How does evolution give rise to new features of living things? Mistakes drive the vast diversity of life on earth through mutations (random errors in the information carrying molecules of a cell). A core question of evolutionary biology is how hard it is to make useful, new biological components via these random mutations and natural selection. Joined by special guest Heidi Klumpe, Caltech graduate student and host of the Not My Thesis podcast, we explore cases where mutation gives new function shockingly easily, and others where success is harder to come by. If you are an insect, one change might give you legs where your antenna should be.
Heidi, Aditi, John, and Julian discuss how they deal with mistakes in professional settings and the disappointment and stress they can cause. Ever needed advice on how to handle a pipetting robot or the escape of a massive colony of vicious ants? We offer some tips, but mistakes may be a necessary, albeit painful, teacher.
Note: This episode was recorded prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in October of 2019.
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Cover image: Don’t cry over spilled milk. Photo by Julian Wagner for Caltech Letters.