The Narrative Voice

September 15, 2008

These three "living course" introductions offer personal perspective as well as social and technical context.

Micro on the Net

Here is an introduction to MB 302, General Microbiology, by OSU Senior Instructor Linda Bruslind.

"Let's talk about sex. Bacterial sex. Ha! That's going to be difficult since bacteria don't have sex. Which presents a real problem for bacteria: How do they get the genetic variability that they need? They might need a new gene to break down an unusual nutrient source or degrade an antibiotic threatening to destroy them. Acquiring the gene could mean the difference between life and death.

But where would these genes come from? How would the bacteria get a hold of them? We're going to explore the processes that bacteria use to acquire new genes. Before we begin, it's important to have a good understanding of the fundamental differences in genetics between prokaryotes and eukaryotes.

Check out this Web site for a good refresher on eukaryotic genetics, starting with The Eukaryotic Chromosome.

plasmid videoNow let's move on to the actual processes, such as conjugation. Here's a brief explanation of conjugation (focusing on the role of plasmids in the process) with a straightforward figure. Or check out this really cool animation, only 1:05 min. At this same Web site there are also animations for transformation and transduction, but they're pretty general. For transformation I'd recommend this Web site, which provides a very good description of the process and some basic figures. If you want to explore this process in more detail then look at this Web site on transformation in Acinetobacter with a very nice diagram of the transporter protein.

Transduction, which uses a virus to shuttle the DNA into a cell, is broken down into generalized transduction and specialized transduction. Look at the following Web site for a good figure on generalized transduction. Look here for the details of specialized transduction. Finally, we shouldn't leave the topic of microbial genetics without at least exploring the role of transposons and transposable elements.

While these can play a very big role in the activation and inactivation of prokaryotic genes, the best explanation derives from the work of Barbara McClintock in corn. Check out this inactive animation for more information. If you want to focus more on transposons in prokaryotes, here's a good description."

Giving It All Away

Why do they do it, and what are the consequences? Here is OSU Professor Jeff Hale's introduction to Sociology 472/572, Giving and Volunteerism.

Oprah"Oprah Winfrey gives away lots of stuff on television (e.g., Big Give) but how skilled is Oprah as a philanthropist in real life? Do you ever wonder if Phil Knight's (Nike) gifts to the University of Oregon influence academic decisions? Why do you pass by that 'bum' on the street asking for some change without offering to help? Are you curious about how to volunteer or give money without getting ripped off?

In Sociology 472/572 we'll explore the motives behind gifts such as Oprah's television show giveaways, Andrew Carnegie's support for public libraries, and James Smithson's gift to establish the Smithsonian Institution. While motives vary, so do results. You'll discover that some gifts can actually damage the recipient (Snow White and a certain poisoned apple come to mind)."

Media Are Us

In New Media Communications 435, Media Effects, Professor Bill Loges wants students to consider how media influence our lives.

"When you think about it, wouldn’t it be odd if the media didn’t influence us? After all, people routinely spend more than four hours per day watching television, another four hours online, an overlapping four hours listening to recorded music, two hours of radio, a few hours playing computer and video games, and have countless encounters with advertisements all around them.

Zap coverWould you believe it if someone told you that reading books for 10 hours a day would have no effect on you? Why does it matter if the media can influence our beliefs or behaviors?

Between 1935 and 1955 one of the most popular media was crime comic books. Their core audience was young men, and they featured lurid images of violence and sex. In the mid-1950s, a child psychologist named Fredric Wertham testified before Congress that these comics posed an extreme danger to children who came across them. He believed that children exposed to such cartoonish sex and violence were at high risk of turning into perverts and violent criminals. Threats of censorship led to the virtually complete elimination of these comics by 1955."