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2.6.2 End-of-unit questions

Question 8

Express the following numbers using scientific (powers of ten) notation:

  • (a) 2.1 million

  • (b) 36 000

  • (c) 1/10

  • (d) 0.00005


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2.3 The irreversible Universe

‘Science owes more to the steam engine than the steam engine owes to Science.’

L.J. Henderson (1917)

From the time of Newton until the end of the nineteenth century the development of physics consisted essentially of the refinement and extension of the mechanical view of the Universe. There were many stages in this process but one of the most interesting came towards its end with the re
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2.2.2 Energy and conservation

Newtonian mechanics is concerned with explaining motion, yet it contains within it the much simpler idea that some things never change. Take the concept of mass, for example, which appears throughout Newtonian mechanics, including the law of gravitation. In Newtonian mechanics, mass is conserved. This means that the mass of the Universe is constant and the mass of any specified collection of particles is constant, no matter how much rearrangement occurs within the system. A chemist might take
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5.3 GM Nation? The public debate

The key objective of the national dialogue on GM was to allow the exchange of views and information – members of the public would presumably learn more about the issues; experts and policy makers would learn more of the reasoning behind the public's concerns.

Question 16


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2.3.1 Applying the principles

Trying to use ‘guiding principles’ of this type does not make assessment straightforward. For example, such principles can't be rigidly applied in an abstract way, reflecting absolutes such as what is ‘right’ or ‘wrong'; their operation depends on context.

We can explore this further by attempting to apply the third of these principles. Justice might be considered to involve directing the benefits of a new technology to those who need it most. At the same time, the role of pol
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Introduction

This unit is an adapted extract from the course Science in context (S250)

In recent years, scientists have made huge gains in their understanding of how genes can be altered and transferred from one organism to another – but that knowledge has been acquired amidst controversy and concern. The deep ethical concerns that have resulted from the emergence of genetic manipulation are explor
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1.5 Star clusters and stellar evolution

Detailed observations of star clusters suggest that they occur because the stars in them form at about the same time. Moreover, the compositions of the stars are similar. Isolated stars (including isolated binary stars) result from the later partial or complete dispersal of a cluster.

The crucial points for us here are that all the stars in a cluster formed at about the same time, and all have similar compositions.

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7 Conclusion

In this unit we have studied animals in the context of their own habitat rather than using the traditional comparative physiology approach of comparing organ systems in different species. Although we have looked at extreme habitats, specifically deserts, it has become clear that, for many species, extreme physiological adaptations are not present and that even endotherms, birds and mammals rely on behavioural strategies, thereby reducing the need for physiological strategies that are costly i
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Introduction

This unit is the first in a series of three on Animals at the extreme. It is concerned with the integration of behaviour anatomy, physiology and biochemistry in diverse vertebrates that live in deserts. Once you have completed this unit, you will be all the more able to appreciate the linked units that follow, Animals at the extreme: hibernation and torpor and Animals at the extreme: the polar environment. These units build on and develop some of the science you will stud
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6.3 Metabolic regulation and the midbrain

As you found in the last section, the physiological evidence points to the likelihood that different components of regulation may be regulated separately. The hypothalamus, which appears to be central to the depression and recovery of body temperature during entry to torpor and arousal, is not the only player in the control of metabolic processes underlying non-behavioural thermogenesis. In many respects, the initiation of thermogenesis is the prime event in the reactivation of a cold body: t
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6.2 The hypothalamus as central regulator

Research in the past 30–40 years has established that the hypothalamus, which lies below the thalamus and above the optic nerve chiasma and the pituitary gland in the brain, fulfils all of the functions listed above, at least in part. The main function of the hypothalamus is homeostasis. Factors such as blood pressure, body temperature, fluid and electrolyte balance, and body weight are held to constant values called the set-points. Although set-points can vary over time, from day to
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5.7 Summary

BMR is regulated independently of T b at least in hibernating mammals. Entry into hibernation is characterized by a gradual fall in RQ, which indicates a switch from carbohydrate to lipid metabolism for energy provision (through the phosphorylation of pyruvate dehydrogenase, the inhibitor of mitochondrial fatty acid uptake). There is evidence that some other vertebrates, such as hibernating frogs, may continue to use carbohydrate catabolism or activate gluconeogenic pathways
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5.5 Energy budgeting – the benefits of hibernation and torpor

Studies performed on ground squirrels in the wild and in the laboratory have allowed estimates to be made of energy expenditure in hibernating and euthermic animals over similar periods (Wang, 1987). The average time spent by Richardson's ground squirrel in a periodic arousal in the wild is about 10 hours and the frequency of arousal decreases during November-March, when animals are spending more than 90% of their time in torpor. Monthly total oxygen consumption in January is about 35% of tha
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5.4 Inspiratory drive

The supply of oxygen to tissues such as the heart, liver and WAT is, under euthermic conditions, invariably linked to and dependent upon local blood flow and pulmonary function. However, as we have already seen, under conditions in which blood flow is reduced to a trickle, the control of energy supply switches to local adaptations in the capillaries and tissue cells, including the oxygen affinity of erythrocyte haemoglobin, the supply and metabolism of respiratory fuels and the rate of protei
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5.3 Mitochondrial adaptations

During the winter months, whilst hibernating vertebrates maintain a very low metabolic rate, major reorganization of mitochondrial metabolism occurs. The phenomenon has been studied in some detail in frogs which, although not hibernators in the true sense, can endure very low water temperatures under the conditions of profound hypoxia that exist when they lie dormant for long periods below the surface. In contrast to normoxic conditions, the muscle mitochondria of dormant frogs depress their
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4.4 Cell survival mechanisms

Physical damage is not the only danger that faces cells recovering from low temperatures in the absence of oxygen (due to a 90% drop in blood flow to the brain) and energy supplies. A universal sign of recovery from such conditions is the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) (Box 4). The electron transfer chain that participates in the formation of water from oxygen in mitochondrial respiration can also be used in the production of the free radical superoxide, sometimes called ‘singl
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4.2 Arresting protein synthesis

The regulation of T b in hibernators has traditionally been viewed as the fundamental physiological process in hibernation. But recently, questions have been raised about whether thermal changes initiate or simply accompany metabolic depression. Is the metabolic inactivity of animal tissues during bouts of torpor or in hibernation, the cause or the result of hypothermia? A common-sense view is that temperature directly influences metabolism by regulating enzyme activity. Evi
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3.6 Length of torpor bouts in hibernation

It is obvious that there is a very high energetic cost to arousal, and an even higher one to the periods of euthermic wakefulness prior to re-entering torpor. If an animal could simply enter torpor once, and arouse 2, 4 or 6 months later, depending on the environment, it would represent a huge energy saving. Thus, it has been assumed that either prolonged torpor is physiologically impossible, or there is some strong selective value to the species in regular arousal. In the case of some small
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2.3 Hibernators as eutherms

Hibernating endotherms are not the easiest animals to study. Thus, until the late 1960s many biologists believed that mammalian hibernation was a process in which thermoregulation was simply ‘switched off’, following the receipt of a set of ‘cues’. These cues included a declining T a, a shortening daylength, the extent of body fat and a lack of food etc. With this model, the hibernator essentially becomes an ectotherm whose T b follows the T
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2.2 Species showing torpor or deep hibernation

Among the birds, torpor occurs in a number of species in the orders Apodiformes (hummingbirds and swifts), Caprimulgiformes (nightjars, nighthawks, goatsuckers and poor wills) and Coliiformes (mousebirds). In all of the hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) studied to date, torpor, if it occurs, takes place on a daily (or more usually nightly) basis. They are able to re-warm themselves independently of T a and show an increased thermogenesis if T a falls below
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