Jewish World Review July 24, 2003 / 24 Tamuz, 5763

Jeff Elder

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Road scholar: A lesson on asphalt; when identical twins marry


http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Q: When, where and by whom was asphalt invented? - Gregory Staat

A: Good questions, Gregory. We drive on the stuff, we oughta know about it. Let's kick some asphalt!

It wasn't invented. The heavy mineral substance was first obtained from natural deposits.

Natural asphalt occurs widely. In some places the deposits appear on the surface of the Earth and are so large they are called lakes. Pitch Lake on the island of Trinidad occupies about 115 acres. Lake asphalt is semisolid and is dug out in chunks. It is identical in its properties to manufactured asphalt that has not yet been purified.

Thousands of years ago the people of Mesopotamia used asphalt to build temples, irrigation systems and highways. (Some Mesopotamian driver was locked up in chariot traffic, flipping around the radio and grousing, "Where's the goldurn classic rock?")

The first modern road to be paved with asphalt was the Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1824. ("Ou est le goldurn roq classique?")

Today, 96 percent of all paved roads and streets in the United States - almost 2 million miles - are surfaced with asphalt. Almost all paving asphalt is obtained by processing crude oils. After gasoline and oil are removed, the leftovers are made into asphalt for pavement.

SOURCES: About.com, asphalt institute, Britannica

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Q: If identical twin women marry identical twin men, will their children be genetically identical? - Rik Stender

A: Rik, no more watchin' the Sci-Fi Channel late at night for you.

By the way, do molecular biologists wear designer genes? Remember the scientist leading Clonaid's human cloning efforts, Brigitte Boisselier? If she can (supposedly) clone a human being, how come she can't properly color her own hair? I don't even want those folks handling scissors, much less toying with sacred and profound issues of human life.

Anyway Rik, the answer to your question is almost certainly not, because as genes are passed down, different combinations occur. Gustavo Maroni and Mark Peifer, helpful and friendly biology professors at UNC Chapel Hill, explained it to us:

Each parent passes down one gene for each characteristic, eye color for instance. As the genes are passed down, different kids get different combinations of genes and different characteristics result.

Consider the eye color genes passed down by our two identical twin couples. The twin brothers each have two eye color genes - let's say one for brown and one for blue. The twin sisters each have two eye color genes - again, let's say one for brown and one for blue. The first man and woman could each pass down a brown eye color gene, while the second man and woman could each pass down a blue eye color gene.

Interestingly, because the two dads have identical genes and the two moms have identical genes, the kids of the two couples WILL be genetically similar in many ways - as if they were siblings, rather than cousins.

___

QUICK QUIZ

TV women the focus of this week's quiz

1. What variety show hostess tugged her earlobe when she sang goodnight?

2. What trailblazing network TV newswoman battled drugs and abusive relationships before her death in the 1980s?

3. What TV star's massive corporation is a palindrome of her first name?

4. Which "Sex in the City" co-star grew up in Columbia, S.C.?

___

ANSWERS

1. Carol Burnett.

2. Jessica Savitch.

3. Oprah Winfrey's corporation is called Harpo.

4. Kristin Davis.



Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here.

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