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(Gen) History of Science: The Geniuses Behind the Geniuses

 
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 23, 2006 12:24 pm    Post subject: (Gen) History of Science: The Geniuses Behind the Geniuses Reply with quote






We learn from people in the past. They have gone before us and they have their own discoveries to tell. Science works in this fashion. each generation makes a contribution and we all learn from those who came before us. In this lesson, we begin with a news article that describes how the works of various scientists through several generations are interconnected. The following website will take you through an odyssey of inventions and discoveries:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/thenandnow/

Also check out the websites below that provide glimpses on the history of the sciences.


The Geniuses Behind the Geniuses
By Robin Lloyd
Special to LiveScience
posted: 23 January 2006
07:42 am ET

Sir Isaac Newton once said that if he had achieved anything with his work, such as his laws of motion and gravity, it was "by standing on the shoulders of giants."

The scientific vision and achievements of those before brought Newton metaphorically to a higher ground that allowed him to "see" further into the nature of the physical world.

Newton's "giants" probably included Aristotle and Rene Descartes, among others.

Few scientists are in Newton's class. Among them was Albert Einstein.

And sure enough, a couple of centuries later, one of the many things Einstein puzzled over included how to reconcile Newton's law of gravity with special relativity, which describes the motion of objects at high speeds.

The result, after eight years of work, was his theory of general relativity. Einstein consulted during this time with such greats as physicist Max Planck and mathematicians David Hilbert and Tullio Levi-Civita, who contributed much to calculus and other fields. Giants hanging out with giants.

The reality is that behind many scientific geniuses, there is at least one other genius, and often a number of them.

Nicolaus Copernicus, who theorized heretically in the early 1500s that the Earth orbited the Sun, not vice-versa, had a huge influence on astronomers Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei, as well as Newton. Some shoulders are bigger than others.

Some scientific stars practically orbit one another, says John Galbraith Simmons, author of "The Scientific 100" (Citadel Press, 2000). For instance, Charles Darwin brought a copy of Charles Lyell's foundational book on geology with him on his 5-year journey to the Galapagos and beyond.

Without the insight that the rocks of today developed over time due to a succession of physical events, Darwin would have struggled dearly to arrive at his theory of evolution, which explains how life as we see it now also developed over time.

Another binary scientific setup is Michael Faraday, who was the first to conceptualize electromagnetic fields, and James Clerk Maxwell, who explicitly started out with Faraday's insights and spent his life developing them into laws that quantify and explain how electricity works.

Francis Crick and James Watson, co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, were following up on a suggestion made just a couple years earlier by chemist Linus Pauling about the general helical nature of large protein molecules.

It takes much more than a genius pal or predecessor, however, to do great science, according to Simmons. Scientific advances emerge from social, economic and political conditions.

"The idea of a lone genius who changes the world with his ideas is essentially flawed," Simmons says. "Copernicus came up with a brilliant idea, and it would have been strictly limited without Kepler's work. But the social background—the Reformation—played a major role in how all this work was conceived and received. Society creates the conditions for scientists to be creative and productive—or not."

*************************************************************

Questions to explore further this topic:

Here is an accompanying article, "Genius are Just Like Us":

http://www.livescience.com/his.....ke_us.html

What is science (from the perspective of an elementary education)?

http://www.ed.gov/pubs/parents.....cepts.html

Is science education important?

http://onprc.ohsu.edu/educatio.....?doc_id=71

What is the most important skill in science?

http://www.youth.net/ysc/educnews/readscie.htm

What should elementary school children learn in science?

http://www.teamup.co.nz/primar.....cience.htm

Adventures in Science

http://collections.ic.gc.ca/sc.....index.html

A Timeline of Physics

http://www.schoolscience.co.uk.....ution.html

A World of Particles

http://www.schoolscience.co.uk.....over1.html

A SCIENCE ODYSSEY

Then & Now

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/thenandnow/

On the Edge

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/ontheedge/

You Try It

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/tryit/

People and Discoveries (20th century)

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/

Medicine and Health
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/da.....ealth.html

Physics and Astronomy
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/da.....astro.html

Human Behavior
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/humbeh.html

Technology
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/tech.html

Earth and Life Sciences
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/tech.html

Guided tour 18th century to present times

http://www.makingthemodernworl.....ded_tours/

Making the Modern World

http://www.makingthemodernworld.org.uk/stories/

Icons of Invention

http://www.makingthemodernworl.....invention/

Hundreds of everday articles we used that have been manufactured from 1750 to present times

http://www.makingthemodernworl.....yday_life/

How did some people decide to become scientists?

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/kids-only.....index.html

GAMES

http://onprc.ohsu.edu/educatio.....?doc_id=69
http://www.hhmi.org/coolscience/
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/re.....ter2c.html
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/kids-only.....index.html


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 16, 2006 7:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Future of Science: A Conversation with Alan Lightman
By Sara Goudarzi
Special to LiveScience
posted: 15 February 2006
09:22 am ET

From the beginning of time, the quest for defining existence has been a universal struggle for humanity. Art, science, philosophy, and religion are some of the search engines used for this pursuit. Each time a scientific discovery is made, or a piece of art is created, we find yet another piece of the never-ending existential puzzle.

“In the next 100 years we will have some organisms that are half human and half machine.”

Physicist, novelist, and science writer Alan Lightman, author of the famed “Einstein’s Dreams” and the recently released “The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs in 20th-century Science” (Knopf Canada, 2005), discusses in an interview his thoughts on the next great scientific discoveries, the controversial state of science, the marriage of art and science, and the different approaches of examining the world around us.

Born in Memphis Tennessee in 1948, Lightman received his degree in physics from Princeton University and his PhD in theoretical physics from the California Institute of Technology. He is an adjunct professor of Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LiveScience: What do you think the next great discoveries will be? What fields?

Alan Lightman: It’s hard to know what the next great discoveries will be. In 1900, for example, I don’t think it would have been possible to predict that in the next 25 years that both relativity and quantum physics would have been discovered. It’s easier to say where the frontiers are for each science.

For example, in physics the frontiers are at string theory, which is a theory of the smallest elements of matter, an explanation of why particles have the masses that they do. Why the proton has the mass that it does.

In astronomy and also in physics the frontiers are in finding the nature of dark energy, which is this anti-gravitational force discovered in the last 5 years [it makes up the bulk of the total mass-energy budget of the universe].

In biology, I think understanding why stem cells begin specializing with some becoming liver cells and some becoming heart cells and some becoming brain cells. We don’t know why cells specialize. They all start out the same yet during the cell division process, they start going in different directions. We don’t understand that.

I think biotechnology is a tremendous field for growth and new discoveries, combining inanimate matter with animate matter. I think in the next 100 years we will have some organisms that are half human and half machine.

LS: Do you have any idea who these people might be (the discoverers)?

No. I know some of the great scientists of today but don’t know who the great scientists of tomorrow will be. In string theory for example, one of the areas I mentioned, we know that a great genius is Edward Whitten who works for the Institute for Advance Studies in Princeton, and he seems to be the most brilliant of the physicists working in string theory. So it may be that either something that he’s already done or something that he will do in the next few years will be a great discovery.

LS: All these great discoverers sit on the shoulders of little discoverers, right?

Yes, that’s right. One of the problems of writing a book of this type where you focus on the great discoveries is that it tends to give the impression that all science depends upon a small number of geniuses and that’s not really true.

There are many people who work in science and whose works, although not necessarily of monumental importance by themselves, are all part of the great tapestry of science. And it’s true that all the great discoveries depend upon previous discoveries both big and small.

LS: Some people say science is under assault, with intelligent design, nonbelievers of global warming, lack of support for stem cell research, etc. Do you really think it is really under assault compared to 100 years ago, 200 years ago?

I think science has always been under assault to some extent. I think there are fashions in cycles in which science is attacked for a period of time and is embraced for a period of time and it’s attacked again. Generally attack against science is part of a greater attack against intellectualism in general. I think right now we’re in an anti-intellectual period in the United States, but I think the pendulum will swing back in the other direction again. I agree with you that we’re not seeing anything now that hasn’t happened in earlier centuries.

LS: Do you think it’s just human nature because we want to know, and science only takes us to a certain boundary and people have this need to explain how things work?

Yes, human beings have always had a need to find meaning in their personal lives and meaning in the world at large. If you look at the Cro-Magnon paintings and caves in Lascaux in France you could see that these people 100,000 years ago were searching for meaning.

“Right now we’re in an anti-intellectual period in the United States, but I think the pendulum will swing back in the other direction again.”

There are a lot of different ways of searching for meaning. You can search for it in religion; you can search for it in philosophy, you can search for it in science. And science will never fully satisfy most people because science has limitations. Science will never be able to explain why the universe is as it is. Science will never be able to explain what is right and what is wrong and moral and ethical behavior.

LS: But you always need a skeptic to come by later and push the boundaries of science.

Science is essentially a skeptical endeavor, and over the long run the way science proceeds is to be skeptical of received knowledge, to be skeptical of authority. But there are many interesting questions that don’t lie in the realm of science. For example, is there a God? Or what is the nature of love? Or would we be happier if we lived to be 1,000 years old?

These are extremely interesting questions. They are important questions. They are questions that provoke us and stimulate us and express our humanity but they are not scientific questions. They cannot be falsified. They are questions that you cannot test definitively with experiment. So science has its limitations and there’s a great deal of life and human longing that lies outside of science. It’s a mistake to try to lump these questions in with science.

Science is very powerful but it has its limitations.

LS: In your books and interviews and essays, you constantly make the distinction between art and science and their intersection. I wonder if there is a distinction. When you want to cross a scientific boundary, it’s often an art to push it, especially in theoretical fields.

Well you have to be creative, just as you have to be creative in the arts. I think that science and the arts have many things in common but they also have some things that are different, and I think the differences are important and we should not try to obscure the differences. There are many different ways of being in the world just as there are many different cultures.

And just as we lose the richness of human existence by trying to homogenize the different cultures and ethnicities, we lose the richness of being human by trying to merge all the different disciplines including science and art.

I think scientists and artists are both searching for truth but they’re not the same kind of truth. The scientist is looking for the truth in the world of mass and force, a truth that exists outside of our human existence, a truth about the inanimate physical world. Whereas the artist is looking for an emotional truth, a truth that is inherently rooted in our human existence. The scientist is always at any one moment working on questions that have answers.

LS: If you could have discovered one of the great discoveries you name in your book, which would you pick?

Special relativity.

LS: Why?

“Science will never be able to explain why the universe is as it is. Science will never be able to explain what is right and what is wrong and moral and ethical behavior.”

Because I think that there is nothing more fundamental in human existence than time. I think we begin having experience with time before we’re born, in the womb. It’s fundamental. It’s primary, and to re-conceive the nature of time seems to me an exquisite experience.

LS: What novels/literature books would you recommend to scientists and vice versa?

Great question. [To the scientists] I would recommend “Invisible Cities” by Italo Calvino, “Blindness” by Jose Saramago, “The Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka, and “The Rubaiyyat of Omar Khayyam.”

And for works of science for non scientists, I would recommend first of all “The Origin of Species” by Charles Darwin, “The Character of Physical Law” by Richard Feynman, and “A Mathematician’s Apology” by G.H. Hardy, the great Cambridge mathematician. Although that’s mathematics and not science, it’s a stunning book.

LS: Do you generally have your writing students read old or current literature?

Both. One of the mistakes that a lot of the American English departments make is that they don’t have their students read contemporary literature, and I would say this is a problem with high schools also, that you often in high school English classes read only the great classics and the great problem with this is that it gives students the impression that great literature is something that happened in the past, and in fact great literature is being created all the time.

Even now, there is some writer working away right now as we speak, writing great literature. And it’s important for students to understand that literature is a living thing and is being produced every minute.

LS: But there was a time known for its flowering of literature with an appreciation of writing and music that may not be as prevalent right now. So there’s a reason they go back to work from that period.

We have great literature that’s being written now and I think that we need to emphasize that it is being written now. I think that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a great writer. I think that JM Coetze, the South African writer that moved to Australia is a great writer. I think Don DeLillo and Phillip Roth in the United States are great writers, and of course there are many European writers and great Iranian writers who I just don’t know.

LS: Do you think there’s a lot of self-censorship with scientists?

I don’t think that scientists are censoring themselves. No. I think that you look at the frontiers of any pure science and people are following it wherever it leads. There was a censoring of bio-engineering, genetic engineering in the early 1970’s because people thought that maybe with genetic engineering they were unleashing new forms of life that could cause great damage. But since then, there’s been no censoring.

“There’s a great deal of life and human longing that lies outside of science.”

Scientists are very independent-minded. They are very anti-authority and they really bristle at the idea of censorship

LS: If you could live to see one great upcoming discovery, what would you like to see?

I would like to see an understanding of the nature of dark energy, which is a cosmic force that accounts for most of the material of the universe and I am certain that when we find that it will be a revolution in physics.

LS: Do you really think that there is a dark energy?

Yes, I do. There’s something very significant about the behavior of the universe that we don’t understand. Our experiments and observations show us that the expansion of the universe if accelerating, and that can’t happen with the traditional gravitational force. It would take some anti-gravitational force.

Whenever we try to calculate what would be expected of such a force we get wildly incorrect answers, so there’s a great disparity between theory and experiment. And in the past, in all the previous centuries in science when there’s a great disparity between theory and experiment you were on the verge of a revolution of a new conception. That happened with relativity theory, it happened with quantum theory.

LS: Some scientists say it’s not dark energy, but rather modifications in gravity.

Even if that were true it would be extremely interesting.

LS: So you just want the acceleration puzzle solved?

I want to see whatever it is. If it’s a modification in the law of gravity, I want to see that. But even that would be a great learning experience. It’s something that we don’t understand and scientists are always excited at things they don’t understand. It means they’re on the verge of discovery.
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PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2006 3:48 pm    Post subject: Virginia study urges early emphasis on science Reply with quote

University of Virginia
25 May 2006

Virginia study urges early emphasis on science

Future of US science depends on it
What do you want to be when you grow up? Eighth-graders asked this question in 1988 were two to three times more likely to earn science and engineering degrees in college if their answer was a science-related career.
The National Research Council recently reported the United States is slipping in its leadership in science and technology fields and recommended "vastly improving" K-12 education in math and science.

Research by Robert H. Tai, assistant professor of science education at the University of Virginia's Curry School of Education, agrees with this recommendation. At a time when more schools are focusing on reading and math to beef up standardized test scores, Tai's research, to be published in the May 26 issue of Science magazine, suggests this focus may ignore the importance of an early emphasis on science.

Tai and U.Va. researchers Christine Qui Liu, Adam V. Maltese and Xitao Fan analyzed data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, begun in 1988, to see if expectations about science made a difference in later choice of college academic study.

"To the question, does it matter if a person decides early on whether to pursue science? The answer is yes," Tai said. "While the outcome may not be surprising, in light of the many stories we've all heard about the lives of famous scientists, this study put this notion to the test and found a link between early life expectations and future life outcomes."

Tai and the research team looked at a random national sample of 3,359 students who had first been surveyed in eighth grade and who received college degrees by 2000. The study focused on the survey question, "What kind of work do you expect to be doing when you are 30 years old?" Connecting this question to data collected from the same students years later, the researchers could identify those who had selected the option of science-related jobs compared to students who chose nonscience jobs and then majored in life sciences or physical sciences and engineering. Those youth who expected to go into the sciences were two times more likely to get their degree in a life science and three times more likely to get a degree in the physical sciences or engineering than students who chose other career options.

The study controlled for variables including students' demographics, academic characteristics and achievement scores, as well as their parents' backgrounds, such as education and professional versus nonprofessional occupation.

Although mathematics was important, mathematics achievement doesn't take the place of science interest, Tai found. The results indicate that average eighth-grade math achievers with science-related expectations are much more likely to earn physical science or engineering degrees than high math achievers without this interest.

Lately, federal policy has put more emphasis on high school curricula, ignoring science education for elementary and middle school grades. Tai's concern is that teachers are increasingly teaching to the test because under the federal NCLB regulations, their schools will get penalized if students don't pass and they don't make adequate yearly progress.

"Life is not a standardized test. We should use testing to help us learn more about how best to teach children. But kids are not being encouraged to go into science by testing."

The paper concludes: "Although our current analysis does not provide proof of an uninterrupted causal chain of influence, we should pay close attention to children's early exposure to science at the middle and even younger grades."


###
Research for the Science paper grew out of a larger study, "Project Crossover," supported by the National Science Foundation, that Tai and Fan are working to track and describe what it takes for graduate students to develop into scientists.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 28, 2006 12:13 pm    Post subject: Anatomy of a Scientific Revolution Reply with quote

Anatomy of a Scientific Revolution
Max Planck Society
July 28, 2006


Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science publish the most comprehensive study yet on the structure of a scientific revolution.

With the "Genesis of General Relativity", the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) has just published the most comprehensive study to date of the structures of a scientific revolution. According to the study, a scientific revolution is not a simple radical new beginning, but the result of a new organisation of transmitted knowledge. The result of 10 years of research, this four-volume, 2000-page work on the origins of Einstein’s General Relativity Theory - one of the most important physical theories of the 20th century - will appear in the Springer Press. Jürgen Renn, Director at the Max Planck Institute, will present the work, of which he is also the editor, to the scientific public at the 11th Marcel Grossmann Meetings, which will take place in Berlin on 24 - 29 July, 2006. The work, which is the result of an international team of authors, contains new insights into the premises, assumptions, and preconditions that underlie Einstein’s scientific revolution, as, for instance, insights into the role of Einstein’s previously largely unknown precursors and competitors for a theory which today represents the basis of modern cosmology.

"Einstein did not achieve this revolution by means of a single stroke of genius—rather, he stood on the shoulders of dwarves and giants", says Jürgen Renn. Volumes 1 and 2 contain the facsimile and transcription of, as well as a scholarly commentary on, Einstein’s famous Zurich Notebook from 1912-1913. The research by Einstein recorded in this notebook forms a pivotal part of his creation of the theory of general relativity. Complementing this core material are essays re-evaluating the genesis of Einstein’s theory in light of the analysis of this notebook. Volumes 3 and 4 contain additional sources by Einstein and his contemporaries, who from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century contributed to this groundbreaking development. These sources, most of which are presented here in translation for the first time, are accompanied by essays by leading historians of relativity offering new insights into the broader scientific context from which Einstein’s theory emerged. The result of more than a decade of research, these four volumes provide a study of unprecedented depth of one of the most important revolutions in the history of science.

The volumes will be supplemented by further sources that will be made freely available on the internet, as part of the virtual Einstein exhibition mounted by the institute ( http://einsteinvirtuell.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/intro ). The core results of this decades-long research - especially the insights into the mechanisms of a scientific revolution - are also available in a presentation intended for a wider public in Jürgen Renn’s "On the shoulders of giants and dwarves - Einstein’s uncompleted revolution", recently published with Wiley Press.

This in-depth analysis has already met with broad recognition among physicists and historians of science. Bernard Schutz, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, is of the opinion, "This account changes our ideas of how Einstein arrived at general relativity and of what physical meaning it had to him and to his contemporaries. As a physicist living at a time when physicists are re-inventing gravity once again, I find this history not only fascinating and compelling but deeply relevant." William Unruh, Professor of Physics at the University of British Columbia, is similarly convinced: "Combining papers which interpret and explain the historical and theoretical situation with translations of most of the major papers of the time, these volumes will be indispensable for anyone with even the smallest interest in the history of that phenomenal quest which finally gave us general relativity. "Roger Stuewer, Professor at the University of Minnesota, praises the volumes as an "extraordinary intellectual achievement, one without parallel in the history and philosophy of science."

Bibliography

Renn, Jürgen (Ed.). 2006. The Genesis of General Relativity, 4 Bde. Dordrecht: Springer:

Bd.1: Michel Janssen, John Norton, Jürgen Renn, Tilman Sauer and John Stachel Einstein’s Zurich Notebook: Introduction and Source.

Bd. 2: Michel Janssen, John Norton, Jürgen Renn, Tilman Sauer and John Stachel Einstein’s Zurich Notebook: Commentary and Essays.

Bd. 3: Jürgen Renn und Matthias Schemmel (Hrsg.). Gravitation in the Twilight of Classical Physics. Between Mechanics, Field Theory, and Astronomy.

Bd. 4: Jürgen Renn und Matthias Schemmel (Hrsg.). Gravitation in the Twilight of Classical Physics. The Promise of Mathematics.

Renn, Jürgen. 2006. Auf den Schultern von Riesen und Zwergen. Einsteins unvollendete Revolution. Berlin: Wiley-VCH.Renn,

Jürgen (Hrsg.). 2005. Albert Einstein - Ingenieur des Universums. Einsteins Leben und Werk im Kontext. Berlin: Wiley-VCH.

Renn, Jürgen (Hrsg.). 2005. Albert Einstein - Ingenieur des Universums. Hundert Autoren für Einstein. Berlin: Wiley-VCH.

Renn, Jürgen (Hrsg.). 2005. Albert Einstein - Ingenieur des Universums. Dokumente eines Lebensweges. Berlin: Wiley-VCH.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:46 am    Post subject: Recipe for Genius Revealed Reply with quote

Recipe for Genius Revealed

By Sara Goudarzi
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 19 December 2006
03:38 pm ET

If you think the innate talents of your child alone will produce the next Albert Einstein, think again.

The real recipe for producing a bright-minded adult, according to a new study, calls for a few ingredients—cognitive abilities, educational opportunities, interest, and plain old hard work.

The 35-year study, published online on Dec. 18 by the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, tracked 5,000 mathematically gifted individuals throughout their lives, beginning at age 12. Success was measured by the number of patents earned, tenures secured at universities and income, among other factors.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/hum.....minds.html
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 28, 2007 8:35 am    Post subject: Genes and genius: Researchers confirm association between ge Reply with quote

Washington University School of Medicine
27 February 2007

Genes and genius: Researchers confirm association between gene and intelligence

If you're particularly good with puzzles or chess, the reason may be in your genes.

A team of scientists, led by psychiatric geneticists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has gathered the most extensive evidence to date that a gene that activates signaling pathways in the brain influences one kind of intelligence. They have confirmed a link between the gene, CHRM2, and performance IQ, which involves a person's ability to organize things logically.

"This is not a gene FOR intelligence," says Danielle M. Dick, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and lead author on the study. "It's a gene that's involved in some kinds of brain processing, and specific alterations in the gene appear to influence IQ. But this single gene isn't going to be the difference between whether a person is a genius or has below-average intelligence."

Dick's team comprehensively studied the DNA along the gene and found that several variations within the CHRM2 gene could be correlated with slight differences in performance IQ scores, which measure a person's visual-motor coordination, logical and sequential reasoning, spatial perception and abstract problem solving skills. When people had more than one positive variation in the gene, the improvements in performance IQ were cumulative. The study's findings are available online in Behavioral Genetics and will appear in an upcoming print issue of that journal.

IQ tests also measure verbal skills and typically include many subtests. For this study, subjects took five verbal subtests and four performance subtests, but the genetic variations influenced only performance IQ scores.

"One way to measure performance IQ may be to ask people to order pictures correctly to tell a story," Dick explains. "A simple example might be pictures of a child holding a vase, the vase broken to bits on the floor and the child crying. The person taking the test would have to put those pictures into an order that tells the story of how the child dropped the vase and broke it and then cried."

The researchers studied DNA gathered as part of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA). In this multi-center study, people who have been treated for alcohol dependence and members of their families provide DNA samples to researchers, who isolated DNA regions related to alcohol abuse and dependence, as well as a variety of other outcomes.

Some of the participants in the study also took the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised, a traditional IQ test. In all, members of 200 families, including more than 2,150 individuals, took the Wechsler test, and those results were matched to differences in individuals' DNA.

By comparing individual differences embedded in DNA, the team zeroed in on CHRM2, the neuronal receptor gene on chromosome 7. The CHRM2 gene activates a multitude of signaling pathways in the brain involved in learning, memory and other higher brain functions. The research team doesn't yet understand how the gene exerts its effects on intelligence.

Intelligence was one of the first traits that attracted the attention of people interested in the interplay of genes and environmental influences. Early studies of adopted children, for example, showed that when children grow up away from their biological parents, their IQs are more closely correlated to biological parents, with whom they share genes, than adoptive parents, with whom they share an environment.

But in spite of the association between genes and intelligence, it has been difficult to find specific variations that influence intelligence. The genes identified in the past were those that had profoundly negative effects on intelligence — genes that cause mental retardation, for example. Those that contribute to less dramatic differences have been much harder to isolate.

Dick's team is not the first to notice a link between intelligence and the CHRM2 gene. In 2003, a group in Minnesota looked at a single marker in the gene and noted that the variation was related to an increase in IQ. A more recent Dutch study looked at three regions of DNA along the gene and also noticed influences on intelligence. In this new study, however, researchers tested multiple genetic markers throughout the gene.

"If we look at a single marker, a DNA variation might influence IQ scores between two and four points, depending on which variant a person carries," Dick explains. "We did that all up and down the gene and found that the variations had cumulative effects, so that if one person had all of the 'good' variations and another all of the 'bad' variations, the difference in IQ might be 15 to 20 points. Unfortunately, the numbers of people at those extremes were so small that the finding isn't statistically significant, but the point is we saw fairly substantial differences in our sample when we combined information across multiple regions of the gene."

Dick says the next step is to look at the gene and its numerous variants to learn what is going on biologically that might affect cognitive performance. Presently, she says it's too early to predict how small changes in the gene might be influencing communication in the brain to affect intelligence, and she says it's nearly certain CHRM2 is not the only gene involved.

"Perhaps as many as 100 genes or more could influence intelligence," she says. "I think all of the genes involved probably have small, cumulative effects on increasing or decreasing I.Q., and I expect overall intelligence is a function of the accumulation of all of these genetic variants, not to mention environmental influences ranging from socio-economic status to the value that's placed on learning when children are growing up."


###
Dick DM, et al. Association of CHRM2 with IQ: Converging Evidence for a Gene Influencing Intelligence. Behavioral Genetics, DOI 10.1007/s10519-006-9131-2

This work was funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and that National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health.

Washington University School of Medicine's full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
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PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 12:27 pm    Post subject: Greatest Mysteries: What Makes a Scientist? Reply with quote

Greatest Mysteries: What Makes a Scientist?
By Michael Schirber, Special to LiveScience

posted: 01 August 2007 09:03 am ET

Editor's Note: We asked several scientists from various fields what they thought were the greatest mysteries today, and then we added a few that were on our minds, too. This article is the first of 15 in LiveScience's "Greatest Mysteries" series to run each weekday.

The scientist's job is to figure out how the world works, to "torture" Nature to reveal her secrets, as the 17th century philosopher Francis Bacon described it. But who are these people in the lab coats (or sports jackets, or suits, or T-shirts and jeans) and how do they work?

It turns out that there is a good deal of mystery surrounding the mystery-solvers.

For the full article:

http://www.livescience.com/str.....minds.html
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