Evolution through Natural Selection is scientific fact. This is based on an enormous volume of evidence in the scientific database to date. Natural Selection occurs through the "passing on" of good genetic traits that benefit a species to survive.  Good traits are essentially "passed on" to daughters and sons because they help them to survive and further pass on good traits.  Bad traits, if passed on to progeny, will eventually die out (given enough time) because they offer a disadvantage to that species that eventually leads to their demise.  When a species with a bad trait dies, so does the bad trait. 

So how does this explain the fact that humans still have numerous genetic diseases present within our genome today?  We would have thought that 2 million years of Evolution Through Natural Selection would have selectively removed all those diseases that posed a threat to our human existence.

One researcher has an intriguing theory and believes he can explain it. In his book, Survival of the Sickest, Sharone Moalem argues that Evolution Through Natural Selection has actually preserved certain diseases within the human genome because at some point back in Human history, these diseases actually provided a certain key benefit to our human ancestors that allowed them to survive hash climatic conditions, such as Ice Age or infectious plagues. 

For example, he explains, the Bubonic Plague (a.k.a The Black Death) killed 25,000,000 people in Europe during the 1800s. To put this in perspective, this is approximately equivalent to the number of people killed during World War I and World War II COMBINED. The plague killed so many people because it was highly contagious, its cause was unknown and the way it was spread was also unknown.

The key to stopping the plague was not due to some revolutionary cure discovered by a brilliant physician, but to our remarkably resilient human genome.  As it was discovered many years later that certain people actually survived the plague. It was through the study of those survivors that it was discovered some people had the necessary genes to stop the plague in its tracks. Therefore the human genome through Natural Selection, developed the key to stopping the plague.

The Bubonic Plague, was a bacteria that thrived on iron. After entering the body, the immune system would send out its white blood cells to consume the invader. However, the plague cells would use the iron of the white blood cells to grow and multiply.  Acting like a “Trojan Horse” these cells would ultimately spread to other cells and be carried to other parts of the body, within the white blood cells (particularly the lymphatic system) spreading.  This remarkable adaptation of the Bubonic Plague cells was extremely efficient, killing approximately 60% of all those infected in four days if untreated.

Iron is abundant in the cells of a normal human being, and this is why the Bubonic Plague was so effective.  It would use the body’s own iron-rich immune system against it.  However, the plague cells did not due well in iron-poor conditions.

Hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder (although not always genetic) that comes from the accumulation of iron in the body.  In this disease, iron enters the body through food we eat, but continues to build up instead of being removed after the body has used all it can. The result is essentially “Iron Poisoning”. 

As it turns out, people with Hemochromatosis do not have high Iron in all cells of their bodies.  Unlike healthy people, white blood cells of their immune system are actually “IRON POOR”.  So you see, this genetic trait of the disease actually makes them ideally suited to fight the Iron-seeking Bubonic Plague Bacteria.

As the plague bacteria entered the body of a person with Hemochromatosis, the White blood cells would attack and ingest the bacteria. However, as the white blood cells are devoid of Iron, the Bubonic Plague Bacteria had no way of surviving and multiplying.  Therefore, it was stopped in its track.

This was one of the main keys in halting the Bubonic Plague which devastated Europe in the 1400s.  The human genome, through Natural Selection, had developed a specific beneficial trait against a specific intruder bacterium to end the most devastating plague in human history. This benefit (although an iron accumulating disease) was passed on to future generations because they survived the plague to pass it on.

This is an intriguing book, describing an intriguing theory and has numerous other examples and corroborating data that I will describe in future posts. I highly recommend reading it.


Al Maddalena

Maddalena Environmental Inc.


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I saw the movie, read the book then read the "Science of Interstellar" by Kip Thorne, the renowned physicist that was the scientific consultant for the movie.  I couldn't get enough of the movie and then the science explained by Kip Thorne, just put it all together for me. I loved the book.

To say the least, I loved the movie, not only for the amazing special affects but for it's consistency with current scientific theories.  Kip Thorne made sure of that.

The movie was conceived by Kip and his wife who at first had Steven Spielberg lined up as director.  Spielberg loved the script and would have been the director had it not been for some legal contractual obligation he had with a major motion picture company. So Spielberg had to decline and the hunt was on for another director.

Kip Thorne's wife was already aquainted with Christopher Nolan's wife and so they talked. Now as it seems, the script for Interstellar was written by Christopher Nolan's brother so it didn't take much convincing to get Chris Nolan on board.

Kip had only 1 condition, that the movie had to reflect the current scientific theories and principals as closely as possible. Christopher Nolan had no problem with this, so Interstellar was born.

To me, the scientific principles were elegantly portrayed and this made the movie extremely satisfying to me. Of course there were some assumptions, but everything in Interstellar was based on equations and calculations made by Kip Thorne.  He gave these equations to the special affects guys who used them in their computer graphics programs! You can't get any more accurate than that!

Niel DeGrasse Tyson also commented on how closely Interstellar portrayed science.

Obvoiusly, knowing a little about the scientific principles makes the movie more enjoyable.  So if you have not seen Interstellar yet, read up on black holes and worm holes and how they distort space and time.  Read about Einstein's Theory of Relativity too because his true genius is only now being proven as we now have the technology to test his theories, all of which have been proven correct.

Leaning a little bit about these principles will make viewing Interstellar a truly enjoyable experience.

I purposely did not go into the details of the movie because I am not one to spoil the suspense and anticipation. I am just going to say, that this movie portrayed scientific principles as accurately as I have ever seen (I saw it twice). It also portrayed the "cruel reality of relativity". You'll know what I mean when you see it.

Oh, and make sure you see it on the big screen... Gargantua needs to be seen on a REALLY big screen!

Al Maddalena

Maddalena Environmental Inc.

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The mass of the universe is composed of about 70% dark energy, 25% dark matter and only 5% visible matter (what we see).  If we consider that all of the scientific theories of all mankind have focused (until recently) only on the 5% of visible matter, we realize a striking fact: we know very little about the universe.

Since the time of Edwin Hubble, Scientists now know that the universe is expanding and galaxies that are farther away from us are moving faster than those that are close by. Something is forcing those galaxies away and expanding the universe at a greater rate today than in the past.

That something is thought to be Dark Energy, or the energy of space.  Einstein calculated that empty space actually has energy, but scientist have not been able to determine its properties.  The only thing scientists can measure are the gravitational effects of Dark Energy (i.e. Dark Energy's effects on stars and galaxies that we CAN see.)

It may turn out that Dark Energy is derived from subatomic particles that are predicted by Quantum Mechanics, or that it is derived from Dark Matter (also that we cannot see) that is located within another dimension.  String Theory in Quantum Mechanics predicts the presence of other dimensions and the 1 force which transcend dimensions is gravity.  Therefore, it is possible that Dark Energy and Dark Matter could be located within another dimension.  Possibly, that is why we cannot see Dark Matter and Dark Energy with all forms of light in our dimension. Maybe we need to be within the other dimensions predicted by (Quantum Mechanics) to see them.

This is my own pure speculation, but at this point, just about anything is possible because everything we know about the universe, only involves 5% of it.  There's a long way to go.

Al Maddalena

Maddalena Environmental Inc.

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Charlie Ray has a TV Fishing Show called Fishful Thinking. In my opinion, it's the best fishing show on TV because Charlie provides a lot of helpful advice to both beginning and experienced anglers and he explains what he uses and why.

This week on his show he talked about a great tip for Lake Erie Walleye Fishing and he explained it very well. This is a great Walleye Fishing Tip that I Charlie explained on his show today that I intend to use this summer Fishing Walleye on Lake Erie.

Lake Erie has become extremely clear because of the booming populations of zebra mussels.  These voracious filter feeders continually filter the water of algae resulting in the increased clarity of water on Lake Erie over the last 30 years or so.

With this improved clarity, walleye are able to see a lot better than they already can, so putting a jet diver or dipsy diver close to your lure can scare off the timid Lake Erie Walleye.

Charlie gives this great tip to avoid having a deep diver too close to your bait.

We all know that it is a big advantage to get our lures away from the boat to avoid spooking walleye with the motor.  To do this we can use either regular planar boards or use the new in-line planar boards, which are fairly easy to use and you don’t need to use a mast.

 In the diagram below, I have set up what Charlie explains: you can see that he is using an in-line planar board at the water surface. Line leads down from the planar board to a swivel.  This swivel must be small enough to fit through your spool. 

The swivel is connected to 20 feet of fluorocarbon leader which is invisible underwater.  With clear Lake Erie water, presentation is everything, and it is of utmost importance because Lake Erie walleye will not see a line connected to something that is moving like a fish.

Here is the big point that Charlie stresses. He connects the jet diver to the swivel by using a simple alligator clip. He also connects a safety clip to the jet diver in case the alligator clip lets go. He also places a bead on the line about 3 feet up from the lure so that if the jet diver lets go, it will run down the line and not reach the fish. This avoids the possibility of the jet diver running into the lure, releasing the fish.

This simple tip makes incredible sense on open water, clear lakes like Lake Erie and I’m grateful to Charlie Ray for sharing it with us.


Al Maddalena

Maddalena Environmental Inc.

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What is Dark Energy


Astronomers are trying to determine the composition of what is probably the greatest single mystery in cosmology, Dark Energy.  This is the energy that is theoretically responsible for the ever increasing expansion of the universe.

In the early 90s it was thought that after the Big Bang almost 13 Billion years ago, the universe expanded quickly and then cooled, creating galaxies that we see today.  This expansion of the universe was thought to eventually slow down because gravity between masses would "attract" one another.

This basic theory was proven to be incorrect in the late 90s when data was obtained from the famous Hubble telescope.  Data from Hubble created more questions than answers and it was discovered that the movement of stars in galaxies was not found as predicted. Stars in outer arms of galaxies were travelling at the same speed as those on inner arms. Something was causing it.

Astronomers also found galxies that were farther away from us were travelling faster, than those galaxies close by.  Something was causing these unpredicted movement of stars.

That something is though to be Dark Matter and Dark Energy. Dark matter does not interact with all known forms of light and is thought to be some sort of sub-atomic particles that we have not been able to detect. It composes about 25% of all matter.

Dark Energy is thought to be the energy contained in space itself.  Einstein was the first to consider that empty space was not really empty. It could contain energy and space could be created as the universe expands.  Therefore the greater that space expanded, the greater the energy of space.  This could explain the more rapid expansion of space but it is still a mystery.

Check out NASA's explanation here.

When we consider that Dark Energy comprises 70% of the universe and visible matter comprises 5% of the universe, it clear that our understanding of the universe is still in its infancy.

Al Maddalena

Maddalena Environmental Inc.

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