Category Archives: Science

Animal’s Daily Poultry News

That's a big black cock.
That’s a big black cock.

And now for something completely different: Black chickens.   Excerpt:

In the historical novel The Black Tulip, written by Alexandre Dumas, an honest and decent Dutch tulip fancier is nearly brought to ruin by his quest to breed a purely black flower. More precisely, his misadventure is due to the dastardly schemes of his neighbor, who, frantic with spite and jealousy over the plants, frames him for a political crime and gets him thrown in jail. The potboiler plot is ridiculously overheated, but Dumas got one thing exactly right: People will go nuts over the desire to possess a living thing in a strange and beautiful color.

Almost 400 years after the Dutch tulip craze drove prices of some flowers to ridiculous heights, legions of U.S. poultry fanciers are now obsessing over another unusual breeding product: a chicken called the Ayam Cemani. The bird is inky black from the tip of its comb to the end of its claws, with blue-black skin, jet-black eyes, and a black tongue. It is covered in shimmering metallic black feathers, and even its internal organs are black. It is one Goth chicken.

Black Chicken IIWhat a great main dish for a Halloween dinner this bird would make!

 This is the kind of thing that makes biology fun.  A gene flips, and you get a black bird – not just black skin and feathers, but black flesh, black organs, the whole nine yards.  One wonders, could you flip another gene in this mutant chicken and produce a white one?  A red one?  A purple one?  Probably not; the gene in question affects melanin production, and the only real result of that is black.

The shame of this is, at least from the Halloween planning standpoint, these birds are probably too valuable to casually eat.  It seems black chickens matter – at least to poultry collectors.

Animal’s Daily News

Science!This is interesting:  The Man With No Brain.  Excerpt:

In 2007, a 44-year-old happily married man with a white-collar job and two children visited a hospital in Marseille, France complaining of mild weakness in his left leg. Some time later, he concluded his hospital episode with his leg weakness cured, but with another, intriguing diagnosis in tow: he was missing most of his brain.

A disconcerting notion to most, the condition didn’t seem to trouble the man much at all. Sure, his IQ tested a tad below average, but his medical history and neurological development were otherwise normal. So how did he develop his strange, yet innocuous infirmity? 

What’s amazing is that this man isn’t running for Congress.  Judging from the recent actions by that august body, it’s obvious that he’s certainly qualified; in fact, he’s likely overqualified.

Related story from the same author:  Intelligence Does Not Make You Intelligent. Excerpt:

Paul Frampton has prodigious intelligence. A (former) tenured professor of physics at the University of North Carolina with more than 450 publications to his name, he undoubtedly possesses a high IQ, as well as a considerable capacity for “logic, abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, learning, emotional knowledge, memory, planning, creativity, and problem solving.”

triple-facepalmBut Paul Frampton is not intelligent. After all, no smart 68-year-old man would get tricked into thinking that transporting $400,000 dollars worth of cocaine from Bolivia to Brussels would earn him the love and affection of world-renowned bikini model Denise Milani. To fall for such an obvious honey trap, one would have to completely lack skeptical reason, sound judgment, and the ability to think critically.

Again, a potential Congressman?  I’d be willing to bet he also thinks that a nation can tax its way to prosperity.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

Animal’s Daily News

Relaxed BearThanks again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five Links!

Nothing big today, just some random notes:

Am I alone in really hating the new Colonel Sanders?

Fellow Colorado blogger Stephen Green (Vodkapundit)  on the possibility of daffy old Uncle Joe Biden running for President:

Oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please oh please let Joe run.

I have to agree.

Apparently now your office air conditioning is sexist.   I wasn’t sure if this was parody or not, then I saw it was from Vox.  You really can’t make this stuff up.

It seems that corn flakes were created to help people stop masturbating.  Best guess:  Didn’t work.

Derp BearNow two that seem to go together:

The Disgusting Secrets of Smelly Feet.

Sarcasm Is The Key to Creativity.  Unless your feet are too smelly.

On that odoriferous note, we return you to your Tuesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily Pluto News

Holy crap, Pluto!  Excerpt:

Mankind’s first close-up look at Pluto did not disappoint Wednesday: The pictures showed ice mountains on Pluto about as high as the Rockies and canyons on its big moon Charon that appear deeper than those on Earth.

Image from linked story.
Image from linked story.

Especially astounding to scientists was the absence of craters in a zoom-in shot of Pluto, the dwarf planet that hosted its first visitor from Earth on Tuesday, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

They said that suggests to their surprise that Pluto is geologically active even now and is being sculpted not by outside forces but by internal heat.

The long-awaited images were unveiled Wednesday in Maryland, home to mission operations for NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft.

“I don’t think any one of us could have imagined that it was this good of a toy store,” principal scientist Alan Stern said at a news conference. He marveled: “The Pluto system IS something wonderful.”

Added Lowell Observatory’s Will Grundy: “This is what we came for.”

This is freaking awesome, and I’d like to point out that it was brought to you by Western civilization, yet another amazing technological and scientific achievement from the people who brought you vaccines, automobiles, aircraft, the Internet, moon landings and virtually every other major technological and scientific innovation for the last ten centuries.

Sleepy-bearMeanwhile, the Muslim world has brought us…

Uhh…

Uhm…

Hmm.

Animal’s Daily News

Smiling BearThanks once again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Moving right along:  Holy crap!  Techies may be inventing a brain-putor.  Excerpt:

A new computer prototype called a “memcomputer” works by mimicking the human brain, and could one day perform notoriously complex tasks like breaking codes, scientists say.

These new, brain-inspired computing devices also could help neuroscientists better understand the workings of the human brain, researchers say.

In a conventional microchip, the processor, which executes computations, and the memory, which stores data, are separate components. This constant relaying of data between the processor and the memory consumes time and energy, thus limiting the performance of standard computers.

But wait!  There’s more!

To solve NP-complete problems, scientists are also pursuing a different strategy involving quantum computers, which use components known as qubits to investigate every possible solution to a problem simultaneously. However, quantum computers have limitations — for instance, they usually operate at extremely low temperatures.

In contrast, memcomputers “can be built with standard technology and operate at room temperature,” Di Ventra said. In addition, memcomputers could tackle problems that scientists are exploring with quantum computers, such as code breaking.

So what happens when a computer reaches self-awareness?

Apocalyptic visions aside, think instead of the moral implications.  Is a self-aware computer alive?  Does it have rights?  Responsibilities?  Can it make moral claims against people?

If computers ever get to that point, it will present some interesting problems.

Animal’s Daily News

BearLaughing1As opposed to a single story, here is an assortment of various things today, mostly because I didn’t run across anything to get worked up about.  Let’s get started!

Duck!

Duck!

Goose!  (Yes, I had to do it.)

Which animals (not Animals) are mostly like to kill you?  The answer may surprise you.  (Hint:  It’s not wombats.)

Facepalm-bearThe Donald is running for President (yes, really) and claims he will be the “Greatest Jobs President God Ever Created.”  Uh huh.  It remains unconfirmed whether Trump will place his hair into nomination for Vice President.  Note:  I’ll write something on Trump’s candidacy when I can manage to stop facepalming so repeatedly that it sounds like a round of applause at the Royal Albert Hall.

Real bioengineered animal weapons.

What happens when an entire country is infested with demons?  More facepalming. happens.  But apparently, after the exorcism, the invisible, undetectable demons that nobody could see, hear or feel – are gone.  How?  Because.

Uh huh.

On a related note:  The Pope wants a global authority to manage the climate. He should stick to driving demons out of entire countries.  Or, maybe, you know, running the Catholic Church, which actually is his job.

To make up for all that, here is some gratis totty from the archives.

Domai_Katoa-5_Katoa_high_0039

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!
Happy Hump Day!

Are you of northern European ancestry?  If so, you are likely descended from a tribe of people from the Caucasus called the Yamnaya.  Excerpt:

The biggest DNA study on ancient people rewrites European history. Modern Europeans were born in the Bronze Age after a large wave of immigration by a nomadic people known as Yamnaya who came from the Russian steppe. It happened in the third millennium BC.

“This is where we begin. We see that a large part of the modern European, genetically start here, “says study leader Eske Willerslev, who is a professor at the Centre for GeoGenetics at the Natural History Museum of Denmark.

The find probably marks the end of more than 100 years of archaeological debate over whether the great cultural upheaval seen in the Bronze Age (2700 BC. to 500 BC.) was driven by ideas or by immigration.

“It is completely ground breaking, and the entire history must now be rewritten into a story of mobility and human expansion,” says archaeologist Kristian Kristiansen from Gothenburg University. He led the archaeological part of the study.

 Our human tradition as wanderers goes back far beyond this, of course.  Early humans left Africa in waves, beginning with Homo ergaster/erectus, continuing with wave after wave of migrations.  The first modern humans arrived in Europe at least 40,000 years ago, well before the Yamnaya existed.  They moved into a land already inhabited by the short, tough Neandertal and all of us with any northern European blood still carry some of those genes, as well.

Image from the article - a possible ancestor.
Image from the article – a possible ancestor.

But the Yamnaya may have brought something else that made the beginnings of Western civilization what it is, as well; from the article:

The Yamnaya brought a completely new social structure with them, says Kristiansen.

“Pastoral people are more collective and live in villages, but with [the Yamnaya] there’s a much more individualistic culture, organised in nuclear families. You can see the change in the funeral rituals they introduce, such as the family burial mounds,” he says.

The Yamnaya were a nomadic people who brought livestock with them and used horses to pull wagons that carried all their belongings. They burned forests to create grazing land until about 2000 BC when they began to settle down.

A modern Stone Age family.
A modern Stone Age family.

“But we see individual households with family farms and not villages,” says Kristiansen and points to a fundamental change of Europeans both culturally and genetically.

“They are our main ancestor,” he says.

In other words, the Yamnaya may have introduced the concept of the nuclear family; the basic, structural unit of modern Western civilization.  It’s an interesting discovery.

Animal’s Daily News

Tyrannosaur-dino-largeJust when you thought it was safe to go back in the morgue, along comes National Geographic with a T-Rex Autopsy Necropsy.  (Note to National Geographic’s copyeditors; when you dissect a human, it’s an autopsy.  When you dissect an animal, it’s a necropsy.)

National Geographic would not confirm whether or not the recreated tyrannosaur did in fact “taste like chicken.”

Seriously, though.  National Geographic accurately points out that nobody has or ever will observe (or cut up) a real T-Rex, so this is as good as it gets.  Honestly, it’s probably a good thing that we don’t have seven ton carnivores roaming loose, ones that are as long as a city bus with jaws that can bite a car in two.

700But oh, what a hunt that would be.  Imagine facing down one of these beasts with a .700 Nitro Express double.

Given the auto-crushing power of the T-Rex’s mouthparts, though, a change of hunting vehicle may be in order; for that hunt I’m afraid I’d have to swap the redoubtable Rojito for something more robust, like an armored personnel carrier.

Since that’s not likely to happen, I’ll settle for going to see Jurassic World this weekend.

Animal’s Daily News

Science!
Science!

First up, thanks once more to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links, and to The Daley Gator for the callout to our posts on the ISIS assholes.  Thanks guys!  Now, on to a Science Tuesday compendium.

Defecation Really Is Fascinating.  Not that fascinating.  Not even when…

No, never mind.  I’m not going there.

The World Could Be Nuclear-Powered by 2040.  As opposed to Kate Beckinsale, who I’m pretty sure is nuclear-powered now.

Kate Beckinsale
Nuclear Energy.

Am I right?  Or am I right?

In the Caribbean there is a rat the size of a cat.  OK, well, it’s really more of a guinea pig the size of a cat.  That’s a big rodent.

Why Do Men Even Exist?  Well, someone has to reach the stuff up on the highest shelves and open stubborn pickle jars.

OK, priorities:  Here’s a map of the most popular beers of the world.  Number one in the USA is…

…Bud Light?

Germany has at least four beers better than that:

And on that sudsy note, we return you to your Tuesday, already in progress.

Animal’s Daily News

Science!
Science!

So, it seems some of Earth’s earliest complex life forms disappeared for the simplest reasons – they got eaten.  Excerpt:

Strange and largely immobile organisms made of tubes were the first complex life on Earth. Appearing 579 million years ago, they thrived on the seafloor for some 37 million years, then vanished – becoming a curiosity we know only from faint impressions in the sandstone fossil record.

What made them die out? New fossil evidence from Namibia suggests that the Ediacarans, as these creatures are known, had their world turned upside by an explosion of life forms at the beginning of the Cambrian period 541 million years ago. Some of these may have evolved to eat their enigmatic predecessors and to bioengineer the environment in ways that left little hope for the passive Ediacarans.

If so, the very first mass extinction of complex life forms had a biological cause, unlike the big five mass extinctions which are thought to be environmentally driven – kicked off by widespread volcanic eruptions that poisoned the oceans or a massive meteorite strike, for example.

Pre-Cambrian Earth was a wildly chaotic place, biologically speaking.  It was an evolutionary drunkard’s walk, a laboratory for thousands of different complex life patterns.  Vertebrates eventually would seem to have won out, wouldn’t they?  Actually, not so much; in terms of biomass, this is a planet owned by bacteria.

Fishing Trip BearBut for complex life forms, yes, vertebrates are pretty much where it’s at.  But it wasn’t always that way, and it seems that our ancestors (distant, distant ancestors) won out for one simple reason:  They were hungry.

Maybe that’s where some of us self-employed small businesstypes get it.  To succeed in business, you have to be hungry; maybe that goes back 579 million years.