Category Archives: Science

Genes, Genomes, and Genies

by James Morris
Illustration by Talia Niederman

We are all, in a way, familiar with genetics. We know that children resemble their parents. We know that there are sometimes uncanny similarities among distant family members. And not a day goes by without some mention of genetics in the news – a gene is implicated in a disease; DNA testing is used to solve a crime; another genome is sequenced.

Yet we might struggle with certain details. What is a genome and why do we care about its sequence? What are genes and how do they relate to traits we see all around us? Why do some traits get passed on – brown eyes, red hair, high blood pressure – but not always, and sometimes in seemingly random ways?

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On Time

by James Morris

When I was a teenager and young adult, I always looked forward to reading Chet Raymo’s column called “Science Musings” in The Boston Globe. Chet Raymo is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts, and a well-known science writer. His short essays are reflections on science, education, and the natural world.

One of these essays, from the mid-1990s, made such an impression on me that I clipped it out and filed it in my “Science Education” folder, where I keep articles related to science and teaching. The essay is titled “Teaching a Sense of Wonder.” Here, Raymo makes a plea to 6th-grade science teachers, asking them not to emphasize terms and facts, but instead to stand back and think about what every middle school student should learn in a science class.

He boils it down to five important concepts, one of which is the history of life on Earth.

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Cool Beans

by James Morris
Illustration by Sara Haidermota

A few summers ago, I was driving my two sons to a trail head for a hike in the Adirondacks in upstate New York. They were going with a group of kids up a mountain called Iroquois.

I advised them to be sure to bring lots of water for the long hike. In turn, they asked me how I was going to spend my day. “Writing about urine,” I replied.

“Urine?” they asked incredulously.

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