Thursday, November 02, 2006

What I Do When I Should Be Writing # 1


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.



At 2:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is scary. I was just thinking the same thing about how we can all share basically the same genes and yet we are all so different. Last week I saw an article in Wall Street on the Human Gynome (sp) project and it really got me thinking. Yikes I think some of those scientific genes made it into my body as well!
Of course I never wondered why I didn't get Angelina Jolie's genes. Thanks for putting that thought in my head. (Luckily I didn't get's Scott's bald genes. Ha Ha you can tell him I said that.)

At 3:02 PM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

I read a Time magazine article on the closeness between chimps and humans that got me thinking about it. And I'll pass your comment on to Scott. I'm sure he'll appreciate it ; )

At 5:41 PM, Blogger Meretta said...

LOL. Too funny and too true, Cathy. Now I'm wondering why I don't look like Meg Ryan! ;)

At 7:12 PM, Blogger Sharron said...

Can you imagine Angelina with Einsteins intelligence? (not that she's not smart) that would be oneOamazing person. of course, we'd all have to loathe her for being perfect....:D

At 5:53 AM, Blogger Typing Slave said...

It would be unfortunate if your genetics were closer. If you looked like AJ, you'd have to put up with Brad Pitt. I mean, come on!

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Cathy in AK said...

If I looked like AJ I think I could force myself to put up with Brad : ) I'd make him grow a beard though. He needs a little scruffiness.

At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok- although humans are amazing with their diversity, what about snowflakes! In one storm there have got to be more flakes than humans of all history!? Are you sure there are no identicals- ever? I'm not completly certain.
A little slow with topic...laura


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