TECHNICOLOR DREAMS AND GENETIC NIGHTMARES – BY TOM CURLEY

A few weeks ago my old friend Ben Taylor sent me a very interesting link to a story about archiving technologies . The story was about how all of our storage media eventually degrades. Film, tape, CDs, DVDs, flash drives, and so on all decay over time. Technicolor, the company that makes films so, technically colorful, has figured out a way to encode and store media on a DNA molecule! Here’s the article.

Basically, it’s not complicated. All of our media is now digital, encoded as a really long string of ones and zeros. DNA is a double helix molecule made up of four proteins CGAT. Cytosine, guanine, adenine and thymine.

teravivos.com

teravivos.com

They can combine in an infinite number of combinations, which is why DNA is such a handy way to store all of life’s genetic information. We also have machines called genetic sequencers that can both read a DNA molecule and build one.

DNA-O-MATIC! web.uri.edu

web.uri.edu

So, what the TECHNICOLOR people did was figure out how to encode the ones and zeros onto a DNA molecule, then build that DNA molecule. How do you play back the material? Build a player that reads the DNA molecule and converts it back to ones and zeros. Burn it onto a DVD and put it into your Blue Ray player.

The cool part is that you can store over 700 terabytes of information on one DNA molecule! Which is pretty much every movie and TV show ever made. The other reason they did this was because they say the DNA molecule is stable and won’t degrade.

But here’s the problem.

DNA MUTATES!!!!!!!

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

rbssbiology11ilos.wikispaces.com

That’s how evolution works!

If DNA didn’t mutate, we’d still be four-legged lungfish crawling up out of the surf, looking up at the sky, land and saying: “Well, this is different. Hey Phil! Come on up here. You gotta see this!”

land fish

youtube.com

Now at this point you could argue that DNA usually mutates when cells reproduce.  Sometimes the DNA copies aren’t perfect and that’s what causes the mutation. But the Technicolor DNA molecules are just sitting in a test tube. They are not replicating.

Technicolor-DNA-Archive-2

That’s true. However — there are other things that can make DNA mutate, like radiation. A stray alpha, beta, or gamma particle could come along, hit the molecule, and knock out a quinine here, a cytosine there. After a while, things could change. Not immediately, but after a hundred, five hundred, or a thousand years?

A thousand years from now a group of historians, anthropologists, archaeologists and movie critics could get together to examine a recently discovered cache of late 20th Century movies and TV shows. They were  found buried in a vault archived with a quaint technology utilizing DNA by a long-forgotten company called Technicolor.

theshoreways.com

theshoreways.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: As you all know the discovery of this cache of ancient media has given us an unprecedented opportunity to measure the accuracy of our historical records against actual recordings of history.  You’ve all had a month to watch and review media from the last millennium. What have you found?

SCIENTIST #1: Well, actually some their movies are quite good.  I just watched two fantastic movies, “Ishtar” and “Waterworld”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: Hmmm. Our records indicate they were two of the worst movies ever made.

SCIENTIST #1: I can’t understand why. Did you know that Ishtar was the movie where Betty Davis said “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.!”  It only makes sense since they were all riding camels.  And Waterworld!  At the end, when Kevin Costner helped ET get back to his spaceship? I have to admit, I cried.

HEAD SCIENTIST: I see.  What about “Star Wars’?

en.wikipedia.org

en.wikipedia.org

SCIENTIST #2: I saw the first three movies starting with “The Phantom Menace”.

HEAD SCIENTIST: And?

SCIENTIST #2: They were really good!  And funny! Casting Groucho Marx as Obi Wan Kenobi and Robin Williams as  young Anakin Skywalker was inspired!

HEAD SCIENTIST: And the next three in the series?

SCIENTIST #3: Not so much. Darth Vader and the Emperor win in the end and destroy the rebellion. It was really depressing.  The only rebel left alive was Jar Jar Binks.

twitter.com

twitter.com

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Citizen Kane”? Our records show that as being one of the greatest movies of all time.

SCIENTIST #4: I don’t know why sir. In the first place somebody named Jackie Chan played the part of Kane. He spent the whole movie kicking people and riding on a sled. But he did do his own stunts!

HEAD SCIENTIST: What about “Casablanca?”

SCIENTIST #5: Horrible! Ronald Reagan as Rick and Joan Rivers as Ilsa? What were they thinking? No chemistry!

HEAD SCIENTIST: OK, what about television?

SCIENTIST #6: Quite frankly only one show stood out and it was brilliant.

HEAD SCIENTIST: What was it?

SCIENTIST #6: “Gilligan’s Island.”  Orson Welles as the Skipper, Brad Pitt as Gilligan, Marilyn Monroe as Ginger,  Sally Field as Mary Ann, Helen Mirren and John Barrymore as the Howells and  John Wayne as the professor.! Brilliant casting. And who knew Arthur Miller could write comedy!

sitcomsonline.com

sitcomsonline.com

What have you done Technicolor?  What have you done?

KHANATE OF THE GOLDEN HORDE AND ME

map of mongol invasion paths

A little more than a year ago, I got to thinking about blood type. I wondered how come I have a B+ blood while everyone in my family is type O or A. Every time I’m asked my blood type and I say “B positive,” the doctor looks askance and says “We’ll just double-check that.” Because I shouldn’t have that blood type … but I do.

I decided to do a little research. See if I could learn something about where I come from using this tidbit.

Blood type O: the Americas

Blood type O: the Americas

It turns out, B-type people are universally less common than O and A.

I discovered that there is a high probability I have some Asian — Siberian, Mongolian, Chinese, Indian — ancestor. Genghis Khan made serious inroads into Europe and I am probably proof of it.

The incidence of type B is low amongst Jews (my folks). Low everywhere. It’s not unheard of, nor so infrequent as to be considered rare, but it’s not common.

Among native peoples in the western hemisphere, type O is basically 100%. Many scientists theorize “O” as the “original” human blood type with all other types having mutated from it.

That’s one theory, anyhow.

map golden horde

This is a bit of a hot topic because in a few places, notably Japan, blood typing has been used to categorize people as inferior,

There are always racists looking for a way to prove they are superior to everyone else. At least one group claims people of B type blood are descendants of Neanderthals while O and A are descended from Cro-Magnon. This is pure speculation based on not a particle of research.

Worse, there are pockets of racists who contend that A is the only pure Aryan blood type. On what evidence did they base this?

None. Nada. Nothing. Zero. No proof of any kind. They probably decided this because Aryan starts with an A.

Overall in the world, B is the rarest ABO blood allele. Only 16% of humanity has it. It reaches its highest frequency in Central Asia and Northern India. 

B is not a dominant blood type anyplace. It is most common in the Philippines and Siberia, lowest in the Americas. Exceedingly rare in the British Isles and Scandinavia. The highest percentage it reaches is 38% of the population in the Philippines. The middle East is more or less evenly divided into all three major blood types. If this shows some kind of migratory pattern for our ancestors, no one can prove it.

It turns out there is no universally accepted theory of the origins of man. Scientists and other theorists can’t even agree on whether or not we have the same progenitors.

blood types around the world

So after all this, I don’t know (for sure) more than I did when I started. Yet there is something to be learned from the distribution of blood types in the world. Unfortunately, no one is sure exactly what.

Mongols_Warriors06_full

So, did you learn anything?

I did learn a bit about blood types and inheritance in the course of this. My mother was O+ and by father A+ … so … where do I come from? The answer is that no matter what they say on television, it’s not that simple. There are at least 25 sub-types of blood, recessive genes … and mutations. The possibilities are literally, endless. So, when all is said and done, if you look like your parents, they’re your parents.

It’s also possible my blood type shows somewhere in my dim, distant ancestral history, a soldier from the Golden Horde left his DNA behind. I’m sure there is a story there.

I wish I knew more. So romantic.

ENDING POLIO – HAPPY BIRTHDAY JONAS SALK

For reasons that completely elude me, quite a few people are rejecting vaccination. They have somehow rationalized away some of the most important progress in human history. The result has been the reappearance of diseases we conquered, of which we thought we’d seen the last.

I remember the annual terror the summertime brought before polio vaccines made the world a safe place to be a kid.

anti-vaccine-cartoon

I remember lining up in school — a first grader — with all the other kids to get my shot and how happy our parents were that finally, we didn’t live under the terrible shadow of polio.

Here’s a reminder of how things were before there was such a thing as a polio vaccination, when summer was filled with fear for every child, everywhere.


Today would be Jonas Salk’s 101st birthday. Conquering polio was not only about Dr. Salk, though he was first at the starting line. As polio ravaged patients worldwide, two gifted American researchers developed distinct vaccines against it. Then the question was: Which one to use?

By Gilbert King – Smithsonian.com – April 3, 2012


They were two young Jewish men who grew up just a few years apart in the New York area during the Great Depression. Though both were both drawn to the study of medicine and did not know each other at the time, their names would be linked in a heroic struggle that played out on the front pages of newspapers around the world.

polio ward

In the end, both Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk could rightfully claim credit for one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments—the near-eradication of polio in the 20th century. And yet debate still echoes over whose method is best suited for the mass vaccination needed to finish the job: Salk’s injected, dead-virus vaccine or Sabin’s oral, live-virus version.

In the first half of the 20th century, Americans lived in fear of the incurable paralytic poliomyelitis (polio) disease, which they barely understood and knew not how to contain. That the disease led to some kind of infection in the central nervous system that crippled so many children, and even a president (Franklin D. Roosevelt) was alarming enough.

Polio-salk-vaccine newspaper

But the psychological trauma that followed a neighborhood outbreak resonated. Under the mistaken belief that poor sanitary conditions during the “polio season” of summer increased exposure to the virus, people resorted to measures that had been used to combat the spread of influenza or the plague. Areas were quarantined, schools and movie theaters were closed, windows were sealed shut in the heat of summer, public swimming pools were abandoned, and draft inductions were suspended.

Just about 100 years ago, in 1916, polio rampaged through the U.S.

Just about 100 years ago, in 1916, polio rampaged through the U.S.

Worse, many hospitals refused to admit patients who were believed to have contracted polio, and the afflicted were forced to rely on home care by doctors and nurses who could do little more than fit children for braces and crutches. In its early stages, polio paralyzed some patients’ chest muscles; if they were fortunate, they would be placed in an “iron lung,” a tank respirator with vacuum pumps pressurized to pull air in and out of the lungs. The iron lungs saved lives, but became an intimidating visual reminder of polio’s often devastating effects.

HUNTING DINOSAURS

spinosaurus-1

On the evening of March 3, 2013, a young paleontologist named Nizar Ibrahim was sitting in a street-front café in Erfoud, Morocco, watching the daylight fade and feeling his hopes fade with it. Along with two colleagues, Ibrahim had come to Erfoud three days earlier to track down a man who could solve a mystery that had obsessed Ibrahim since he was a child. The man Ibrahim was looking for was a fouilleur — a local fossil hunter who sells his wares to shops and dealers.

Among the most valued of the finds are dinosaur bones from the Kem Kem beds, a 150-mile-long escarpment harboring deposits dating from the middle of the Cretaceous period, 100 to 94 million years ago.

015676fc-57fe-4786-90d9-90c88e680023

After searching for days among the excavation sites near the village of El Begaa, the three scientists had resorted to wandering the streets of the town in hopes of running into the man. Finally, weary and depressed, they had retired to a café to drink mint tea and commiserate. “Everything I’d dreamed of seemed to be draining away,” Ibrahim remembers.

Ibrahim’s dreams were inextricably entangled with those of another paleontologist who had ventured into the desert a century earlier. Between 1910 and 1914 Ernst Freiherr Stromer von Reichenbach, a Bavarian aristocrat, and his team made several lengthy expeditions into the Egyptian Sahara, at the eastern edge of the ancient riverine system of which the Kem Kem forms the western boundary.

Despite illness, desert hardships, and the gathering upheaval of World War I, Stromer found some 45 different taxa of dinosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, and fish. Among his finds were two partial skeletons of a remarkable new dinosaur, a gigantic predator with yard-long jaws bristling with interlocking conical teeth. Its most extraordinary feature, however, was the six-foot sail-like structure that it sported on its back, supported by distinctive struts, or spines. Stromer named the animal Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.

1000px-Spinosaurus_size

Stromer’s discoveries, prominently displayed in the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology in central Munich, made him famous. During World War II he tried desperately to have his collection removed from Munich, out of range of Allied bombers.

But the museum director, an ardent Nazi who disliked Stromer for his outspoken criticism of the Nazi regime, refused. In April 1944 the museum and nearly all of Stromer’s fossils were destroyed in an Allied air raid. All that was left of Spinosaurus were field notes, drawings, and sepia-toned photographs. Stromer’s name gradually faded from the academic literature.

Read more! Source: ngm.nationalgeographic.com

I’ve always been fascinated by dinosaurs. This is a fantastic find. I thought maybe you would find it fascinating too.

See on Scoop.it In and About the News

JAMESTOWN DIG REVEALS IDENTITIES OF FOUR PROMINENT SETTLERS

At least part of the mystery of what happened in Jamestown has finally been unraveled. When I was a girl, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I still would like to be out there, digging up the past but since that’s impossible, reading about what others are doing will have to fill the gap. This is great stuff!!

jamestown-DIG

The findings by Smithsonian scientists dig up the dynamics of daily life in the first permanent British settlement in the colonies.


One of the bodies was just 5 feet 5 inches long, and missing its hands, most likely from four centuries of deterioration. It had been jostled during burial, so the head and shoulders were scrunched long before the wooden coffin lid and the weight of the dirt above had collapsed on it. Flesh no longer held the jaw shut; when this skeleton was brushed free late in 2013, it looked unhinged, as if it were howling.

The bones, now labeled 3046C, belonged to a man who had come to the New World on the first trio of ships from England to the spot called Fort James, James Cittie or, as we know it, Jamestown. He survived the first wave of deaths that followed the Englishmen’s arrival in May of 1607. Over the next two years, he conspired to take down one leader and kill another. This man had a murderous streak. He died, along with hundreds of settlers—most of the colony—during the seven-month disaster known as the “starving time.”

Jamestown’s original fort is perhaps the most archaeologically fertile acre in the United States. In 1994, Bill Kelso, a former head archaeologist at Monticello, put his shovel in the clay soil here and began unearthing the first of two million artifacts from the early days of the settlement. His discoveries, all part of a project known as Jamestown Rediscovery, include everything from full-body armor, a loaded pistol and a pirate’s grappling pike to children’s shoes and tools from such a broad array of trades (blacksmith, gunsmith, mason, barber, carpenter, tailor and more) that it is clearly a myth that the settlers arrived unprepared. One firecracker revelation after another is now filling in the history of the first successful English colony in America. Kelso and his team captured international attention two years ago when they reported finding the butchered remains of a teenage girl, clear evidence that the settlers cannibalized their dead to survive during the famine.

The team named the girl “Jane” and, along with Doug Owsley and the forensic anthropology lab at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, reconstructed her skull and digitally recreated her face, thus populating this early dark chapter in American history. In another major find, a few years back, the team uncovered the foundation of the fort’s original church, built in 1608—the earliest known Protestant church in the Americas, where Pocahontas married Virginia’s first tobacco farmer, John Rolfe, and brought the warring natives and settlers to a temporary truce.

Three more skeletons, labeled 2993B, 2992C and 170C, have been pulled from beneath the chancel. All date to around the same time as 3046C, and though one was in a simple shroud, the other two also had splendid coffins. Who were these men? Why were they buried, not in nearby fields with the other settlers, but beneath the floor of the church’s altar? Kelso and Owsley have marshaled an army of experts who have dedicated thousands of hours of scientific and archival scrutiny to the task of matching the remains with the historic record.

Now they are ready to unveil the identities of these latest Jamestown discoveries. Each has its part in the larger story of life on the edge of a New World.


Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/new-archaeological-research-jamestown-reveals-identities-four-prominent-settlers-discovery-180956028/#3AvkpeOG8DGLD2Ej.99
Follow us: @SmithsonianMag on Twitter

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.smithsonianmag.com

See on Scoop.itTraveling Through Time

WHEN FEASTING ON CROW INCLUDE THE FEATHERS

72-Bouquet-1-May_04

Hola! Daily Prompt! We did jealousy last week. Really. Exactly one week ago, on May 8th, 2015. It was a good one too and I invite all of you to read “DON’T COVET YOUR NEIGHBOR’S ASS.” And if that’s not enough, you can also read my original response from August 2013, “MONEY CAN’T BUY IT.” 

Instead of something more on this worn out subject (not a favorite from the beginning) because I have nothing more to say about jealousy, here’s a favorite anecdote. It’s funny, and a cautionary tale for assholes everywhere.

MOTTO: Make sure, when you set out to humiliate someone, that the shoe does not wind up in your mouth. And that is all the metaphor mixing I can handle for today.

NOTE: The photographs are irrelevant to the story, but I like them, so I’ve used them.


In the mid 1980s in Israel, I worked at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot with the team developing DB1, the first relational database. Those familiar with databases and their history should go “Ooh, aah.” Feel free to be awed. These are my bona fides certifying my “original geekhood.”

I was never a developer, just a computer-savvy writer, but I worked extensively on Quix, the first real-English query language and documented DB-1. I was eventually put in charge of creating promotional materials to sell the project to IBM. They bought it and from it, DB2 and all other relational databases emerged. Cool beans, right?

Technical writing was new. In 1983, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.

72-window-afternoon-at-home_26

The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

72-bouquet afternoon_41

The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.

72-Bouquet-1-May_05

Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said.

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem. I’d worked for Moshe, quitting because although I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were elegant examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.

Hyannis show window

It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. Eat it, Micah.

NO BUFFALO NICKEL – A MERE GLACIER

Daily Prompt: Buffalo Nickel – Dig through your couch cushions, your purse, or the floor of your car and look at the year printed on the first coin you find. What were you doing that year?


As I took up the challenge, I hoped I would uncover a coin of some rare vintage, a coin that would evoke another era in my life, in the life of the world. My desk yielded nothing useful. I used to keep one there — a dime I think — for scratching lottery tickets, but it had vanished to wherever coins go … maybe another dimension. I opened a purse, but it too was free of coins.  Finally, at the bottom of my camera bag, a quarter emerged. Would its failure to display a buffalo disqualify it? I hoped not.

72-Snowy-Woods-Back-Deck_03

It took 10 minutes to read the date. My eyes can’t see tiny numbers.  The shiny quarter celebrates a glacier. It says glacier on it, so I know that much. Which glacier? I felt lucky to decipher the date. More would be pushing my luck. I wondered where my magnifying glass had gone. It used to be on top of the  desk and it got a lot of use.

I grew up in Queens, one of the five boroughs of New York city. One of the few major east-west arteries in that borough is Hillside Avenue. It has always been a busy road. Cars, trucks, buses, bicycles. I crossed it twice daily, on my way to school and back. One day, I was hit by a small truck the corner of Hillside and 191st Street. I was 15. We didn’t have cell phones, so I had to beg the grumpy shopkeeper who owned the tiny candy store on the corner to let me call home. The driver had stayed long enough to see me get up front the ground. I wasn’t dead, so he took off. Hit and run.

entry hall

When my father got there, he wanted to know if I’d gotten the license number. I said no, I was lying on the ground, not a good angle. Dad was pissed off I didn’t get the number because, he said, I could have gone to college on the proceeds of a lawsuit. He never asked me how I felt or if I wanted to see a doctor. My mother — who never went to doctor for any reason at all — figured I hadn’t broken anything. Good enough, so I limped off to take a bath. Nothing like the warm nurturing of home.

That was in 1962. I was in High School.

Glacier factoid

Hillside Avenue is where the forward movement of the glacier which covered the region during the last ice age stopped. Was it the red light?  Hillside Avenue, with its shops, bus stops, and endless traffic was a significant geological and archaeological marker.

72-Feb10-Sunset_049

Whenever something is being built along the road, archaeologists and other scientific hunters explore it first. They have found all kinds of artifacts. Mammoth bone and the skeletons of other extinct animals. Evidence of early native settlements. Just a quarter-mile from where I grew up.

My Personal Year

I wasn’t doing much. I’d had cancer the previous year. 2011 was a recovery year. I was in a slough of despond and it took all my efforts to climb out of that pit. I had to come to grips with a significantly changed body.

I took a lot of photographs that year. Read a lot of books. Which pretty much sums up 2011. I only remember the pictures because it was a colorful autumn and I have pictures, some of my finest local foliage shots. If I were going to give the year a title, I’d have to call it “the year I didn’t die.” It turned out to be only one of several, but who knew what was waiting in the wings?

More Stuff About the Glacier: Glacial Moraine in Jamaica, Queens

Long Island and Staten Island are products of the last Ice Age when a continental glacier moved south bringing massive amounts of debris from New England. When the ice melted — at Hillside Avenue — the debris was left in huge piles.

ice dam near the kitchen

The hilly southern edge of the pile we call the terminal glacial moraine. Further south (below Hillside Avenue) the land becomes completely flat derived from smaller particles washed of the moraine. The plain was frequently flooded. Between these features, at the foot of the glacier, land is mostly flat but water is still channeled.

Streets like Hillside Avenue and Jamaica Avenue in Queens, and Hyland Blvd. in Staten Island became natural transportation corridors because the lay of the land made it natural.

My elementary school was on Jamaica Avenue. Mammoth bones anyone?