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Escherichia Coli: A Dangerous Bacterium or a Test Model?

With the recent reports of serious foodborne illnesses that are occurring throughout the country, and in a myriad of recent situations, the question of where exactly our food comes from, and how it can become contaminated by various agents, has had widespread coverage by the media.  By taking the prevalence of food related diseases into consideration and combining this with the fact that a good friend of mine had been hospitalized from such a food related illness just last week, I couldn’t help but take a closer look into what exactly I have been eating and where my food was coming from.  The main cause of the majority of the recently publicized sicknesses is a bacterium called Escherichia coli; or E. coli as it is commonly known.  It is this bacterium that is responsible for the outbreak related to fresh spinach grown in fields in Salinas Valley, California, which sickened 199 people and killed 3 (2).  In addition, it had also been linked to the current outbreak of illness associated with those who have eaten at Taco Bell restaurants, like my unfortunate friend.  As the latest epidemic-like outbreak of E. coli has been garnering even more media attention, public fear has been rising about this potentially dangerous bacterium and information concerning it is pertinent.

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Seriously Loopy Science vs. Traditional Science

The entire structure of this biology class is unlike any other science class I have seen. It rejects most of the conventional ideas and methods of most science classes and embraces the individual’s ideas, perspectives, and insights. Conversely, most science classes are concerned with general terminology, scientific laws and methods, and long lectures. In order to properly evaluate the differences between the unconventional course and the more traditional book with relation to each other, one needs to consider only a few key concepts and evaluate accordingly. On this basis, I am going to compare and contrast this course and the book in both their presentation style and in the information offered. I have decided to choose a particular subject, prokaryotes evolution and their ability to transfer genes throughout a population, and evaluate what I have learned from each source. Using this as a foundation, I will also delve into the idea of horizontal gene transfer, the different ways the two sources have presented this concept, and what this says about the sources in general.

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Macular Degeneration: Losing your Sight in the Blink of an Eye

As a people progress throughout their life and then begin to grow old, a majority of them begin to experience health problems that are attributed to their age.  One such problem that causes both physical and psychological damage to the person is the loss of their ability to see.  Macular degeneration, a disease which significantly decreases a person’s ability to see using their central vision, is one such disease.  Although there are two different and distinct types of the disease, the results are the same (6).  A person diagnosed with macular degeneration losses their central sight over a period of time.  Often times, legal blindness is an end result of the disease.  Though there have been major strides in the identification of risk factors and treatments, a definite cause is unknown and for the majority of the cases, there is no cure because there is still little know about the disease.  In addition, some of the treatments for it, such as the use of stem cells, are at the center of a raging debate (3).  Regardless of the issues surrounding the disease, something must be done because today, macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 55 (4). 

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The Dodder – The Thinking Plant That Challenges Classifications

The definition of life is a very ambiguous one. It means different things to different people, to different cultures, and to different areas of study. One would think that a biologist’s definition of life would be succinct, to the point, and all encompassing. However, after a number of thorough class discussions and a number of laboratory sessions and experiments, it has become obvious that no such definition exists or could exist. This is because what is true for one organism might not be true for another, thus, the working definition used is purposely broad to try and to account for all walks of life. While most organisms fit nicely into the definition, there are always a few organisms that are drastically different from the rest. The dodder plant is one such organism.

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