the highlight of my day was going to a harvard museum lecture titled, "maternal-fetal conflicts in human pregnancy," given by david haig, a harvard biology professor. the attendance was higher than normal, with a large sampling of high school students for some reason. the lecture started off pretty boring, a lot of slides composed of mostly blue text on a white background punctuated by the occasional line graph. i could feel myself getting drowsy, a throwback to the heydays of auditorium style biology lectures.
but things started to pick up once i began listening to what haig was saying. pregnancy is all about conflicts. the placenta is trying to divert resources from the mother to the fetus, and the mother's body in turn is wary of this new "stranger" and will either accept or reject it. preeclampsia is a perfect example of the tug-of-war between fetus and mother. then there are cases of the selfish genes, with the father's share of genetic material coding for protecting the fetus and the mother's unexpressed genes trying to usurp that. natural selection and evolutionary pressure, as it turns out, happens in the womb as well, to a far more extent than realized. at the end of the lecture haig talked about some recent research in the field of human pregnancy. in lab tests developing artificial chimeras, rats created using two female embryos are smaller but have larger brains, while rats from two male embryos are much larger but have smaller brains. also in blood tests of women who've given birth before, traces of free-swimming fetal cells can be detected (even in women who've given birth decades ago). these are essentially foreign entities in the woman's bloodstream. in some cases the cells may trigger an autoimmune disease, but there's been other cases where the cells help to regenerate damaged liver and thyroid glands. there's just still a lot about pregnancy that scientists don't have a clear understanding of. after the lecture, there a moment for Q&A. a lot of the high school kids had questions, but these kids must've been from a school for geniuses because they asked some seriously sophisticated inquiries.
i couldn't wait to get home. i was seriously hungry and was starving for another reuben sandwich. in my opinion, all sandwich bread should be grilled; that extra level of crunchiness really adds another dimension to the sandwich. i'm curious to know how many calories there are in a single reuben sandwich. is it healthier than a hamburger? i think the slather of homemade thousand-island dressing (mayonnaise, ketchup, relish) probably adds a few hundred calories, at least.