Tag Science

Old Whales

Bowhead whales were nearly hunted to extinction for their clean burning blubber. After the whale oil boom their population was estimated to be around one thousand individuals, but today they are doing much better. According to this article scientists “began recording whale numbers 34 years ago, [since then] their counts have increased from 1,200 animals in 1978 to 3,400 in 2011. From those numbers of whales seen, George estimates there are now 14,000 to 15,000 animals.”

This blog post from the Smithsonian points out that the best part of the article is that the whales can live up to 200 years. Which means there may be whales swimming in the arctic today that were born before Melvile wrote Moby Dick in 1851.

What’s my problem?

I’ve been suffering from some mild jet lag. Yesterday morning I could feel every tired muscle in my body calling out for sleep and last night I woke up refreshed and ready for my day to begin at around 4AM.

As it turns out sleepiness may not be my only problem:

Jet Lag May Cause Stupidity

In addition to making you groggy and dazed, jet lag may make you stupid. A study presented November 15 at the annual Society for Neuroscience meeting finds that hamsters suffering extreme, chronic jet lag had about half the normal rate of new neuron birth in a part of the brain. What’s more, these animals showed deficits in learning and memory.
Jet lag decreases the numbers of new neurons being born in the hippocampus by about 50 percent, the team found. Mental function suffered, too: The jet-lagged hamsters were worse at learning which of two chambers contained a desirable running wheel. Even after 28 days of a back-to-normal schedule, the formerly jet-lagged hamsters still showed learning and memory problems. The mismatch between the internal body clock and the external environment “is having a long-term effect on learning and memory,” Gibson said.

Via Wired.com

Granted I don’t fly often enough to have this apply to me and luckily I’m not a hamster. But, you know, it’s topical.


Should we clone a Neanderthal? No, really, should we? Recently, Archeology magazine considered the scientific, legal, and of course ethical challenges of doing just that. Researchers from Roche’s 454 Life Sciences and genetics firm Illumina are collecting bits of Neanderthal DNA to sequence the genome of a 30,000-year-old Neanderthal woman from Croatia. Once the genome is complete, making a clone is no easy task. But as the article explains, it’s within the realm of possibility. And what happens if there’s success? (via BoingBoing)

From Archeology:
Hawks believes the barriers to Neanderthal cloning will come down. “We are going to bring back the mammoth…the impetus against doing Neanderthal because it is too weird is going to go away.” He doesn’t think creating a Neanderthal clone is ethical science, but points out that there are always people who are willing to overlook the ethics. “In the end,” Hawks says, “we are going to have a cloned Neanderthal, I’m just sure of it.”

This same story was reported in Discover a year or more ago, and I know I’s talked my sister’s ear of on this subject, but this new article is much more interesting and comprehensive. What a strange and exciting world the decades will bring.

Richard Feynman explains magnets, sort of

I really can’t do a good job, any job, of explaining magnetic force in terms of something else you’re more familiar with, because I don’t understand it in terms of anything else you’re more familiar with.

This is why science is so maddening for some and so great for others.

Richard Feynman on Magnets (Via Kottke)