If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. — James Herriot (via my-spirits-aroma-or)
Pines punched a “one way ticket toward genome obesity”
So much junk that it may push the limits of stuffing DNA into a chromosome.
Last week we heard about the genome of a plant that pushed the limits of compacting its DNA: the bladderwort seems to have done away with of most of the genetic material that typically makes plant and animal genomes so large without any apparent ill effects. This week, the genome of a different plant is in the spotlight: the Norway spruce (Picea abies), which also seems to suffer no ill effects, even though it has picked up an enormous amount of DNA. Each one of its chromosomes is nearly the size of the entire human genome—and it has a dozen of them. When researchers looked at what all that extra DNA might be doing, they came up with a simple answer: probably not anything useful.
If you’re aware of the Norway spruce, it’s probably because you have been shopping for a Christmas tree. But conifers (technically Gymnosperms, although the group includes gingkoes and a few other species) are some of the most phenomenally successful organisms on Earth. They’ve dominated forests for over 200 million years, and members of the group include the tallest, heaviest, and oldest things currently alive. All of them seem to have managed this despite having a staggeringly inefficient genome management style.
Unlike many groups that vary widely in the number of chromosomes their species carry, pretty much all the Gymnosperms have a dozen pairs of chromosomes. And pretty much all of these chromosomes are up in the area of two billion bases long, or a bit smaller than the human genome. That size is so consistent, in fact, that the authors think the trees might be pushing up against the limits of how much stuff you can put in a chromosome and still get it copied and shared between two cells when they divide. In other words, if firs wanted to carry any more DNA than they already do, they’d have to start making new chromosomes.
From an evolutionary fitness perspective, would the plants actually want more DNA? Probably not, if the new genome is anything to go by. Despite all the extra DNA, the Norway spruce has almost exactly the same number of genes—28,354 in total—that the bladderwort does, even though the latter has about 1/250th the DNA. But it has plenty of dead copies of genes that have been inactivated by mutation. All told, these pseudogenes take up over seven times as much space in the genome as the working genes do.
(via Pines punched a “one way ticket toward genome obesity” | Ars Technica)
One of the great myths of the school system is that we tell people that everyone should learn exactly the same thing and exactly the same way, at roughly exactly the same speed. And that’s just not true. People learn in different ways, at different speeds, at different times. And so hacking your education allows you to learn what, when, how and where you want. —
Dale J. Stephens, author of Hacking Your Education and founder of UnCollege.org
When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking. — Albert Einstein (via barnsburntdownnow)
(Source: januarymidnight, via catherinewillis)
Saddest of all, it works. One in three of the children said that being told off for playing outside does stop them doing it. If there is one word that sums up the treatment of children today, it is enclosure. Today’s children are enclosed in school and home, enclosed in cars to shuttle between them, enclosed by fear, by surveillance and poverty and rigid schedules. — Why parents should leave their kids alone | Life and style | The Guardian (via steph)
A fire broke out backstage in a theatre. The clown came out to warn the public; they thought it was a joke and applauded. He repeated it; the acclaim was even greater. I think that’s just how the world will come to an end: to general applause from wits who believe it’s a joke. — Søren Kierkegaard | Either/Or [Part I] (via chughtai)
Biologist Paul Ehrlich gives dire prediction for global civilization
“We’re a small-group animal, both genetically and culturally. We have evolved to relate to groups of somewhere between 50 and 150 people,” he said. “And now suddenly we’re trying to live in a group not of 150 or 100 people, but of seven billion people, somewhat over seven billion people at the moment, and that is presenting us with a whole array of problems.”
Full story: VTDigger
Winston Churchill’s Life Pod
“To protect the precious bulk of Winston Churchill in wartime a special one-man pressure chamber was built for the personal plane which carried him many times across the Atlantic and to Casablanca, Moscow and Yalta. Churchill was warned by his doctors that it was dangerous for a man of his age and physical condition to fly above 8,000 feet. The solution was a pressure chamber complete with ash trays, telephone and an air-circulation system good enough to prevent smoke from the ubiquitous cigar from fogging the atmosphere.”
- LIFE Magazine, 1947
Via I09 / Nerdcore / ScanZen
Mars One: Reality Bites
“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”
— Vincent Van Gogh
For a shot at all this excitement and fame you need to volunteer online with Mars One, the non-profit company behind the initiative. Requirements include “intelligence, adaptability, and a good sense of humour”. “We will train you,” Mars One says. To the relief of many parents, you have to be at least 18 years of age to register.
There is a catch: It’s a one-way trip. You will help to establish humankind as a multi-planet species, a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. Every other year you will be joined by another equally adventurous set of pioneering couples until a proper community has taken root on Mars.
But first you have to survive de-selection by the human race, and a fickle lot we are. We will scrutinise your online video application to decide whether you have the “right stuff”. Your “candidacy” will depend substantially on whether you can impress without annoying. Anti-socials and aspergics need not apply. Hint: do a quick online marketing course and may the best networker win.
Once selected for the training phase, you will find yourself gobsmack-bang in the centre of the biggest reality show ever. Mars One will engage “everyone on Earth” in a 24/7/365 broadcast of your mission. This is Big Brother meets Space Exploration writ large. We will watch you and 39 other aspirant emigrants jostle for elbow-space in remote and cramped simulated Mars conditions; observe your efforts to find a suitable sexual partner and gain a place on “Team 1”. Big Brother meets Survivor and the meek shall not inherit.
Your every step from here down to the surface of Mars will be scrutinised by billions. We will have a better idea of what makes you tick than your own mother, our interest in your fate generating viewer figures exceeding those of the recent London Olympics. This will cover the projected $6-billion per interplanetary trip needed, including at least a decade’s worth of dental floss and sanitary wipes.
Sixty-four South Africans had volunteered even before Mars One opened up formal applications. Five of these have already submitted online video applications. Racing test driver, Donovan Taylor (26) from Gauteng has hands-on mechanical skills. He wants to “do something profound” with his life, “something like executing the next big step for humankind”. He mixes and matches easily and has the “mental strength” to endure the tin-can conditions of the seven-month flight to Mars.
Johan Viljoen (28) from Bloemfontein, an IT and robotics enthusiast with an engineering background, wants to be part of “a great technological leap for humankind”. He draws his inspiration from series like Star Trek and Babylon 5. “This is the closest I could ever get to travelling among the stars. It would be a dream come true.”
Taylor has watched several space movies and knows that “anything can go wrong and one cannot plan for everything”. Mars One will use “existing technologies”, nothing fancy, which reduces the risks. And the health risks? “Oh, things like loss of bone density and such?” Yes, and things like weakened immune systems, pathogens behaving strangely, the high levels of radiation on the way across and on Mars itself. “Perhaps they could thicken the hull of the space ship against the radiation,” Taylor thinks. Viljoen still wants to read up on stuff like that.
In an NBC interview Mars Society president and Mars settlement advocate Robert Zubrin say that the Mars One plan is technically feasible. However, some space analysts point out that the DragonX space craft on which the plan relies, still have to be developed and that there would be little time for the technology to “mature”. There are good reasons why the space establishment develops “mission architecture” in such a boring, step-by-step manner.
If, therefore, you make it safely down to the surface of Mars as we your supporters desire, then you and your fellow settlers will be more remote, exposed and vulnerable than anybody in the history of humankind. With the nearest hospital several million kilometres away, Viljoen thinks that medical care could become an issue, though “Mars One will train us to deal with emergencies”. He knows that they would grow their own food and that there would be no meat. “Perhaps,” he concludes, “we could eventually fly over some chickens”.
Bass Lansdorp, CEO of Mars One, has certainly managed to make going to Mars real – so real that one can almost taste the home-grown carrots. But this reality show has bite in it. You run a real risk of becoming an “interesting” medical textbook case or simply adding to the growing amount of anthropogenic litter on the surface of Mars.
Our aspirant interplanetary migrants, it seems, will cheerfully face these and other risks. Yet, once the fine Martian dust has settled, the excitement has died down and the opinionated bloggers and commentators are feeding off new topics, what then? Unlike in Big Brother, you can only leave the Team 1 habitat feet first. It is, says prize-winning poet Annesu de Vos “bona-fide freaksh*t insane”. At the recent Mars One media launch somebody comments online: “What the f**k are you going to do on Mars for the rest of your life?”
But then, these two are clearly not pioneer material at all, and I could personally think of quite a few things to do on Mars. Besides, everybody knows that going to Mars is a good idea. Stephen Hawking said so – argue with that. It can be done and most of us lunatic fringe types want it to be done.
Sadly, the cyber chatter is homing in on what could be the soft underbelly of this story. Zubrin and others are sceptical about the Mars One business plan. Will the project achieve the Olympian viewer figures needed to foot the billion dollar mission bills? Now, this author will definitely be watching Team 1 “24/7/365”, but what about the rest of you? Hell, I don’t even know whether you are reading this.
Mars One Timeline
2013: Astronaut selection begins. Forty astronauts begin training at a simulated Mars base.
2014: Preparation for a series of supply missions and the development of the first Mars communication satellite begins.
2016: The first supply mission lands on Mars in October with 2 500 kg of equipment in the general location of the future settlement.
2018: A settlement Rover lands on Mars to identify an ideal spot for the settlement.
2021: 6 separate landers deliver two living units, two life-support units, and another rover. The rovers transport the equipment to the settlement location.
2022: Water, oxygen and atmosphere production is ready. Mars Team One gets the go-for-launch. Mars transit vehicle is assembled in orbit and the first four astronauts depart in September.
2023: Mars Team One lands and start linking individual capsules and activating food and energy production. Five cargo missions arrive with additional living units, life-support unit and a third rover.
2025: Mars Team Two arrives … Hereafter a team arrives every two years.
Mars One already states that there could be delays in achieving the milestones on time.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die. —
Paul Higgins: But can we afford the time for that to happen in a modern world?
Mass incarceration, he argues, has radically changed society. He speaks of urban communities, like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington, where 50 percent of young black men are in prison, on parole or probation and where the disenfranchisement of convicted felons “has horrific implications for the political aspirations of people of colour.” In Alabama, Stevenson said, 34 per cent of black men have permanently lost the right to vote and within the next 10 years the level of disenfranchisement will be higher than it has been since passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. — In Alabama 34% of Black Men Have Permanently Lost the Right to Vote | Your Black World (via aboriginalpressnews)
All my life I strove to make a small truth out of an infinity of errors. — Charles Simic, from The Monster Loves His Labyrinth: Notebooks (Ausable Press, 2008)
(Source: schadenfreudist, via journalofanobody)
There’s a lot of discussion in the world about the two billion that are connected. We spend all day talking about the issues of e-commerce and start-ups and globalisation and so forth, and we forget that the majority of people are not online and that they will come online, the majority of them in the next five years.
It’s going to happen very fast. It’s going to happen in countries which don’t have the same principles that we in America have from the British legal system – around law and privacy and those sorts of things. All sorts of crazy stuff is going to happen. Human societies can’t change that fast without both good and negative implications.
…The future for us is great. The quality of life of the first world just gets better and better and better. But for these people, they’re going to go through a rough patch where all this information shows up and they can’t quite figure out what to do. — Eric Schmidt | The future according to Mr Google (via ParisLemon)