James and the Giant Corn Genetics: Studying the Source Code of Nature

June 24, 2009

Fish Farming

Filed under: food — James @ 1:11 am

I’ve never been particularly partial to fish. I suppose I could blame it on growing up in Iowa but I know plenty of people back home who like them, even catch freshwater fish themselves. Regardless, the point I’m trying to make is that I don’t eat a lot of fish. But if I were looking for fish, my preference would be for tilapia. More below. (more…)

June 17, 2009

Phylogeny of Pineapple, an further explanation of awesomeness

Filed under: Plants — James @ 9:34 pm

If you had to guess, how would you rank these species in order of how closely they’re related to to pineapple:

Orange, Papaya, Corn, Avacado, Juniper, Banana

Answer after the jump.


June 16, 2009

Oops. Delay

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 10:09 pm

Pineapple phylogeny has been delayed as a result of a publication in the household requiring celebration. Hopefully tomorrow.

June 15, 2009

Why Pineapples are awesome

Filed under: Plants — James @ 11:42 pm

Inspired by an exchange on facebook with a friend from high school who wanted to know why I was obsessed with pineapples (when obviously I’m in fact obsessed with corn), I’ve developed a list of why pineapples are awesome even though they’re no Zea mays.

  • Firstly and most importantly: As much as I love corn, corn is not tasty. Pineapples are tasty.
  • Among fruits, I’d say pineapples give me the justification for using the biggest knife.
  • In xkcd pineapples proudly stand in the upper left quadrant, indicating both their tastiness and difficulty of preparation making the preparation and consumption of Pineapple a worthy occupation of manly men see previous comment regarding knives.
  • You can’t make jello with fresh pineapple because it’s so corrosive it breaks down the gelatin and other proteins. Hence, more dangerous, and therefore more manly.
  • According to wikipedia the fruit of the pineapple plant is formed by the fusion of two helixes of flowers (like the double helix of DNA!).
  • Pineapples appear is some form in almost every episode of Psych
  • The phylogeny of the pineapple. This will be explained in a more detailed phylogeny post tomorrow evening.

June 14, 2009

Is the bible anti-farmer?

Filed under: Uncategorized — James @ 2:46 pm

When I was a kid I had a children’s illustrated bible (and a children’s illustrated book of greek myths, the juxtaposition which did a fair bit to inform my young worldview). But in that book, the story of Cain and Abel is presented as being about the evils of jealousy… sort of a prelude to the tenth commandment. That’s generally the moral people think of whenever the story is mentioned.

But why is Cain jealous of Abel? It’s not because Abel has a better car, a nicer house, a more desirable wife. The bible explains that it’s because god likes meat more than plants. Abel grows up and decided to be a keeper of sheep, while Cain becomes a tiller of the ground. A farmer. Since Abel can sacrifice sheep to god while Cain can only offer  the grains and vegetables, god likes Abel more, and doesn’t particularly care for Cain. Cain becomes violently jealous and the story goes from there.

Now the obvious reasoning here is that meat tastes better than vegetables. A statement I definitely don’t disagree with, especially in mesopotamia thousands of years ago when the old testament was being written. Keep in mind that among the uncountable number of benefits civilization brings to us today is easy access to an array of flavoring agents from around the world. With enough of the right herbs and spices even eggplant, a vegetable I particularly dislike, can be made delicious. But in that era even something as simple as salt would be scarce and valuable. Given the  choice between a hunk of lamb and, say, a bowl of unseasoned chick peas, I know which on I’d prefer.

All that said, presumably god isn’t presumed to actually be sitting down to dinner with the sacrifices. So is the message here actually something about the relative importance of shepherds and farmers? I mean the shepherds in the bible include big names like Abraham, Moses and David. Shepherds get to be present at the birth of Jesus. Farmers? Hopefully someone more familiar with the concept will correct me if I’m missing something obvious, but when farming is mentioned in more than passing it’s to give instructions on how to grow crops, or how to sacrifice them (because by the time we get to Leviticus god has decided he’s ok with accepting plant sacrifices after all).

Jealousy and murder are bad things. But is that moral the whole message of the story of Cain and Abel?

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