Monday, March 21, 2005

Size Matters

Now that I've got your attention!

Within the same week of seeing What the Bleep Do We Know, which blows the mind away (see 3/16 post), a new study in Nature on the X chromosome was published. Women, of course, have two X chromosomes while men have only one X and a Y. It used to be thought that the second X for women was "atrophied," for lack of a better word. Now it's discovered, however, that women may have more of the second X than originally thought.

Or as Maureen Dowd says in yesterday's Op-Ed, "The researchers learned that a whopping 15 percent - 200 to 300 - of the genes on the second X chromosome in women, thought to be submissive and inert, lolling about on an evolutionary Victorian fainting couch, are active, giving women a significant increase in gene expression over men"...."Women are genetically more complex than scientists ever imagined, while men remain the simple creatures they appear"...."Women are not only more different from men than we knew. Women are more different from each other than we knew...."

"Alas," said one of the authors of the study, the Duke University genome expert Huntington Willard, "genetically speaking, if you've met one man, you've met them all. We are, I hate to say it, predictable. You can't say that about women. Men and women are farther apart than we ever knew. It's not Mars or Venus. It's Mars or Venus, Pluto, Jupiter and who knows what other planets."

From the Nature article, "If we want to understand the cognitive 'X factor' that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, then it seems that the X chromosome is the place to start looking. In the meantime, [Harvard President] Summers and his acolytes can chew on this thought: even if there's any truth in the idea that men are more suited to a career in science than women, they just might owe this mental predisposition to the 'girly' chromosome."

The X chromosome was originally named X for 'unknown,' puzzling geneticists for centuries. Now that more is being discovered, and less is unknown, "the discovery about women's superior gene expression may answer the age-old question about why men have trouble expressing themselves: because their genes do."

Maureen Dowd's take on this is well worth the humorous read! She's the one who says size matters. And she's not talking about that.


  1. I knew there had to be a scientific explanation! ;-)