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.

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.

Evening Reads: RIP Sherman Hemsley

From Mediaite Facebook Files

Good Evening

Well, George Jefferson is moving on up, so sad to hear that Sherman Hemsley  is Dead: ‘The Jeffersons’ Actor Dies At 74

The Philadelphia born and raised sitcom actor was also an accomplished singer, recording the 1989 single “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and releasing his R&B album, “Dance,” in 1992.

Before becoming a household name, Hemsley served in the Air Force for four years — dropping out of high school to do so — before going on to work for the post office for eight years.

Hemsley had no wife or kids.

There is a slide show of different clips of Sherman Hemsley: ‘The Jeffersons,’ ‘All In The Family’ And More TV Moments at this link.

Today is also the birthday of Amelia Earhart, so here are a few links on this:

Google is celebrating her with a doodle today:

Click the image above to find out more about Earhart.

There is this interesting question…Amelia Earhart: Better feminist than pilot? (+video) – CSMonitor.com

Earhart started challenging gender stereotypes early in her life. According to ameliaearhart.com, the official website produced by her family, Earhart, who grew up in Atchison, Kans., was a tomboy who loved climbing trees, hunting rats with a .22 rifle, and “belly-slamming” her sled to start it downhill.

As a young girl, she kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about great women of the time in fields of all sorts; film, law, advertising, management, and mechanical engineering.

“Even as a child, as a little girl, she said she should be allowed to do anything a boy would be allowed to do,”

Read the rest at the link.

Remember that group of researchers going to look for Earhart’s plane? Earhart Search Returning to HI Without Plane Pics – ABC News

A $2.2 million expedition that hoped to find wreckage from famed aviator Amelia Earhart’s final flight is on its way back to Hawaii without the dramatic, conclusive plane images searchers were hoping to attain.

But the group leading the search, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, still believes Earhart and her navigator crashed onto a reef off a remote island in the Pacific Ocean 75 years ago this month, its president told The Associated Press on Monday.

“This is just sort of the way things are in this world,” TIGHAR president Pat Thrasher said. “It’s not like an Indiana Jones flick where you go through a door and there it is. It’s not like that — it’s never like that.”

Thrasher said the group collected a significant amount of video and sonar data, which searchers will pore over on the return voyage to Hawaii this week and afterward to look for things that may be tough to see at first glance.

It looks like the team had bad luck on this trip:

The updates tell of a search that was cut short because of treacherous underwater terrain and repeated, unexpected equipment mishaps that caused delays and left the group with only five days of search time rather than 10, as originally planned.

During one episode, an autonomous underwater vehicle the group was using in its search wedged itself into a narrow cave, a day after squashing its nose cone against the ocean floor. It needed to be rescued.

“The rescue mission was successful — but it was a real cliffhanger,” Gillespie wrote in an email posted online last week. “Operating literally at the end of our tether, we searched for over an hour in nightmare terrain: a vertical cliff face pockmarked with caves and covered with fern-like marine growth.”

I know I am going a bit fast with these links, feel like I need to close my eyes for a while. So bear with me…

Utah GOP activist faces rape, assault charges involving 4 women – latimes.com

The little cabin in the Utah woods was scene to various conservative gatherings — including Republican fundraisers and annual strategy sessions for local GOP candidates and officeholders.

Now police believe something more nefarious may have been going on in the out-of-the-way wooden cottage owned by Utah Republican Party activist Gregory Nathan Peterson: rape.

Peterson, 37, of Orem, Utah, faces a bail hearing Tuesday after his arrest on 25 charges of rape, kidnapping, sexual abuse, assault, sexual battery and burglary. The charges involve four women.

Two of the women say they were assaulted on their first dates with Peterson last year at his cabin south of Park City near Wasatch Mountain State Park. One of those women alleged that the assault continued when Peterson drove her to his mother’s house in Lewiston, in nearby Cache County.

Two other women say they were assaulted as recently as April 2012 at their homes in Salt Lake County after lunch dates.

And lastly this one:

More Than a Third of Births ‘Unintended’: CDC

More than a third of births in the United States stem from unintended pregnancies, a number that’s remained steady in the United States from 1982 to 2010, a new government report indicates.

The make-up of women having these births, however, has shifted over time from white to Hispanic and to those in their teens and 20s, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have made no progress since 1982 in reducing the percentage of births that are unintended,” said report author William Mosher, a statistician at CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “It was 37 percent in 1982, and it’s still 37 percent.”

The report was released Tuesday.

“Intended” births are planned, Mosher said. “Unintended” births are those that are either “mistimed,” which means they occur either a short time or years before the mother had planned to become pregnant or “unwanted,” which means a mother did not want the pregnancy, whether or not she already had other children.

For example, in 2008, of the roughly 4.2 million births, 1.6 million were unintended, 600,000 were unwanted, another 600,000 were mistimed by more than two years and 400,000 were mistimed by less than two years, according to Mosher.

I did not intend to get pregnant with my daughter right after my son was born, the kids are 11 months apart…but it happened. I prefer to call her a whoops….;)

Have a pleasant evening, and think of this as an open thread.

Tuesday Reads: Natural and Human-Made Fireworks, the God Particle, and More

Good Morning!

Someone in my neighborhood has begun celebrating Independence Day already, so I’m writing this with the sound of firecrackers in the background.

That may soon be followed by thunder and lightening, so I shouldn’t have any trouble staying awake long enough to finish this post. As long as my power doesn’t go out, everything should be fine!

That’s downtown Boston in a thunderstorm.  Isn’t it gorgeous?   Now let’s see what the morning papers have in store for us.

Everyone is agog about physicists’ discovery of a new particle–is it the “god particle?”

Physicists in Europe will present evidence of an entirely new particle on Wednesday, Nature has learned.

But more data will be needed to officially confirm whether it is indeed the long-awaited Higgs boson — the particle thought to be behind the mass of all the others.

Even as rumours fly in the popular media, physicists have begun quietly cheering at CERN, the European particle-physics lab near Geneva in Switzerland. “Without a doubt, we have a discovery,” says one member of the team working on the ATLAS experiment, who wished to remain anonymous. “It is pure elation!”

For nearly half a century, physicists have predicted the existence of a particle that helps to endow others with mass. Named after theoretical physicist Peter Higgs, the boson is the upshot of a mathematical trick that unites the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces into a single ‘electroweak’ interaction. It is considered the final, crucial piece of the standard model of particle physics.

I’m fascinated by physics, but this thing is beyond my comprehension. From what I can figure out it has something to do with an energy field that permeates the universe; so to me it sounds like confirmation of something that has been talked about by mystics for centuries.

“We think the Higgs boson really gets at the center of some physics that is responsible for why the universe is here in the first place and what the ultimate structure of matter is,” said Joe Lykken, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab….

“You can think of it as an energy field. We believe there is a Higgs energy field spread out in the whole universe,” Lykken said. Photons — light particles — are unaffected by this field. But as other elementary particles move around, he explained, “they feel this energy field as a kind of sticky molasses that slows them down and keeps them from moving at the speed of light.”

When enough of that field is packed into a small enough space, Lykken said, it manifests as a particle — the Higgs boson.

A group of researchers will leave today to mount a search for the wreckage of Amelia Earhart’s plane.

Organizers hope the expedition will conclusively solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century – what became of Earhart after she vanished during an attempt to become the first pilot, man or woman, to circle the globe around the equator.

A recent flurry of clues point to the possibility that Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, ended up marooned on the tiny uninhabited island of Nikumaroro, part of the Pacific archipelago Republic of Kiribati.

“The public wants evidence, a smoking gun, that this is the place where Amelia Earhart’s journey ended,” said Richard Gillespie, executive director of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR). “That smoking gun is Earhart’s plane.”

The expedition was scheduled to begin yesterday, but the group’s departure was postponed because of an administrative issue. The trip will last 16 days, with 10 days spent on the search for the wreckage.

One of my cousins works in the White House, and her power has been out since that big storm the hit the mid-Atlantic states. According to my mom, many people in Indiana are also without power. Hundreds of thousands in the Eastern U.S. are in the same boat, and there is a likelihood of more blackouts. During a heat wave like this, that can be more than inconvenient–it could be dangerous.

Electrical utilities are advising customers in and around Washington that it may well be a whole week before all power is restored after the unusually potent storm that ravaged the mid-Atlantic region on Friday. Many customers are outraged as to why it would take so long.

More than two million people in the eastern United States, including more than 400,000 in the greater Washington area, were still without power on Monday.

The storm, which claimed at least 22 lives, shuttered businesses, stores and gas stations and littered the region with fallen tree limbs and downed power lines, many of which are still strung along poles above ground.

It hit during a period of record-breaking heat and immediately shut down air conditioning systems across an area well known for its hot, humid summers and poor air quality.

As evidence grows that Chief Justice John Roberts changed his vote on the Affordable Care Act case at the last minute, Republicans are gnashing their teeth and cursing their former idol as a traitor to the cause: Scorn and Withering Scorn for Roberts

The day after Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joined the Supreme Court’s four-member liberal wing to uphold the health care overhaul law, he appeared before a conference of judges and lawyers in Pennsylvania. A questioner wanted to know whether he was “going to Disney World.”

Chief Justice Roberts said he had a better option: he was about to leave for Malta, where he would teach a two-week class on the history of the Supreme Court. “Malta, as you know, is an impregnable island fortress,” he said on Friday, according to news reports. “It seemed like a good idea.”

The chief justice was correct to anticipate a level of fury unusual even in the wake of a blockbuster decision with vast political, practical and constitutional consequences. The criticism came from all sides. And it was directed not at the court as whole or even at the majority in the 5-to-4 decision. It was aimed squarely at him.

Read the rest at the link. The NYT tried to “balance” their story by claiming that liberals are angry too. Seriously? Even they admit the wingers are “particularly bitter.”

Former Dubya speechwriter Michael Gerson describes “John Roberts’ alternate universe.” And Marc A. Thiessen asks, “Why are Republicans so awful at picking Supreme Court justices?”

While conservatives agonize, a new Kaiser Health Tracking poll finds that 56% of Americans “would like to see the law’s detractors stop their efforts to block its implementation and move on to other national problems.” More evidence that conservatives are out of touch with reality and headed for disaster in November unless they can manage to buy a clue.

CNN also ran a poll on reactions to the ACA decision–also asking respondents about their attitudes toward the Supreme Court.

According to a CNN/ORC International survey released Monday, the public is divided on last week’s ruling, with 50% saying they agree with the Supreme Court’s decision and 49% saying they disagree. And there is the expected partisan divide, with more than eight in ten Democrats agreeing with the decision, more than eight in ten Republicans disagreeing, and independent voters divided, with 52% disagreeing and 47% agreeing…..

“Despite howls of protest from many Republican leaders, only about one in five Americans – and only 35% of the Republican rank and file – say they are angry about the decision,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “And despite victory laps by many Democratic leaders, only one in six Americans – and only one in three Democrats nationwide – say they feel enthusiastic about the court’s ruling.”

But attitudes toward the Court generally have changed.

“As recently as April, Republicans and Democrats had virtually identical positive opinions on the Supreme Court. But not any more,” adds Holland. “That’s the biggest change that the court decision has created.”

The court’s approval rating among Democrats jumped by 23 points; to 73%. Among Republicans, it fell by 21 points, to 31%. Approval of the Supreme Court among independents edged up five points, to 53%.

I’ll end with a story that is a few days old, but still interesting: Mormons quit church in mass resignation ceremony.

A group of about 150 Mormons quit their church in a mass resignation ceremony in Salt Lake City on Saturday in a rare display of defiance ending decades of disagreement for some over issues ranging from polygamy to gay marriage.

Participants from Utah, Arizona, Idaho and elsewhere gathered in a public park to sign a “Declaration of Independence from Mormonism.” [….]

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is known for its culture of obedience, and the mass ceremony was a seldom-seen act of collective revolt.

After gathering in the park, participants hiked a half-mile up nearby Ensign Peak, scaled in 1847 by church President Brigham Young to survey the spot where his Latter-day Saints would build a city.

At the top, those gathered gave three loud shouts of “Freedom,” cheered, clapped and hugged.

The reasons participants gave for leaving their religion included the Mormon church’s political activity directed against the LGBT community, racism and sexism in the church, and the church’s efforts to cover up its own troubling history, which includes violent acts and polygamy.

Now what are your reading recommendations for today?