Archive for the ‘science’ category

Resurrect the Tasmanian Tiger!

May 4, 2018

   

The Tasmanian tiger or thylacine became extinct over 80 years ago when the last living specimen died at the Hobart Zoo in Washington D.C. in 1936.  But with the aide of gene editing and pickled thylacine pups, scientists may literally bring this awesome creature back to life again!

In December of 2017, scientists from the University of Melbourne sequenced the entire genome of this extinct Australian beast using thirteen thylacine joeys preserved in alcohol.  Such information could within the next decade be used to bring the unique marsupial back from the dead, with gene-editing used to bridge the gap between thylacines, which have no living relatives, and other existent species.  

Poor genetic diversity and overhunting by humans played roles in the demise of the Tasmanian tiger, which remain an iconic animal in the Australian imagination.  The government paid people to shoot Tasmanian thylacines in the 1800’s due to fears that they destroyed sheep.  Some maintain that the tassie tiger is not extinct, however, but just very good at hiding, with video footage of a bizarre hopping creature taken in North Queensland in 2015.  Wildlife experts, however, remain skeptical of the grainy, unclear, and inconclusive video…

…and wouldn’t “Pickled Thylacine Pups” be a great name for a band?!

  

Spider-Goats!

January 31, 2018


(PhysOrg.com) — Researchers from the University of Wyoming have developed a way to incorporate spiders’ silk-spinning genes into goats, allowing the researchers to harvest the silk protein from the goats’ milk for a variety of applications. For instance, due to its strength and elasticity, spider silk fiber could have several medical uses, such as for making artificial ligaments and tendons, for eye sutures, and for jaw repair. The silk could also have applications in bulletproof vests and improved car airbags.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2010-05-scientists-goats-spider-silk.html#jCp

I, for one, am both entertained and concerned with the prospect of Spider-Goats.  I mean, imagine entering one of your rooms and finding one of the buggers hanging on your wall or ceiling!  I doubt that the usual spritz of Raid spray would be enough to deter one of them.  It might, however, lead to the development of a new generation of pest controllers, Goat-Busters. — I’m claiming royalty rights on that film franchise now!  The theme song’s already playing in my head…you got goats, got yer freakin’ goats?

And we have other thorny issues to sort out, too, like cross-over problems.  Would Spider-Goat be a superhero or super villain?  Would a special issue of Spider-Man be called for featuring a knock-down, drag-out fight?  And who plays Spider-Goat in that film treatment?  Even if computer-generated, voice work is required…I’m available!

Now because the spider silk is found in the goats’ milk, could you acquire spider powers yourself if you drank it, assuming of course that you could get it down?-  – Would that be a baaad idea?  Would you then be a Spider-Goat-Person? The line is forming to the left, folks, but remember that with great power comes great responsibility…

…remember the Spider-Pig episode of The Simpsons?  We’ve all got plenty to think about now, and I think that 2018 is off to a roaring (or perhaps a bleating) start.  As Dr. Seuss might have expressed it, From there to here / From here to there / Hybrid animals are everywhere!  

At least I’ll better fit in now, someday, maybe…


Earth Day and The March for Science…

April 27, 2017

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This past weekend brought the convergence of both Earth Day and The March for Science at a less than auspicious time for both science and environmentalism in American history. With protective environmental regulations being rolled back and scientific research and programs likely to face significant budget cuts, it’s time for those of us who are friends of the sciences to stand up and be counted, and push back against regressive and unwise trends in the current Washington administration…you can make a difference!

Churchill and the Aliens…

February 16, 2017

Now this is kinda cool, especially if you’re a bit of a history buff as many nerds like myself are.  The history and science fiction nexus gets thick at times over World War II, what with the insane speculation that Nazi Germany was scientifically advanced due to alien “assistance.”  So it really floats my boat to hear that a lost essay has been discovered by none less than Winston Churchill in which he supports the existence of alien life…

…I swear that I am not making this up!  The unpublished essay from 1939 by Churchill was discovered in of all places a Missouri museum to which the paper had been donated and then forgotten.  Now Winnie was a remarkable guy; a politician, statesman, writer, and even a friend of the sciences who while prime minister of England appointed a science adviser, and regularly met with scientists.  Radar was developed during his watch, and may have kept England afloat when the Nazis came calling.  Anyways, Churchill in this essay ponders the timeless question of alien life, and concludes that we are not alone

…remarkably, Churchill’s reasoning even from over seventy years ago mirrors scientific thought even today, proving that the cigar-smoker was both broad-minded and a man ahead of his time.  Churchill and Carl Sagan probably would have liked each other.  The best politicians are scientifically friendly; if only such could be said of Mr. Trump…

“Mystery Lights” on Monsters & Mysteries Unsolved

July 31, 2016

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Unexplained lights of unknown origin, mystery lights appear without warning or explanation, and were featured in a recent episode of Monsters and Mysteries:  Unsolved.

…Marfa, Texas, for example, is considered a mystery light “hotspot.” While the glowing orbs usually appear bouncing around on the horizon, in a 1994 incident the Marfa lights appeared to chase a moving vehicle, leading some to speculate that there was an intelligence behind them. Dr. James Bunnell, a former NASA engineer and Marfa lights researcher, has constructed autonomous viewing stations, and feels that the lights represent a chemical process going on.

On Brown Mountain, North Carolina, lights have been seen for hundreds of years, and have been considered spiritual, a kind of residual haunting. A more scientific perspective is that granite deposits in the mountain create electromagnetic fields that power the phenomena in a piezoelectric fashion. Dr. Dan Caton, an astronomer at the Dark Sky Observatory, considers the lights to be related to ball lightning. Footage captured by paranormal researcher Joshua Warren on Brown Mountain was examined by Dr. Onad of Princeton University, who thought the light source high energy, and possibly related to gamma or x-rays.

Lights have also been associated with earthquake activity in places like Japan. Dr. Freund in studying the phenomena there found that rocks produce electric current when deformed and pressured.

Mystery Lights in the sky have been studied by Project Hessdaler in Norway for over two decades. The lights are found to interact with the landscape in strange ways, and to move like anything known on Earth. This leads us to a UFO connection, with author Nick Redfern noting that WWII fighters saw luminous “foo fighters” felt to exhibit intelligence. Many pilots since have witnessed mystery lights. In an example cited, Dr. Torres in Manston, England in 1957 engaged a target at 32,000 feet; although himself traveling at almost Mach 1, the target eluded him, and was estimated to be moving at Mach 10. The pilot was told not to talk about his mission, which was finally declassified in 2006.

So whether you believe that mystery lights in the skies are a natural process, spiritual, or of extraterrestrial origin, heed the advice of 1950’s sci fi movies, and watch the skies! Doing so has got to be better than watching reality TV, right?  

New Mammal Discovered!

August 18, 2013

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— New species are discovered every year, although many of them are insects. Now insects don’t quite do it for me, and I tend to become far more excited about the discovery of a higher animal, especially a mammal, since I happen to be one myself!  What’s been identified is the olinguito, which resembles a mini-raccoon with a teddy bear face, and is almost unbelievably cute. The creature is indigenous to the rain forests of South America, and found in countries such as Ecuador and Columbia.  Running about 14 inches long with an equally long tail and and rust-colored fur and weighing in at about two pounds, the olinguito escaped classification for so many years owing to its nocturnal and tree-dwelling habits, and the fact that it was confused with the olingo, a larger and distinctive sister species.

The National Zoo in Washington actually housed an olinguito for a year, mistaking it for an olingo and expecting it to breed with them, which it sensibly refused to do. The species has accordingly been hiding in plain sight for some time! Looking like a cross between a teddy bear and a house cat, this smallest member of the raccoon family certainly possesses the “awww” factor!

Artificial Meat…

August 8, 2013

artificial meat– – Few things are cool but creepy at the same time; artificial meat is one of them!  We had earlier posted about the possibility of artificial meat, a prospect which has now become reality…

Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, led the team that grew the meat from shoulder cattle stem cells in the Netherlands.  The cells were put into a nutrient solution to help them develop into muscle tissue, and they grew into small strands of meat, nearly 20,000 of which were used to make a 5-ounce patty, which was cooked and eaten by two volunteer tasters in London on Monday.  The tasters gave the hamburger good marks for texture but faulted it for taste, most probably due to lack of sufficient fat and commonly used seasonings.

The animal rights group PETA has gone in favor of laboratory-produced meat as it does not involve the slaughter of a complete living animal for food but rather the cloning of cells.  Lab-grown meat may eventually help feed the world and fight climate change, but artificial meat remains highly experimental and cost-prohibitive at the present time, however, so don’t expect to see it in your “Happy Meal” anytime soon…