What is Biology?

By Mary Bagley

Biology is the science of life. Biologists study the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution and distribution of living organisms. There are generally considered to be at least nine “umbrella” fields of biology, each of which consists of multiple subfields.

  • Biochemistry: the study of the material substances that make up living things
  • Botany: the study of plants, including agriculture
  • Cellular biology: the study of the basic cellular units of living things
  • Ecology: the study of how organisms interact with their environment
  • Evolutionary biology: the study of the origins and changes in the diversity of life over time
  • Genetics: the study of heredity
  • Molecular biology: the study of biological molecules
  • Physiology: the study of the functions of organisms and their parts
  • Zoology: the study of animals, including animal behavior

Adding to the complexity of this enormous idea is the fact that these fields overlap. It is impossible to study zoology without knowing a great deal about evolution, physiology and ecology. You can’t study cellular biology without knowing biochemistry and molecular biology as well.

Framework of understanding

All the branches of biology can be unified within a framework of five basic understandings about living things. Studying the details of these five ideas provides the endless fascination of biological research

  • Cell Theory: There are three parts to cell theory — the cell is the basic unit of life, all living things are composed of cells, and all cells arise from pre-existing cells.
  • Energy: All living things require energy, and energy flows between organisms and between organisms and the environment.
  • Heredity: All living things have DNA and genetic information codes the structure and function of all cells.
  • Equilibrium: All living things must maintain homeostasis, a state of balanced equilibrium between the organism and its environment.
  • Evolution: This is the overall unifying concept of biology. Evolution is the change over time that is the engine of biological diversity.

History of biology

Our fascination with biology has a long history. Even early humans had to study the animals that they hunted and know where to find the plants that they gathered for food. The invention of agriculture was the first great advance of human civilization. Medicine has been important to us from earliest history as well. The earliest known medical texts are from China (2500 B.C.), Mesopotamia (2112 B.C.), and Egypt (1800 B.C.).

In classical times, Aristotle is often considered to be the first to practice scientific zoology. He is known to have performed extensive studies of marine life and plants. His student, Theophrastus, wrote one of the West’s earliest known botanical texts in 300 B.C. on the structure, life cycle and uses of plants. The Roman physician Galen used his experience in patching up gladiators for the arena to write texts on surgical procedures in A.D. 158.

During the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci risked censure by participating in human dissection and making detailed anatomical drawings that are still considered among the most beautiful ever made. Invention of the printing press and the ability to reproduce woodcut illustrations meant that information was much easier to record and disseminate. One of the first illustrated biology books is a botanical text written by German botanist Leonhard Fuchs in 1542. Binomial classification was inaugurated by Carolus Linnaeus in 1735, using Latin names to group species according to their characteristics.

Microscopes opened up new worlds for scientists. In 1665, Robert Hooke, used a simple compound microscope to examine a thin sliver of cork. He observed that the plant tissue consisted of rectangular units that reminded him of the tiny rooms used by monks. He called these units “cells.” In 1676, Anton von Leeuwenhoek published the first drawings of living single celled organisms. Theodore Schwann added the information that animal tissue is also composed of cells in 1839.

During the Victorian era, and throughout the 19th century, “Natural Science” became something of a mania. Thousands of new species were discovered and described by intrepid adventurers and by backyard botanists and entomologists alike. In 1812, Georges Cuvier described fossils and hypothesized that Earth had undergone “successive bouts of Creation and destruction” over long periods of time. On Nov. 24, 1859, Charles Darwin published “On the Origin of Species,” the text that forever changed the world by showing that all living things are interrelated and that species were not separately created but arise from ancestral forms that are changed and shaped by adaptation to their environment.

While much of the world’s attention was captured by biology questions at the macroscopic organism level, a quiet monk was investigating how living things pass traits from one generation to the next. Gregor Mendel is now known as the father of genetics although is papers on inheritance, published in 1866, went largely unnoticed at the time. His work was rediscovered in 1900 and further understanding of inheritance rapidly followed.

The 20th and 21st centuries may be known to future generations as the beginning of the “Biological Revolution.” Beginning with Watson and Crick explaining the structure and function of DNA in 1953, all fields of biology have expanded exponentially and touch every aspect of our lives. Medicine will be changed by development of therapies tailored to a patient’s genetic blueprint or by combining biology and technology with brain-controlled prosthetics. Economies hinge on the proper management of ecological resources, balancing human needs with conservation. We may discover ways to save our oceans while using them to produce enough food to feed the nations. We may “grow” batteries from bacteria or light buildings with bioluminescent fungi. The possibilities are endless; biology is just coming into its own.

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Happy Birthday Duke!

wayne-300

Happy birthday John Wayne!

You are still my all time favourite Actor and you embody the spirit of what it is to be your own man and what it is to be American.

Thank you and your family for helping to support the fight against cancer.  Help support the John Wayne Cancer Foundation here

http://johnwayne.org

-HMC

The Hardest part of Writing…is Writing

What-a-writer-is-picture

I absolutely hate writing the last page and paragraph of a manuscript. For me, ending a story is the hardest thing to do.

For others just sitting down to write is the hardest.  Either from not having the time or from fear of what others will think of their efforts.

Now I will admit that I did suffer from the second reason.  But through age and sheer Australian ‘pig headedness’, I am now no longer scared about bad opinions of my work.  If it is constructive criticism, I can use it to improve my writing.  And if it is just meanness for meanness sake?   I just put it aside and let the bad karma fairy sort them out.

The main thing is, if you want to write, then write.  It doesn’t matter if it is a recipe, biography, journaling your repressed feelings about the kid who picked on you at school, or writing the epic story that has been sitting inside you for years.  The thing that matters most is that you are WRITING.  Every time you put anything down on paper (or on a keyboard) is taking you that one step closer to completing whatever writing goal you had set out to do.

Also, making a point to write something every day will help to form the ‘habit’ of writing.  Just like making yourself jog everyday gets you into the ‘habit’ of exercising.

Even if you can only snatch ten minutes in a day to write, that will get you ten minutes closer to finishing than you would have been the day before.

After all of this writing, you get to the ‘Tale End’ of the story.  The Finishing!  I hate this part of writing for the following reason.  You’ve just finished writing the epic scene where all your important story threads for the book get tied up nicely in a neat packaged, exciting finale…  Then you have to write the section where you see how this dramatic scene has affected your characters in a neat and tidy wrap up.  Every time I write one it feels like a bit of a let down.  But it is needed to give your readers a chance to come down from your exciting finale and to see what ‘settled’ life is like for your characters.

So, all of my above ramblings beg the question.

Writers, what part of writing is the hardest for you?  

And readers, what do you prefer in an ending – finishing at the height of excitement? Or spending a little relaxing time with the characters before taking your leave?

Share your thoughts with me in the Comments.  I would like to know what people think 🙂

-HMC

 

The Enclave – Out Now!

HMClarke_TheEnclaveA story of Vengeance with a Capital V!

Get THE ENCLAVE now at all your favourite online retailers.

Today also happens to be my birthday, so please help support my Birthday Book Bash by givingTHE ENCLAVE a look  🙂

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME! 🙂

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Get THE ENCLAVE for Kindle here

Get THE ENCLAVE from Amazon here

THE ENCLAVE – Officially out tomorrow!

THE EHMClarke_TheEnclaveNCLAVE is ‘officially’ being released tomorrow and will be available in both paperback and ebook at all major Online book Retailers.

The 20th of May also happens to be my birthday, so please help support my Birthday Book Bash by giving THE ENCLAVE a look  🙂

Oh – don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter here to get access for extra goodies, giveaways and contests!

Get THE ENCLAVE for Kindle here

Get THE ENCLAVE from Amazon here

What is writing?

writing-picture

I found this today while looking for an image for a historical article I am writing.

I laughed when I read it but then thought ‘is this really true?’

What do people think?  Share your thoughts with me  🙂

-HMC

Oh – don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter here to get access for extra goodies, giveaways and contests! Also, receive the first two chapters to my Upcoming Release – THE ENCLAVE.

Resisting the Enemy – Why Chocolate is Good for You

Books and chocolateNo really, chocolate is good for you.  Dark chocolate can even help you lose weight.

But as with all good things, for the above to be true chocolate should be eaten in small quantities.  That means those small quantities had better be good.

The same can be said about writing.

A lot of excess words can help bulk out word count and make you feel good about your work.   But it can also make your manuscript overweight, unwieldy and a hard slog for readers get through.

Scenes, paragraphs, and sentences should be pared down and always be working to move the story forward in a logical manner.  A good way for testing this with a piece of writing is to read it aloud.  If it flows well while speaking it, then it should flow well while reading it.

I’m not going to say that I am the perfect writer that does everything correctly, and never use too many words to get my point across.  If fact I am the opposite (as can be seen from this post).  I love words and like to use as many of them as possible.  But as with eating too much chocolate, I know that in the long run too many words will be a bad thing for the story.

Now, I’m not going to tell you how to write like this, just as I’m not going to tell you what chocolate to eat.  That is up to each individual to decide.  Everyone has their particular brand of chocolate, and everyone has their own writing style.

Ultimately it is up to you to decide what stays, what goes, and what chocolate to eat.

Happy chocolate munching

-HMC

Oh – don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter here to get access to extra goodies, giveaways and contests! Also, receive the first two chapters to my Upcoming Release – THE ENCLAVE.

 

Book Review – My Girlfriend Bites

“My Girlfriend Bites” by Doug Solter

MGBThis tale did lag a little in some parts but it is a really well written and entertaining story. The characters and their relationships were well developed and is mainly a romance story with paranormal elements thrown in. I got to know the characters and have empathy for their various situations and backgrounds.

Aideen Jay, the ‘boyfriend’ reminded me a little in concept to Thomas Covenant, Donaldson’s cowardly anti-hero from his Thomas Covenant series. Bree was a good strong foil to Aideen (though I got tired of her saying ‘Super’ all the time.)

I did like the fact that Solter created a realistic and believable background and culture/community for his werewolves. And I like the idea behind the main antagonists and would have liked to have found out more about these ‘demon skins’. I hope any future book in the series goes towards finding out more about these creatures and who (or what) created them.

This book also reminded me about how horrible kids can be to each other in High School. Only taking each other at surface value and only thinking in the moment with no thought on future consequences to themselves or others. I am glad that the real world is not wholly reflected in the microcosm of High School, and that some of the shallow characters in this book find out more about the person behind the stereotype e.g. Pamela and Issy.

I am hoping to get to read more about Aiden and Bree in another book – the ending of the story did look set up for another book and as I mentioned above there are some story lines that could do with some tidying up and another book in the series would do this nicely…

I would recommend this book to lovers of werewolf stories and teen Paranormal Romance junkies (like me :))

-HMC

Oh – don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter here to get access to extra goodies, giveaways and contests! Also, receive the first two chapters to my Upcoming Release – THE ENCLAVE.

Visit Doug Solter at http://www.dougsolter.com

Get it on Kindle here

Get it in paperback here

Keep Going: 7 Ways To Find Discipline & Fight Distractions

By Dominic Tarn

Anyone who thinks writing is easy, isn’t a writer. A few hours work, a little ‘creative thinking space’, involving a walk, a few friends, a few drinks. Then maybe some writing later on. It’s a nice image, but it’s very far from the truth. Writing is hard, writing is a discipline, a profession. Which is why to be a writer discipline is one of the more vital skills required.

“I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” William Faulkner.

It is easy to get distracted, especially in the world of social networks and 24/7 media. Here are a few ways you can get in the habit of writing, day in, day out.

  1. Set a block of time. Just saying, “I’m going to do some writing today,” is one thing, but to actually block book a slot of time in your diary and make sure nothing else gets in the way is another. That’s the best way to get started with a habit of writing however many words you set yourself within the timeframe you have.
  2. You will be resistant to starting. As Leo Babauta of Zenhabits writes (author and publisher of several books): “Let it go, and focus on just getting started. All you need to do is write the first few words — don’t worry about writing more than that.”
  3. There will never be a perfect time. Acknowledge this. Like starting a business, having a child or traveling, there’s always a dozen reasons why another time would be the ideal time. As Margaret Atwood said, “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.”
  4. One page at a time. Within the sessions for writing you book remember that books are written one word, one page, at a time. Consistent action adds up and at the end of a long period of work you’ll come out the other side with a finished book.
  5. Befriend the right people. Surrounding yourself with fellow writers is a great way to feel inspired, but are they professionals or other pre-published writers, or is this just a hobby for them? Fellow aspiring pro’s or other already published authors are the best kind of people to get to know.
  6. Emotions lie. There’s always going to be other things to do, reasons why you can put off writing. The only way to get from the idea to the finished book is to put those emotions and excuses aside and write like your life depended on it.
  7. Just do it. Whatever your stumbling blocks, other things to do, distractions and commitments – it all comes down to how badly you need to keep writing, and maintaining discipline over the months or even years required to keep writing. At the end of the day you will have done something many only dream of, giving you the chance to share your thoughts, ideas and imagination with the world.

Oh – don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter here to get access to extra goodies, giveaways and contests! Also, receive the first two chapters to my Upcoming Release – THE ENCLAVE.

The Procrastinators Guide to Story Avoidance 

Nice catchy title, and oh so true in my case.  (Case in point – me writing this blog post is a good example – I should be finishing Within Winter’s Reach).

I also have a horrible habit of going off topic, (yet another symptom of procrastination), so I’ll try my hardest not to do this too much.

Let’s get straight to the point here.  Writers generally drop into procrastination mode when either of the following conditions occurs:

  1. Coming up to the point in their story where there is a difficult scene to plot out and write
  2. Characters write themselves into a situation that the author does not know how to get them out of
  3. Your Manuscript is in the editing stages of the second and third drafts (and everyone definitely wants to avoid that)
  4. Any other situation that a writer can find themselves in that makes doing the dishes right at that very moment a high priority task.

Now, this blog is supposed to be about story avoidance.  That means, whenever any of the above conditions occur, you must immediately go and find something as far away from the object of avoidance as possible.

Avoidance strategies can be either very simple or extremely extravagant.  Strategies that I use regularly are:

  1. House cleaning – it does help getting your mind off the hurdles in your writing and then gives you time to look at things from a fresh perspective and can actually be helpful in the long run.
  2. Baking – This does the same thing as house cleaning except you get cakes, biscuits and cookies at the end of it.
  3. Research – This can be anything ranging from historical to scientific or basically fact finding in general.  This again can be helpful in both finding plots and ideas for future stories, or for finding examples that can get you out of your writing quandary.
  4. Taking the family on a day trip – This also does the same thing as house cleaning, except that you also get to exposure to daylight and spend quality time with your family.
  5. Television – Um, television really is the procrastinators’ friend.  I never get anything useful done when the TV is on.  Unless I’m watching something in connection with point 3.
  6. Internet – Same point as Television.  It is an incredible tool for procrastination.  But it can also help overcome your issues by going to relevant blogs, websites, and friendly communities that might help you by discussing issues or reviewing the piece of work or idea that is troubling you.  There are many of these writing communities around; it’s just a matter of finding one that suits you and your genre.  Also be aware when trying to find a writing community that there is a difference between constructive criticism and being downright mean.

I could make this list a lot larger, but I think I have procrastinated long enough.  I hope that I have given some good tips to successful procrastination methods and I would love to hear what works well for you and what doesn’t.

Happy Procrastinating

-HMC

Oh – don’t forget to sign up for my Newsletter here to get access to extra goodies, giveaways and contests! Also, receive the first two chapters to my Upcoming Release – THE ENCLAVE.