Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scientific Speculation

Many students feel biology is just a bunch of facts to be memorized. We've worked hard at College Prep to change that sort of thinking (although there are a lot of facts to know). Here's an interesting blog by Olivia Judson from the NY Times - License to Wonder - Since we've been studying DNA, Judson's comments about Rosalind Franklin are especially timely- any comments?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Snoopy! Help is available!

Here's a little article that might help out Snoopy! What do you think?!
Amazing the things you can learn in biology at College Prep!!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Building a Better Leaf

At UC Berkeley, scientists studying how to feed our growing need for energy have turned to a surprising source. As Lauren Sommer reports, researchers there are trying to produce the next generation of green power by mimicking something every weekend gardener works to clean up.

This is a super cool application of what we learned last quarter about photosynthesis. Check it out!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Car maker develops its own flower species

Toyota has created a new plant species designed to offset the CO2 created by its Prius assembly operations. By RICHARD BLACKBURN.

Read about it HERE

What do you think these plants are doing to use MORE CO2?

Do you think we should be planting these all over high-polluting cities?

What do you think about what these engineers have done?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Singing Professor Espousing the Joys of Photosynthesis

I found a sort of silly, but actually very well done, YouTube video on Photosynthesis...some of you might find it a nice change of pace to the computer-generated drone of the textbook animation. It's a bit long, but you can watch it in segments. Enjoy!

I also posted the links to a few other teacher-approved videos in the sidebar. If you find any others that you think are good, send them to me or one of the other bio teachers and we can post them for others to see!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What the heck is that?!

Just when you thought you knew everything about cell organelles it turns out scientists are still studying them and winning Nobel Prizes to boot! Check out the article: Nobel Prize for Ribosomes

Thursday, October 1, 2009

This just in from Edgar!

Before Lucy came Ardi
Since we began the year discussing evolution a new human ancestor even older than "Lucy" has been discovered in Ethiopia - meet "Ardi!"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Possibly how cells came into being...

Since we're starting to study cells, I thought this was an interesting article looking at how cells might have first evolved. Also, there is a cool 30 second video at the end.

Biologists on the verge of Creating new form of Life

Let us know your thoughts!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Judgement Day - ID on trial

After viewing the first half of "Judgement Day", do you have any thoughts so far?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Shark Evolution

Since we're studying evolution I thought this was a nice little article about how science works. Let us know your thoughts!
In a Shark's tooth, a new Family Tree

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Learning is a PROCESS, not an EVENT!

Welcome to CPS Biology! We are genuinely looking forward to spending a fun and exciting year with all of you!

Though many people don't appreciate this, Biology is the most complex of scientific disciplines. Biological entities are marvels of complexity - they are composed of large, complicated molecules, some of which have amazing characteristics, such as the ability to replicate themselves! These complex molecules then come together in any of millions of possible combinations to undergo chemical reactions that we recognize as life processes. Because of this immense complexity, it's been a bigger challenge for biologists to find general principles to organize and simplify their subject than chemists and physicists. However, we do have one overarching idea that synthesizes all of the complexity we find in the biological world, and gives us a framework for making sense of it all. This is the modern Theory of Evolution, stemming largely from the work of Charles Darwin during the middle of the 19th century. We will begin the semester with a consideration of Darwin's ideas to set the stage for the rest of the semester. At the end of the term, we will come back to the topic of evolution from a more modern perspective, armed with information about molecular genetics that were not available to Darwin and other earlier biologists.

Because Biology is so complex, it takes a lot of effort to really "get it." And we expect you to get it! We have crafted this course to encourage you to really think. None of the topics we consider can really be understood without reference to every other topic we discuss, so you will need to constantly reconsider, recalibrate, reorganize what you think you know, building an ever more complete understanding of how amazing living things really are! We know from experience that you cannot do this if you simply show up in class, listen to us talk for 45 minutes, and then forget about it all until the next day. We can't possibly do more than skim the tip of the iceberg during class, there simply isn't time. We can give you structure, walk you through the most complicated ideas, and supply you with some additional resources. But you'll need to do a lot more on your own to really do well and to really build a solid foundation of understanding. You'll need to do your reading religiously, and while you are doing it, have your notes out, think about what we discussed in class. When a question pops into your mind about what we've been talking about, jump online and see what Wiki or other references can tell you about the answers. Read over the articles and other resources we provide you with, and ponder how they tie in with class material. Talk to us! Talk to each other! Explain things to your parents! While the complexity of biology makes it challenging, the good news is, it's so completely relevant to your life. The processes we discuss this semester are literally those that keep you alive from minute to minute. What could possibly be more interesting and exciting?

So, your motto for this class, coined by Bernie Shellem, is "Learning is a Process, Not an Event!" Don't treat this class as a daily "event" that you show up for and then forget about. Make it a part of how you look at the world. It isn't hard!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Is cooking the key to human evolution?

There is a new book out that provides a scientific argument that the evolution of the human brain into the wondrous thing it is today hinged on the idea that one of our ancient ancestors had to actually cook food before eating it. According to this argument, cooking food began the process of breaking down the food, allowing for early humans to have smaller digestive tracts, expend less energy on digestion, and get more nutrition from the food they ate. The argument can also be applied to descredit the modern raw food movement. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

American Experience on Test Tube Babies

Recently, a southern Californian woman gave birth to octuplets conceived through IVF. There have been differing and changing views from religious conservatives. How much government regulation should there be on these procedures? Should prospective mothers be screened in some way for "fitness"? After viewing the American Experience video, what are you thoughts, comments, views???

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Sex Talk

Here's an interesting article about adolescent sexuality. Are boys really sex-obsessed goofballs? Are girls unfortunate victims? Any thoughts after reading this article?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A little story on Lizard Reproduction

As we begin our unit on the endocrine and reproductive systems read this interesting story on "Lizard Birth!" Make sure you read the ENTIRE story!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why I Can't Play Guitar

Welcome to the human brain, your three-pound throne of wisdom with the whoopee cushion on the seat. Here's an interesting article you might want to read before heading into your next test!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

15 Amazing Images of the Human Body

Thanks to Henry for sharing this site, which shows amazing photos of a variety of human cells and other structures. Take a look, they're great!

Doctor and Patient

As we continue our work on the human body and read "The Making of a Surgeon", here's an article about the doctor-patient relationship. How involved personally should a doctor get involved with their patient, especially a seriously ill one? Have you ever gone to the doctor and felt they weren't listening to you or were to busy or distracted? Can a doctor be allowed to have a "bad day?"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama lifts ban on stem cell research funding!

Yesterday, President Obama reversed a 2001 Bush ruling that prohibited the use of federal funds to support embryonic stem cell research. Even in these times of economic woe, stem cell scientists believe that there is enough money ready to be distributed that this reversal will have immediate impacts.

As you are probably aware, embryonic stem cell research has been controversial because it requires that human embryos (at a VERY early age of development) be destroyed. The right wing of the Republican Party, along with the "Moral Majority" have opposed this research because they say it promotes abortion. In truth, the embryos used for stem cell research have and will come primarily from fertility clinics, where non-implanted embryos are literally thrown into the trash.

The reason that stem cell researchers use these embryos that are in extremely early stages of development is that, as you'll recall from last semester, for the first few cell divisions that occur after a zygote is produced, all cells are identical - no differentiation has taken place. These cells are "pluripotent," meaning that they have the ability to differentiate into ANY kind of cell, depending on their local environment. Thus, embryonic stem cells can theoretically be placed into the spinal tissue of someone whose spine has been severely injured and they will be triggered to grow into new nervous tissue. There are other types of stem cells in the body, some of which can be "induced" to become pluripotent. Umbilical cord stem cells are also a potential source of puripotent stem cells. Using "older" pluripotent cells of any of these types is problematic however, as they have accumulated enough genetic markers to be rejected by the immune system of a person receiving them.

The NIH (National Institute of Health) has a great website discussing yesterday's decision, along with a lot of additional info on the topic. Check it out! There are surely many careers in this area waiting out there!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Are you "Friends" with Penelope Seal and Stelephant Colbert?

No? Well perhaps you'd like to be! You can find out how deep P. is diving, whether she is pupping, and so much more! Or find out about Stelephant's relationship status (it's complicated...) and the Colbert bump he got after his appearance on the Colbert Report. If you're curious, listen to this NPR story about this imaginative way to teach the public about marine mammals - and there is a link to Penelope's Facebook page! If you're curious, listen to this NPR story about this imaginative way to teach the public about marine mammals - and there is a link to Penelope's Facebook page!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Thanks to Carlos for this interesting story about new techniques that will allow parents to choose at least some of the traits of their unborn children. Please read the story and then comment on whether or not you think this is cool or disturbing, and why:-)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

There's a lot more than just stomata!

Check out this scanning electron micrograph of the surface of a sunflower leaf! Be sure to read the box in the lower left corner!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two Videos: Sucking up Invasive Species, and Darwin Songs

This video shows conservationists literally vacuuming up invasive algae from coral reefs in Hawaii. The SuperSucker and SuperSucker Junior are modified versions of machines originally designed to dredge for gold, and they combine human power (SCUBA divers) with powerful vacuums to clean up 2,000-3,000 pounds (!!!) of alien algae per day.

Alternatively, want to watch really hip music video? Richard Milner, an academic with a musical bent, dresses up in period costume and sings about Darwin.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mirrors in the Mojave

This article was posted on the APES blog recently and is interesting for several reasons. In our discussions surrounding The Inconvenient Truth and climate change, we focused on the problem, but not the solution. The article discusses one part of the solution - more reliance on alternative energies, in this case, solar thermal (as opposed to photovoltaic solar panels) power. The particular installation discussed here was designed by an Oakland company called Brightsource Energy. Here is a very cool little video explaining solar thermal technology. Essentially, solar thermal involves using many mirrors to collect sunlight and focus the rays all towards a large container of fluid (water, for example) - in the simplest case, the water turns to steam, which is then used to turn turbines and thus generate electricity.

The other interesting point that comes up in this article is the role of governmental policies in implementing alternative energy technologies once they are developed. To quote the article, "there’s a debate out there about the merits of mandates in driving expansion of non-polluting energy options. Advocates for such standards say that the expanded market will drive down the production costs of panels, turbines and other clean power sources. Some say that pursuing efficiency is far cheaper. Others say that any state or federal requirements for non-polluting power should include nuclear reactors, which also produce no greenhouse gases when generating electricity. What do you think"?

Happy Birthday Darwin!

In case you hadn't heard, 200 years ago today, Charles Darwin (and Abraham Lincoln too!) was born. In what we might think of as a birthday present, the Vatican has finally decided that Darwin is probably not burning in Hell after all. Here's an article from the New York Times (thanks to Henry Walton for the link!) discussing the changing attitude of the Catholic Church towards Darwin's ideas.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Darwin and evolution - too much credit?

More thoughts: “Darwinian evolution” raises a question: What’s the other evolution?

Into the breach: intelligent design. I am not quite saying Darwinism gave rise to creationism, though the “isms” imply equivalence. But the term “Darwinian” built a stage upon which “intelligent” could share the spotlight.

Read the article then respond- should ID be given credit as "the other evolution?"

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wolves love dogs, Dogs love wolves

Here's an article (New World Wolves and Coyotes owe debt to Dogs) that relates to our understanding of the species concept. “This is an important paper that among other things should make us revisit and likely revise what we mean by a ‘pure’ species.”
Geez, how much biology can you learn! Speciation, genetics, mutations, adaptive advantage, interbreeding, hybridization. Wow!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What are you doing to solve Global Warming?

After viewing an "Inconvenient Truth" you should understand that we do have solutions to the problem of global warming. This article (Trashing the Fridge)might sound a little radical but what are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint? Can you do more?? If so, what will you do???

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dumping crop waste in the ocean

As we begin our Ecology Case Studies, here's an interesting article about one method of potentially reducing global CO2 levels - A Carbon Keeper - "crop waste sunk to the deep ocean" - Do you think this is actually feasible? Do you foresee any potential problems? How might this dumping effect organisms in the deep sea? Should we proceed with crop waste dumping?