Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's The Little Things

So I'm reading this book, right. It's called Y: The Descent of Men by Steve Jones (author of Darwin's Ghost). 

Suddenly, I have a rip-roaring interest in reproductive biology. Weird, huh?

Anyway, so I've learned a lot of this stuff before. (If by "learned" you mean memorized it until I didn't need to know it anymore and then "poof," out it went.)

But holy shit, man! I'm reading about all the stuff that sperm has to get through in order to fertilize an egg, and all I can picture is like a scene from Indiana Jones! Flames, tumbling boulders, snake pits, oh my! 

And it's so stupid because like I said, I KNOW how all of this works - but no biology teacher of mine ever described how the immune system attacks sperm because it's a foreign invader, and that all these sperm cells get stuck to the walls of the reproductive tract while others lose their protective sheath and keep going, and when they get to the egg they have to penetrate it in just the right spot otherwise it doesn't work, and then once inside the egg releases a hormone or something that creates like a force field of (calcium?) ions so no other sperm can get inside, and if 2 sperm cells DO get inside, everything DIES!

Seriously, blew my fucking mind. 

I know most of you are in biomed and the like and are probably thinking "Really? This girl made it through college without knowing this shit?" In my defense, my biology courses were always super concerned with photosynthesis, cell respiration, meiosis and mitosis, etc. My best mental representation of reproductive biology came from the movie Look Who's Talking. Remember that movie?

Clip #1: Until now, that was the most vivid scene of reproduction I've ever had in my head. 

Compare that to this:

Clip #2: An accurate representation of JLK's instruction in reproductive biology. LAME!!!!

It's really too bad that I didn't take more than 2 biology courses in college, because right now I am so tempted to switch over to fertility studies. 


Ambivalent Academic said...

I know! I know! It's totally fucking awesome isn't it!?!?

WTF was up with that second clip? Why does the egg have so many faces? This is why science education and/or representation of science in the popular media kind of sucks. They leave out all the interesting and important stuff.

Mrs. CH said...

I know a hell of a lot less than you! LOL I haven't taken a biology course since grade 10. Thankfully I've been reading about fertility lately (specifically the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility) and have learned quite a lot!

JLK said...

@AA - Dude, when I read that you could make a person infertile by introducing sperm to the bloodstream, I was like WHOA, I mean, I've always loved the immune system and how it works, and it's totally common sense that this would be the case, but still!

Whitecoat Tales said...

I too always envisioned the humble sperm's journey as a scene from Indiana Jones

Becca said...

Pick up Natalie Angier's "Women: an intimate geography".
The sperm are lame. The egg is where all the action's at (and all the good research is to be done with!)

Ambivalent Academic said...

I second Becca - That is an excellent book, and yeah, sperm are kind of crap. A dime a dozen really. The egg's got it going on.

leigh said...

i mostly learned about this stuff in detail for the purpose of arguing against this bullshit "moment of conception" concept.

i mean, it was in gen bio, and we talked about the molecular (DNA) stuff in cell bio and mol bio, but never specifically was it all laid out on the table in one place.

Zuska said...

That second clip is the biggest bullshit I've seen lately. So fertilization is a race to see who gets to rape the egg, while she sits in wait pretending to resist? But in the end, she likes it? Ooh boy, now that's a tale from the patriarchy for you.

Somebody needs to read Emily Martin's tale of the romance of the sperm and the egg.

JLK said...

Holy shit! Zuska has visited my blog!!! *huge grin*

That clip is completely representative of my education in reproductive biology. Sad, isn't it?

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