Friday, 20 January 2012

Biologists on Biology and Computer Games

Today, I had an amusing discussion with two of my friends - both of them having background in life sciences (biochemistry, molecular biology, computational biology) and one of them being an avid player of computer games. The argument started when I laughed at the idea by the creators of Assassin's Creed (a computer game) that all memories of our ancestors are stored in our DNA and can be accessed by future generations. My friend started arguing that it was not impossible and recalled the fact that our DNA does change. When I pointed out that the rate of such changes is incomparably slower than the rate of acquiring new memories, the second friend came to rescue my first friend by mentioning epigenetics. Too bad my friends had to leave early as there is nothing more entertaining than a good argument when adrenaline starts to flow and both sides want to prove to the other that they are right no matter what ;). That argument is over now but there is no reason why more people could not join in and present their views here ;). What do you think guys? Is it possible that not only all your memories but also all memories of your ancestors can be stored in just one gamete (this is what my friends argued for)? In other words, is our use of the brain for storing memories (with estimated 0.15 trillion synapses in the cortex alone - now, since our DNA (including epigenetic information) supposedly stores memories of all our ancestors, do not forget to multiply this by 10 000 to 15 000 to take into account all past generations since homo sapiens sapiens appeared... and I will not mention here all future generations as we would potentially end up with a theory claiming that each individual gamete has an infinite memory storage capacity ;) ) a huge waste of energy and space? Could most of our central nervous system be replaced with just one egg or sperm cell? Think about the huge saving on hats alone! And by what means would the memories be passed onto someone's descendants after that someone had already produced their offspring? What evolutionary pressures would contribute to developing such a memory storage? And what about huge epigenetic changes caused by environmental factors other than memories ;)? Maintaining memories whilst still fulfilling the commonly recognized goal of epigenetic changes would require existence of a kind of epigenetic steganography ;). I still think the idea is ridiculous but please, do share your thoughts, I promise I will try not to laugh even if you decide to join my two friends' camp.

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