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Showing posts with the label animals

Brains and Ethics

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Revived pig brains, memory backups and ethical questions have been in the news.

It sounds like a B movie scenario, but the research is quite real. So are the questions.

I'll be talking about research, technology, and I'm glad that folks at MIT decided that brain backups were a dubious goal.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Early Birds, Unisex Fish

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We still don't know exactly how birds got their wings. Literally and figuratively. But we're learning more about when and how they started.

Scientists in Europe and China found fossils of birds that lived roughly 120,000,000 years ago.

Other scientists found genes with some 'feather' instructions in alligators. That's old news. What's new is that one team coaxed alligator embryo scales into growing as something like very simple feathers. Part of a simple feather, anyway.

I'll be talking about those birds, alligator feathers, and why discovering something new doesn't upset me. Also a chimp, the French Revolution something Benjamin Franklin said and evolution....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Smoke and Monkeys

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Folks in the United Kingdom may be changing their rules for wood and coal fires. Or maybe not. It depends on whether their rules match Europe's.

Volkswagen paid researchers to mistreat monkeys and people. Or maybe not. We know the research happened. It's complicated, a bunch of folks are upset, and I'll get back to that.

Fireplaces, outdoor grills, and coal-burning furnaces aren't basically bad. Neither is learning how stuff in the air affects animals. And us.

But having smoky fires upwind of our neighbors isn't a good idea. Neither is mistreating critters. Or people.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Swatting Fast Flies

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We're a lot smarter than flies, which probably helps us swat them.

But the insects are very good at being somewhere else when the flyswatter or newspaper hits whatever they were on.

I've run into a few reasonable speculations. One was that flies are hypersensitive to air movements, and feel an approaching object. That may be part of the answer.

Scientists found another piece to that puzzle recently. "Recently" by my standards, that is. Flies live a whole lot faster than we do. Or, in a fly's eyes, we move in slow motion....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

A Mixed Bag

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I picked a mix from 'science news' this week: tardigrade genes, fertility fears, and what is probably the world's oldest living culture.

Folks in Western civilization have known about our neighbors in Australia for about four centuries.

Understanding their beliefs became easier, I think, when some of us realized that respecting them makes sense.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Old Truths, New Aspects

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The biggest critters with backbones are living today: baleen whales.

Finding the largest of them started getting harder about a century back.

We didn't quite drive the blue and fin whales to extinction, happily.

We're learning when they got so big, and maybe why.

We're also learning more about origins of dinosaurs and the domestic cat. It's not the same origin.

One happened around the time we started storing grain, the other 200,000,000 years ago. Give or take a bit.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

SETI: What If?

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Contacting extraterrestrial intelligence, meeting people whose ancestors developed on another world, has been a staple of pulp fiction for generations.

Lately, it's become a matter for serious discussion. I'll be looking at an op-ed's take on how learning that we're not alone might affect folks with various religious beliefs. I'll also share what I expect: and what I don't....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Brain Implants and Rewired Monkeys

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Someone from the Netherlands gained a small measure of freedom after learning to use a prototype computer-brain interface.

I see that, and experiments with rhesus monkeys, as a good thing....

...As usual, I'll also talk about why I don't think God is offended when we help folks....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Right-Handedness and Evolving Jaws

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At least one Homo habilis was right-handed, about 1,800,000 years ago. It's the earliest evidence of handedness in humanity's history. So far.

Our jaws may have started out as armor plate, not gill arches. Paleontologists found a second Silurian placoderm species with surprisingly familiar jaws....

...Before talking about Homo habilis, and new evidence showing how jaws evolved, I'll do my usual explanation for why science doesn't upset me....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Earth Overshoot Day and Pollinators

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Australia's Earth Overshoot Day happened earlier this week. It used to be called Ecological Debt Day, involves a lot of math, and assumes that Earth's glaciers, deserts, and oceans, are pretty much all the same thing. The basic idea, that we shouldn’t waste resources, isn't silly, and I'll get back to that.

Some other scientists say that we should pay attention to pollinators. I think they're right.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Bulldogs, Transgenics, and a Robot

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English Bulldogs aren’t what they used to be: which is a problem for folks who want the breed to survive. A team of scientists says that the British mascot’s bloodline is more than a bit too pure.

Other scientists developed MouSensor, mutant mice with open slots for plug and play genetic code.

Finally, a tiny robot with rat muscles that swims like a fish.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Sandra and Tommy: Apes and Ethics

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A court in Argentina said that Sandra the orangutan is "una persona no humana (non-human person)" in 2014.1 Or maybe 2015. I'll get back to that.

Instead of going ape over that news, I learned a little about Sandra, the Buenos Aires Zoo, and the curious case of Tommy the chimp

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Chameleons, Crystals: and Curiosity

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Chameleons may be more famous for changing color than for their rapid-fire tongues: but today I'll be talking about both....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Tiny Eyeballs and Purple Socks

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Some cyanobacteria — pond scum — swim toward brighter areas. Scientists didn't know how the microorganisms could tell where the light is, until now.

Other scientists discovered four new species of an odd-looking sort of critter: including one that looks like a purple sock.

I'm fascinated by this sort of thing, your experience may vary....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Sleep and Being Human

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Humans sleep, which shouldn't be surprising. Just about all critters with brains sleep: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish — even insects and nematodes experience something like sleep.

Poets and playwrights have written of sleep....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Lessons from Socks

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Here is an excerpt from my journal dated 7 August 15: "Today i cried when someone was sick. My beloved pet dog, Socks, is suddenly sick and its just too much for my heart and mind. I had to sob. Now m trying to figure out why am sobbing so much. What is it about her that makes me feel i just can't live without her. Like she is irreplaceable. Like she is the one who taught me many important lessons. Like i v not yet matched her when it comes to giving love. Like i don't care what this ache sounds like." And i lost her in this life on 8 August 2015. Read the full post at J.A.M.

Saint Francis of Assisi and Brother Wolf

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"...'Brother Wolf, you have killed and pillaged like a wanton criminal, and for that you deserve punishment! But accept instead the forgiveness of all the men you have wronged. Come now, here is my hand. In the name of the Holy One, come to me, and pledge that from this day on you will live at peace with men. Come!'...

"...He was only in time to see the berserker-wolf take the last hesitant step of its advance. To see it raise one metal paw — and with its steel claw-fingers gently touch the kneeling friar's extended hand...."

That's from Fred Saberhagen's "Brother Berserker." The "berserker-wolf" part of Saberhagen's tale is based on a legend in "Fioretti di San Francesco," written a century and a half after Francis of Assisi died.

"Firoetti" is probably the most popular collection of stories about Saint Francis: but "Scripta Leonis, Rufini et Angeli Sociorum S. Francisci," compiled by Brother Leo…

Beavers, Floods, and Yet Another Dire Prediction

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Beavers are back in England, which is good news or bad news: opinions differ on that point.

Quite a few folks died when drains blocked up in Nigeria's capital. Then a gas station exploded. There's more rain in the forecast, so their troubles are far from over.

Finally, there's a new doomsday prediction in a brand-new publication. Madagascan lemurs are imperiled: but not, I think, cockroaches, rats — or humans.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Fire Ant Engineering and Bungee Nerves

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The last I heard, Rubenstein's robot swarm was pretty good at forming different shapes: but not much else. (August 22, 2014)

What we're learning about how fire ants build their nests may change that. Scientists discovered that the pests use different excavating techniques, depending on what sort of soil they're in.

Other scientists found stretchy nerves in rorqual whales. The nerves are made from the same stuff found in other animals — what makes them stretchy is how the nerve fibers fold up....

...Looking up rorqual whales and baleen encouraged a (very brief) tangent on evolution. I figure I'd better review why I don't argue with the Almighty about this world's development: and don't fear a robot revolution....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Mass Extinctions Revisited, Moving Octopuses

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We've known about the Capitanian crisis for some time: some scientists have, anyway. What's new is the idea that it may have been a major mass extinction in its own right: a sort of prequel to the Great Dying.

Other scientists solved part of the puzzle of how octopuses coordinate their arms when moving. Their research may help folks design soft robots: useful in medicine and rescue work....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.