Chemistry & Bioinformatics
Reporter: Christopher Williams
The Chemistry and Bioinformatics Activity was very interesting and informative. Many of us greatly enjoyed it. The Chemistry lecture was given by Dr. Iraj Nejad of the Department of Chemistry in the Computer and Modeling Center of Mt. San Antonia College We began by discussing global warming. We were all given an article on global warming and told to read it before arriving at the lecture. Two students were given two articles to read. During the lecture everyone paired up in groups of three, each person with a different article. The two students who read two articles were paired together. The first article, from the Citizen Outlook, was titled “Greenhouse Catapults Environmentalists’ Agenda” written in July/August 1991. This article argued against the greenhouse effect. It states that it is more than a coincidence that scientist say global warming is caused by coal, oil, and auto producers which happen to be the number one enemies of environmentalists. This article stated that the greenhouse effect is all a conspiracy created by environmentalists in order to scare people into protecting the earth. The second article comes from the Wall Street Journal. It is titled “Science Has Spoken: Global Warming”. It was written December 4, 1997 by Arthur B. Robinson and Zachary W. Robinson. This article states that the theory of global warming can’t be proven. This is because the predicted temperatures due to global warming do not correlate with the actual temperatures. Also, that the rises in temperature are because of changes in solar activity not global warming. Next that it is ridiculous to think that scientists could predict the weather for such a far in the future time, when they still have difficulty predicting the weather for an entire week. Also this article states that the increase levels in carbon dioxide, which is supposedly the cause of global warming, is actually helpful to the earth. This brings forth more plant and animal life. Therefore more carbon is having a positive effect rather than negative. This causes the belief that Kyoto should not begin to ration hydrocarbons. The final article is titled “Warming Up To Hot New Evidence” and is from an unknown source. It was written on January/February of 1997 by Curtis A. Moore. This was the only article to support the theory of global warming. It gives many predictions of the effects of global warming and gives evidence to support their predictions. One of these predictions was “The temperature of soil should rise as surface warmth bleeds slowly downward to heat the subsurface. EVIDENCE: Measurement of deep earth provides a true indication of long term warming because the temperatures of impermeable ground – soil beneath frozen tundra, for example rises only if surface ait is warmer. In ongoing measurements in the Alaskan artic, Arthur H. Lachenbruch of the U.S. Geological Survey used bore holes to determine that the temperature of the permafrost there had risen 2 to 4 degrees C (3.6 to 8F) over the last 40 to 90 years. During the past 10 years, scientists have measured ground warming averaging 1 degree C (1.8) F in Cuba, Australia, Greenland, Russia, France, Finland, Italy, China, New Zealand and Albania, among other countries confirming Lachenbruch’s findings.” The article consisted of 12 more similar predictions. After each of the groups had time to discuss the articles among themselves everyone was asked to vote as to whether or not they would sign a petition to put more money into research of preventing the greenhouse effect. Half of the attendance was for the petition while the other half was against it. Afterwards volunteers gave their opinion on the following questions: “What is Global Warming (GW)?”, “Is it real”, “What is causing it”, “What are potential consequences”, “Should we do anything about it”, and “If so, what?”. We then reviewed the amount that certain elements thought to contribute to global warming had increased over time. For example methane increased 4.7% in Samoa from 1985 to 1995 and carbon dioxide increased 4.7% in the South Pole from 1985-1990. We then learned what causes carbon to be released into the atmosphere. 60 Pg of carbon are released from animal and plant respiration a year, and 5 Pg of carbon are released from fossil fuel combustion. This shows that the amount of carbon released due to humans is insignificant. Afterwards we viewed Methane, Dinitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide atom structures as shown below.
Carbon Dioxide Atom (CO2) Methane Atom (CH4)
We got a chance to see how these atoms vibrate and move. At the end we once again voted on the previous petition. This time 13 people voted that it was not necessary to waste money on preparing for global warming. This concluded the chemistry lecture.
Next was the Bioinformatics lecture. It focused on a project titled the computable plant. Eric Mjolsness, a computer scientist in the University of California, Irvine and Elliot Meyerowitz, plant developmental biologists at CalTech, will work together to provide a description of plant development. They will study the meristem development in Arabidopsis thaliana. This is the model plant that has been used in contemporary plant biology research. Meristems are the inner plant tissues. This is where regulated cell division and pattern formation give rise to plant parts such as leaves and flowers. The scientists at Caltech will use green fluorescent proteins to indicate specific cell types in the apical meristem and show their lineages through meristem development. This will end up leading to specific arrangement of leaves and reproductive growth. Automation of picture acquisition and analysis will help them create and visualize a lot of data, which will be used by investigators to model cells and their patterns in the growing meristem and simulate developmental processes under various conditions. These tests will allow the investigators to make many predictions about various aspects of the subject. This entire lecture was information on the computable plant.
Both lectures proved to make the day very informative and exciting. A lot was learned that we never would have encountered before. This was a wonderful experience that many others should enjoy.