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Week 6 Friday, June 4


Animal Experimentation The use of live animals in art.

Use of human biological material in art.

Ethical and safety issues.

Discussion about the response to the solar fish project ideas.

Completion the streptomyces experiment

Guest: Luis Graca,  (confirmed)

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Not much result from the flower seeds yet. These are pictures of when we were sowing the seeds in class.


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moral doubts

I was just wondering if some of you felt the same after the experiments we did in the class:

Allthough in the class I really made up my mind and decided to manipulate the butterfly, at home when I explained what we did I felt I couldn’t really justify why I did it.  I gave the whole class a second thought and then it occured to me that the main reason I did it was out of curiousity.

Can curiousity alone make you forget initial moral limits?

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Fith Week

Week 5 Friday, May 28


Animals and the human body. Tetrahymena Thermophilia

7 gender organism.

Verify growth of plants.

Zebra fish, the first cell division of a new organism and how can we do selective breeding?

Guest: Daniel Pijnappels

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This one reminds me of the mastercard logo. I’ll post some more pics tomorrow.

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Some small developments on the plates. I tried to have a more artistic approach while photographing them this time. I think I made a remark last time that some of the plates reminded me of abstract expressionist painting, well why not approach it like that. Although some of the colonies are very small they do seem to be three dimensional in shape and I also tried to capture some of that.


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This lesson was predominantly theoretical beginning with a talk by Maurijn van der Zee, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the Institute of Biology Leiden. We had been given his paper “Distinct Functions of the Tribolium zerknu¨ llt Genes in Serosa Specification and Dorsal Closure” as part of the reading list for week 3, and I for one will admit to being baffled by most of the terminology. Luckily his talk put his research into layman’s terms. Maurijn’s work as an evolutionary developmental biologist focuses upon the genetics between the variations in species. Evo Devo as it is called, tries to find the basis of evolutionary changes. Maurijn began by showing Ernest Haeckel’s work. Haeckel noticed that the similarities in the development of vertebrae of fish, chickens and humans from the embryo stage. It is clear that there is some genetic disposition responsible for the divergence of species. He went on to explain the function of Distalless – a protein responsible for the switching on of the genes that form legs along the abdominal section of invertebrates. Abdominal-A (another protein) switches off distalless, hence halting the formation of legs along a specific section e.g. fly. Abdominal-A determines the properties of the Abdominal section, switching it off leading to the formation of legs on every section e.g. centipede. In essence it is clear that there must be a change in the development of a species in order to make new animals and that embryos can constrain or facilitate evolution. However, genes such as distalless are often multifunctional and dictate growth in more than one area of the body at the same time (pleiotropy). This means that whilst these changes can lead to advantageous attributes, others are destroyed. Maurijn gave the example of the horse and giraffe – two species that appear somewhat similar in many respects and yet, the giraffe sports a much longer neck. However, both species have 7 vertical vertebrae; therefore it is clearly it is not as simple as adding vertebrae. What you see is that internal forces dictate the direction of evolution and that random mutations cannot make everything. Maurijn then went into further detail regarding his experiments with a small beetle Tribolium Castaneum. His work focuses on the differences in development of the inner and outer membranes (amnion and serosa) and how they form the germ rudiment.

After Maurijn’s lecture we moved on to discuss readings for the lesson focusing on Chapter 4: Natural Selection from The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. It is easy to be critical of Darwin as his conclusions are based on phenotypes (physical similarities), and so in hindsight he appears to show a lack of knowledge. Clearly man has a key role in the evolution of other species and this has led in turn to a greater diversity of species. For example, the variety in domesticated species is large, after all the conditions are good for evolution. However, the biodiversity we as humans produce is within specific boundaries. Humans don’t breed for the sake of the animals – we breed for our own desired traits. This in turn leads to evolutionary gaps. The question is, do we fill these gaps or does nature? A consequence of this that whilst we generate variety by breeding for specific traits, we also overgrow these new varieties.

Moving on we looked at the differences in the writing styles between popular science and research papers. This led to an interesting discussion on research funding within science. Research money is extremely restricted, and the majority of it is aimed at result driven, commercial results. There is little available for basic research and yet often the most creative research and results come from basic science. This is why artists have an important place within the scientific community. Artists, as a fundamental part of their approach, ask questions, and push for innovation, and it is the results of this research whether planned or accidental that can be used to drive new research.

Finally, in the last half hour, we examined the student’s bacteria experiments from the previous 2 weeks and moved to the lab to collect new plates for further experiments. The results of these further experiments will be posted onto the blog in the coming weeks…

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Homework Bacteria

For the homework assignment I took 4 samples from different public places, to see how they would compare.

  • The first and second dishes are samples taken from the out- and inside door-handles of a public toilet, respectively.
  • The third dish contains a sample from a push button at a pedestrian traffic light.
  • The fourth is a sample from a handlebar from a playground

Interestingly, the source with the highest concentration of bacteria seems to be the traffic light.

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