AMA - Ask a Biology Teacher About Science

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Posts in total: 47
Hey everyone, MagicAintReal here, I currently teach Biology in a thriving public school district in Maryland, USA (my district will remain nameless so as to keep my job).
I have 12 years of experience, and, as a result, have heard just about every comment/question about biology and science for that matter.
So, I figured I'd see if high school students match the members of DebateArt with their inquiry.
Alright, I'll shut up.

Ask Me Anything about science...if it bleeds into another convo not too scientific, that's ok, but try to stay on task here.

--> @MagicAintReal
Lets keep rooted in biology!

What do you feel is the most interesting of the Pre Cambrian Biota, and why? If relevant, could you explain where you feel it fits into the general evolutionary tree compared to those in the Cambrian?


I mean for me it's going to be the first multi cellular animals or any of the metazoans because they were the first to use atmospheric oxygen to grow, which over time, required these soft-bodied animals to become more rigid and structured and this led to animals with basic skeletons. Once animals moved from soft bodied to hard bodied, that to me is why there was a huge cambrian explosion because now you have organisms that can catch more suspended food given that they are larger and more rigid than their soft bodied ancestors, and they are great at using atmospheric oxygen to grow, a crucial component of all cellular life.
Basically you can think of pre cambrian as the soft bodies and the cambrian as the hard bodies and this is what led to that explosion.
--> @MagicAintReal
Have you ever seen "Monster Bug Wars"?
--> @Mharman
Oh yeah where like insects face spiders and centipedes fight...fucking amazing, I could watch that instead of MMA sometimes.
--> @MagicAintReal

This show got me into entomology.     
How does something come from nothing and life come from non life? 
--> @Virtuoso
How does something come from nothing and life come from non life? 

Something from nothing...
Well, you have to look at something and nothing as physical concepts, i.e. concepts of physics.
Something would consist of particles, radiation, forces, and spacetime.
Nothing would have no remaining particles, no remaining radiation, no remaining forces, and no remaining spacetime.

Particle physics attempts to get to nothing by creating vacuums of empty space or the lowest energy state.
Think of placing a marble in a ceramic bowl.
You've got all that kinetic energy as the marble moves around the bowl.
But once it stops moving, i.e. has virtually zero kinetic energy, there's still the marble's and the bowl's potential energy just sitting there with gravity.

Well what about removing that potential energy too?
That's what particle physicists call creating a vacuum.
Once you've created the LOWEST POSSIBLE energy state, you've created a vacuum of empty space void of particles and radiation.

When particle physicists reach this point, getting to no moving marble, no marble, no bowl, no table, no floor, no walls, no house, no particles, no radiation, nothing, there's a fundamental fluctuating of sub nuclear particles, their antiparticle pairs, and the forces there within that result in nothing because it's an instant annihilation.
What's better is that these particles do not distort space, in fact, they are fundamental to empty space, which means that when there was no remaining and expanding spacetime (no universe yet) there were still fluctuating-yet-never-remaining sub nuclear particles, their antiparticles and the forces there within leaving only annihilation.
All is annihilated, nothing remains.

This is nothing.
No particles, no radiation, no forces, no spacetime, nothing remains.
What's nice is that this fluctuating is unstable, and thus guarantees a particle to eventually avoid annihilation and result in a remaining particle, that takes up remaining space, which creates such a high energy density of such a small bit of space that it expands rapidly, and from nothing (fluctuating sub nuclear particles WITHOUT SPACE) we got something (remaining particles, radiation, spacteime, forces).

As for life from non life.
Inorganic compounds can react and become organic compounds in the form of amino acids and these amino acids from polypeptides, or chains of amino acids, and these polypeptides eventually fold onto themselves and become biologically active structures that can in fact metabolize compounds and catalyze reactions, so in this type of organic network, macromolecules that can replicate in a template directed manner would thrive, because they would be able to use the catalysis to further reactions that favor a greater emergence of more macromolecules and RNA is both auto catalytic and can replicate in a template directed manner, and because of available phosphorus in this prebiotic network, the amino acids and the RNA were able to be compartmentalized inside of a phosphorous encapsulation, and this would be the first living cell, because it would have replicated genetic polymers.

From inorganic-->organic-->cell
--> @Virtuoso
How does something come from nothing and life come from non life? 
Something{ occupied space } does not come from nothing { non-occupied space }. Simple minimal brainer.

We have no shred of direct evidence that show biologic life coming from where before there was none.

I have black hole as cosmic egg scenarios that may be the solution to where coding for all occupied space existence comes from.

Come from implies and origin but we know occupied space cannot be created nor destroyed  ergo eternal and  at best we can have initial conditions for this or that to emerge synergistically.

However, these seeming emer-gen-cies may be ongoing eternally.

One of the mos radical ideas for us to grasp is that our macro-finite, occupied space Universe, is eternally subdividing ergo infinitly smaller and smaller quanta emerge via multiplication-by-division.






--> @mustardness
At no point in your rambling was there anything remotely resembling a cogent thought, a relevant question, or a reason to respond to anything you've posted thus far; we are now all dumber for having read that; I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul...of occupied space or whatever.
Oh yeah where like insects face spiders and centipedes fight...fucking amazing, I could watch that instead of MMA sometimes.

The sound effects are unholy, though.
At no point in your rambling was there anything remotely resembling a cogent thought, a relevant question, or a reason to respond to anything you've posted thus far; we are now all dumber for having read that; I award you no points, and may god have mercy on your soul...of occupied space or whatever.
He types like a more coherent, but still nonsensical vi_spex.

--> @MagicAintReal
What lessons in your classes do students tend to suck at? Great at? What biological facts/phenomenons fascinate you the most?

--> @KingLaddy01
"What lessons in your classes do students tend to suck at? Great at? What biological facts/phenomenons fascinate you the most?"
The students have the greatest trouble with understanding the macromolecules, how DNA is transcribed, and understanding the difference between organisms with membrane bound organelles and those without, prokaryote VS eukaryote.

The kids are usually really good at recreating cells, understanding inheritance, and identifying ancestral organisms via chromosome set numbers.

The biological fact that fascinates me the most is that the mitochondria in EVERY LIVING CELL ON EARTH is a descendant of the bacteria, i.e. the mitochondria itself, inherent in all cells in all life on earth, was once a bacterium that was taken over by endosymbiosis.
https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endosymbiosis

Bacteria are like themselves a single celled mitochondria.
Our mitochondria are those bacteria functioning in our cells.
--> @MagicAintReal
Why do you think most people in education / teachers are leftists / Democrat? I think it would be most logical for most teachers to be centrist and/or somewhere in the middle since that is likely the most logical place to be when analyzing what works from both sides.  
--> @MagicAintReal
Is creationism affecting pupils' attitude to biology at your school?


--> @Outplayz
"Why do you think most people in education / teachers are leftists / Democrat?"
It's not a bad question...I will say that at my school, that is not the case, most of the staff are right-leaning, but I think the statistics show what you're saying to be true on the whole.
Why?
Teaching doesn't tend to make you wealthy...like at all, in fact any person coming into teaching, comes in knowing that this is not a lucrative endeavor and that the majority of students to whom you will be providing your public services as a teacher are near the poverty line and receiving free meals from the school. Everything I mentioned in the sentences prior, don't scream right-wing...

1. not lucrative - doesn't sound like the GOP to me
2. providing services - right-wingers typically don't approve of many government services
3. poverty - this is typically not a focus for right-wingers
4. free meals from the gov - not a right-wing thing

Again, my school's staff is mostly right-wing, but I think on the whole, you get into teaching because you believe in the public system of educating students.

"I think it would be most logical for most teachers to be centrist and/or somewhere in the middle since that is likely the most logical place to be when analyzing what works from both sides. "
Yeah, I'm more centrist/moderate too, for that reason, but not much of my political leanings bleed into my teaching...it's biology, not social studies.
--> @keithprosser
"Is creationism affecting pupils' attitude to biology at your school?"
Eh. Tbh, the kids don't really give a shit about any of the concepts pro or anti evolution, but some get offended religiously and say things like "But...humans aren't animals!" or "We're not monkeys" or "Humans were made by god," but after quickly showing them the biological concepts, they come to terms with the facts and it really isn't an issue after that, because the students are not like people on a debate site who will refute everything you say, they simply stop caring when they hear scientific facts.


--> @MagicAintReal
Science Question:

If protons and neutrons are both made of up and down quarks, why do we still treat atomic nuclei as collections of protons and neutrons rather than collections of up and down quarks? Can we distinguish between up and down quarks that are comprise "protons" versus up and down quarks that comprise "neutrons" while they are still inside the nucleus?

Non-Science Question:

I'm in AA County in MD, looking to move (staying within the county). What is a good public school district for middle and high school?
--> @drafterman
"If protons and neutrons are both made of up and down quarks, why do we still treat atomic nuclei as collections of protons and neutrons rather than collections of up and down quarks?"
IMHO as a biology teacher, not a chemist or particle physicist, atomic nuclei behave with the classical laws of physics while the quarks and other fundamental particles and forces don't.
So in chemistry, they keep it at the level that obeys the laws of classical physics, atoms are subject to gravity and all of the other forces we experience on a macro-physics scale.
While all protons and neutrons are in fact collections of these types of particles, the particles themselves do not obey classical physics and are not susceptible to gravity when not in a nuclei, and therefore are in a branch of science all their own called quantum mechanics, which is beyond the reach of the periodic table and the categorization of law-abiding protons and neutrons.

Again, I'm bio, not physics/chemistry and I also agree that the 3D Bohr's model tattoo in my avatar is inaccurate, with all the orbitals, to how the carbon atom truly is, but representing the true appearance of electrons would be impossible in a tattoo.

"Can we distinguish between up and down quarks that are comprise "protons" versus up and down quarks that comprise "neutrons" while they are still inside the nucleus?"
While inside the nucleus?
Probably not, but that sounds like a question for the people at CERN.
Otherwise we can distinguish.

I'm in AA County in MD, looking to move (staying within the county). What is a good public school district for middle and high school?
I've heard good things about the Arundel High School path and the Broadneck High School path, but AACPS is pretty good, I had interned at Maryland City Elementary in Laurel, it was alright.

--> @MagicAintReal
LOL, I was mainly trying to take the piss in thinking of the least biological scientific question I could think of.

On the biological side, do you have thoughts on the genetic engineering of fetuses (a la the new Chinese HIV resistant baby)?

I've heard good things about the Arundel High School path and the Broadneck High School path, but AACPS is pretty good, I had interned at Maryland City Elementary in Laurel, it was alright.
Yeah, but we aren't too keen on the Arundel Middle School. I think so far we are leaning toward the Broadneck area.
--> @drafterman
"LOL, I was mainly trying to take the piss in thinking of the least biological scientific question I could think of."
Well, I like a challenge.

"On the biological side, do you have thoughts on the genetic engineering of fetuses (a la the new Chinese HIV resistant baby)?"
Yeah, we need to embark on stem cells and cloning for the benefits to human life, but we need to regulate it responsibly and I have no suggestions on that end...very hairy stuff.

Yeah, go for Broadneck, I've heard good things.


--> @MagicAintReal
very hairy stuff.
I hear we're close to that as well

--> @drafterman
hahaha, I am a bald man, so I could use that shit.
--> @MagicAintReal
A great thread, probably one of the best in the Science forum. It's unfortunate that those members here who most need your explanations are the ones avoiding partaking.

One of the most common misunderstandings is the evolution of the eye and the fact it evolved across a wide variety of species at various times throughout the Earths history.

Can you talk about this phenomenon? Thanks.