Eyewire presents: Team Gene!

Image by Sangharsh Lohakare

Your genes make you you! Today we are all familiar with DNA, or Deoxyribonucleic acid, a polymer that carries the genetic instructions for development, growth, and reproduction in all living organisms.

However, this wasn’t always the case! Modern studies of genetics date back to only the mid 1800s, with Gregor Mendel’s studies on the laws of inheritance.

Though the evidence for genetic markers and heritability was all a bit more hazy before the 19th century, humans were still aware that something interesting was going genetically for quite a long time.

A 6000 year old Babylonian tablet, for example, shows pedigrees of horses with indications of possibly inherited charactaristics. Even the domestication of animals over 10,000 years ago, indicates an understanding of “selective breeding” – selecting an organism’s favorable traits for breeding and cultivation.

During the Classical Era, ancient Greeks spent much time in philosophical thought and debate over the origins of human characteristics. This results in various theories, including pangenisis, which proposed that particles called “gemmules” carry information from various parts of the body to the reproductive organs, where they are passed to the embryo.

However, the scientific study of genetics really kicked off with the father of modern genetics, Gregor Mendel. Mendel entered a Roman Catholic monastery at the age of 21, and had taken an interest in botany. While there he experimented with hybridization of the pea plant, taking meticulous notes on the plants’ traits such as height, pod color, seed shape, and leaf color.

From his observations he theorized that the parent plants each had two heritable units that could be passed on to offspring, and that there were dominant and recessive versions of these traits that would effect the resulting expression in the next generation. With this in mind, he could predict the likelihood of inheritance of a particular trait in the next generation of plants.

In modern times we have seen an amazing explosion of scientific breakthroughs with regards to our understanding of genetics and their role in gene expression and heritability. From Darwin’s theory of evolution, to the discovery of DNA, chromosomes, nucelotides, and genetic sequencing, we’ve made leaps and bounds in the understanding of how genes shape our world.

Now you can thank your DNA for helping to form you into the curious, enthusiastic, intelligent citizen scientist you are today! Go forth and show the competition what you’ve got! The fun begins May 18th and runs for 1 week. Earn bonuses, unique badges, and Eyewire swag as you learn a little bit about the history of genetics!

*All times are Eastern Time (ET).*

Accuracy Punnett Hours

First session runs from 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM on Thursday 5/18
Second session runs from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM on Friday 5/19
Third session runs from 10:00 PM to midnight on Friday 5/19

The Punnett square is a diagram that helps visualize Mendelian inheritance. It’s named after British geneticist Reginald C. Punnett who devised it 1905. The tabular diagram is used to depict all possible combinations of maternal and paternal allelles, and is used to predict possible genetic outcomes offspring may have. Use the satisfying accuracy with which Punnett squares predict genetic traits to inspire you towards your own Accuracy HH goals!

Swag: Most accurate player completing at least 30 cubes wins the choice of a notebook or a mug, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

1st Place Accuracy – 10,000 points
2nd Place Accuracy – 8,000 points
3rd Place Accuracy – 6,000 points
Achieve 95% Accuracy – 5,000 points
Achieve 90% Accuracy – 3,000 points
Achieve 80% Accuracy – 2,000 points
1,000 points for anyone under 80% who still plays at least 30 cubes in either slot.
(These bonus thresholds are non-cumulative, i.e. they will not combine. If you earn 3rd place, for instance, and presumably got over 95% accuracy, you still earn a 6,000 point bonus, not 11,000.)

Nucleotide Trivia

Begins at 11:00 AM on Sunday 5/21
Continues until 11:00 AM on Tuesday 5/23
Finishes with Power Hour from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM on Tuesday 5/23

Nucleotides are the base building blocks for nucleic acids. Each nucleotide consists of a sugar molecule attached to a phosphate group and a nitrogenous base. These are the building blocks for DNA and RNA molecules, which are polymers made up of long chains of nucleotides.

Make like a string of nucleotides, and build your knowledge as you get prepped for our latest round of trivia. In this round we’ll have lots of genetic trivia, as well as the usual neuroscience and general knowledge fun facts.

Swag: The top scoring player wins the choice of a notebook or a mug, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

For every question —
1st to answer – 300 points
2nd to answer – 200 points
3rd to answer – 100 points

Epigenetic battle: Nature vs. Nurture

Begins at 11:00 AM on Monday 5/22
Ends at 11:00 AM on Wednesday 5/24

For a long time the consensus was that your genetic makeup was set in stone, but the field of epigenetics is here to throw a bit of a wrench in that conclusion! We are now learning that although you are born with a certain set of genes, your interaction with your environment can have a direct physical or chemical effect how these genes are expressed.

So it’s not really “nature vs nurture” – in fact it’s both, working in tandem to make you into the person you are today! But since this is a competition… you do have to pick a side. Show the other team who’s boss, and who really has the most influence here! Certainly this battle will settle the score once and for all.

Swag: The top scoring player on the winning team wins the choice of a notebook or a mug, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

Starting Lineup – top 3 players on each team, who earn 75% of their score in bonus points
All Other Players – earn 50% of their score in bonus points
Winning Team – 20,000 additional points
Each Team’s MVP – 5,000 additional points
(The winning team is determined by average points per player, with 2x weight given to Starting Lineup players. To qualify for any of the above bonuses or affect the team score, players must earn a minimum baseline of 2,000 points.)

Chromosomal Marathon

Begins at 10:00 AM on Wednesday 5/24
Ends at 10:00 AM on Thursday 5/25

Ah chromosomes, those weird little DNA packages that form you into a weird little creature complete with all your weird little attributes! If you’re a human, you probably have 23 pairs of them, but some may sport an extra, or have one less. Chromosome numbers can range from 1 to 720 pairs in Eukaryotes, which is pretty wild! But the most chromosomally rich organism is just a funky looking fern, so don’t feel too badly about only having 23.

You may not be able to build a whole organism, but you sure can build some cells! Let’s finish as many as we can in 24 hours!

Swag: The player who has earned the most points during the marathon (not the most cubes) wins the choice of a notebook or a mug, plus a sticker/magnet set! Second and third place will each also win a sticker/magnet set.

One live cell will be designated the “marathon cell,” with a 3x points multiplier!
Cube count bonuses: 3500 points per cube traced.
SC bonuses are doubled on all cells.
Every 3 SCs counts for 1 cube toward naming eligibility & per-cell completion bonus.
50 cubes = 5,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to vote on a new name for the marathon cell
200 cubes = 10,000 points per completed cell, plus rights to nominate a new name for the marathon cell

Eyewire’s Team Gene Closing Ceremony

Begins at 4:00 PM on Friday 5/26

Come celebrate the end of this competition, where admins will recognize everyone’s achievements. As always, we will include a round of promotions for Scouts, Scythes, Mystics, Moderators, and Mentors. If you’d like a promotion, you can request them here.