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Biotech Science

Scientists Measure How Quickly Plant Genes Mutate 67

eldavojohn writes "A recent study puts observed numbers on genome mutations in plants. This kind of research is becoming more popular in understanding evolution. The research 'followed all genetic changes in five lines of the mustard relative Arabidopsis thaliana that occurred during 30 generations. In the genome of the final generation they then searched for differences to the genome of the original ancestor.' A single generation has about a one in 140 million chance of mutating any letter of the genome (which has about 120 million base pairs). Sound like bad odds? From the article, 'if one starts to consider that they occur in the genomes of every member of a species, it becomes clear how fluid the genome is: In a collection of only 60 million Arabidopsis plants, each letter in the genome is changed, on average, once. For an organism that produces thousands of seeds in each generation, 60 million is not such a big number at all.' The academic paper is available in Science, though seeing more than the abstract requires a subscription."
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Scientists Measure How Quickly Plant Genes Mutate

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  • evolution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:13PM (#30632082)

    Plants don't evolve, they get changed by the touch of his noodly appendages

  • Enough Already ! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:25PM (#30632154)

    The academic paper is available in Science, though seeing more than the abstract requires a subscription

    I thought this was "news for nerds, stuff that matters", not "Science magazine touting for subscriptions".

    If we can't even RTFA without paying first, then it has no place on this site IMHO, as we have all come to realize that TFS is at best "a summary", and at worst, complete BS.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:58PM (#30632364) Homepage Journal

    Slashdot regularly reports on new products costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, sometimes tens of thousands. You don't get to use the product (particularly if it's hardware) without paying for it, yet many more people will talk about it than will pony up the cash.

    If you want to read the article without a subscription, you can do so for fifteen bucks. If you're in school, or know anyone who is, there's a good chance you can do so for free.

    For those of us in bioinformatics, this kind of thing is our bread and butter. Don't dismiss this as "not news for nerds" just because it doesn't happen to relate to one of the particular kinds of nerdiness about which you care enough to pay a small amount of money.

  • Re:evolution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hey ( 83763 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:07PM (#30632420) Journal

    If you are having troubling proving negative hypothesis A ... try proving "not A".

  • by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:13PM (#30632444)

    I don't care to pay *any* amount of money for nerd news, that's why I'm here in the first place.

    Having essentially a "free" news for nerds site, then linking it to paid-only subscription articles kind of defeats the purpose, wouldn't you agree ?

    Which was my original point and seems to have got lost. It's not about whether or not I'm prepared to pay X amount to get Y information, it's about the fact that this is supposedly a "free" site.

    It's the same kind of scam which means when I search for "free software" on Google, I end up on websites that offer "free downloads of software that needs to be paid for".

  • Re:Oh great. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:16PM (#30632458) Homepage Journal

    As far as wilful misinterpretation goes, you have to worry a lot more about the creationists on this one than the "greenies." It doesn't really affect the environmentalist viewpoint in any meaningful way, but it requires the more sophisticated creationists to move the goalposts again to maintain the artificial "microevolution/macroevolution" dichotomy they're so enamored of.

  • Re:evolution ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by radtea ( 464814 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:22PM (#30632512)

    It tells me that you can't prove a negative.

    You most certainly can prove a negative, and scientists do so all the time. The argument is generally of the form, "If X is true, the phenomenon Y must be observed under conditions Z. We have created conditions Z, proved by positive calibration that if Y occurred we would see it. Therefore X is false."

    Only people who are completely ignorant of exactly the kind of experimental science that has driven our understanding of the universe in the past century would claim that you can't prove a negative. I blame first year introductions to logic, which teach some medieval nonsense in the guise of "logic" that doesn't even touch on the empirical falsehood of Leibniz's Law, much less introduce the logic of science, which is Bayesian.

  • by one cup of coffee ( 1623645 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:31PM (#30632596)
    "If we can't even RTFA without paying first, then it has no place on this site IMHO"

    WTF!? IANAL but AFAIK on Slashdot, RTFA-ing is BS! LMAO!

    I'm sorry,,, I'll leave now....
  • Re:Oh great. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:33PM (#30632612)
    Genetic diversity is useful, as it make it much harder for a single pathogen to wipe out a population in a short space of time.

    As for the rest, nobody is going to claim that each individual is a species. You've constructed a rather unconvincing straw man to hijack an interesting article, because you have a problem with some imaginary "greenies".
  • Re:evolution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @02:14PM (#30633010)

    Bonus points for introducing a second unrelated hot topic.

    What I want to know is the impact of gay marriage, and dating co-workers on all this.

  • Re:evolution ? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @02:34PM (#30633216)

    It's funny the people warning us about one world (elected)government don't issue warnings about our (unelected)corporate overlords.

  • by dkf ( 304284 ) <> on Sunday January 03, 2010 @03:00PM (#30633404) Homepage

    Are scientists so greedy, they need each person to pay 15$ for a fucking glance to what they are doing?

    Any research institution worth the name will have a site license for the journal. The rest of you should try googling for a preprint...

  • by Beezlebub33 ( 1220368 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:38PM (#30633990)
    It's definitely not the scientists themselves. The scientists that I know would be happy to have you read their research (for free). You can get preprints, reprints, research papers, and all sorts of documents that discuss research.

    The thing here though is that it's printed in a refereed journal, specifically Science, that is a really big deal to most scientists. The scientists are plenty willing to let their paper be published in a journal that costs money to have the ability to put 'Science' on their CVs (actually, they are more than 'plenty willing', they are probably willing to give their left nut for it). The prestige associated with getting published in Nature or Science is well worth losing some readership on the internet. In addition, the paper will be available to the people that really need the paper itself (other scientists) because they all have access to Science through their institutions, or they are willing to pay $15 for it. The general public is almost certainly not that interested in the details of the paper, and they can get the info through other means (popular press, reviews), or they can pony up the $15 for it.

    When someone write a book, and it is discussed on Slashdot, do you complain that the book is not available on Slashdot? Why is this different?
  • by SlashBugs ( 1339813 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:45PM (#30634030)
    Given the choice, all scientists would probably publish their research freely; it's actually pretty common practice in physics and maths. However, in other fields -- including biology -- this isn't realistically possible.

    A scientist's career and a department's funding are entirely dependent on their reputation, which is almost completely dependant on getting your work published in high profile (a.k.a "high impact factor") journals. In order for these journals to accept amd publish your work, you have to sign over copyright to the publishing company, and agree that you won't distribute the article for free.Scientists get completely shafted in this system: We raise money, do the work, write the article, sign over copyright to the publisher then pay for the privilige of them selling our work for their own profit. Then we're contractually forbidden from passing on copies of our work to interested colleagues (or potential employers, etc), much less the wider world.

    There are some exceptions to this. In the UK, certain funding bodies and research charities insist that all work funded by their money must be made freely available, either at time of publication or, more commonly, after a delay of half a year or more. In the USA, work funded by the NIH must be made freely available. This is still generally restricted to the researcher's own version of the paper (i.e. without the journal's professional typesetting), but at least the information gets out.

    Scientists hate this system, but an individual scientist simply doesn't have the bargaining power. You want to negotiate with a journal? They'll simply refuse your paper and run one of the tens or hundreds of others competing for your spot. Want to make a principled stand and only submit to open-access journals? You can, but you can basically kiss your career and funding prospects goodbye. So it's simple pragmitism: not many people are willing to risk throwing their careers away in the fight to let non-professionals (and a huge number of cranks, if you've ever read the Nature comments boards) read their article for free.
  • by grikdog ( 697841 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:47AM (#30637592) Homepage
    Mod this up to 10. This is important because plant genomes have been the source of some stupendously unexpected discoveries indicating that DNA is extremely plastic, and manages to squeeze into available ecosphere niches with ease -- resulting in closely related genomes that express forms as divergent as pineapples and plane trees. Linnaean classification schemes based on morphology therefore disconnect from reality and become first approximation maps. When the morphologies in question are fossils, the peril in drawing conclusions from shapes alone throws decades of curatorship into doubt. The greater implication is, that evolution is not only reasonable and easy but dirt cheap. The probability that life exists on other planets, in the galaxy if not the solar system, becomes a near certainty.

"My sense of purpose is gone! I have no idea who I AM!" "Oh, my God... You've.. You've turned him into a DEMOCRAT!" -- Doonesbury