Scientist: Mammoths can live again in 7 years

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In five years, scientists could create a “cold-resistant elephant” (mammoth) embryo.  Gestation in the womb of an Asian elephant surrogate would take another two years.  So says Dr. George Church, a Harvard University biologist.

The mammoth midwives would use CRISPR technology, a breakthrough in DNA sequencing, to mirror Asian elephant genes to the genome of the woolly mammoth.  Church makes it sound simple:  “We could easily make tens of thousands of these elephants.”

Although the genetic basis for the cold-resistant elephants would be the mammoth, Church says that the goals are to protect Asian elephants and to stabilize Arctic habitats.  The Asian elephant population is dwindling for deforestation and herpes.  Having elephants graze in the tundra would reduce carbon emissions by keeping soil temperatures low.

Here’s an excerpt of what Church said in an interview with the Huffington Post:

CRISPR turned out to be easier than expected. The growing of embryos is harder to predict. I would say it will probably take us five years to work out the embryo development part, and then it takes at least two years to go through full gestation. So we might be seeing the first new baby elephants in seven years. Maybe a decade. That’s pretty soon…

I call them cold-resistant Asian elephants. What are unambiguously woolly mammoths are the DNA we’re drawing inspiration from and literally moving from the computer back into Asian elephants. What the hybrid will be called will be up to popular decision making that’s outside of my realm. I’m not going to call them mammoths unless somebody insists. They’re elephants with mammoth DNA.

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“Rogue” scares and satisfies

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In the 2007 movie “Rogue,” Michael Vartan plays Pete McKell, a travel journalist who normally writes reviews of hotels, glamourous attractions, and restaurants.  Pete gets more than he bargained for when he joins a boatload of tourists on a ride upriver for a glimpse of saltwater crocodiles and other wonders in Australia’s rugged Northern Territory.

Kate Ryan, played by Radha Mitchell, runs the river tour company and skippers the flat-bottomed boat.  She is a tough, attractive, and sympathetic character who has never left the Northern Territory.  She and Pete develop a chemistry early on, and viewers can quickly predict how their relationship will develop.

Kate has to put up with a pair of human pests who harass her tour boat.  She must also contend with her own passengers who question her decision-making as the story progresses.  The tourists are a mixed lot of thrill seekers with their own strengths, weaknesses, and secrets—maybe just one aristocrat short of an Agatha Christie cast.

As viewers will guess, the boat quickly ends up in the territory of a particularly dangerous crocodile.  Ryan and her passengers have to attempt to fight their way back to safety.  This movie would appeal to fans of classic creature features like “Birds” and “Jaws.”  Unlike “Godzilla” or “Jurassic Park,” this is not a film about the hazards of scientific excess.  It’s about a big, old-fashioned natural predator and a series of missteps that leads a group of people deeper into trouble.  The fun and suspense is in seeing who gets offed and how any survivors escape.  The Australian vistas and realistic crocodile effects are also a treat.

The DVD can be bought on Amazon for $12.  Recommended with pizza and beer.

Review: Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World

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Turning through the first few pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous book that wasn’t about Sherlock Holmes, one feels the immediate excitement of embarking on a great adventure in an exotic location with an impossible threat.  In that sense, Lost World resembles Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

The pompous, iron-willed Professor Challenger, naïve news reporter Malone, Blackwater contractor big game hunter Lord John Roxton, and the search party’s skeptical Professor Summerlee set out to prove or disprove Challenger’s claim that dinosaurs are living on an isolated plateau in the Amazon.

The group journeys to the location, but the path they took is immediately and mysteriously cutoff.  Since they cannot go back, they take advantage of the scientific opportunity to explore the lost world.  The presence of dangerous dinosaurs is soon confirmed, but what makes the novel most engaging, credible, and chilling is what happens next.  It turns out that the Brits face an indigenous foe more dangerous than dinosaurs—man.  This compelling aspect of the storyline is often skipped or glossed over by movie versions of Lost World.

The imperial arrogance and racial depictions in the book will rub many contemporary readers the wrong way.  But those who are willing to accept that those were the prevailing attitudes of readers in Doyle’s era, and focus on the adventure instead, will find a tale well worth reading.

Company aims to help veterans get published

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If you know a military veteran who is trying to become a published author, tell them to check out BooksbyVeterans.  The publishing services company helps veterans navigate their options in the publishing world.  BooksbyVeterans is operated under Graybeard Books, which also does works to bring military writing to the market.

Bouhammer.com, a military issues blog, says that “as someone who knows many veteran authors and knows a lot more who would like to be authors but they aren’t sure how to start in order to tell their story, this is great news.”

BooksbyVeterans and Graybeard offer a free appraisal.  They appear to offer self-publishing and agent-based services.  As competitive as the publishing world is, veterans can use every advantage available.

A glimpse beyond Sugar Creek Garden

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Overlooking the floodplain toward Sugar Creek Garden in Decatur, Ga.

 

Oakhurst Park isn’t the only green space in Oakhurst.  Sugar Creek Garden is nestled off of East Lake Drive behind Oakhurst Presbyterian Church.  Drivers can park at the lower level of the church’s parking lot.  Pedestrians can too, or they can enter the long way through a gate on 3rd Avenue.

While visiting the community garden today on an unseasonably warm 72 degree December day, we spotted oregano, dill, and thyme.  There’s an outdoor sink to wash vegetables and a solar-powered pump.  The garden is funded by the Wylde Center, a Decatur nonprofit.

Beyond the garden is a floodplain maintained by the City.  When it’s dry it would be a good spot for Frisbee or pick-up soccer.  The glade sits between the backs of the homes on 3rd and 2nd Avenue.

Running alongside the gardens and the glade is tributary in a flume that feeds into Sugar Creek.  (Sugar Creek feeds into the Ocmulgee and Altamaha River to the Atlantic.)  A berm juts upward on the other side of the flume behind the long backyards of the homes on 2nd Avenue.  There are a couple benches on top of the berm if you’re creative and spry enough to get up there.  The tributary leads underneath 2nd Avenue southwest into Atlanta and another Wylde Center Garden, Hawk Hollow, not so far away.

The southern edge of the glade borders 615 3rd Avenue, an old brick apartment complex owned by an Ethiopian businessman.  Between the apartment complex and the flume are some holly trees and a fence with signs warning people to stay out of the park during floods.

If you’ve never been to Sugar Creek Garden, this is a good time because there’s a Christmas tree lot behind the church near the garden.  If you buy a tree or wreath, proceeds go to the boy scouts.