What I Do When I Should Be Writing # 1
ANGELINA JOLIE AND GENETICS
I was plucking my eyebrows one recent evening and thought, “I bet Angelina Jolie isn’t home on a Saturday night doing such exciting personal grooming.” (Though, with three children now, perhaps she is.) And for some reason, my science geek brain did a sudden leap to genetics.
Why is it that Angelina and I share darn close to one hundred percent of basic genetic material, and yet she looks like, well, Angelina Jolie, and I look like me? She has dark hair. I have dark hair. She has lips. I have lips. Okay, not THOSE lips. She has a killer body. I have...I have lips.
Legs, arms, the whole inventory is there.
And yet it’s not.
We humans share 98-99% of our genetic material with chimpanzees and there is no doubt which of us are humans and which of us are apes (certain individuals to be excepted). You’d think that something as close as 99% would have more physical resemblance. Ninety-nine percent of a pie is pretty damned close to a whole pie. (This may be one of many reasons why I don’t look like Angelina—I think in terms of food a lot.)
But think about it. There are six billion people on this planet. With the exception of identical twins, no two people have exactly the same genetic make up. And think about all the folks who have died. How much are the odds altered when you count all the dead genetic material and still don’t find an exact match? What are the odds of two totally unrelated people having the exact genetic material, sitting on their chromosomes in the exact same way, and producing two identical copies? The statistical perturbation is mind numbing.
I’m sure somewhere out there is a geneticist and/or a statistician champing at the bit to give me an answer. Please hold all comments until the end of the program. I know there is more to our genetic make up than the 46 chromosomes we have. And I do not envy the people trying to untangle the mysteries of it all. Thanks, I’ll stick to writing. But when I see the incredible amount of diversity there is in this world, and how the flip-flop of a single gene or molecule can give us such variety, I am awed.
But as much as I admire physical and intellectual excellence, it’s probably a good thing we aren’t all Angelina Jolies. Or Albert Einsteins. Or Cathy Pegaus, for that matter.
The chimps already have a hard time telling us apart.
Labels: on my mind