Week 11. X and Y

I realized only recently that X and Y chromosomes were named due to how they look during replication. I’m constantly amazed by my blind spots – by all I’ve ignored or let go unseen.

I use to love putting together karyotypes – maps of the 46 chromosomes in human cells. It was so precise – matching them up, figuring out sex or disorder.

And, of course, X and Y are sex chromosomes, but anatomic traits are such a small part of what they code for. There’s so much in my life that seems to depend on my two Xs, and I wonder how much of me is in my blind spot, my inability to see because I’m looking so steadily at something else.

The X and Y shapes appear during replication when the centromeres (the pinched parts) come together only because the kinetochore spindles pull apart. This is my favorite part of biology: when resistance serves fusion, when separation and connection look very much the same.

I like speaking to audiences.  I know, and the audience does not, we are approaching a cliff.   All through the introduction, the funny story that gets everyone to look up and see me, the X and Y axes of data explained, we move closer and closer to the drop off. The cliff is the moment sterile facts and observations come together to take the form of a story.  It is the free fall of faith. Seeing logic and cause and effect.

Reconstructing anything unseen requires a leap of faith, the braiding together of different  threads of evidence.  We don’t actually ever totally know and once we have formed a story it is hard to let go. 

We’ve believed so much that is no longer true. 

Today we must jump, tomorrow we can look back  with different perspective.

Materials: Micron 01, colored pencils, Pilot silver marker. Image based on Whitaker, Communities and Ecosystems, 1975

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