Nerd Blurbs: Life As We Know It Edition

Y’s Alive & Kicking
Dr. David Page
The Man Who Made Y Chromosomes Feel Manly Again

The Whitehead Institute, an unfortunately named center operating out of MIT, has published findings in the journal Nature, declaring that the Y chromosome (the part of DNA that makes males…male; Xx=girl, Xy=boy) evolves at a faster pace than X chromosomes. The New York Times article goes to great lengths to repeat the point that this does not mean that males themselves are developing faster, merely that mutations within the DNA string are quicker than previously imagined – in fact, the prevailing theory for the past fifty years has been that the Y chromosome was becoming “extinct” and being phased out of evolution entirely. No such luck ladies. When compared to chimpanzee DNA, which differs from human DNA by less than one percent, the study found that in Y chromosomes there was a discrepancy of thirty percent, meaning that when our ancestors diverged from each other six million years ago male monkeys and male humans started changing from one another in a major way.

The research, whose finding were published under the title Remarkably Little Variation in Proteins Encoded by the Y Chromosome’s Single-Copy Genes, Implying Effective Purifying Selection, was headed by Dr. David Page, who commented on the findings, saying:

“Natural selection is shaping the Y and keeping it vital to a degree that is really at odds with the idea of the last 50 years of a rotting Y chromosome. It is now clear that the Y chromosome is by far the most rapidly evolving part of the human and chimp genomes.”

This statement alone cost him sex for a week from the wife, to which he tacked on a month by saying, “But my genes are changing so fast, we might not be genetically compatible by then.”

Ancient Extraterrestial Life Landed A Century Ago?!?

Alien Microbe, Maybe?
Is that alien life or your latest dental x-ray in Hi-Res, Doctor?

Dr. David McKay, NASA’s chief of astrobiology at the Johnson Space Center, believes that life from Mars has already been discovered on earth and that these findings will be substatiated within the year, according to a Scientific American article. As is indicated in the abstract on the NASA website, the reexamination in November of 2009 of findings from 1996, has determined that meteorites found in Egypt and Antarctica hold evidence of ancient microscopic Martian organisms. The Egyptian meteorite fell in 1911, but the Antarctic samples had been buried under ice for thousands of years. Taking comparisons between the electron microscope images of the Egyptian rock, called Nakhla (for where it was found), and the Antarctic pieces show similarities between the surface structure, which seems to indicate to the scientists at the Johnson Space Center that some 3.6 billion years ago, in the Martian underground, a planet-wide network of the little buggers sprouted to life.

Collisions of celestial debris bombarded Mars sometime between then and now, sending chunks of the planet hurtling through space, sometimes taking a tour of the solar system (like in the case of Nakhla) before being sucked onto our world. The Egyptian meteorite, the biggest breakthrough in astrobiology, has been sitting in the Natural History Museum in London for the better part of the past century. Had the Brits busted out the electron microscopes, we could have known about life beyond our planet 70 years ago. Way to be useful London.

63-Year-Old-Clock-Moves-Again

Photograph: PR
So much for Watchmen, right Granny?

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (B.A.S.), who maintain the Doomsday Clock; a major plot device of the comic book Watchmen, which depicts the scientific community’s understanding of how near humanity stands to nuclear war; have moved the clock back one minute. This is an exciting development, ABC News reports, because the Doomsday Clock has only been moved eighteen times since its creation in 1947. Since its creation sixty-three years ago, the clock first set at 7 has gone has high as 17 minutes (in 1991) and which until today had only five minutes remaining (having dropped 12 minutes between 1995 & 2007). With the adjustment made the minutes are at six-to-midnight, despite the Clock now taking under its umbrage the nearness to a human extinction event due to climate change. The Bulletin is recognizing cooperation between world countries in “nuclear security and on climate stabilization.” Thom Yorke could not be reached for comment but I believe he would call this announcement “bollocks,” for various reasons, including him being an Englishman.

The Doomsday Clock is in regard, in reality, a load of bullshit as tall as Robert Oppenheimer himself. You want to know how near nuclear war we are? Ask Stanislav Petrov.

World Savior, Stanislav Petrov

World Savior, Stanislav Petrov; Where's his internationally celebrated holiday?

Scientists such as Albert Einstein, responsible for FDR greenlighting the Manhattan Project; and Carl Sagan, who was involved in the TTAPS Report, which warned the world of nuclear winter; have consistently demonstrated that the risk to humanity looms by the mere existence of these devices, not just how ready we are to use them. In letters Einstein wrote to President Truman,  in his later regret for having encouraging their creation he said:

“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

Humans have demonstrated a pettiness that forgoes a sense of sanity and posterity, the threat of nuclear war still looms over our heads even today, as much as it was in the 80’s; we just think about them less. It’s kind of necessary in order to live a normal life, considering that wars have been started because of sandwiches. It is not far-fetched to consider the end of humanity – in the episode of “Cosmos: Who Speaks for Earth?”, Carl Sagan, a generally optimistic scientist considering how much he knew about nature and people, imagines himself as an extraterrestrial explorer of exoplanets who witnesses our planet’s destruction due to nuclear war. This scenario, unfortunately, is neither too hard to imagine, when you take into account the depravity of some individuals alive today:

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3 Comments

Filed under Celebrities, Literary, Moving Pictures, Nature, News, Science, Technology

3 responses to “Nerd Blurbs: Life As We Know It Edition

  1. Glad I found your blog, got me motivated again to get mine going! 🙂

  2. Pingback: It’s The End of the World As We Know…OOOH, SHINY! | Worlds As Myth

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