Extinct animals coming back

I think I’m pretty much OK with scientists bringing back extinct animals as long as it’s not the 1. Velocirpator, 2. Wooly Mammoth (shit), 3. Saber Toothed Tiger, 4. That crazy, giant snaggle tooth shark.

The notion of bringing vanished species back to life—some call it de-extinction—has hovered at the boundary between reality and science fiction for more than two decades, ever since novelist Michael Crichton unleashed the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park on the world. For most of that time the science of de-extinction has lagged far behind the fantasy. Celia’s clone is the closest that anyone has gotten to true de-extinction. Since witnessing those fleeting minutes of the clone’s life, Fernández-Arias, now the head of the government of Aragon’s Hunting, Fishing and Wetlands department, has been waiting for the moment when science would finally catch up, and humans might gain the ability to bring back an animal they had driven extinct.

Extinct animals coming back

Earth gave violent birth to the moon

Researchers at Harvard have developed a theory to help explain the moon being born of the Earth.

When the planetary aggressor Theia struck the Earth, according to their model, it sends a disk of material spinning out around Earth’s orbit. But then, over hundreds of years, the disk cooled to form the Moon. At this point, the Moon’s own orbit began to expand outward, away from the Earth. Over the course of another ten thousand years, the Earth transfered angular momentum to the moon, slowing down Earth’s spin. During this phase, the Moon would have appeared about 20 times larger in the night sky, according to the scientists.

Then Carl found video. Not saying this is what happened exactly, but it probably went something like this.

Earth gave violent birth to the moon

Stick bugs, back again

This is a crazy, crazy story about giant bugs that used to live on an island called Lord Howe. They were big insects that pretended to be pieces of wood and were so big, they were nicknamed ‘tree lobsters.’ Well, in the 20s, rats invaded their islands, and with no known predators, totally destroyed the stick bug population until they were presumed extinct. But then! Scientists had heard stories since the 60s about stick bug appearances on a big rock 13 miles from Lord Howe. I’m not going to ruin it, because the story is fascinating. Check it out, especially for the pictures.

Stick bugs, back again

NASA lands Curiosity Rover on Mars

NASA accomplished something amazing and exciting last night, landing a 6-wheeled nuclear powered mobile laboratory on the surface of Mars. Read that again. Here’s a round up of Curiosity related internet.

The first picture beamed back by Curiosity.

First image sent back by Curiosity

The Mars Science Library’s page is packed with info.

The landing, described as “7 Minutes of Terror”, was accomplished by shooting the rover in a capsule through Mars’ atmosphere, and then lowering it on a supersonic parachute. Then a shelf detached from the parachute used rockets to slow itself further, and lowered the rover down to the surface. Watch a video about it.

Another good description of the difficulty of the landing in The Independent.

You can watch the entire news conference about the landing.

Here’s a video of the control room monitoring the landing. They were, understandably, excited. If you want to see the actual landing and celebration, check out 3:10. “Now let’s see where Curiosity will take us.”

Curiosity was a bit late.

The successful landing helps wash away the mission’s troubled beginnings. Originally it was to cost $1.6 billion and was scheduled to launch in fall 2009, but it encountered a cascade of technical hurdles and cost overruns.

NASA officials faced a difficult choice: to rush to meet the launch date or miss it, waiting 26 months until the next time that Mars and Earth lined up in the proper positions.

They chose to wait, even though that added hundreds of millions of dollars to the price tag, bringing it to $2.5 billion.

It was NASA’s “Mission of the Decade.”

Described by top NASA officials as their “mission of the decade,” the just-delivered rover will search for the building blocks extraterrestrial life as well as investigate how and why Mars turned from a wet and warm planet into the dry and cold place it is now. The complex, precision landing and sophisticated instruments being used on the mission could hasten the day when humans fly to Mars as well.

“We’re about to do something that I think is just huge for humankind — put this chemistry lab on the surface of Mars that can rove, that can see, and that’s going to provide scientists on Earth a glimpse into the past history of Mars,” NASA’s chief scientist John Grunsfeld concluded a few hours before the landing.

For a good time, you can follow Curiosity on Twitter. NASA wrote a pretty good robot program so the Tweets are informative and funny. Also you can follow “the mohawk scientist” Bobak Ferdowski, and the “rockabilly scientist” Adam Steltzner. Here’s some art inspired by Ferdowski. And some art featuring both Ferdowski and Steltzner. From the LA Times a bunch of Curiosity related Tweets.

It is the summer of GIFs.

What it means.

Curiosity is expected to revolutionize deep-space science, not only searching for indications that Mars is or was habitable, but paving the way for the next critical steps in exploration — soil-sample returns, sending astronauts to Mars, even, perhaps, colonization.

Celebration we normally see from athletes from scientists and engineers.

It may have sounded a bit jingoist around JPL at times, but the truth is that only the United States has had the knowledge and moxie to successfully land a vehicle on Mars. We have now done it seven times, and no other nation has really come particularly close. And with the touchdown of the one-ton and highly sophisticated Curiosity, the U.S. has reached a whole new level of expertise.

An Inside Look at the Mars Curiosity Rover.

Mars Curiosity in pictures. And another. And one from NASA.

Just in case you wanted to see newspaper commenters destroy something beautiful. This actually wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be.

Watch this in full screen, a different kind of Mars landing. Terraform.

Phillip Bump in Grist on how the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics was highly choreographed and still had error, while Curiosity did not.

For all of the tiny, myriad things that could have gone wrong, it didn’t. Curiosity, a roving science station named by a kid from Kansas, was a flawless performance. A moment of triumph for humanity that the Olympics couldn’t possibly match.

Despite the success of the program, the budget might be cut by 40%.

The success comes at a time when the US Mars exploration program is fighting for its life. The Obama administration sent a budget to Capitol Hill earlier this year that would cut funding for the program by 40 percent – a level Scott Hubbard, the first director of the Mars exploration program and former head of NASA’s Ames Research Laboratory, has called a “going out of business” budget.

Discovery.com’s round up is pretty great. Boing Boing has a round up, as does i09 and Slashgear.

NASA lands Curiosity Rover on Mars

Neil deGrasse Tyson ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit’

Gza is recording an album about science called Dark Matter, and he’s been talking to Neil deGrasse Tyson for info on the lyrics.

GZA isn’t just relying on his lyrics and music to convey his love of science; the album may also come with an illustrated book featuring a glossary of terms. Nor is he stopping with space. The next album in the series is going to be about oceans. With any luck, the third will be about fuckin’ magnets and how they work.

Via @mikenizza

Neil deGrasse Tyson ain’t nothin’ to fuck wit’

Super bugs

This article about Craig Venter trying to bio-engineer organisms to do stuff, like clean up pollution or make fuel, is pretty fascinating. It also mentions the word ‘fart’ in the first paragraph and had me looking through the New York Times archives for early mentions of the word (the mentions seem to be all abbreviations or typos until the 1970s).

When I think for too long about the future, I sometimes get depressed, but these bugs could be a solution if they can get worked out in time.

The appeal of biological machinery is manifold. For one thing, because organisms reproduce, they can generate not only their target product but also more factories to do the same. Then too, microbes use novel fuel. Chances are, unless you’ve slipped off the grid, virtually every machine you own, from your iPhone to your toaster oven, depends on burning fossil fuels to work. Even if you have slipped off the grid, manufacturing those devices required massive carbon emissions. This is not necessarily the case for biomachinery. A custom organism could produce the same plastic or metal as an industrial plant while feeding on the compounds in pollution or the energy of the sun.

And here’s another article about super bugs, this time genetically modified mosquitoes bred to pass down genes that makes the offspring self-destruct (they couldn’t say die?) shortly after hatching.

Doyle’s solution? To move ahead with a controversial experiment that has been in the works since before he arrived: importing and releasing millions of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that have been genetically modified in the labs of a British biotech firm called Oxitec. These minute marvels of science are tweaked to pass down a gene that causes their progeny to self-destruct soon after hatching. Only males would be released; theoretically, they would breed with normal females and spawn offspring that keel over and die just before adulthood. The dengue-spreading population would collapse generation by generation.

Super bugs