Origin of Multicellularity: Back to the Drawing Board

first_imgMicro-RNAs have been found in green algae.  So?  What’s the big deal?  If you read the statements in Nature,1 it sounds like evolutionary biologists consider it a big, bad deal:The discovery, made independently by two labs, dismantles the popular theory that the regulatory role of microRNAs in gene expression is tied to the evolution of multicellularity.The finding is as startling as the discovery ten years ago that the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans has 19,000 genes, just 1,000 short of the human count…“People were shocked that the complexity of the genomes in these simpler creatures was similar to our own,” he [Gregory Hannon, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory] says.  Now it seems that the RNA in simple unicellular organisms could be as complex as that in higher creatures.This [lack of microRNA in algae], combined with the fact that RNA sequences differ between plants and animals, helped give rise to the idea that microRNAs evolved independently in plant and animal lineages as parts of complex regulatory mechanisms associated with multicellularity.  Now it seems that these molecules may predate that evolutionary development.“It shows how basing conclusions on studies of just one or two model organisms can really lead you astray in terms of how you think about evolutionary processes,” says Jim Umen from the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.Nobody knows why such a simple organism needs microRNAs, nor how or when they first appeared.One thing was not under dispute, however: evolution.  “Whatever their role, their presence indicates that microRNAs could be much more ancient than previously thought; they might have persisted for more than a billion years.”1Lucy Odling-Smee, “Complex set of RNAs found in simple green algae: Single-celled organisms aren’t as basic as they seem,” Nature 447, 518 (31 May 2007) | doi:10.1038/447518b.See it again?  The incorrigibility of Darwinists (e.g., 05/10/2007 commentary).  No amount of contrary evidence has the power to release the vice-like grip of evolutionary thinking on their minds.  To shield the audience from these embarrassments, they just turn up the fogma machines (05/14/2007 commentary) and the show goes on.(Visited 25 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

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Japan hails South African space tech successes

first_imgThe infrared survey facility (IRSF) became operational in November 2000, and since then has played a key role in the advancement of our space knowledge.(Image: Tetsuya Nagata, Nagoya University) The Large Magellanic Cloud is a nearby irregular dwarf galaxy that was the subject of the IRSF’s first research mission.(Image: Wikipedia) An aerial view of the site, with the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt) on the left and the IRSF on the far right.(Image: Tetsuya Nagata, Nagoya University) The Salt is the largest such instrument in the entire southern hemisphere.(Image: Flickr)  MEDIA CONTACTS • Anacletta Koloko  Science communication unit, South  African Agency for Science and  Technology Advancement  +27 12 392 9338 RELATED ARTICLES • Eye in the sky benefits society • Space science thriving in SA • SA’s space capabilities set to grow • SKA: who gets whatJanine Erasmus Scientists from Japan, South Africa and other African countries came together in early October at the Space Science Colloquium to share the latest developments in the fields of astronomy, space science and satellite applications. The event was co-hosted by the national Department of Science and Technology, with the Japanese Embassy in South Africa. Dr Takahiro Nagayama of Nagoya University filled attendees in on the infrared survey facility (IRSF), a joint Japan-South Africa project located in Sutherland, Northern Cape province, at an altitude of 1 761 metres. Nagayama is the manager of the facility and has been involved with it since its inception in 1998. The IRSF is situated on the same site as the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt) – the largest optical telescope in the southern hemisphere – and a number of other instruments including the Alan Cousins telescope, the Elizabeth telescope, and the Korean Yonsei telescope. This makes the site one of the best places in the world to conduct advanced astronomy, according to Nagayama. The IRSF is a 1.4m telescope with an infrared (IR) camera. It was developed by scientists at Nagoya, with the help of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. It’s Japan’s first southern hemisphere IR telescope. The country decided on South Africa as a host for several reasons. “We knew we had to build a telescope in the southern hemisphere, because there are many important celestial objects that are only visible in the southern sky,” explained Nagayama. South Africa was chosen from an initial group of three candidates, with Chile and Australia. It was selected as the best of the three because it had excellent weather as well as an extremely competent astronomical community, and there was no language barrier, as there was in South America. “The South African people are also very friendly and good to work with. South Africa was the best site for us at that time, and I believe it still is now.” Japan entered into the agreement with the SAAO in 1998 and soon afterwards, the project received a grant from the Japanese ministry of science and technology, to the tune of some US$7-million. “The SAAO has provided the infrastructure, including power, water, internet, and the site itself,” said Nagayama. “The local astronomical community built the dome and building.” Nagoya provided the telescope and near-IR camera known as Sirius, which was developed by graduate students. “You won’t find any big names – Sony, Nikon – in this project,” said Nagayama.Surveying our skies Initially, the main function of IRSF was to conduct a thorough study of the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds – small irregular galaxies that lie close to the Milky Way – using a tri-wavelength observation technique.The Magellanic Cloud survey was completed in 2007 and then the Indian Department of Space used the telescope to survey the central region of the Milky Way. There are other research projects ongoing. The presence of the IRSF in South Africa has brought the world’s best astronomers to the country and helped to develop its scientific talent. In the 12 years since the telescope came into operation, 142 observers, of whom 81 were Japanese and 61 foreign, have visited from 31 institutes – 13 from Japan, six from South Africa and 12 from other countries including Korea, the UK and US. Also, studies have resulted in 87 refereed papers, 11 of them with South Africans as the first author. Finally, 19 PhDs have been awarded for research carried out at IRSF, to 16 Japanese scholars and three from the University of Cape Town. “We hope the collaboration will continue,” said Nagayama. “The IRSF is so far the most successful science collaboration between South Africa and Japan.”Uncovering the secrets of the universe Nagayama explained the reasons for choosing to work in infrared instead of visible light. “Astronomers are interested in concepts such as the possibility of a second earth beyond our solar system, dark energy, black holes, and the dawn and end of the universe,” he said. “Traditionally we have observed these things with visible light, but today we can use the whole electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma rays to radio.” Probably the most well-known example of this technology, he said, is the Hubble telescope, which has a 2.4m primary mirror and captures images in the near-ultraviolet to near-infrared bands. The Hubble is in a low earth orbit and because it is not subjected to atmospheric turbulence, said Nagayama, its images are sharp. However, when taking images of objects that are very far away, visible light does not produce the best pictures. Interstellar dust results in a phenomenon known as scattering of visible light, and the picture that is finally received is degraded, but this doesn’t affect IR as much. “Also, visible light can’t penetrate the interstellar dust to see into and behind the Milky Way, but IR can,” said Nagayama. “The centre of our galaxy is hidden to visible light, but we can see it clearly in IR because the dust is invisible at these wavelengths.” Sirius can take simultaneous images in three different bands – wavelengths of 1.2µ (micron), 1.6µ and 2.1µ respectively – because of its special mirrors. The optics are cooled by a closed-cycle refrigerator to about 100 kelvin, or -173 degrees Celsius. “We can also create a false-colour composite image by colouring the three bands blue, green and red respectively.”Complementing each other Nagayama described another major Japanese astronomical project, the Subaru telescope, which is an 8.4m single mirror telescope built on the summit of the volcanic Mount Mauna Kea in Hawaii. “Although Subaru has a bigger mirror than Hubble and takes good pictures, Hubble is better because it is in space,” said Nagayama. Other Japanese large projects include the Akari (IR), Suzaku (x-ray) and the Alma radio telescope, while South Africa has the Salt, whose aperture is larger than Subaru, and the KAT-7, MeerKAT and Square Kilometre Array, all of which are projects involving radio telescopes. Altogether, said Nagayama, this means that the Japanese and South African projects have an observation range from gamma or y-ray, through x-ray, UV, visible light, IR, and radio. “These projects complement each other,” he said, “meaning that the coverage between Japan and South Africa is effective across the full spectrum of electromagnetic waves.”last_img read more

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Pages and pages of wise words

first_imgToddlers learn important co-ordination skills while having fun. Colour Africa Proverbs presents words of wisdom from around the continent in a fun and educational way.(Images: Colour Africa) MEDIA CONTACTS • Rosie Campbell  Design for Development  +27 21 434 1126 RELATED ARTICLES • Instilling a love of reading • Gift that keeps on giving • Getting needy kids hooked on books • E-classroom, a fun way to learnSue MustafaColour Africa Proverbs is a unique project that encourages reading and respect for others and the environment among children between the ages of four and eight.Created by a somewhat unlikely source – a team of Cape Town-based graphic designers – the book is a collection of proverbs from around Africa, which are presented along with illustrations, words in different shapes and pictures that children can colour in. Rosie Campbell, Roulé le Roux, Melissa Visser and Amanda Storey run Design for Development, a design studio that has links to community development initiatives, non-profit organisations (NPOs), advocacy groups and the business sector. The company creates logos and branding accessories for prominent NPOs like the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education and Hoops4Hope, among others. Colour Africa Proverbs, through its words of wisdom, promotes respect, teamwork and patience in an educational and fun way. The cover is made with 100% recycled materials, to encourage environmental friendliness among the young readers. Each page is dedicated to one proverb, quoted at the top of the page, for which a translation is provided in illustration form below. To further emphasise the proverb’s meaning, the opposite page features a picture that can be coloured in. Next to the original-language saying is the country from where it originated.The books are available at R45 (US$9) each, while a donation copy costs R30 ($3.4), a pack of five costs R210 ($24), and a pack of 10 costs R400 ($45). Books may be ordered via the website. To date over 3 000 copies have been sold.Developing childhood skills“Most colouring books are very commercial,” explained Le Roux, who was responsible for the illustrations. “We wanted to create a book for children and parents that feels familiar and has local content.” Furthermore, the letters of the words in the translation have to be coloured in, a process that Le Roux explains was incorporated to help children pay special attention to their spelling skills.“I specifically wanted the text to be hand drawn and pictorial,” she said, “to show young children how closely drawing, writing and reading are linked. The drawings also encourage children to get ready to read and explore letter-forms while doing a fun activity.”Across the centre spread is a maze-like game that can be played by more than one person, where the winner is the first person to finish a race and reach a set destination. Along the way, players encounter obstacles and in some cases have to rely on each other for help, and in this way are forced to work as a team.Embracing Africa’s diversityThe designers have drawn on wisdom from Kenya, Ethiopia, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, among other countries. Following the vast interest from Afrikaans speakers, an edition in that language has now been made available. Plans are also in place to translate the book into other languages as well, while also adding more editions to turn the project into a series. The Design for Development team believes that using the different languages in the book also helps children to embrace the cultural diversity of the continent. This way, they not only pay attention to what makes African cultures different, but also how to respect and honour these differences. One isiZulu proverb, says “Ikhotha eyikhothayo” which means “The cow licks the one who licks her”. The saying promotes the value and benefit of helping others when they most need it. International demandFollowing its appearance at the 2012 Design Indaba in March, Colour Africa has attracted international interest and books are being stocked in shops in the US and some countries in Europe. Seeing this as an opportunity to distribute to an even wider audience, the company has recently launched an online shop. Local customers can view a list of stockists on the Design for Development website. One element of their distribution plan is to get as many hard copies to under-resourced crèches and early childhood development centres across the continent as possible. The book is already a feature at crèches across the Western Cape suburbs of Khayamandi and Philippi, while a pupil in another school in Cape Town arranged to donate several copies to a small village in the Eastern Cape.last_img read more

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Contract limit for jobless engineers raised in Maharashtra

first_imgWith an eye on next year’s elections, the Maharashtra government has announced fresh sops and financial assistance for jobless engineers and defunct power looms across the State. The government on Friday increased contract limits for jobless engineers from the existing ₹75 lakh to ₹1.50 crore, increasing empanelment limits to 20 years from the existing 10 and five in various categories, officials confirmed. “Some departments have been individually giving works worth up to ₹75 lakh to unemployed engineers. This has been extended to all departments, with an increased limit of ₹1.5 crore in several categories. For these departments, too, we have set up an empanelment limit of five and ten years which has now been increased to 20 years,” said Sachin Chivate, under secretary, Maharashtra Government. Earlier this year, at a convocation ceremony at IIT- Bombay, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had urged engineering institutions to focus more on quality rather than quantity of students for research in cutting-edge science and technology, with focus on national priorities. Mr. Modi had said the country is producing over seven lakh engineers every year but not all of them are graduating with the right set of skills. For the small scale industries and cooperatives working in the textile sector, the State has announced an interest on loan subsidy for struggling power looms. The scheme was formally announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Union Minister Smriti Irani while inaugurating the PowerTex India Schemes in 43 cities earlier this year. “We have opened a new budget head for providing funds for the scheme this year,” said a textile department official.last_img read more

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Priyanka Chopra-starrer Mary Kom declared tax free in Maharashtra

first_imgThe biopic on Indian Olympic boxer Mary Kom starring Priyanka Chopra has been declared tax free in Maharashtra.The film has been produced by filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali. “It is wonderful news. We have a compelling story to tell of a strong, determined woman who has done the nation proud. It is our tribute to all the unsung sports people who give so much to see the Indian flag flying high. If this can act as a catalyst of hope for them, then its something we can all be proud of,” Priyanka, who is playing the five-time world champion in ‘Mary Kom’ said in a statement.”We are grateful to Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat and government of Maharashtra for lending their support to the film. This exemption right from release day will allow large segments of society to experience the spirit of magnificent Mary,” Ajit Andhare, COO, Viacom18 Motion Pictures (producer) said.Priyanka Chopra in a still from Mary Kom.Bhansali’s spokesperson said the tax free status will encourage audience to recognise and support the spirit of the film.Based on the true story of Mary Kom, the biopic chronicles the journey of a woman boxer who gave up her sporting career when it was at its peak to embrace the joy of motherhood. After giving birth to two beautiful children, she made her comeback in the ring and went on to become both a stronger woman and a stronger boxer. The film directed by Omung Kumar is set to release on September 5.advertisementEarlier, various state governments including Maharashtra, Bihar, UP and others had granted tax exemption to Farhan Akhtar starrer ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, a biopic on legendary athlete Milkha Singh.last_img read more

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Video: Purdue Quarterback Austin Appleby Wrecks Marshall Defender With Stiff Arm, Throws Touchdown

first_imgA general view of Purdue's football stadium.WEST LAFAYETTE, IN – SEPTEMBER 12: General View during the game between the Indiana State Sycamores and the Purdue Boilermakers at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 12, 2015 in West Lafayette, Indiana. (Photo by Cory Seward/Getty Images)Things did not start off well for Purdue, in the season opener against Marshall. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Austin Appleby was picked off by Thundering Herd safety Tiquan Lang, who returned it for a touchdown. Appleby has rebounded well, and is now 10-for-13 for 94 yards and a touchdown. On the scoring throw, Appleby managed to deliver the ball after wrecking lineman Blake Keller with a stiff arm. Saturday Tradition captured the play on video.Austin Appleby says, “Get off me, human.” pic.twitter.com/0vUlZnbF4B— Saturday Tradition (@Tradition) September 6, 2015Keller’s going to be seeing that one during film review. Marshall leads Purdue 17-14 to start the second quarter.last_img read more

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US Tim Hortons franchisee group sues RBI over alleged price gouging equity

first_imgA group of U.S. Tim Hortons franchisees filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging their parent company engaged in price gouging and equity theft.Restaurant Brands International “established a very aggressive and improper investment strategy in the Tim Hortons franchisee system, which resulted in the economic squeezing of Tim Hortons franchisees by RBI,” reads the suit filed in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida court on behalf of the American chapter of the Great White North Franchisee Association.None of the allegations have been proven in court and RBI disputes the allegations.The U.S. GWNFA group, which says it represents about half of all American Tim Hortons franchisees, claims RBI and Tim Hortons USA strip them of income and profit through increased and improper franchisee fees.RBI raised the prices of necessary products and services — like food supplies, paper cups, containers and cleaning supplies — that franchisees must purchase from approved vendors, according to the suit. These prices are “significantly above” open market prices, the suit alleges.Tim Hortons franchisees pay $104.08 more per case of Applewood bacon than Wendy’s franchisees do, according to the court documents, and $23.85 more for boxes of diet and regular Coke.It also claims the company requires franchisees who want to sell their stores to first offer it to the company for the five-year declining depreciated value of the furniture, fixtures and equipment.The GWNFA wants the court to declare the practices a breach of contract.RBI spokeswoman Devinder Lamsar said in an emailed statement that the lawsuit “does not at all reflect the facts.”She said the company “will respond in due course with the facts to this U.S.-based claim” and that RBI works closely with its Canadian and U.S. advisory boards made up of franchisees committed to its plan to grow the business and franchisee profitability.“These franchisees have been unfairly squeezed by Tim Hortons/RBI to the point where they are, in many cases, no longer viable businesses,” said Jerry Marks, one of the lawyers representing the GWNFA in this case, in a statement.“We expect to stop this type of abusive franchisor behaviour.”RBI is also facing two lawsuits from the Canadian GWNFA chapter, including one alleging the company improperly used money from a national advertising fund.Follow @AleksSagan on Twitter.Companies in this story: (TSX:QSR)last_img read more

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Akhilesh Yadav meets Mayawati after Priyanka meets Bhim Army chief

first_imgLucknow: The chiefs of Uttar Pradesh alliance partners SP and BSP met here on Wednesday hours after Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi paid a surprise visit to Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad at a Meerut hospital.SP president Akhilesh Yadav met BSP chief Mayawati after newly appointed Congress general secretaries Priyanka Gandhi and Jyotiraditya Scindia met Azad. When contacted, Samajwadi Party spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary said the two leaders met to discuss joint public meetings and rallies, being planned for the Lok Sabha polls. Meetings are being held constantly as the election is round the corner and the poll campaign has to be launched full scale after Holi next week, he said. The alliance has left two seats for the Congress in the state and will honestly support it on them, said Chaudhary. Meanwhile, a senior SP leader, who did not wish to be named, claimed Priyanka Gandhi’s visit to the Bhim Army chief was in reaction to the BSP president ruling out any alliance with the Congress. “But Mayawati is not someone who will yield to any kind of pressure. This alliance will not come under pressure. It has already given two seats to the Congress,” he added. Mayawati had Tuesday snubbed the Congress by slamming doors on it for any electoral alliance for the Lok Sabha polls anywhere in the country.last_img read more

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Accidental Prez

first_imgIrony gasped when the ‘Servant Of The People’ actually ended up being just that. In a very interesting turn of events, a comedian with absolutely no political moorings has been elected as the President of Ukraine with 73 per cent votes. Volodymyr Zelenskiy became a phenomenon with his landslide electoral victory in the Ukrainian Presidential polls announcing the departure of the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. The 41-year-old comedian, as though prophetically, starring in a political satirical drama called ‘Servant Of The People’ (streaming on Netflix) plays a character that accidentally becomes the President of Ukraine. This remarkable win is viewed as one against social injustice, corruption, and a war with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine that has claimed over 13000 lives. As the world looks on, the President-elect has his platter of issues ready before him. His policies are eagerly looked forward to. Zelenskiy will assume office in about a month’s time and among the primary questions already swirling around him are about his policy position towards Russia. Zelenskiy is a native Russian speaker and critiques accuse him of having a soft stance towards Russian aggression: mainly the support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014. He is also accused of accepting funds and financial assistance from the Kremlin and has been touted as the preferred choice of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has had a rocky relation with the outgoing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Zelenskiy’s previous on and off friendly inclination to Russia and the criticism he attracted from the Russian media seem passé before the promises he made to the people of Ukraine proper to the polls. The promise to bring home 24 Ukrainian sailors under arrest in Russia after being captured in a naval incident near Crimea earlier this year is claimed to be his number one priority; he has stated that talks are unavoidable between Ukraine and Russia because there’s a “real war” between the countries, adding that “there can’t be any compromise on Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence. “We don’t sell our people and we don’t sell our territories.” This boldness is quite a turnaround from what he said in March 2014: “I really want to address Mr. Putin. Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich! Do not allow even the hint of a military conflict to happen. Because Russia and Ukraine really are brotherly nations… If you want, I can beg you on my knees. But please, do not put our people on their knees.” Allegations and controversies apart, the intensity of Zelenskiy’s thumping victory speaks more loudly of the fact that the public wants a change more than anything else.last_img read more

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The WildCard Winner Is The Team To Beat In The NL

On Tuesday, I previewed the American League playoffs, and today, it’s the National League’s turn. Compared to the AL, the NL playoffs are much more chaotic. Judging by the teams’ run differentials, there are no clear tiers, as there were in the AL. The preseason consensus pick for NL champion (the Washington Nationals) didn’t make the dance, and the three best teams in the NL all play in the same division (the NL Central), which means that two of them will have to face each other in a wild-card play-in game. One of the NL’s foremost contenders is doomed to sit out the remainder of October.1Living in Chicago, I’m not bitter or anything. Do I seem bitter? I’m not bitter. Whoever survives, though, will have the best chance of winning the World Series of any NL team.2The Cubs and Pirates chances are lower than the other teams’ for now, but once one of them is out of the way, the winner’s odds will essentially double because the coin-flip nature of the wild-card game is behind it.As if that wasn’t enough, it’s hard to evaluate two division champions that have seen unusual bouts of good and bad luck, which are unlikely to persist in the playoffs. And the two most surprising contenders (the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs) have ridden incredible waves of young talent into the postseason, waves that may or may not have already crested.So there are no world-beaters, like the Toronto Blue Jays. There is only entropy. As the field stands going into tonight’s wild-card game, the most likely National League team to win the World Series (the St. Louis Cardinals) has only a slightly better chance than it would if we awarded the Series by picking a team at random. Come the divisional series, there will be eight teams left, and the Cardinals barely have a better than 1 in 8 shot of winning it all. Chicago Cubs(Chance of winning the World Series: 7 percent)The Cubs are the second-youngest team in the postseason (when you weight the team’s age by its players’ production), coming in at an average of 25.6 years, just a smidge over the Houston Astros.3Who have an average weighted age of 25.5. That’s important because MLB is in the midst of a surge in youth production. The shape of baseball’s aging curve seems to be changing — young players are becoming better earlier and old guys are falling off faster.You can see that in the accuracy of projections: Players 25 and younger outperformed their projected wins above replacement by a grand total of 43.6 WAR.4Using Steamer projections from FanGraphs. Older players fell short by a nearly equal margin (44.7). These systematic errors in our predictions suggest that teams like the Cubs and Astros, who rely on green talent like Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa, may be better than we think. In addition, because some of that talent was called up in the middle of the season (e.g., Kyle Schwarber), this Cubs team is better than its full-year run differential suggests.But that potential won’t mean anything if they can’t get past the Pittsburgh Pirates in a one-game playoff that’s rigged to be random.Pittsburgh Pirates(Chance of winning the World Series: 8 percent)Like the Cubs, the Pirates have a tough road to the divisional series. That’s because the wild-card games are so unforgiving. Tonight, it’ll be the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta, owner of one of the most incredible second-half performances in major league history (and the same Jake Arrieta whose path to ace status has been very, very strange), versus the Pirates’ Gerrit Cole, who has one of the most electric fastballs in baseball. Arrieta has the edge.But Pittsburgh is playing at home, which is worth a few percentage points of win probability. Whether that cancels out the advantage in starting pitching partially depends on how much you believe in Arrieta. If he’s as good as his second-half ERA suggests, the Pirates may not have much of a chance. But pitching is a volatile alchemy; on a slightly off night, when batted balls find a few extra holes, Cole might be Arrieta’s equal.There are dozens of potential factors that could influence the outcome of this one game, ranging from temperature to manager skill, but let’s not fool ourselves. As hard as it is to predict a five- or seven-game series, attempting to forecast the outcome of any single game between nearly evenly matched teams is as close as you can come to a coin flip in sports. Anything can happen.New York Mets(Chance of winning the World Series: 9 percent)It’s difficult to talk about the Mets’ unexpected playoff run without invoking the name of their chief rival in the NL East, the Nationals. The Nationals suffered a well-documented collapse for somewhat mysterious reasons, which left the door open for the Mets squad to take the lead. The Mets seized on the opportunity, albeit not without some drama.The Mets come into the playoffs with mixed indications of how they’ll do. On the one hand, they had the easiest schedule of any playoff team, beating up on the Phillies, Braves, Marlins and the eviscerated shell of the Nationals. On the other hand, the Mets have excellent young starting pitchers who throw very hard (more than 20 percent of their pitches are faster than 95 mph, which leads the league). Hitters are extra vulnerable to high velocity pitching in the playoffs, so the Mets should have an advantage in October. This postseason is probably a year too early for the Mets to make a strong run at the championship (same for the Texas Rangers), but don’t let that diminish the joy of seeing Bartolo Colon potentially work his magic.Los Angeles Dodgers(Chance of winning the World Series: 12 percent)The numbers suggest that the Dodgers may be better than they appear. The Dodgers had the fourth-worst cluster luck in baseball this year, doing a terrible job of stringing together their hits and walks to maximize their run scoring. The good news is that there’s no reason to believe such poor clustering will continue into October.The Dodgers have a top of the rotation that is the envy of every team in baseball, with two potential Cy Young contenders in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Kershaw has had his troubles in the playoffs before, but like the Dodgers’ cluster luck, such struggles are unlikely to persist. On paper, then, the Dodgers remain one of the World Series favorites, hampered only by potentially inefficient managing and a mediocre bullpen.St. Louis Cardinals(Chance of winning the World Series: 13 percent)These 2015 Cardinals are doing something we don’t understand: Over the course of the year, their pitching staff stranded baserunners at a rate (79.4 percent) that has rarely been seen in MLB history. As a consequence, the Cardinals have won about six or seven more games5The Cardinals received a net of 62.8 runs from their cluster luck. Using the standard exchange rate between runs and wins (between 9.5 and 10 runs per win), that’s about six or seven wins. than we would have expected, given the skill of their pitching staff. It’s tempting to call that all luck, but this isn’t the first time the Cardinals have found their way into historic bouts of run-clustering or prevention.But even if you take away the luck, this Cards squad is a good one. It has solid pitching, both in rotation and in relief, and a steady lineup getting contributions from younger players. The one gaping hole is at catcher; Yadier Molina, St. Louis’s erstwhile X factor, may be out with an injury. Depending on how much of the Cardinals’ incredible pitching performance is determined by Molina, the Cardinals could be in deep trouble or still in line for a championship.Read more:The Blue Jays Are The Best — And There’s An 80 Percent Chance They Won’t WinThe Best 2015 MLB Teams, According To Our New Ratings read more

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