Wandering elephants heading straight for a city of 8 million people


Nap time

A herd of 15 Asian elephants in China is on an unprecedented journey: Over the past year, the pachyderms have wandered 300 miles from their home in Xishuangbanna, a nature reserve in China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, north toward some unknown destination. Their travels have captivated the nation. No one knows why the elephants started migrating in the first place—or where they’re headed along the longest recorded elephant migration in China’s history.

Now, the family of elephants—six adult females, three adult males, and six juveniles—is lingering on the outskirts of Kunming, home to more than eight million people. In recent months, as they’ve drawn closer to the city, they’ve encroached on human settlements, raiding crops, wandering down streets, and searching for food in small towns. They’ve broken into kitchens and popped into a nursing home. Some reportedly may have gotten drunk on fermented grain. While most of the group has banded together, one male left the main herd and is now approximately 15 miles away from the rest.

As the herd’s antics have captured public attention throughout the country, experts are left with a daunting challenge: figuring out how to reduce interactions between the elephants and people…

Everyone likes elephant stories. This herd apparently had a happy home where they’ve been on a nature reserve for decades. Someone got the wanderlust … and off they went.

Ireland will be reunited

BELFAST, Northern Ireland — It was meant to be a year of celebration.

But Northern Ireland, created in 1921 when Britain carved six counties out of Ireland’s northeast, is not enjoying its centenary. Its most ardent upholders, the unionists who believe that the place they call “our wee country” is and must forever remain an intrinsic part of the United Kingdom, are in utter disarray. Their largest party has ousted two leaders within a matter of weeks, while an angry minority has taken to the streets waving flags and threatening violence. And the British government, in resolving Brexit, placed a new border in the Irish Sea.

The writing is on the wall. While the process by which Ireland could become unified is complicated and fraught, one thing seems certain: There isn’t going to be a second centenary for Northern Ireland. It might not even last another decade.

One can only hope. And hope it is for a peaceful transition. Sith gun robh so!

20,000 Years Ago, a Coronavirus Epidemic Left Its Mark in Our DNA

A crown of spike-shaped proteins make coronaviruses recognizable when viewed under a microscope. But modern genetic analysis offers another way to find evidence of coronaviruses: detecting the marks the virus leaves behind in the populations it infects.

In a study published on June 24 in the journal Current Biology, researchers analyzed the DNA of thousands of people from around the world from 26 populations to look for signs of ancient coronavirus epidemics. The researchers found that people living in China, Japan and Vietnam faced a coronavirus for about 20,000 years in an epidemic that ended 5,000 years ago…

When coronaviruses infect humans, they rely on the microscopic machinery made by human genes in order to make more virus particles. So the research team focused on a few hundred human genes that interact with coronaviruses—but not other microbes—during an infection…

In five groups of people, 42 of those genes had enough mutations to suggest they had evolved because of an epidemic. The genes may have become better at fighting off the viral infection, or less hospitable for the virus to use to copy itself. People with those mutations would have been more likely to survive an outbreak of the disease, and later, have children with the same genetic mutations.

Science like this makes me wonder about price and availability of a nice secondhand electron microscope. Probably would mess up retirement as much as a regular job. :-]