It'll Never Fly: When Gene Names Are TOO Fun
Listen now
Description
In 1910, a fruit fly geneticist named Thomas Hunt Morgan noticed something strange in one of his specimens. Out of his many, many fruit flies—all with brilliant red eyes—a single fly had white eyes. This fruit fly turned out to be a very big deal. From those white eyes, Morgan eventually figured out that genes can be sex-linked, confirmed that genes exist on chromosomes, and won the Nobel prize. But he also cemented his legacy another way, with what he chose to name that gene: "white". It might sound uninspired, but it kicked off a tradition that decades later gave us names like spatzle, hamlet, and ken and barbie. Here and there, a name went too far, but overall, fanciful names brought joy to researchers and worked well until genes like these were discovered in humans, and everything went awry. Johanna and Senior Producer Elah Feder team up with Helen Zaltzman of The Allusionist to talk about fruit flies, genes, and whether it’s ok to name a gene after a German noodle. Plus, after much demand, we bring you... the origin of "defenestration"! NOTE: A transcript for this episode is in progress. Guests: Helen Zaltzman is the host of The Allusionist. Credits: Science Diction is produced by Johanna Mayer and Senior Producer Elah Feder. Our composer is Daniel Peterschmidt. Nadja Oertelt is our Chief Content Officer.
More Episodes
Journalists Kevin McLean and Shalina Chatlani join us for a round of Diction Dash, where Johanna tries - and usually fails - to guess the true meaning or origin of a word.    If you’re curious about a word, get in touch! Give us a call, leave a message, and we might play it on the show. The...
Published 09/14/21
When Isabel Briggs Myers imagined that her homegrown personality test would change the world, she couldn’t have pictured this. Today, millions take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator each year. Countless organizations use it, from General Motors to the CIA. But there’s one field that mostly rolls...
Published 08/31/21
At first, it seemed like Isabel Briggs Myers would have nothing to do with personality typology. That was her mother Katharine’s passion project, not hers. But when Isabel enters a tumultuous marriage, she discovers that her mother’s gospel of type might just be the thing to save it.  In Chapter...
Published 08/24/21