Courtesy lawgeekEverytime I think I’ve got something figured out, science ups and throws something crazy my way. And when I say “crazy” I mean something I would prefer to explain as “magical.”
So, here’s what I understood so far:
Ryan is a smart but troubled kid from Chino (Where’s Chino? I don’t know either. The wrong side of the tracks, we’ll say.). After an incident with a stolen car, Ryan’s public defender, Sandy Cohen, takes pity on the kid (whose mother has recently abandoned him), and brings him back to his family’s extravagant Orange County home. Ryan quickly befriends Sandy’s quirky son, Seth, and – just as quickly – gets himself on the bad side of some of the children of Orange County’s elite, including water polo-playing Luke, who just happens to be the less than entirely faithful boyfriend of Marissa, who is the best friend of Summer (Seth’s lifelong and unattainable crush), and the Cohen’s neighbor (she’s a beautiful and conflicted classic girl-next-door). The chemistry between Ryan and Marissa is obvious from the start, adding confusion to her already difficult life (Marissa’s mother, Julie, is a narcissistic gold-digger, and her father is struggling with rising debts and his feelings for his high school flame Kirsten… Cohen), all of which is contributing to her developing alcohol problem. Meanwhile, as Seth continues to pine over Summer, cool and funky Anna steps into the picture. Anna appreciates the things Seth likes, and, more importantly, appreciates Seth. This would be great, if it weren’t for the fact that Summer starts notice to Seth at just about the same time! Oh boy! As if this all weren’t enough, over the course of the next few episodes Luke sleeps with Julie, who has her eyes on Caleb (Kirsten’s father, and the de facto duke of the O.C.), or at least on his pocketbook. And, just as Ryan is settling down at the Cohen’s, the household is tossed up as Sandy finds out about Kirsten’s substantial loan to Marissa’s father, which wouldn’t be so bad if he hadn’t also found out about the spur of the moment kiss the two of them shared while painting a model home. Also, Ryan is soon to find out that his ties with Chino aren’t so easily severed, as his ne’er do well brother sets foot in the O.C., and a former romance with a secret finds her way to the Cohen’s pool house…
See? It’s a lot to keep track of, but I was doing ok. Just today, however, I read an article in ScienceDaily and something entirely new and strange was thrown into this slurry we call life: genes are able to recognize similar genes from a distance, without the aid of proteins or “any other biological molecules.” Like, genes find each other by… by… magic! Do you fully understand the implications of these findings? Me neither, only that it means that genes are ever stranger and more confusing than I had previously thought!
“Homologous recombination” occurs when two sets of DNA come together, split their double helixes, and swap sections of genetic information. Recombination is vital for DNA repair, and also for evolution and natural selection. Recombination occurs, for instance, when your parents’ genes come together to make your genes, or when Ryan and Theresa come together to make the cliffhanger for season two. It’s important that genes match up with similar sets of other genes, because faulty combinations are believed to cause some genetically determined diseases like Alzheimer’s and some cancers.
While the first set of interactions and combinations I described can easily be tracked through DVD observation, scientists were forced to fluorescently tag DNA molecules and watch their behavior under a microscope to understand the mysteries of gene recombination. It turns out that the longer a strand of DNA is, the more powerful the mechanism for recognizing a similar strand is.
The two described scenarios, however, may be similar in one sense: the forces of attraction involved between the elements at play. In the case of the denizens of Orange County, I would certainly describe the attractions as “electrical” – sparks fly, and the pull between characters is magnetic. It may be that such a description applies to the recombining genes as well. While no chemical interaction appears between multiple sets of similar genes, it has been proposed that the reason the seek each other out has to do with the “complementary patterns of electrical charges which they both carry.”
The research team that made this discovery is already designing further sets of experiments to explore the interactions between genes. I’m sure they involve microscopes, and chemicals and things, but it seems to me that the scientists might benefit from thinking outside of the box in this area. Like, one might observe how genes interact if a wedding ring is placed over one section of the petri dish, and what changes when the ring is removed and accidentally washed down a sink. Or a similar experiment might be valuable, if they used a wad of cash instead of the ring, and then have the cash disappear in a foolish investment scheme. These are natural forces I can get my head around.