Tag Archives: science

Lost at heart

Those who wander are not necessarily lost   – Joseph Stein 

I envy the ones that know where they want to go in life; the ones that have a clear idea of which direction they are heading as they cruise down the highway into the future.

Take for example the executive member of my student mentor team, whom I ran into the other day. She’s a great girl: very positive, always enthusiastic, kind to everyone. This summer she is writing the OAT, a test required for admission into optometry programs in Canada and USA. She plans on applying to schools in the United States and she has her heart on becoming an optometrist.

I look up to her as a senior partly because of her clear path in life. Many students start out with a vague idea of what interests them and then find a career goal as they enter their upper years of school. For me, the experience was the exact opposite. When I applied for the life sciences program at my university, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Or so I thought. I had my heart set on going into pharmacy when I was in first year… but then the reality of how difficult that would be set in. University chemistry was not my forte (I prefer biology courses). I even came to dread chemistry during my second year. How can a pharmacist expect to succeed if he/she does not even like chemistry?

So now, I am lost. I don’t know where I’m going with my life. People keep telling me “it’s okay,” but I really don’t feel that way. I wanted to have a clearer direction, so I went to talk to a career counselor. She basically told me I need to 1) assess my values and  what gives me satisfaction in life 2) research based on everything in 1). Continue reading

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Why women are choosey and men are flousy

By Danumurthi Mahendra

Take a look at any society in the world and you will see a trend among genders: when it comes to relationships, women are more likely to be the “picky ones,” whereas men are the ones that must impress. In human culture, the need to impress can go both ways but there is actually a biological root to the way our dating culture is designed.

In the majority of sexually reproducing animal species, the female invests more energy to produce offspring than males do. This is energy going to produce eggs, carrying young in the womb, and/or rearing the young after they’ve been introduced to the world. In the case of producing eggs, females have a limited supply of eggs. The average human female will release about 480 eggs in her lifetime, one per month. For some mammalian species, offspring are dependent on their mothers for years; having children is an expensive investment for a female.

Males, on the other hand, do not invest as much into the conception of offspring. In the mammalian kingdom, male parental care is relatively rare. Their prime investment comes from the deposit of sperm. The average human male will produce 66 million sperm per mL of ejaculate. Sperm is relatively cheap in terms of energy cost of production.

So… where does that leave us?

The fact of life is that every individual is biological driven to survive and reproduce. That is the most prime instinct in living beings: to pass on their genes to the next generation. As such, mating with an individual with good genes (genes that encode resistance to disease, strength, etc.) gives oneself the best odds of having healthy offspring to carry on one’s genes.

Females have more to lose during mating than males do; for females to maximize their reproductive success, they must choose the best mate with the best genes. 

Males don’t invest as much in the production of offspring; for males to maximize their reproductive success, they should mate with as many females as they can.

This raises some questions: if human males don’t invest as much in to offspring and are biologically driven to mate with as many females as possible, why does monogamy exist?

The answer is because of the reproductive advantages of parental care. Monogamy exists in a number of species, such as birds and fish. Dating is a result of the evolution of parental care in humans; if a male helps the female rear its young, the male benefits by having a guarantee that its genes are being passed on as healthy offspring. The female benefits by not having to invest as much energy into rearing offspring alone. Since parental care in mammals was traditionally a female role, the male will aid the female by providing food and protection for both its young and its mate. This is where the notion of men being the bread-winners has a biological root.

What does all this biology mumbo-jumbo say about how our societies should run? Well, nothing. This is because we have something that contradicts biological ‘roles’:  culture. Humans are unique in nature for having a drive to live beyond the scope of survival and reproduction. We have come to desire much more than our animalian relatives: knowledge. Any dolphin can desire pleasure or happiness, but only humans crave knowledge. I feel that this is what truly sets human apart from the rest of the animal kingdom.

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Why feel?

What is a “heart?”

Ask a biologist and you will be told it is an organ for circulating blood around an animal’s body to ensure distribution of heat and other essentials such as oxygen and hormones. That definition makes perfect sense to me.

Ask a poet and you might be told it is something with which a human can feel; something that makes you cry in agony at one moment and then rejoice at the smallest achievements in the next. This definition does not make sense to me.

Evolution dictates that adaptable traits are maintained within a population because they provide an advantage over individuals that don’t possess that trait. What advantage could emotions have provided us in the wild?

Perhaps it is the advantage of kinship, of developing a social system within which members of the population can prosper by working together to survive. Continue reading

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