What is the wobble hypothesis, and how does it explain the degeneracy of the genetic code?


microphone off – definition of “wobble hypothesis” found below.

What happens in DNA replication (cell division requires an entire new copy of the six-billion-plus codons that make up human DNA) is that fantastic error detection and correction mechanisms are hard at work. Yes mistakes happen, from missing genes to extra copies of genes to missing chromosomes and extra copies of chromosomes.

But the normal upshot is that about fifty of the six billion codons come out wrong. In data terms, the six billion codons are the rough equivalent of 2,000 beach-read novels, each with something more than 150,000 words. Out of those, one novel in 40 has one typo inserted. The literary quality, the grammar, the passion – basically unchanged.

The other side of that coin is that evolution is red, raw, impatient, and unstoppable. Consider that cell divisions needed to make the 100,000,000 cells in your body have to stack almost 50 deep; that means the final 50,000,000 cells’ DNA contains 2,500 – ish typos, or just over one per novel. And, not to be too dramatic about it, no two cells in your body are ever likely to have *identical* DNA.

Copy errors in your germ cells do *NOT* affect you. They *DO* affect your offspring.

This constant micro-vibration in DNA, across a population, can produce novel results. But we get along very well, thank you, with slightly differentied DNA from one cell to the next. Our children do the same. As long as the environment stays pretty much the same, the optimal DNA will stay the same too. But when there is some major change in the environment, the micro-jitter in the overall population’s DNA enables the species to drift, across many hundreds of generations, toward whatever the new optimum is.

Note well, the following definition of wobble says it is *possible* but does not quantify it – no definition of how often it happens. Fifty such errors typically get through the filter.

DEFINITION courtesy of Uncle Google: Wobble hypothesis: normal base pairing can occur between nitrogen bases in positions 1 and 2 of the codon and the corresponding bases (3 and 2) in the anticodon. Actually, the base 1 in anticodon can form non-Watson-Crick base pairing with the third position of the codon.

How can evolutionary psychology, philosophy, and evolutionary perspectives inform the science and religion dialogue?

Does genetic mutation over a long period of time lead to evolution?

One on one, mutations have no purpose and no conscience. They provide brownian motion, if you will, or jitter in the signal. Just the way, 50 years ago, a vibrating piece of sheet metal painted to resemble a football field let six-year-olds play a noisy version of the game, mutations allow populations to drift into adjustment with changing environments etc.

For instance, simple copy errors across SIX BILLION nucleotides (the size of the nuclear DNA in a single human cell) are very very very rare, such that only about fifty mistakes usually occur. This also means that NO TWO cells in anyone’s body will ever have identical DNA. (Go ahead and argue statistics with me – it’s possible, but the odds against are mathematically enormous.)

Mutation dusts tiny bits of fuzz across your DNA, and the bits of fuzz that land on your sperm/egg cell producing organs, which make your germ cells, pass on to your children. Evolution is ab so lute ly un stop pa ble.

When some event separates populations, this inevitable drift, over tens to hundreds of thousands of generations, takes that species from Version One to Versions Two and Three, thus resulting in three distinct species. The same factors that take the two populations past the point of interbreeding successfully have the same effect on either one relative to Version One. (Halfway stations: horses-zebra doesn’t work well, lion-tiger works so-so, and horse-doney makes mules – sturdy, and sterile.)

An opponent of evolution has proposed that, since cows losing their legs can’t make whales, the whole idea is bogus. What’s bogus in such a diminutized dataset is that cows are Version HumtyDumptySeven while whales are many different versions in the series HiggledyPiggledy, of whatever it was that both have derived from. And, by the way, a whale’s skeleton really does have teeny leg bones, and its flippers are basically front legs that grew out flat. That tail the cow swishes? It’s the real motor that drives the whale through the water. Both cows and whales do have tails, y’know.

Genetic mutation is constant. Over long periods of time it’s the engine that makes adaptation and speciation possible.

Forgive the long post – a detail relative to Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands:
They are all the same species; they can all interbreed. Whenever it was that the first breeding pair of finches produced young there, the food sources were numerous. Over time populations specialized. Don’t ask how, the facts on the ground make that outcome obvious.
Each one drifted to do a better job of exploiting a specific food source, and along with functional changes to beaks (etc.) to optimize for that food source, their plumage and song drifted too. The plumage and song changes helped each population stay separate, i.e. to form artificially isolated breeding populations.
Cross-breeding still succeeds, though it is naturally rare. Crossbred progeny don’t survive as well because their beaks (etc.) aren’t well specialized for either parent’s food source.
Why are they still one species? Because they can still interbreed. Why is that? Because there hasn’t been the requisite hundreds of thousands of generations. Someone with the time and interest should be able to compare their DNA and work backwards to how long ago that first pair started things off.
Adam, for instance, lived 70 to 75 thousand years ago; Eve lived 200 to 250 thousand years ago. Implication: Eve was in the same situation as that first mother finch, i.e. of all homo sapiens females, only her daughters survived to carry the line forward. The narrowing-down may have finalized fifty generations after she lived – – – but ONLY HER maternal line went forward. Ditto Adam; only his Y chromosome carried forward. (datapoint: there are a few Y’s in isolated areas of Africa with a 400K year pedigree.)

Novelists in the crowd, make up all the stories you can to dramatize such hard times. Did that Adam carry some Super-Mental gene that organized his gray matter in some devastatingly new manner? Or was he just lucky? Whatever, go for it! Start a new ONE FEMALE SURVIVING / ONE MALE SURVIVING fiction genre. (grins)

If you witnessed Jesus creating unquestionable miracles, what would ever compel you to betray him? The account of Judas makes no sense.

Nothing about a miracle makes sense. so why would Judas have to make sense? The critical detail is that Judas was an outsider the whole time, carrying the money and making sure his “share” of it was well endowed. His attachment to money, and his expectation that Jesus would make short work of silly men with clubs and swords? It’s easy to imagine a wayward mind creating a desired outcome, then believing that nothing major would go wrong.

Peter used an edged weapon – think on that when you consider life in that day, and in Jesus’ company no less!!!! Then go back to Judas, and realize that he thought it was a no-brainer way to con the religious authorities out of a man-price (the amount of money to atone for a death.) When he realized it had all gone south he tried to give the money back, threw it on the floor when they spurned the idea of putting blood money into the sacred Temple treasury—then went out and hanged himself.

It should be obvious that Judas was merely a foolish planner, who played fast-and-loose with GOD’s life, and lost.

Exactly according to plan, by the way.

What caused the “Social Norms” to change so drastically that returning soldiers are treated with respect and appreciation-quite unlike returning Vietnam war heroes?

A close family friend who had been very active supporting our local member of the House of Representatives asked him to appoint me to a military academy. The Navy in May or June of 1962 cultured some whitish skin on my fingers, proclaimed me fungus-vulnerable, and flunked me at my candidate physical. Six years later my brother passed his physical, for the Army.

(Side note: the Congressman told this friend “her chit had been canceled” or in other words all of her decades of service were now accounted for as a fully repaid debt. She was less than thrilled to be treated in such a capitalist manner by her beloved Democrat.)

My brother left at the two-year point, where the Army provides a built-in self selection for exit. The Army requires a given personality type, and he wasn’t ‘there’ for it. He finished school, by the way, on the GI bill because in those years we were bringing home thousands of boys in body bags from Viet Nam.

DURING HIS SECOND YEAR he was allowed to take his military haircut to off-campus social functions; if you think Kermit’s song “It isn’t easy being green” is a tear jerker, it holds no candle to “It isn’t easy being a cadet at a Wellesley social function.” ‘Nuf sed.

He didn’t get spit at after returning with PTSD and memories of friends’ fatal injuries, or with wounds of his own. But even men in training to become military officers “got the treatment.”

The Left’s dishonor went even farther – we got out in 1973, promised the South Viet Namese military goods, then *r*e*n*e*g*e*d* and thank you Teddy Kennedy et al. Even so it took two more years before Saigon fell. It was a time of deep moral squalor on every side. Today’s crop of historians who tell a balanced tale are to be revered.

If you can find any.

What could be a more scientific dating system than BC and AD (Before Christ and Anno Domini)?

The numbers are the real issue, and they don’t change, just the acronyms we give them, AD / CE and BC / BCE. Science per se has nothing to do with it, whatsoever.

But MATHEMATICS! The number line goes up through the negatives to zero and on to the positives. But the pre-science numbering system skipped Year Zero. The year 1 BCE was followed by the year 1 CE. No year 0, Need Not Apply. Can’t have something that ISN’T THERE such as a starting year that isn’t number 1. No zero (hence non-existent) year.

(PS modern scholarship and use of a PC app that shows the constellations in the skies 24-7-365 from anywhere on earth makes a MARVELOUS case that the wise men reached Bethlehem on roughly 25 December 2 BCE, but the birth was the prior June and the Annunciation fell on the Jewish New Year in September of 3 BCE. In case you wanted to know about that.)

In fact decimal numbering, which the Arabs borrowed from somewhere and we borrowed from them, made a huge difference when it replaced Roman Numerals somewhere prior to the invention of Other People’s Money (Bank of England led the way there) which unleashed the Industrial Revolution.

Year MCMXLIV anyone? I was born that year, and I turned 75 this year. That’s 1944 in case you wondered – MCM is 1000 + (1000 – 100) i.e. 1900; XL is (50 – 10) i.e. 40; and IV is (5 – 1) i.e. 4. So simple, so elegant!

And folks adamantly refused to switch to Arabic over this same foible, i.e. that it needs a nothing (zero) for positional accuracy. 1904 is also MCMIV (skipping the XL PART) but that zero in there? Did not compute.

Humans like the devil they know much better than the devil they don’t.

Have you changed your support stance for Donald Trump since his inauguration?

Never drew a non-Republican breath, never voted for anyone running under a party label other than Republican, and today I mourn the death-by-idiocy my party has volunteered for.

I voted for the Slightly Obese Genteman (make up your own translation for the acronym) so feel myself entitled to call him to account in a way that Hillary etc. voters don’t have available. Just a protest vote, but hey. My state went Blue, so there’s that.

Never thought he’d win, and never thought he’d last six months without some kind of roof caving in on him. The roof beams are sagging well, but who knows? I need twenty of fifty-three good sensible head-on-straight Republicans to vote in the Senate to convict.

God help us all.

What is a codon in biology?

Each triplet “encodes” something, hence the term codon. One encodes the start of a gene and three encode the end of a gene. In the middle of a gene the codon meaning “start” (AUG) actually means something.

What do that codon and the other 60 codons mean? Each one encodes one of 20 amino acids. Every protein is a sequence of amino acids, which fold in very specific (but also very hard to predict ahead of time – – – fascinating problem in computer science.

That’s in DNA; making a protein requires copying the sequence onto RNA, where the T gets translated to U; so the start and stop codons (AUG, UAA –  UGA – UAG) have T’s in them on the DNA double helix.

With 61 codons but only 20 amino acids, most of them have multiple encodings. Thus a few mutations turn out to have zero effect; all the rest change one amino acid in the resulting protein, and a few change a stop codon, meaning that the resulting protein gets big and doesn’t do its job. Or the start codon changes to something else, and the gene isn’t even findable.

Sounds scary, but life turns out to be subtle and resilient. In fact, during cell division (an adult cell is one of 100 trillion, so must descend through at least 47 cell divisions; 2 ** 47 ~ 140 trillion) every single cell division has to transcribe 2 billion codons – about 50 of them get miscopied. So after the 47th that’s ballparkish over 2 thousand miscopied codons. OUT OF 2 BILLION – no big deal. But at the same time, no two cells in your body wind up with identical DNA.

That’s the bad news; the good news is that evolution is unstoppable.

What does the Bible say about the rising sea levels we will experience by 2100? Where does this figure into prophecy?

The Bible describes, poorly, the Universe. It uses terms tailor-made to bronze age people. Its real strength is spiritual; we are made in GOD’s image, and saved by Jesus’ death on the cross. We bring a “broken and contrite heart” to the Lord in prayer and confession. When this life on earth ends, our souls go forward to GOD.

All well and good – but the idea that the Bible somehow promises a glimpse at major changes in the earth is impossible to substantiate. The Flood was one thing – and its consequence was somehow handed down as “the fire next time.”

Is global warming that “fire?” I have no idea, and find it very comforting to live to GOD, today. Global warming is unstopplable, along with the uprooting of the odd billion or so souls from all the seal-level areas of the world. Mankind may be able to forestall that via fusion, i.e. generating electricity by fusing hydrogen into helium. It will take that kind of science breakthrough to go yank all the tera-tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.

I’m not inclined to worry about the potential; the only real potential is in GOD.

If I make $10 billion dollars during 1 year will Elizabeth Warren’s 3% wealth tax be applied once to my $10 billion or will it also be applied every year after that until my fortune is less than $1 billion?

It’s a property tax. You HAVE fifty million dollars, and the Warren plan defines your “fair share”of that. Someone please help us define what “fair” is. This goes on year after year. If your income, less income tax, less your annual outgo, stack up higher than that “fair share” property tax, fine. You’ll be even richer, and pay a nicer fair share of your gross wealth next year.

But the needs of the many soon outweigh the assets of the few at the top. The math assumes that “the rich” will always be rich, but the plan requires far too much for that to remain true.

Beyond that huge built-in prevarication (about there always being plenty of rich folk) ask yourself, if we spend twice tomorrow on health care that we spend today, where is all that “product” right now, i.e. MRIs and MDs and pharmaceuticals and highly trained professionals? My nickel says that all of the above are already fairly busy. Where, then, is the rest? Spending 30 trillion dollars presumes there are places for that money to go, and those places don’t even exist.

Does Senator Warren have a plan for that, too? Bear in mind that folks in the rest of the First World only spend about $10 for every US $14 outlay for healthcare today. Yet we’re going to spend north of $25 to get everybody enrolled in full scale health care, kinda imitating the rest of the first world, yet outspend them by 2.5 to 1 instead of 1.4?

Utopian thinkers have lovely answers, and their plans make fun reading. Science fiction, actually.