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Tuesday, September 4, 2007Tall or Short?Gene Have Answer Now
Scientists today claim to have discovered the first common gene that influences whether someone is tall or short.
It explains why John Cleese towers over a room, and why Ronnie Corbett can claim: "I'm so short I'm the only citizen in the UK to have a full-length photo in my passport."
Although it has long been known that big parents are more likely to have big children - and tiny children are often born of tiny couples - biologists have struggled to find genetic causes for height.
Scientists claim to have discovered the first common gene that determines why Ronnie Corbett (left) is so short, and John Cleese so toweringly tall
Although the newly-discovered gene, known as HMGA2, accounts for only a small difference in height, researchers say it is a significant find.
"By defining the genes that normally affect stature, we might someday be able to better reassure parents that their child's height is within the range predicted by their genes, rather than a consequence of disease," said a co-author of the study, Dr Joel Hirschhorn, from the Broad Institute of Harvard in the U.S.
"This is the first convincing result that explains how DNA can affect normal variation in human height.
"Because height is a complex trait, involving a variety of genetic and non-genetic factors, it can teach us valuable lessons about the genetic framework of other complex traits - such as diabetes, cancer and other common human diseases."
British and U.S. researchers used DNA samples from 5,000 people taking part in the Wellcome Trust's Case Control Consortium research project.
Each of us carries two copies of every gene - one from our mother and one from our father. The scientist discovered two variants of the HMGA2 gene, one that makes us shorter and one that makes us taller.
Those who carried two "tall versions" are around 1cm taller than those carrying two short versions, they report in Nature Genetics.
The exact role that HMGA2 has in growth is unclear. However, the researchers believe it is linked to increased cell production. That could have implications for cancer research because tumours occur because of uncontrolled cell growth.
Previous studies have shown an association between height and cancer: taller people are statistically more likely to be at risk from cancers, including prostate, bladder and lung.
Dr Mike Weedon, from Exeter University, said: "There are associations between shortness and slightly increased risks of conditions such as heart disease. Similarly, tall people are more at risk from certain cancers and possibly osteoporosis
This is a guest post written by Scott Young. Every Monday is Productivity & Organization Day at Zen Habits.The title of this post sounds impossible right? My current GPA is a 4.2, which rests midway between an A and an A+. Despite this, I didn’t actually spend much time studying. Using some of the techniques I’ll describe, I’ve been able to:
Place first in a three province wide chemistry test. Of which I didn’t study or was even taught much of the material beforehand.
Score the top spot in a standardized English exam for my school (no studying here either).
Achieved an A+ in an economics course where I didn’t even attend the classes.
I say all this not to boast about how great I am, because I feel my accomplishments are rather modest compared to many people I know. I also won’t discount genetic or environmental advantages that can partially account for my small successes. I mention this because I want to illustrate a point:
Time spent studying does not equal learning.
More studying time won’t help if the way you are studying is flawed to begin with.
Smart people don’t just learn better. They learn differently. While many students get caught up in memorizing facts, intelligent learners know to seek the bigger picture and connect the facts together. This form of learning I call holistic learning.
Holistic learning is basically the opposite of rote memorization. Instead of reciting lists of facts, rules or formulas, you seek to connect ideas together. Instead of having separate boxes in your head for geometry, algebra or ancient India, you deliberately link facts together, so they form a bigger picture.
Excessive studying shows you aren’t learning holistically. It shows that you didn’t learn the material the first time. If you properly link ideas together to see the bigger picture, studying should only be a brief refresher.
How to Boost Your Study Habits
Holistic learning isn’t like a brainstorming technique or mind-mapping. It is fundamentally changing how you look at the process of learning and how you absorb information. As such, there isn’t an easy ten step program to master it.
But there are some tools that can help you shift your learning habits so they become more holistic:
Visceralize - You’ve probably heard of visualizing, right? Visceralizing means taking all of your senses and connecting it to information. Studies have shown that people remember more vividly information that comes to us in an emotionally aroused state. Linking feelings, senses and imagery to bland ideas makes them more real. You probably counted on your fingers when learning numbers, why can’t you do the same when you are learning now?
Metaphor - The heart of holistic learning is relating things together. Metaphors are literary devices that link two things that normally don’t go together. Come up with metaphors to describe more complicated ideas in simpler terms.
Ten Year Old Rule - Explain ideas to yourself as you would to a ten year old. Sure, this isn’t always possible in your last years of a medical degree or learning how to apply neural networks to computer AI. But the idea is that you should be able to “dumb down” an idea enough so it seems obvious to yourself.
Trace Back - Put away your books and start with a random fact or concept. Then relate that idea to another concept in your subject. Keep doing this tracing pattern until you’ve linked many ideas together. The Gupta Dynasty reminds you of ancient Greece which reminds you of Socrates, reminding you of Confucius…
Refresher Scan - Scan through information in your text book. Notice whenever you encounter information that you either don’t remember or weren’t 100% sure about. Quickly link that information back to existing ideas through viscerlization and metaphor. If your refresher scan is turning up more than a few points per chapter, you haven’t learned it thoroughly enough.
Compress Information - Not all information works well for holistic learning. A common point cited to me is learning anatomy for first year medical students. Anatomy involves learning arbitrary Latin names for hundreds of different elements of your body. There often aren’t clear patterns and constructs, just a dry list of facts. When encountering information such as this, your goal should be to compress it. Find ways to group information into smaller chunks of memory through pictures or mnemonics.
Write - Take a piece of paper and write out the connections in the information. Reorganize the information into different patterns. The key here is the writing, not the final product. So don’t waste your time making a pretty picture. Scribble and use abbreviations to link the ideas together.
Scott Young is a blogger on learning, productivity and habits. You can check out his website here. If you want to learn more about Holistic Learning, download his free e-book: Holistic Learning: How to Study Better, Learn More and Actually “Get” What You Want to Learn.
This week, Big in Japan will be bringing you a four-part series on the most perfect of foods.
I love ramen.
For some, it's the heady aroma and subtle flavor of a finely aged cheese. For others, it's the enticing sizzle and juicy goodness of a T-bone steak.
For me, it's gotta be ramen - Nature's most perfect food.
Now, I know exactly what you're thinking. Ramen?!?! That cheap, instant 'just add hot water' garbage that they sell at the supermarket for ten cents a pack. That high-salt, high-fat, chemically-flavored staple food of starving and poor college kids the world over. That Styrofoam-packaged and MSG-coated food-like product that is about as nutritious as it is natural.
Well, let's just say that you don't know ramen like I know ramen!
Forget everything you think you know, and allow me to explain to you how ramen is SO much more than Cup o'Noodles.
For starters, Japanese instant noodles were first imported to North America in the 1970s, and since then have been commonly been referred to as ramen. In the 1980s, American manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon, and started marketing instant noodles as a cheap and filling food item for people on a budget. Needless to say, ramen has achieved cult status amongst teenagers and college students, who can eat their fill for less than a $1 a day.
Sadly, few people outside Japan have had the truly sublime experience of eating REAL ramen, which is nothing at all like the instant noodle garbage found at your local neighborhood supermarket.
Let's start at the beginning.
Ramen (rāmen, ラーメン, らーめん or 拉麺) is a Japanese dish of boiled noodles that is typically served in hot broth, and garnished with a variety of toppings including sliced pork, hard-boiled eggs, garlic, green onions, bean sprouts and dried seaweed. Originating from China, ramen has been whole-heartedly adopted by Japan over centuries, and presently appears in a multitude of regional varieties and specialties.
Much like choosing a fine French wine or a particular Italian pasta, the allure of eating ramen is that there is a seemingly endless variety of dishes out there. Ramen noodles can be found in a dizzying assortment of shapes, sizes and thicknesses, while the broth can consist of anything from clear chicken to pork stock and chili to miso soup.
While the love of ramen may be the great social equalizer in Japan, it's the toppings that distinguish your trucker's stop noodles from your boutique bowl in Ginza. Indeed, ramen has undergone a number of transformations in recent years, and is now just as much as working-class staple as it is a high-end delicacy.
Still think ramen is nothing more than instant noodles?
So, stop by 'Big in Japan' this week for an in-depth look at the world of ramen. Tomorrow, I'll trace the history of ramen from China to Japan. On Wednesday, I'll discuss the numerous varieties and flavors of ramen that you can find in Japan. And on Thursday, I'll highlight a few regional specialities, and share some of my own ramen recipes.