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Genetics…Genetics Everywhere

February 10, 2013

I’m sure that most normal people don’t spend their days pondering the genetic make up of everyone around them. As I wrote in my last post some people don’t understand or believe in the theories that underlie the foundation for genetics. That being said, genetics are all around us.

I’m not talking about the fact that your cells are currently dividing and your genes are being passed from an old cell into a new cell, although that is pretty flipping cool. I am talking about genetics existing outside of the body. In everyday things, in movies comics and books that normal people actually do spend their days thinking about. If I continue this blog I’d like to talk about the genetics of every day stuff, both as a fun release for me and as a way to get people interested in science in a fun way.

An example of this is the “wizarding gene” in the Harry Potter books. It has been brought to my attention that in the world of avid Harry Potter fans, the genetics of the wizarding gene is a hot topic of debate. Most people didn’t think about the existence of “mudbloods” or “squibs” in a genetic sense, but a few readers were probably curious how someone could become a wizard or witch without any previous family history. Maybe a ten year old hoping to receive a letter from Hogwarts on their next birthday thought to themselves that they were the next “mudblood”.
A recent biology graduate named Andrea decided to do the work to prove that that ten year old should maintain hope! The blog post was e-mailed to me by a friend as a joke, but I read it as I would any other scientific article, and the logic is sound. Ms. Andrea has scientifically determined the genetic makeup of the wizarding gene using consilience rather than the scientific method.

I want to be a professor of genetics when I grow up. Articles like this are almost as interesting to me as real scientific research; I believe that using examples like this could get students more interested in science. One of the scariest parts of being a scientist is reading case studies that I have absolutely no prior knowledge of. I would love to be able to use pop culture references to help my students see that genetics really are all around us and to make science interesting and fun.

I look forward to reading future work by Ms. Andrea, I hope she does genetic consilience studies on other pop culture items. Perhaps if I get time in the future I can try to follow in her footsteps and post my findings on this blog so that even people who don’t constantly think about science can get a laugh and maybe a slight curiosity about my field.


Andrea’s Paper:



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