Sunday, January 28, 2007

Meeting the Monk

The Field Museum has a temporary exhibit on Gregor Johann Mendel, the monk whose work with peas led to the discovery of the laws of genetics. I've wanted to see it for a long time, so today we finally went. It was a blustery day, but luckily it didn't snow.

We're members of the museum, so we got in for free. We also got tickets for the evolution exhibit (the name escapes me at the moment.) We wandered around most of the upper level before we found Mendel. The exhibit featured books, documents, and tools used by Mendel, including some of his gardening tools and an apiary. Of course it discussed his pea experiments and explained what dominant and recessive traits are, including a list of dominant and recessive traits in humans. Mendel's work went unappreciated during his lifetime but was independently rediscovered in 1900 by three different researchers; part of the exhibit was devoted to genetics in the 20th century. There were also genetically-inspired artworks, including a karyotype imagining chromosomes as striped socks and a family pedigree done as a mobile. The pedigree traced the inheritance of Huntington's chorea over several generations; different shades of agate represented the various phenotypes. The exhibit concluded with research currently being done to trace gene flow in different populations. There was also mention of a plant that seems to rescue defective genes by resurrecting good versions that they didn't get from their parents. How they manage to circumvent Mendel's laws is still a mystery. We enjoyed the exhibit, but I wish they had more genetics books in the gift shop; most of the souvenirs were pea-related and overpriced. (I may have thought the bib saying "Give Peas a Chance" was cute, but I wasn't going to spend $40 for the set.)

After that exhibit, we went through the evolution one. It covered everything from the beginning of life to the present day. They've redone the exhibit since the last time we saw it; one part I particularly enjoyed was a computer rendition of life in the Precambrian Era. If you need inspiration for aliens, you need look no further. The dinosaur exhibit was also laid out differently from the last time I saw it. I wasn't able to take any pictures in the Mendel exhibit, but I took some here. Here's the link:

By the time we finished walking through the exhibit, we were hungry. We had a late lunch at the Corner Bakery, browsed in the main gift shop, and headed home.

1 comment:

The Dear Nyer said...

I just finished looking at the pics you recently posted. Sandra, you look sooooo cute! I am so happy for you two. Kids are amazing :)

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