Tag Archives | Life

A New Evolutionary Theory: The Black Queen Hypothesis

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Photo: Liko81 (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

Microorganisms can sometimes lose the ability to perform a function that appears to be necessary for their survival, and yet they still somehow manage to endure and multiply. How can this be? The authors of an opinion piece appearing in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microbiology, on March 27 explain their ideas about the matter. They say microbes that shed necessary functions are getting others to do the hard work for them, an adaptation that can encourage microorganisms to live in cooperative communities.

The Black Queen Hypothesis, as they call it, puts forth the idea that some of the needs of microorganisms can be met by other organisms, enabling microbes that rely on one another to live more efficiently by paring down the genes they have to carry around. In these cases, it would make evolutionary sense for a microbe to lose a burdensome gene for a function it doesn’t have to perform for itself.

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How Our Terror Of Death Forms Our Beliefs

stoppingVia New Humanist, Steve Cave on how an obsession with immortality shapes everything we do, believe, and create:

A group of American psychologists have discovered a simple way of turning ordinary people into fundamentalists and ideologues. It can be done anywhere and in a matter of minutes. It is just this: the researchers remind these ordinary folks that they will one day die.

The researchers behind this work were testing the hypothesis that most of what we do we do in order to protect us from the terror of death; what they call “Terror Management Theory”. Our sophisticated worldviews, they believe, exist primarily to convince us that we can defeat the Reaper.

Atheists and agnostics should not think that they are free from such comforting illusions of eternity. The psychologists, psychiatrists and anthropologists who developed Terror Management Theory have shown that almost all ideologies, from patriotism to communism to celebrity culture, function similarly in shielding us from death’s approach.

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When the Earth Gets Sick: Most Mass Extinctions Happened Slowly

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Earth in the Permian period. Illustration: Kieff (CC)

Via ScienceDaily:

In geology as in cancer research, the silver bullet theory always gets the headlines and nearly always turns out to be wrong. For geologists who study mass extinctions, the silver bullet is a giant asteroid plunging to earth.But an asteroid is the prime suspect only in the most recent of five mass extinctions, said USC earth scientist David Bottjer. The cataclysm 65 million years ago wiped out the dinosaurs.

“The other four have not been resolvable to a rock falling out of the sky,” Bottjer said. For example, Bottjer and many others have published studies suggesting that the end-Permian extinction 250 million years ago happened in essence because “the earth got sick.”

The latest research from Bottjer’s group suggests a similar slow dying during the extinction 200 million years ago at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic eras. The latest research from Bottjer’s group suggests a similar slow dying during the extinction 200 million years ago at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic eras.

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Alan Moore Wants to Build a Statue of Harvey Pekar in Cleveland (Video)

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Photo: Davidkphoto (CC)

Seems like a good cause to me. If you’d like watch the full two-and-a-half hour chat and/or read about the highlights, check out Bleeding Cool:

A few months back Joyce Brabner, the widow of comics legend Harvey Pekar, started a Kickstarter Campaign in the hopes of raising enough money to help fund a Harvey Pekar Library Statue in Cleveland.

Towards the latter half of the campaign it was made known that one of the incentives would be “A Cup of Tea and a Long Winter’s Chat With Comics Giant Alan Moore,” in which Moore would, for the first time, host a live video conference in which he would answer “impertinent questions” …

… Moore was the epitome of congeniality, proving himself gracious, rational and quite funny while speaking to all those present — even in the face of some potentially ire-raising issues (such as BEFORE WATCHMEN or the constant jabs made at him by Grant Morrison) …

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Top Five Regrets Of The Dying

mosaicwomanSusie Steinert in the Guardian on the divide between the lives people should be living, and the lives they are living. A common theme: don’t become closed off emotionally in the name of routine or not making waves:

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom. “When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently,” she says, “common themes surfaced again and again.” Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Ware:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

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Heartless: Man Alive Without Heart Or Pulse

heartlessPerhaps in the future, we’ll spend our youth — i.e. the first hundred or so years of our lives — with a heart and a pulse, and our next couple hundred without them. DesignTaxi writes:

Two doctors from the Texas Heart Institute successfully replaced a dying man’s heart with a device—proving that it is possible for your body to be kept alive without a heart, or a pulse.

The turbine-like device, that are simple whirling rotors, developed by the doctors does not beat like a heart, rather provides a ‘continuous flow’ like a garden hose.

If you listened with a stethoscope, you wouldn’t hear a heartbeat. If you examined [the] arteries, there’s no pulse. Hooked up to an EKG, [he'd] be flat-lined.”

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Life On Venus, So Claims Russian Scientist

VenusMaybe Jack Nicholson was right after all. Via Yahoo News:

Leonid Ksanfomaliti, an astronomer based at the Space Research Institute of Russia’s Academy of Sciences, analyzed photographs taken by a Russian landing probe during a 1982 during a mission to explore the heavily acid-clouded planet.

Venus is roughly the same size as Earth, but it has a thick atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide. With an atmospheric pressure 92 times Earth’s, a waterless and volcano-riddled surface and a surface temperature of 894 degrees, the planet has never been considered a serious target of research into the possibility of extraterrestrial life.

But in his article, published in the magazine Solar System Research, Ksanfomaliti says the Russian photographs depict objects resembling a “disk,” a “black flap” and a “scorpion.”

“What if we forget about the current theories about the non-existence of life on Venus?” he wrote. “Let’s boldly suggest that the objects’ morphological features would allow us to say that they are living.”

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The Plan To Reanimate George Washington’s Corpse

death-george-washingtonLauren Davis on io9 discusses U.S. Capitol designer William Thornton’s half-baked plan to bring George Washington back from the dead. Thornton’s idea was not enacted, but who knows what the future holds — in the decades to come, George Washington’s cadaver and Hitler’s brain may yet sit in a cafe somewhere sharing a conversation:

George Washington may have been America’s first president, but was he nearly America’s first zombie-in-chief? If William Thornton, physician and designer of the US Capitol, had had his way, Washington’s body would have been subjected a scientific experiment designed to bring the deceased former president back to life.

Washington’s body was not buried immediately after his death. The president may not have feared death, but he did fear being buried alive. Before he died, he commanded his secretary, Tobias Lear, to make sure that he would not be entombed less than three days after he died. In accordance with Washington’s wishes, his body was put on ice until it could be moved to the family vault.

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