September 12, 2012 2:51 pm
Last week, 16 to 20 feet below the frozen earth, scientists discovered the remains of a woolly mammoth in Yakutia region on Russia’s Arctic coast. The specimen, which includes fur and bone marrow, has some scientists thinking there may be a mammoth clone in the cards.
If living cells preserved by the Siberian permafrost are found, it may be possible for scientists to clone the beast. Reuters reports:
“‘All we need for cloning is one living cell, which means it can reproduce autonomously. Then it will be no problem for us to multiply them to tens of thousands cells,’ said Semyon Grigoryev, a professor at North-East Federal University (NEFU).”
While they have found nuclei “intact”—complete with a whole nucleus—the success of this Jurassic Park-esque endeavor is unlikely, Grigoryev says. Only if the remains stayed at a stable temperature between 28 and -4 Fahrenheit could any cell have survived over hundreds of thousands of years.
South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk will take on the task of determining whether the discovered cells are, in fact, clonable. Though Mr. Hwang’s ’breakthrough’ record with Sooam Biotech is fuzzy, in March, the scientist signed an agreement with Russia’s NEFU hoping to produce a living mammoth within six years.
Experts from the Russian Academy of Science doubt the likelihood of cloning the mammoth. In fact, some argue the word “cloning” may not even be an accurate term for the procedure scientists hope to carryout. Russia Today explains:
“Agadzhanyan [a Russian biologist] also said that “cloning” isn’t a proper term to use when speaking about bringing mammoths back to life.
Cloning is reconstructing an organism from a somatic cell, while what scientists want to do with mammoths is to add mammoth DNA to an elephant’s egg cell—a completely different procedure, he explained.”
Five years ago, in the same region, a team discovered a 40,000-year-old “pickled” female baby woolly mammoth, endearingly known as Lyuba by scientists. Though, the find was both astonishing and cute (kind of), the baby mammoth did not contain living cells—though her skin and organs were intact. National Geographic went into detail about Lyuba’s death and her state of preservation in this interactive CT scan.
Scientists have made several attempts at cloning the furry beasts since the 1990s, none of which have been successful. Though, if you ask, Dr. Ian Malcolm, that may be a good thing.
Update: This post originally said that Hwang Woo Suk performed the first commercial cloning of a dog. It was a former colleague, Lee Byeong-chun, who was responsible. We regret the error.
More from Smithsonian.com:
September 5, 2012 12:52 pm
Nearly 4 million people from around the world stay in Yosemite National Park each year, and seventy percent of those visitors stake tents in Yosemite Valley, where Curry Village, a lovely hamlet of “Signature” tents, is located. Friday, the village became less appealing for travelers when park officials released a harrowing statement: Up to 10,000 people who stayed in Yosemite National Park between June and August may have been exposed to a deadly, mouse-borne hantavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the virus was most likely first transmitted in 91 of the National Park’s tent-style cabins in the Curry Village camping area, where officials found an infestation of deer mice, carriers of the disease. The virus kills one-third of the people it infects. What’s worse: There is no cure.
According to Reuters, U.S. health officials have sounded the alarm worldwide—citizens from 39 countries who stayed in Yosemite’s tent cabins may have been exposed to the rare and deadly disease:
“Four of those known to be infected at Yosemite this summer slept in the insulated tent cabins. One slept elsewhere in Curry Village, located in a valley beneath the iconic Half Dome rock formation, and the sixth case remains under investigation.”
Campers who stayed in the tents this summer risk developing the hantavirus in the next six weeks, the CDC says. The virus begins its work with flu-like symptoms, including headache, fever, muscle aches, shortness of breath and cough, all of which can lead to severe breathing difficulties, then death. Five hundred eighty-seven cases were diagnosed nationwide from 1993 and 2011, meaning thirty-six percent of reported cases are fatal.
There is some hope if the symptoms are detected early enough. Through blood tests, and proper treatment, victims may survive, reports Reuters:
“Early medical attention and diagnosis of hantavirus are critical,” Yosemite superintendent Don Neubacher said in a statement. “We urge anyone who may have been exposed to the infection to see their doctor at the first sign of symptoms and to advise them of the potential of hantavirus.”
The park set up an emergency phone line Tuesday that drew 900 calls its first day, Yosemite spokeswoman Kari Cobb said. The LA Times reports:
“The final guests were moved from the cabins Tuesday, Gediman said. By Friday, all tents had been cleaned and retrofitted to repair gaps in the walls that allowed virus-carrying deer mice to get inside.
Officials are still waiting to see if the efforts are successful at keeping the mice out — if not, Gediman said, the cabins could be moved or closed permanently.”
Yosemite National Park Public Health Service officers are conducting rodent surveys, monitoring deer mouse abundance and virus activity in the parks mouse populations. Call the CDC’s hotline number (404-639-1510) for information about HPS or visit their Hantavirus website.
More from Smithsonian.com:
September 4, 2012 1:07 pm
George Costanza may never walk into a beauty parlor and say “Give me the Larry Fine!” but, if you ask LA based commercial photographer Tim Tadder, bald is beautiful. Or, at least his collection of images called “Water Wigs,” that has made its way around the web, makes it so.
The collection captures men with receding hairlines with mohawks, halos and top hats made out of water—literally. Tadder describes the idea behind the images he created using laser and sound triggers:
“We found a bunch of awesome bald men and hurled water balloons at their heads, to capture the explosion of water at various intervals. The result a new head of of water hair! Our favorites are “The Don King,” “The Conquistador,” “The Jesus” and “The Friar.”
So if these aqua-wigs aren’t giving Rogaine a run for their money, why do it? In an interview with Wired, Tadder, who has created highly-stylized images for big-name brands like Adidas, Budweiser and Gatorade, says he “got tired of repeating the same thing all the time,” that he “wanted to find a visual concept that [he'd] never seen before.” He was right—most of us hadn’t seen it before either. And it’s probably because of how technical the process was from idea to final product. Wired explains:
To do this, however, he had to make his studio completely dark and freeze the action with a high-speed flash firing at one ten-thousandth of a second. Not surprisingly, it took a while to get things right.
“You can only throw a water balloon at [a model's] head so many times,” he says.
To make it work, Tadder had an assistant up on a ladder with the balloon in hand. The assistant would then shine a flashlight on the model’s head, figure out their aim, turn the flashlight off and get ready to throw.
August 24, 2012 2:00 pm
This afternoon at 12:41 p.m. EST, a package that was sealed in 1912 in a small town in central Norway, was finally opened after 100 years of mystery during a ceremony to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Kringen. The parcel, which read, “May be opened in 2012,” was left in the council’s care by Johan Nygaard, Otta‘s first mayor, in 1920 and no one knew what it contained until today.
So what’s in the package?
And within the package within the package, are several letters, newspaper clippings and documents. Some of the papers are dated “1919”, which is baffling as the package was supposedly sealed in 1912. As Kjell Voldheim, who works at Gudbrandsdal museum where the parcel has been held, sifted through the delicate papers, a translator narrated:
”There are telegrams from the big celebration in 1912. It is sealed but we will have to wait for it “
And wait we did.
If you missed the unveiling of the package’s contents—which was both elaborate and suspenseful—we thought it might be nice to hit the highlights in the following play-by-play:
12:01 p.m.: As commentators whisper, a murmur falls among the crowd. The lighting dims to a dark blue.
12:03 p.m.: A lady with a tiara is introduced. Lacking an English translation at this moment, we gather she is a princess and most likely very important.
12:05 p.m.: A costumed soloist sings a cappella. The eerie tune may represent the mysterious contents of the package.
12:15-12:30 p.m.: Instruments are played in a series of movements, which may or may not have something to do with the Battle of Kringen.
12:32 p.m.: One of the emcees dressed in stockings and other “historical” garb, jokingly describes himself as “world famous in Otta, Norway.” He reveals that this is the moment “some of us have all been waiting for.”
12:35 p.m.: Emcee reminds us that this moment, is actually the one we’ve been waiting for. Otta’s current mayor has the honor of cutting the “strapping on the package and the ropes that have been sealed for 100 years.”
12:41 p.m.: Crowd is silent; Voldheim reveals that the package is actually a package within a package.
12:42 p.m.: Within the package in a package is a letter wrapped in fabric that reads “From the King” in Norwegian.
12:45 p.m.: After much shuffling of newspaper clippings, letters, and documents, Voldheim says almost in exasperation: “Oye yoy yoy.”
After the historians decipher what is written on the various letters and clippings a more specific summary will be offered. Watch the rest of the live coverage on Verdens Gang Online.
June 28, 2012 3:51 pm
According to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, after parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service—literally. Stamps were placed onto their clothing and they were shipped off to their final destination. Talk about precious cargo!
A New York Times article from 1913 includes a letter to the Post Office asking whether or not they could send an infant through the mail. And, if permitted to do so, how they might go about “wrapping so it (baby) would comply with regulations.” The Post Master General issued a regulation soon after forbidding the sending of children via mail.
But check out the similarities to the The Atlantic‘s July/August issue cover story, “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All,” which has taken the Internet by storm, full of both cheers of agreement and rebuttals. The Associated Press reports that the article attracted more visitors to the magazine’s site in a 24-hour period than any magazine story the site has ever published.
As we indicated to the Atlantic over Twitter, we caught them red handed.