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.

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.

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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

DESCENDING FROM THE GOLDEN HORDE – B+ AND ME

Image Search – Pick a random word and do Google image search on it. Check out the eleventh picture it brings up. Write about whatever that image brings to mind.


I have the soul of an academic. Last night, I got to thinking about blood type. I wondered how come I have a B+ blood, when everyone in my family is O or A. I decided to go hunting on the Internet to see if I could learn something about where I come from using this tidbit of information.

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. Low everywhere, really. It’s not unheard of, nor so infrequent as to be rare, but low. My mother was type O, the most common blood group everywhere. Among native peoples in the western hemisphere, type O is close to 100%. Many scientists theorize that “O” was the “original” human blood type and all other types mutated from it.

That’s one theory, anyhow.

This is a bit of a hot topic because some places, blood typing has been used to categorize people as inferior, notably Japan. There are always racists looking for a way to prove they are superior to everyone else. At least one study (I’m not sure I should dignify it with that name) claims people of B-type blood are descendants of Neanderthals while O and A descended from Cro-Magnon. This is pure speculation. Not research.

Worse, there are pockets of racists who contend that A is the only pure Aryan blood type. What evidence did they base this on? None. Particularly interesting since O is the dominant blood type everywhere.

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. It’s believed to have been entirely absent from Native American and Australian Aboriginal populations prior to the arrival of Europeans. However, there are relatively high frequency pockets in Africa too. 

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

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

blood types around the world

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

So, did you learn anything? I think it shows that somewhere in my dim, distant family history, a soldier from the Golden Horde left some DNA behind. I wish I knew more. It would make a terrific story. Very romantic.

TACHYON WAVES, WARP DRIVE, AND INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES

Garry and I have been watching “Star Trek: Next Generation.” We missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were our busiest years. Rebuilding a life. Restarting a career. Buying houses. Getting married. Moving. Moving again.

Watching TV wasn’t a big item on our agenda.

BBC America is showing the series, albeit not in any particular order. We are catching up, watching two or three episodes per night.

star trek next gen cast

They do a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. I accept it with alacrity. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side order of tachyon particles. I understand that science as well as I understand ours.

Which is to say, not at all. Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

I understand exactly as much about tachyon waves and warp drives as I do about the internal combustion engine. True, I studied this stuff in junior high school (middle school to you kids). The information didn’t “take,” and whatever is going on under my car’s hood is a mystery. As is the electricity that powers this computer. As is all technology.

enterprise next gen

Effectively, everything is a mystery. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st. I am equally comfortable in both.

How many of you know how the stuff you use all the time works? I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know how to do a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same. Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.

OH BRAVE NEW WORLD

It’s weird how something suddenly makes me realize how much the world has changed and not in a good way. Yesterday, I went to the kitchen to cut up an orange and a grapefruit. It’s a low-calorie healthy snack, right? I cut up the orange, dumped the sliced into a bowl. Then I cut up the grapefruit and put it into a bowl with the orange slices.

Whoa! I took a second look The orange slices were bigger than the grapefruit. Not a little bit bigger. A lot bigger. When did that happen and what have they done to oranges?

75-Orange-Grapefruit_3

Last summer, the strawberries got huge. They were closer to the size of plums than berries. Surprisingly tasteless, too. Somehow, I doubt it’s a natural mutation. They are messing with the fruit.

The grapes also got enormous last season and didn’t taste right. I won’t buy them anymore. What was wrong with the old grapes? They were entirely big enough and tasted delicious.

Meanwhile, my doctor thinks I might want to smoke dope and it’s actually legal to do it.

How ironic that I am less surprised by the gradual legalization of marijuana — its morphing into an all-purpose drug along the lines of aspirin — than I am by the genetic meddling going on with the food I eat. I don’t even know what’s in my food anymore. Is it still nutritious? Or is it a lethal time bomb?

Probably I don’t want to know the answer to my questions. It would just alarm me.