Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.
"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.
…“Gathering this data is critical to understanding differences between great ape species and separating aspects of the genetic code that distinguish humans from other primates,” said co-first author Peter Sudmant, a graduate student at the University of Washington.
The analysis of great ape genetic diversity is likely to reveal ways that natural selection, population growth and collapse, geographic isolation and migration, climate and geological changes and other factors shaped primate evolution…
…The scientists also are looking for the genetic differences between humans and other great apes that might confer traits that are uniquely human. Those species’ differences may direct researchers to portions of the human genome associated with cognition, speech or behavior, providing clues to which mutations might underlie neurological diseases…
…Even though early human-like species were present at the same time as the ancestors of some present-day great apes, the researchers found that the evolutionary history of ancestral great ape populations was far more complex than that of humans.
Compared to our closest relatives, chimpanzees, human history appears “almost boring,” the researchers conclude. The last few million years of chimpanzee evolutionary history are fraught with population explosions followed by implosions demonstrating remarkable plasticity. The reasons for these fluctuations in chimpanzee population size long before our own population explosion are still unknown, however.
A wholly new type of bacteria has been found in Lake Vostok in Antarctica by Russian scientists, according to reports.
The samples obtained from the underground lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria which bore no resemblance to existing types, said Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics.
"After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the global database," he told RIA Novosti.
"We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified," he added.
The discovery comes from samples collected in an expedition in 2012 where a Russian team drilled down to the surface of Lake Vostok, which is believed to have been covered by ice for more than a million years but has kept its liquid state.
Lake Vostok is the largest subglacial lake in Antarctica and scientists have long wanted to study its ecosystem. The Russian team last year drilled almost 2.34 miles to reach the lake and take the samples.
Bulat said that the interest surrounded one particular form of bacteria whose DNA was less than 86 per cent similar to previously existing forms.
"In terms of work with DNA this is basically zero. A level of 90 per cent usually means that the organism is unknown."
He said it was not even possible to find the genetic descendants of the bacteria.
"If this had been found on Mars everyone would have undoubtedly said there is life on Mars. But this is bacteria from Earth."
Bulat said that new samples of water would be taken from Lake Vostok during a new expedition in May.
"If we manage to find the same group of organisms in this water we can say for sure that we have found new life on Earth that exists in no database," Bulat said.