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From: raster@highfiber.com (Charles Dye)
Subject: (urth) Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I'm gonna....
Date: Tue, 13 Oct 1998 17:56:18 

The Spectacled Bear in RNA World:

>I do know what Kieran meant about RNA, though: there was a theory
>around for a while that RNA was the carrier of memory. Back in the
>1970's (ish) someone taught planarian worms to run a T-shaped maze,
>then fed them to other planarian worms, and put those worms into
>the maze. They appeared to guess which way to turn more often than
>chance would allow. There naturally followed a lot of stories based
>on that, often making much of the cannibal belief that you could
>absorb your enemies' strength and other virtues by eating them. This
>account is taken from what I recall of the introduction to one such
>story, so it may not be scientifically or historically accurate, but
>it reflects the author's understanding, which is what matters here.
>The experiment seemed to suggest that memory must be carried chemically
>(cell structures wouldn't survive being ground up and eaten) and RNA
>was a favorite contender for the role. I believe the theory has gone
>away now, though.

I've heard about this too.  In the original experiment, the second
set of worms did a far better job of solving the maze than the first
group.  However, it turns out that if you *wash* the maze between the
first and second sets of worms, the second group does no better than
the first -- whether they eat their predecessors or no.  So yes, that
theory "has gone away."


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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