Tidings of epigentics:
A train of waves is characterized by its distance from crest to crest, with the distance between crest and trough being related.  Both increase with the strength of the wind and the “reach” of the wind, or how long the wave has been under its influence.  There are two categories:  there are deep water waves and shallow water waves.  With a deep water wave the depth of the water is so great with respect to the height that the bottom has no effective influence on the behavior of the wave train.  In a shallow water wave the wave can feel the bottom.  Waves coming in off the sea are generally deep water waves.  Each particle moves essentially in a circle.  As the wave approaches the beach it feels the bottom, and much of the wave moves forward in bulk to become the familiar breaker. 

Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island has a wonderful description of a frail little boat among great waves.  It seems to find its way among them with a will of its own.  I once was taking a boat through shoaling water in the Tampa Bay rip tide.  With the waves coming in and the tide racing out the breakers were rising and falling in place, “standing men” such waves are called.  I had my hands full. 

A “tidal wave” is a wave so large it feel bottom even in the deep ocean.  Its wrath on reaching the shore is legend.  Of course the proper word is now “tsunami.”  That is because a tidal wave is not the tide.  The tide receives its energy from astronomical forces while a tsunami gets its energy from anything else … for these purposes an impact of a comet or asteroid is not considered astronomical.  Earthquakes and landslides underwater or entering the water are common causes, well more common that giant meteors of course.  (Another terminological oddity.  “Meteor” means the light given off by the incoming object as it heats up.  Meteorite is what is left after it hits.  One does not refer to the falling object itself as a meteor.  So are we to refer to the light coming from a horse in a meadow as the “horse”?) 

I once cornered a polite scholar of the Japanese language and asked him whether “tsunami” meant “wave of the tide.”  He said that the word comes from two words, one meaning “tide” and the other meaning “wave,” but that it really meant a great big wave.  When I rejoined that “tidal wave” means the same thing I realized that I did not have his sympathy.  I wonder how you pronounce “tsunami.”  So I am not so happy with the word being changed.  People use words.  Experts need to learn them as they are used.  If they have need of something more suitable to their own needs, that’s what jargon is for. 

Well I suppose I need to make a choice.  Either accept “meteor” as it is supposed to be used or to abandon my difficulty with tidal wave.  But it has such nice long vowels.  If you had to you could shout it pretty loud.  Nobody wants you to whisper to them that a great forty foot high breaker is about to crash onto you. 

Besides the name also suggests “newsworthy.” 

Thus would I describe the work in the study of epigenetics.  It is a field moving forward even out of sight beyond the horizon, but it is beginning to build.  I expect it will become very newsworthy. 

There are plans to install a tidal wave warning system in vulnerable areas.  That would not include where I am now.  The Gulf of Mexico is so shallow for miles out that I would expect a tidal wave arising there would exhaust its energy by breaking far from land.  Such a system could save many lives.  Nature does provide a warning.  The tidal wave is preceded by an extremely low tide.  If you look out and see that all the water has run out of the bay, it might be a good idea to seek high ground or strong architecture. 

In this case, the low tide is manifest as a disappointment in the ability of the human genome studies to provide the benefits we were promised.  (Revolution Postpones, Stephen S. Hall, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 303 no. 4 October, 2010 page 60) 

The coming wave train starts smallish.  My favorite (In their Nurture, Lizzie Buchen  NATURE vol. 467 no. 7212 September 9, 2010 page 146) has the cutest picture and explains how a female mouse who has been neglected may pass on a tendency to neglect by epigenetic means.  There were (Epigenetic Memory in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, K. Kim et al. NATURE vol. 467 no. 7313 September 16, 2010 page 285) and (Mapping Methylation NATURE vol. 467 no. 7314 September 23, 2010 page 371)  And now we have (Epigenetic Drugs Take on Cancer, Elizabeth Pennisi page 567; Epigenome Disruptors, Myriam Hemberger and Roger Pedersen page 598; What is Epigenetics? Guy Riddihough and Laura M. Zahn page 611; Molecular Signals of Epigenetic States, Roberto Bonasio et al. page 612; A Small-RNA Perspective on Gamemtogenesis, Fertilization and Early zygotic Development Déborah Bourc’hs and Olivier Voinnet page 617; Epigenetic Reprogramming in Plant and Animal Development, Suhua Fent et al. page 622; Paramutations’s Properties and Puzzles, Vicki L Chadlier page 628; Epigenetics in the Extreme: Prions and the Inheritance of Environmentally Acquired Traits, Randal Halfmann and Susan Lindquist page 629; Diversity of Human Copy Number Variation and Multicopy Genes, Peter H. Sudmant page 641; Fitness Correlates of Heritable Variation in Antibody Responsiveness in a Wild Mammal, Andrea L. Graham et al. all in SCIENCE vol 330 no. 6005 October 29, 2010). 

It is beginning to build. 

In fact this may be the crest.  The Bourc’hs article is a review article and cites 3 references (J. Brennecke et al, Science 322,1387 (2008), S. Chambeyron et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A., 105, 14964 (2008) and C. Joseffson et al., Curr. Biol. 16, 1322 (2006)) that finger small RNA chains as checking for the compatibility of egg and sperm.

In other words it is on the shelf.  There is epigenetic control of fertility.  How much distance there must be before this mechanism cuts in I do not know from the information available.  It looks to me like I have some homework to do. 

But it does seem that the action of research is just about reaching the shore.

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