Tuning our Genes

Identical twin study sheds light on how exercise tunes our genes:

One fascinating study back in 2014 homed in on the way exercise affects gene expression by tasking a small cohort of volunteers to perform a one-legged cycling task for three months. At the end of the study period the researchers saw changes in about 4,000 genes when studying skeletal muscle from the exercised leg compared to the untrained leg.


The researchers recruited 70 pairs of identical twins. Alongside measuring their body-mass index and surveying their exercise habits, each participant wore a fitness tracker for one week to objectively ascertain their physical activity levels.

A twin pair was determined to be “discordant” if one twin completed more than 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity a week while the other twin performed less than 150 minutes in a week. Around 40 percent of the twin pairs were found discordant on this measure.

Looking at the epigenetic variances between these physically discordant identical twin pairs, the researchers found markers on over 50 genes. The exercise-induced gene expression changes were found in genes previously associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome

In other words, exercising doesn’t just give you stronger muscles, it also changes a whole bunch of gene expressions. It would be interesting to find out how that impacts the next generation. Does the child of the twin who decided to exercise more start out with a different set of gene expressions than the child of the twin who chose not to exercise?


Roots reaching towards the ground, to eventually become an additional trunk.
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The big Banyan tree on Maui often wears little plastic buckets with water in them, hanging just below the reaching roots, to encourage them to extend downwards. I experienced that tree many years ago, in 1995, and learned that Japanese gardners had nurtured it for much of its 150 years. Japanese are the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii (link) and Ewa Villages, near Honolulu, has a population that is nearly 70% Asian. That Banyan in Maui is a wonder to behold. It is about 60′ tall and 200′ wide and fills most of the block that makes up Banyan Tree Park on Front Street, behind the Lahaina Harbor.
This tree is small compared to that giant, and it doesn’t get the loving care of that Banyan on Maui, but it looks well. Give it some time…


I love trees. Working together, trees and fungi made this planet habitable.
Yesterday morning I wondered what type of tree this might be:
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It’s all over Waikiki, in the parks, along some of the streets. It has a gorgeous canopy that reminded me of the Stone Pines that grace Portugal–see next photo–and which can be found in so many public squares in Southern Europe. The French will play Boule underneath lanes of Stone Pine, and you can find them all over Rome.
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I asked a few people and did a little research. Jacaranda, perhaps, or maybe Samanea Saman, also known as Rain Tree, because when it rains the leaves fold up and let the water pass. Don’t seek shelter under a rain tree when it starts to rain, I guess.
While looking for the tree I came across this lovely time-lapse of a Rain Tree’s first year of growth.

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Early this morning, stepping out of the house to take my morning walk, I looked across the street at the neighbor’s cactus. It’s a beauty and must be about 15-18′ tall. It reminds me of the ones that grew in my house, limited to a height of 10′ by the ceiling.

The blossoms of my neighbor’s cactus are amazing. By the time I returned from my walk they had already closed up for the day.

Ravens and Crows

Ravens can solve puzzles, trick other animals into helping them out, and communicate with each other at a level even apes can’t match. And now we know they can hatch plans.

Ravens are so smart it’s actually kind of disconcerting, new study finds | Popular Science

I think ravens and crows are awesome.

Crows can snowboard.

Crows don’t forget a face.

Crows use cars to crack nuts.

The real question is will finding out that animals are intelligent change our view of the natural world and thus our behavior?