Biology 446    Unsolved Problems Fall 2018

Some more things to think about, possible topics for future classes:

What happens when a young child learns a language?
Does language learning simply result from deducing grammatical rules from the thousands and millions of sentences they hear spoken by their parents?
(& Would a sufficiently powerful computer also be able to learn correct grammatical rules, sufficient to generate a correct spoken language?
Alternatively, are our brains in some way pre-programmed to deduce the grammatical rules of actual languages, which conversely would imply that languages are in some way especially learnable?

Brains encode memory by forming new synapses? ...or maybe by pruning certain pre-existing synapses.

Can experimental scientists be helped to recognize evidence by reading or discussing such very abstract ideas?

Are genes encoded by conformational fitting-together of proteins?

Based on measurements of mutation rates, can you deduce whether covalent bonding encodes genes? (If conformational fitting encoded genes, then how much higher should mutation rates be, as compared with actual mutation rates? & Does the existence of error correction mechanisms undermine the logic of such ideas?

For the purpose of duplicating and replicating information, you need two complementary structures - photographic negatives and positives, records and templates, etc. - (Can we think of exceptions?)

How do muscle cells get arranged into their correct geometric shapes, positions and skeletal attachment sites (and motor nerve connections)?

Chemical signals stimulate undifferentiated stem cells at certain locations to transcribe the correct sets of genes needed to change into muscle cells? (Is this kind of mechanism assumed to be correct by those advocating medical use of stem cells to produce regeneration?)

Suppose that embryonic cells at certain locations differentiate as muscle cells, and some force then pulls them toward their correct skeletal attachment locations on the surfaces of bones? Could that be the real mechanism? Could you invent experiments, or other predictions that could disprove this type of mechanism, or invent predictions that "stick their necks out" so far that confirmation of those predictions would convert skeptics?

Some more YouTube links that you might enjoy.

Please listen to at least a few minutes of each:   
An interview With James Watson on writing The Double Helix   An interview with Watson and Crick together   Music / language relations   How languages evolve   Language design   How memory works   Neural Darwinism    hox genes   video about The Double Helix in Spanish


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