Mindless decisions

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Public discussion on issues of science delves into the topic of genetic switches

The Scarecrow from the “Wizard of Oz” would be pleased to know that according to modern day science, “you don't need a brain to make decisions.” Sounds farfetched, but some of the most basic organisms on earth are carrying out simple “this or that” type actions without the asset of grey matter (a brain).

Ohio State Marion’s Science Café, a free monthly community discussion on topical issues of science, welcomes Dan Siegal-Gaskins from the Mathematical Biosciences Institute at The Ohio State University to downtown Marion’s Infinity Restaurant, 267 West Center Street, on Thursday, January 6, 7 p.m. to discuss the subject of genetic switches.

According to Siegal-Gaskins, even very simple biological systems—things like viruses, bacteria, yeast, and single mammalian cells—need to sample their environments and take appropriate actions. Often, these actions look very switch-like: the decision to go left or right, to metabolize one compound versus another, etc. At January’s Science Café, Dan Siegal-Gaskins will briefly describe how genes alone, if "wired together" properly, are sufficient for this kind of switching behavior.

Science Cafés involve lively conversations with scientists about current science topics. Science Cafés are free and open to everyone, and take place in casual settings like pubs and coffee houses. At a café you can learn about the latest issues in science, chat with a scientist in plain language, meet new friends, speak your mind, and talk with your mouth full. The overriding goal of Ohio State Marion’s Science Café is to overcome reluctance to learning about science and to make science less mysterious.

For more information on Science Café visit: http://osumarion.osu.edu/sciencecafe/ or contact Ohio State Marion professor of mathematics, Dr. Brian McEnnis at: mcennis.1@osu.edu.