Daily Archives: 28th of July 2010

Michael Pollan (and Yoda) at TED

Michael Pollan takes a plant's eye view of agriculture

Michael Pollan, author of The Botany of Desire, shows the power of evolutionary explanations by taking a plant’s eye view of agriculture. It’s not just the content that I like, the presentation style is worth examining too.

The talk is definitely more in the style of a naked Yoda than Darth Vader. It’s lacking details, but I never get those from a scientific talk anyway. While it’s not a compelling scientific argument of itself, it did inspire me to follow up on what he was talking about by getting the book.

Factors leading to hybrid lethality in Nicotiana


Hybrid lethality is a type of postzygotic isolation and is observed in some species of Nicotiana in association with genes encoded on the Q chromosome. Tezuka et al. (pp. 267–276) make interspecific crosses of eight wild species with cultivated tobacco, N. tabacum, and find only one, N. fragrans, that produces 100 % viable hybrids. They confirm that one or more genes on the Q chromosome of N. tabacum are responsible for hybrid lethality, but the effect can be suppressed if the seedlings are grown at elevated temperatures.