Evening Open Thread: Earhart, Mammoths and Reality Shows

Earl Moran Pin Up artist, model Marilyn Monroe

Earl Moran Pin Up artist, model Marilyn Monroe

Good Evening Folks

Storms clouds over the Oklahoma today, I need to update this post, there have been injuries….Tornadoes in Oklahoma, Arkansas injure at least five | Reuters

Severe storms spawned a dozen reported tornadoes in Oklahoma and Arkansas on Thursday, injuring at least five people and sending residents scrambling for cover 10 days after a powerful twister killed 24 people in Oklahoma.

One tornado warning included Cushing, Oklahoma, a critical hub for the U.S. oil markets northeast of Oklahoma City, but the storm passed through without damaging tanks that store more than 50 million barrels of oil, said Bob Noltensmeyer, Cushing’s emergency management director.

The storms were not expected to taper off until later on Thursday night and more storms are expected on Friday, said Greg Dial, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center.

More storms tomorrow so keep an eye on it if you live out there in Tornado Alley.

Photograph study used for the Earl Moran artwork above. Model Marilyn Monroe.

Photograph study used for the Earl Moran artwork above. Photo Earl Moran. Model Marilyn Monroe.

I have just a few links for you tonight. Nothing in the way of “hard news” so relax and enjoy…

There has been speculation about the latest mammoth find in Siberia, I mentioned this spectacular find earlier in the week remember? There was actual flowing blood and the muscle tissue still looked red and fresh. From Nature at Scientific American here is an article written by Kate Wong.

Can a mammoth carcass really preserve flowing blood and possibly live cells?

Yesterday brought a flurry of news stories trumpeting a mind-blowing discovery from the lost world of the last ice age: a 10,000-year-old woolly mammoth carcass that preserves muscle tissue the color of fresh meat and blood in liquid form, despite the –10 degrees Celsius temperatures in the Novosibirsk Islands, where Russian researchers discovered the beast.

The Siberian Times obtained striking photos of the specimen showing the reddish tissues and a vial of the dark brown liquid said to be blood that was found in ice cavities under the animal’s belly, as well as additional details of the discovery. The story quotes mammoth researcher Semyon Grigoriev of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, who led the recovery of th

e mammoth, as speculating that the blood contains “a kind of natural anti-freeze” and declaring the specimen — a female that was between 50 and 60 years old when she died — to be “the best preserved mammoth in the history of paleontology.”

I have tried to load that Siberian Times website, but the page is taking too long to load. Anyway, check out what the rest of this article has to say:

Yet with only the news reports to go on (the find was announced in the popular press rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific journal), I wondered if it might be too good to be true. So I contacted a couple of experts not involved in the discovery to get their read on the development. The upshot: it really does appear to be an incredible find, but some of the claims about it are incorrect as reported or have yet to be established as fact.

Daniel Fisher of the University of Michigan, a leading authority on mammoths who has worked with Grigoriev in the past and considers him a close colleague, comments that the news reports appear to be mostly legit. But he noted via email:

“…a few points have gone astray in the story, perhaps just the usual result of language differences and reporters and scientists getting a little out of sync.” For instance, this is not the first old female mammoth found, just the first time we have found this much of the carcass (i.e., soft tissues) of an old female. Likewise, they have not found any “living cell” — at most they could hope to find what the cloning enthusiasts might call a cell with “viable” DNA, meaning that it would be intact enough to use in the context of a cloning effort. In fact, although there is much talk of “viability” of this sort, I think it remains to be demonstrated that any DNA from a mammoth meets this criterion. In general, ancient DNA is highly fragmented and by no means “ready to go” into the next mammoth embryo.

“As for the blood, I have no doubt that they have something interesting, but what exactly it is … is hard to say at this moment. Whether it is exactly blood, and only blood, will of course require a little more analysis, including some microscopic examination. I have previously seen coagulated blood in mammoth blood vessels, which is very close to what has been reported here, so that much is entirely reasonable. At the moment, I must reserve judgment on the specific nature of this new sample, but I am sure it will be of interest.”

I also reached out to physiologist Kevin Campbell of the University of Manitoba, who, working with colleagues, has used ancient DNA to recreate the red blood cell protein hemoglobin from a woolly mammoth and then observed how that protein functioned. Their efforts, which he and molecular biologist Michael Hofreiter of the University of York, UK, described last year in an article for Scientific American, revealed that the temperature-sensitive protein evolved adaptations that enabled it to perform its job of delivering oxygen to body tissues in the frigid conditions mammoths faced.

Campbell noted via email that “If the fluid (‘blood’) sample is as well preserved as the muscle (which, judging from the pictures seems to be amazingly well), there is the possibility that red blood cells are still intact.” He told me he is interested in studying the substance to evaluate its oxygen-binding properties.

“The first step from an oxygen-binding study perspective is to look for red blood cells and then isolate hemoglobin from all the other proteins/cell debris in the sample. Since the sample was collected from outside the body, it is likely that there is also ‘contamination’ from myoglobin and possibly bacteria (for example). Based on the color alone, I think it is pretty safe to say that there is indeed a fair amount of hemoglobin (and possibly myoglobin) in the vials.”

This is very exciting, because as you read on with Wong’s article, it looks like most of what is being reported is true.

Campbell says Grigoriev told him by email that the “blood” did not even freeze when placed in a museum freezer kept at –17 degrees C. Campbell would like to examine why the substance is not frozen solid at –17 degrees C, noting that he was initially very skeptical about the claim that the supposed blood contains so-called cryoprotectants that have maintained it in a fluid state. He writes:

“Given that the sample is still fluid at 17C indicates that it is in a ‘supercooled’ state, as we expect blood and other body fluids to freeze at about 0.6C. Many insects (and some vertebrates) are able to avoid freezing at far colder temperatures via the expression of antifreeze peptides/glycoproteins and (largely carbohydrate based) cryoprotectants, which can dramatically lower the supercooling point (roughly equivalent with the freezing point).

If mammoth blood had this trait, they would be the only known mammalian example of this to my knowledge (however, the abdomens of arctic ground squirrels have been shown to supercool down to 2.9C, though the mechanism allowing this ability is still unknown [I think]). At any rate, I highly (very highly) doubt that circulating mammoth blood was able to supercool to 17C though it is worth testing the samples to see why they are still ‘fluid’.

“For instance, maybe they did have some sort of cryoprotectant (arctic ground squirrels certainly seem to), and this became concentrated during the long period of preservation. Conversely, maybe they had absolutely no ‘antifreezes’ and instead most of the water in the sample was taken up by the surrounding ice, such that the remaining ‘blood’ became extremely concentrated which would lower its freezing point. Alternatively, perhaps the sample was contaminated by ice-living bacteria which secreted cryoprotectants, or maybe there is some other explanation?

Another question is, how were these samples preserved in this state for so long? Also, why, given the many recent mammoth finds, is this the only one (that I know of) with ‘fluid’ blood? Regardless, this on balance appears to be a remarkable finding [if of course it is true and I have no way to assess that at this point] and something worth pursuing.”

This is fantastic…and really something wonderful for these scientist to work with.

Meanwhile another “discovery” of sorts is making news: Amelia Earhart’s Plane Wreckage May Be Visible in Newly-Released Images

Grainy sonar images depicting a narrow, 22-ft. long object found some 600 feet below sea level in the Pacific Ocean may show the remains of the Lockheed Electra plane flown by famed aviator Amelia Earhart. The world-famous airwoman and her navigator, Fred Noonan, disappeared on July 2, 1937, somewhere near Nikumaroro Island in the western Pacific Ocean. Five years after successfully crossing the Atlantic on a solo flight at age 34, the world-famous airwoman was attempting to circumnavigate the globe along the equator.

First reported by Discovery News on Wednesday, the images were released by the organization best known for hunting down the truth behind Amelia Earhart’s last flight, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). Although they were taken on June 15, 2012 in the waters off Nikumaroro Island (then known as Gardner Island), it was not until the group posted them to an online forum in March that someone noticed what could be the remains of the two-engine plane, according to ABC News. TIGHAR cannot definitively confirm that the wreckage is part of Earhart’s plane, although their shape and location suggest that they may well be.

Imagine…someone on an online forum discovered the anomaly.

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TIGHARA sonar image released by The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery on May 28, 2013 displays what could be the remains of aviator Amelia Earhart’s two-engine Lockheed Electra plane.

Reviews of underwater footage captured last year “revealed a scattering of man-made objects on the reef slope off the west end of Nikumaroro” lying near the island, Richard Gillespie, the executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News. “What initially got our attention is that there is no other sonar return like it in the entire body of data collected.” He added, “it is truly an anomaly, and when you’re looking for man-made objects against a natural background, anomalies are good.” On the same trip, the search team found remnants of a possible anti-freckle cream jar popular in the early 20th century on the remote island. Earhart was known for disliking freckles.

“She landed the plane safely on a reef off Nikumaroro Island,” Gillespie told ABC News. “The wreckage washed into the ocean with the high tide and broke up in the surf. There is archaeological evidence on that island that we believe indicates that Earhart was marooned there until her death several days later.”
While I was reading that Earhart link over at Time Magazine, this caught my eye. Both my son and Boston Boomer’s nephews are into the game Minecraft…check out the video here: Game of Blocks: The Man Who Built Westeros in Minecraft – Video – TIME.com
The continent of Westeros is home to ‘Game of Thrones’ and now exists in the virtual world of Minecraft. Meet Jacob Granberry, the artist behind the epic build.

And finally, there was this funny story over at Mediaite, PBS in New York has a sense of humor when it comes to fund raising.  PBS Hilariously Lampoons The Sad ‘State Of TV’ With Fake Ads To Inspire Donations  According to Andrew Kirell,

As I entered my local subway station this morning, one particular ad stood out: The Culture Network’s (hmm, is that a real channel?) new reality show The Dillionaire, presumably inspired by other niche entrepreneur-oriented reality shows like Duck Dynasty and Pawn Stars.

The “Life’s a pickle” tagline caught my eye as particularly corny.

But then I looked to the right of the poster and all was made clear:

“The fact you thought this was a real show says a lot about the state of TV,” the adjacent ad read with an arrow pointing to Dillionaire. Guilty as charged.

It turns out this poster is part of a series of ads New York City’s PBS station, Thirteen, has rolled out this week in an effort to inspire donor support for “quality programming.”

The other posters in the series are equally hilarious and pitch-perfect in their mockery of today’s “reality”-crazy TV world. Unrealistic-yet-somehow-realistic shows like Knitting Wars and Bayou Eskimos get their place alongside the critical tagline.

Go to the link and see the others… they are a riot. My favorite has to be the Bad Bad Bag Boys…

Anyway, y’all have a good evening. This is an open thread.


7 Comments on “Evening Open Thread: Earhart, Mammoths and Reality Shows”

  1. I made the point up top about the person on the online fora because I think that sort of thing happens more often than we think…

  2. ecocatwoman says:

    Heard about this on Chris Hayes’ segment of the 3 most awesome things on the internet today: http://www.mediaite.com/online/there-is-now-a-vagina-themed-pinball-machine-inspired-by-todd-akin/ Seriously “hysterical”!

  3. Just to update, there have been injuries with those tornadoes, Tornadoes in Oklahoma, Arkansas injure at least five | Reuters

    I will correct the post up top.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    That mammoth story is incredible!