didn't take long did it?

El reg commentards seem to be losing their edge recently. I remember the days when anti-christian or anti-religion comments were actually witty and entertaining. Back then you could joust and debate and everyone went away feeling just dandy, maybe having even learned something in the process. Now all we get is plain old dehumanising hate which, as any fule kno, does nothing to advance a point of view.

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Re: Didn't take long did it?

"I remember the days when anti-christian or anti-religion comments were actually witty and entertaining."

so did all the people that were drowned in the Flood. They thought it was funny to mock god too. Look at them now.

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Re: Didn't take long did it?

""Christian Science" ... is well outside anything that could be considered mainstream Christianity"

and, indeed, mainstream science.

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Re: Didn't take long did it?

' ""Christian Science" ... is well outside anything that could be considered mainstream Christianity"

and, indeed, mainstream science.'

Both true, but the Christian Science Monitor is noted for not reflecting the views of its founder in its editorial coverage. (There is a daily article reflecting a Christian Science perspective.)

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FAIL

Re: Didn't take long did it?

So was the black death of mid 14th century also God punishing the fake believers? Sit down Ned or else take your sarcasm elsewhere.

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Coat

Since no one else has said it yet...

Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering?

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Thumb Up

Re: Since no one else has said it yet...

Yes Brain world domination SNARF

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Since no one else has said it yet...

I think so Brain, but seriously, me and Lady Ga-Ga? Meat chafes me so!

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Happy

Re: Since no one else has said it yet...

Not Pinky - Algernon is more relevant, Flowers for Algernon. Reminds me of that great short story anyway.

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Where did they get dna from 2.4 million and 1 million years ago?

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@Johnny Canuck: one word.

Teeth.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @Johnny Canuck: one word.

Visions of scientists at digs gnawing on bones and spitting them into test tubes for dna analysis.

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@ Johnny Canuck

That is a very good question. However, in this case they didn't directly study 2.4 million y.o DNA but rather inferred the dates by studying our modern DNA.

Jake's answer is correct, ancient DNA has been extracted from teeth, but this isn't the case regarding this particular story.

Teeth are interesting in more recent archaeology as well, allowing scientists to determine if an individual was raised in one part of Europe before migrating to another part - if they were, say, married off to a distant King for political reasons - by means of examining their isotopic oxygen ratios (which doesn't change after they are formed)

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Boffin

I have a mouse...

... called Algernon here who wants a word with you...

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Windows

A Genetic Mistake

Not to worry. We're hard at work trying to correct it. Give us a few more generations and we'll breed that tragic error right out.

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Anonymous Coward

Planet of the .... Mice?!?

Or is it 'Planet of Pinky and the Brain'?

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Interesting, but ...

Yet again all we can see without paying is the summary of the research, which doesn't explain how they could pinpoint genetic mutations that far back. How do they do it?

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Boffin

Re: Interesting, but ...

common knowledge..?

Gene modifications can be dated by the number of errors they have accumulated since they arrived. Random errors are introduced at a constant rate, about 30ppb (parts per billion) per generation, and due to the redundancy in gene coding (64 states, 23 amino acids, one start 2 stop sequences iirc) most of these are harmless.

With a population of "tattered" copies (you and me) , you can deduce the original, and the average number of errors. Simple.

http://www.wellcome.ac.uk/News/2009/News/WTX056376.htm

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@bonkers (Re: Interesting, but ...)

I doubt that it is common knowledge amongst the general population, but I can see how they can calculate the times from the evidence to hand. Re-reading the linked articles it seems plausible that that is how they did it. So, thanks for that.

My gripe, though, is that we have to deduce their method unless we're willing to pay up to read the full story. I'm not a cheapskate, but I'd go broke pretty quickly if I paid to view all the interesting stuff that is coming out.

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Re: @bonkers (Interesting, but ...)

You can google for molecular clock for more information on this technique. The full paper uses it but doesn't explain it (it's not a tutorial paper - it's definitely written for an academic audience).

There's a bit more information in the University of Washington press release.

(If you see an article in the general media about some academic paper it may well have come from a press release published by one of the academic institutions involved, rather than directly from an academic journal.)

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Re: @bonkers (Interesting, but ...)

> I'm not a cheapskate, but I'd go broke pretty quickly if I paid to view all the interesting stuff that is coming out.

This is a concern even amongst scientists in any given field. There are so many journals that few institutions can afford to subscribe to all that are relevant to their specific discipline. There is some call for reform in the system.

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Mutation

"Miscopied genes" is sort of the definition of mutation, so it should be no surprise that this is behind human evolution (including intelligence). The interesting bits are that plausible specific genes have been pin-pointed and approximate dates for the mutations found.

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Re: Mutation

Indeed, the entire genomes in every living thing are the result of 'genetic mistakes'. The title of this story is rather redundant.

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Re: Mutation

It's not the miscopying, it's the duplication. The genes in question were duplicated to other, unused parts of the genome where error correction doesn't prevent mutations from happening. Then later they were moved to a spot where they started to express again. Without that mechanism, mutations on genes get corrected out.

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Re: Mutation

"It's not the miscopying, it's the duplication"

That is very common in the genome

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Re: Mutation

Certainly is, especially in humans for some reason. We have so many duplicates of genes it's not even funny.

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Facepalm

Typical...

I've spent half my life trying to build a better mousetrap, and now some genius is building better mice.

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@Blofeld's Cat

Is it laziness or a lack of self-confidence that makes a cat design a mouse trap?

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Re: @Blofeld's Cat

Yes.

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Devil

Re: @Blofeld's Cat

"Is it laziness or a lack of self-confidence that makes a cat design a mouse trap?"

I suppose it's just a habit I picked up from my feeder while I was padding round this hollowed-out volcano and avoiding the hot-spots. I have no doubt that I could despatch a single mouse without difficulty, but threatening the entire musine population simultaneously takes a bit of work.

Larry Wall has the right idea about laziness.

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Re: @Blofeld's Cat

But do you strap the captured mouse to a table, turn on the laser and walk away letting the mouse escape?

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Headmaster

Re: @Blofeld's Cat

only if he's Goldfinger's cat as well...

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Happy

Re: @Blofeld's Cat

"But do you strap the captured mouse to a table, turn on the laser and walk away letting the mouse escape?"

The old Grand Slam gambit? No good lord we've moved on from those days. I just bat them around a bit, let them think they've escaped and then go in for the kill.

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Unhappy

Re: @Blofeld's Cat

"only if he's Goldfinger's cat as well..."

Auric Goldfinger wasn't really a cat person. In the Ian Fleming novel he has a gold coloured cat which gets eaten by Oddjob.

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Happy

Algernon

@Graham Marsden - thank you for reminding me of one of the most moving short stories I've ever read.

For those to whom the reference is a bit obscure, look up the Hugo Award winning short story 'Flowers for Algernon', or at least read the Wikipedia entry if you are too lazy to read the story.

There's even an eery resonance with the subject of The Register's item.

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