Dolly’s clone sisters have aged like any other sheep, OK?


Click to enlargePress Association

The four clones from the same cell line as Dolly the Sheep

Dolly the Sheep started her life in a test tube in 1996 and died just six years later. When she was only a year old, there was evidence that she might have been physically older. At five, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis. And at six, a CT scan revealed tumors growing in her lungs, likely the result of an incurable infectious disease. Rather than let Dolly suffer, the vets put her to rest.

Poor Dolly never stood a chance. Or did she?

Meet Daisy, Diana, Debbie and Denise. “They’re old ladies. They’re very healthy for their age,” said Kevin Sinclair, a developmental biologist who, with his colleagues at the University of Nottingham in Britain, has answered a longstanding question about whether cloned animals like Dolly age prematurely.

In a study published Tuesday in Nature Communications, the scientists tested these four sheep, created from the same cell line as Dolly, and nine other cloned sheep, finding that, contrary to popular belief, cloned animals appear to age normally…

Dolly’s birth, 20 years ago this month, blew the world away. Scientists had taken a single adult cell from a sheep’s udder, implanted it into an egg cell that had been stripped of its own DNA, and successfully created a living, breathing animal almost genetically identical to its donor.

Now, based on results of this new study, researchers have confirmed what most scientists believed years ago: Cloning does not lead to premature aging.

Many scientists hope that changes in perception will lead to advances in reproductive technology that will enable us to provide food for a growing global population, save endangered species and develop advanced therapies…Even then, welfare and ethical concerns will remain.

Some of those concerns are legitimate and should be the focus of scientific study. Most are crap grounded thoroughly in ignorance and fear.

In my reading, most of the self-titled scientific ethicists have little to do with science or ethics. They are religious moralists at root and dedicated to raising so-called concerns rooted in superstititon and retribution from their g_d.

Meanwhile, virtually all the laws governing clone research persist – even though they are about as legit as, say, laying on hands to raise the dead.

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Cross-species cooperation, humans and birds in Mozambique

Calling to each other with chirps and yelps, a species of bird and a tribe of humans in southeast Africa forage for honey in unison. The birds lead the way to hidden beehives, which are camouflaged among high tree branches. The tribesmen crack open the hives and share the sweet spoils of victory with their bird friends…

A trio of zoologists led by Claire Spottiswoode, an African bird researcher at the University of Cambridge in the UK, has just documented this astounding relationship. The particular players are Yao tribesmen in Mozambique and wild local birds called honeyguides…As the zoologists describe in a paper published…in the journal Science, the communication and cooperation goes both ways. When the birds spy a beehive on their own, they can find a nearby human, get his or her attention with a signature chirp, then flit from tree to tree toward the hive. Yao tribesmen can solicit the help of nearby honeyguides with their own unique hail, a birdcall handed down through countless generations.

“What’s remarkable about the honeyguide-human relationship is that it involves free-living wild animals… [which] evolved through natural selection, probably over the course of hundreds of thousands of years,” Spottiswoode says. Nobody is training these birds. On their own, the birds can’t crack open beehives, and the hives are often hidden away from human eyes. So everybody wins. Well, except the bees.

Interesting article, interesting experiment. A few new questions raised, of course. This is proper science, after all.

Thanks, Honeyman

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Trump is a unique threat to American democracy — Washington Post Editorial

Donald J. Trump, until now a Republican problem, this week became a challenge the nation must confront and overcome. The real estate tycoon is uniquely unqualified to serve as president, in experience and temperament. He is mounting a campaign of snarl and sneer, not substance. To the extent he has views, they are wrong in their diagnosis of America’s problems and dangerous in their proposed solutions. Mr. Trump’s politics of denigration and division could strain the bonds that have held a diverse nation together. His contempt for constitutional norms might reveal the nation’s two-century-old experiment in checks and balances to be more fragile than we knew.

Any one of these characteristics would be disqualifying; together, they make Mr. Trump a peril. We recognize that this is not the usual moment to make such a statement. In an ordinary election year, we would acknowledge the Republican nominee, move on to the Democratic convention and spend the following months, like other voters, evaluating the candidates’ performance in debates, on the stump and in position papers. This year we will follow the campaign as always, offering honest views on all the candidates. But we cannot salute the Republican nominee or pretend that we might endorse him this fall. A Trump presidency would be dangerous for the nation and the world.

RTFA, please. Read it and weep if you ever were a Republican in the traditional history of that party. Though Trump and his acolytes found their politics on fear and fascism, the only thing we have to fear is the number of ignorant voters who will use the electoral process deliberately distorted by class and race prejudice by today’s Republican Party.

Get off your butts, folks. All of you. We only have a bit over three months to put a halt to this insanity.

Thanks to Ursarodinia and many more

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If Comic-Con wasn’t held in San Diego —

— folks would be in real trouble if it were held in North Carolina.

Hat tip to Ian Bremmer.

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A drone designed to rid the world of landmines

A Netherlands-based Kickstarter campaign wants to use drones to get rid of landmines in the next decade.

The Mine Kafon Drone is an aerial vehicle that can map landmine-rich environments, do effective sweeping searches with metal detectors, and plant detonators before escaping to a safe distance—all without a single living foot touching the ground.

It’s a drone that could potentially save thousands of lives, with the body and chassis of something reminiscent of an Imperial Probe Droid.

Or one of those squid-like things from The Matrix.

Still, the world would be a better place with a few hundred of these running around.

I’ll second that emotion.

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The illusion of choice in consumer brands


Click to enlarge

There are literally hundreds of choices in your supermarket, but this is only the illusion of choice. These products all come from the same 10 corporations.

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

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DNC Press credentials already out-of-date

DNC press credentials

Press credentials posted on Instagram by CCTV journalists, Monday morning. And that was just because Wasserman-Schultz would be gone as DNC Chair by the end of the week.

Then, she and the Clinton team decided it was in the campaign’s best interests to have her walk away from the gavel. Think maybe they could have come to that conclusion earlier?

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NASA Spots “Hot Towers” in Tropical Storm Frank — which you should start learning about


Click to enlarge

As tropical storm Frank was forming in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, NASA analyzed rainfall and cloud heights and found “hot towers” that indicated intensification was likely.

After the Global Precipitation Measurement mission or GPM core satellite passed over System 99E, it quickly strengthened into Tropical Depression 07E and then a tropical storm. The…satellite flew directly above the increasingly organized stormy area on July 21, 2016 at 4:51 a.m. EDT. GPM found some powerful thunderstorms contained intense showers. Rain was measured by GPM’s Dual-Frequency Precipitation Radar instrument falling at a rate of over 7.2 inches per hour in a few of these convective storms.

WTF? Ever been in a tropical downpour? They average about 1½ inches/hour rainfall – up to 6″ max. I’ve been in cities with superb drainage, lots of paving leading to storm drains – at 2″ hour and experienced flooding.

GPM data also provided a 3-D look at the storms. GPM’s radar…slicing through these storms found that some tall thunderstorms were reaching heights of over 9.9 miles…

A “hot tower” is a tall cumulonimbus cloud that reaches at least to the top of the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. It extends approximately 9 miles high in the tropics. These towers are called “hot” because they rise to such altitude due to the large amount of latent heat. Water vapor releases this latent heat as it condenses into liquid. Those towering thunderstorms have the potential for heavy rain. NASA research shows that a tropical cyclone with a hot tower in its eyewall was twice as likely to intensify within six or more hours, than a cyclone that lacked a hot tower…

Frank was moving toward the northwest near 12 mph and the NHC forecast a turn to the west-northwest with a decrease in forward speed during the next couple of days. On the forecast track, Frank is expected to move away from the southwest coast of Mexico and pass well south of the Baja California peninsula over the weekend.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 mph with higher gusts. NHC said some strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Frank could become a hurricane during the weekend.

I’m not posting this to give you the weather forecast over the eastern Pacific. Just pointing out what’s happening in weather systems during a fairly normal La Nina year. Maybe even lightweight at this point. As a matter of habit in the high desert Southwest we watch for orange tops with hopes of getting a bit of precip. For you folks, elsewhere, it’s a different story.

I’d suggest you start paying attention. “Nobody told me this was coming” ain’t a terrific excuse anymore.

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Free will is awesome!

Thanks, Ian Bremmer

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Stormy sunrise panorama

Stormy panorama sunrise

The sunrise is behind me. Facing West over La Cieneguilla valley to a volcanic escarpment. Actually, part of the southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau. The sun rising directly behind me is shining through the storm you see to the right only in patches one of which I just caught shining on that escarpment. The panorama is about 160º.

A lovely mood, lovely sight on my first walk of the day, today.

[Open the photo up to full screen if you can. I reduced it to 1920 pixels wide. The original is over 16000 pixels wide.]

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