Well, with royal ructions and US assassination by drone of Iran's top military commander and the even worse consequences — not forgetting, of course, the Australian bush fires — 2020 is off to a flying start.
Of course, it's election year for us, so we can expect a display of human guile and bad innuendo there, as usual.
As I write this, more bad news is hitting the headlines about a possible epidemic of viral-pneumonia from China. Is this the one? You can't help but wonder.
But eclipsing all of these for me is venerable old David Attenborough's warning that we are right now passing the point of no return on runaway global warming. His words put me in mind of nothing more than the old tale of the sorcerer's apprentice.
We have learnt how to exploit our home and those we share it with and have set about doing so as if nothing else mattered.
Too late we are beginning to realise what interdependence means to us all but, unlike the fairy tale, no kindly old wizard is going to kick our collective backsides, put everything back right for us and set us back on the right path like naughty children.
We are all in sole charge now of a world out of control and still trying to pass the buck on whose job it is to put on the brakes.
The big choice now is who we will save from the wreckage as we hit the wall. Should be easy for a clever species like us.
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Studying 'gay gene'
In his 2016 book, The Gene, Siddhartha Mukherjee devotes seven pages to the work of Dean Hamer, triggered by that of J. Michael Bailey and based on careful twin studies on sexual orientation. These produced results of gay concordance of 52 per cent among 56 pairs of identical twins, and 22 per cent of non-identical twins of 54 pairs.
Mukherjee states that: "Bailey had profoundly changed the conversation around sexual identity away from the 1960s rhetoric of 'choice' and 'personal preference' towards biology, genetics and inheritance."
Hamer, however, needed a much larger study to identify the "gay gene" and the work on the human genome by 1991 was "at least conceptually within reach". He was granted US$75,000 to find homosexually-related genes.
Analysis of family information derived from 1000-plus relatives of his 114 gay male cohort provided, first, the fact that the "gay gene" must be carried on the X chromosome and, second, that the pattern of heredity was a side-stepping one through generations, forward and across, "like a knight's move in chess".
"Hamer," writes Mukherjee, "had suddenly moved from a phenotype [sexual preference] to a potential location on a chromosome ... a genotype. He had not identified the gay gene, but he had proved that a piece of DNA associated with sexual orientation could be physically mapped to the human genome."
In attempting to locate the gene's position on the X chromosome via the 40 gay siblings, Hamer found that 33 shared a small stretch of the chromosome called Xq28. Random chance had predicated only 20 would share that marker. The difference of 13 extra was less likely than one in 10,000.
Commenting on a decade's worth of uncompleted work to establish the "gay gene", Mukherjee offers: "The gay gene might be a stretch of DNA that regulates a gene that sits near it or influences a gene quite far from it [or] perhaps it is located on an intron ... the sequences of DNA that interrupt genes and break them up into modules". Whatever the molecular identity of the determinant, this much is certain; sooner or later we will discover the precise nature of the heritable elements that influence sexual identity."
No more DHBs
David Bennett ( letters, January 29) concludes his letter with, "seriously, time to do away with this board". I will go further — it's time to do away with ALL Hospital Boards.
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