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How Genetics Could Have Helped Charlie Chaplin

In 1943, actress Joan Barry gave birth to Carol Ann and claimed that Charlie Chaplin, the famous actor and director, was Ann’s father. And when Chaplin denied the claim, Barry filed a lawsuit against him demanding child support. About a year and a half later, a California Jury voted 11 to 1 in Barry’s favor. Chaplin’s appeal for the verdict was unsuccessful, and he was forced to pay child support and court fees. Was Chaplin really the father of Barry’s daughter? We don’t need to go over Chaplin’s private letters or fancy DNA testing to get an answer—we just need some basic understanding of genetics and some readily available information on Chaplin’s and Ann’s blood type. In this essay, I want to go over those things to show why Chaplin couldn’t have been Ann’s biological father. Charlie Chaplin in The Gold Rush (1925). Courtesy: Wikipedia Normally, most of our cells contain 23 pairs or 46 chromosomes, the tightly wound DNA strands. A sperm or an egg, however, is an exception: a

Vaccine Development I: Overview of the Immune System

When we read about deadly infectious diseases, we often feel life is unfair. After all, why can’t our body fight of the invading microorganisms and keep us safe? In reality, however, our body possesses amazing defense capabilities: our immune system routinely protects us from a vast army of pathogens—the organisms that can cause diseases. While our immune system excels at eliminating a previously-encountered pathogen, it also tries its best when it does encounter a novel pathogen. In this essay, I will provide a brief overview of how our immune system works and how it relates to vaccine development.1  Elimination of pathogens (Courtesy: ) Our immune system can be broadly classified into two systems: the innate/general resistance system and the adaptive system. The innate system may be able to eliminate a pathogen on its own or it can stimulate the adaptive immune system to become involved in eliminating the pathogen.  Let’s see how the innate/general resist

Evolutionary Musings

“My ague has left me in such a state of torpidity that I wish I had gone thro’ the process of natural selection.” wrote Erasmus Darwin in his letter to his grandson, Charles Darwin.1 In the same letter, he stated that On the Origin of the Species was “the most interesting book” he had ever read. The book, however, also received harsh criticisms, and that bipolar opinion on the book that continues to this day. Indeed, I don’t think there has been any book in human history that generated such polarized opinions. I suspect the reason for this polarization stems from the word evolution, a word, ironically, Darwin didn’t use in the first edition of On the Origin of the Species . In this essay, I want to go over some arguments for and against evolution.2 As to why I am writing about evolution, I will come back to it at the end of this essay. Fossils of Crinoid columnals found in Utah (courtesy: Wikipedia) The Fossil Record: If evolution occurred, then one would expect to see intermediate f