Amazing Killifish… but which one?

The Daily Mail had this little snippet news item for no apparent reason except oddness…

The fish that can survive for months in a tree

…discussing the ‘killifish’, as if that said enough. Not so. As Wikipedia explains a killifish can be anyone of over 1200 species of fish – the name is from Dutch and means ‘puddle fish’. However only one ‘killifish’ is able to self-fertilise – the only known vertebrate that does so – and that’s the Mangrove Rivulus. Oddly they are either male or hermaphroditic – there are no females.

Kind of reminds me of Cordwainer Smith‘s tale in which a human colony on a far-flung world suffers a horrible death that only targets women. By injecting male hormones to keep alive the last woman, a doctor, allows the colony to survive by enabling men to become pregnant. Thus all the couples on that world are homosexual, give birth via caesarean, and fight sword-fights for their lovers. But their psychology suffers and they become something not quite human anymore. Yet if we were fish we could change sex depending on our size and age, or even our birth temperature.

What we find un-natural, Nature has a way of giving us even more extreme examples.

A real Flying Saucer from the 1960s

“Star Trek” (1968), “2001:A Space Odyssey” and “The Time Machine” (1960) mentioned orbiting nuclear weapons, but few details have arisen of how advanced such plans were. Mark Wade’s Encyclopedia Astronautica discusses one US design which, oddly enough, is a flying saucer…

NAA Manned Bombardment and Control Vehicle

…armed with four H-bombs and controlling potentially dozens of orbiting nuke platforms. A rather scary prospect which, as Mark discusses, was possibly developed to the point of drop testing via balloon in outback Australia in the 1960s.

Sorry for the Inconvenience

Whoah! What a scare! I thought the whole of this blog had been trashed by a bad back-up plug-in. No. Instead I needed to upgrade WordPress and then let Fantastico put it all back together… whew!

So I’m back-up and backed-up ๐Ÿ™‚

Print your own organs | COSMOS magazine

Body prints! Imagine reduplicating your own body from a high-resolution scan… well it’s not that unlikely given the advances happening in tissue engineering. According to this article: Print your own organs | COSMOS magazine it may be a reality 10-30 years from now.

May be.

Our understanding of the genetics of cell differentiation is advancing rapidly and may well allow our own stem cells to be arranged and activated into whole organs, including blood vessels and nerves. Eventually I think we’ll be able to “print” whole functioning bodies – with sufficient resolution, even reconstituting brains.

However what will the legal/ethical status be of people who are dead and yet still existing as records of their bodies/brains? Alive? Half-life? Or legally dead? Will a “reprint” be legally a person? Or merely a “meat puppet” of a dead-person?

I mean that as pejoratively as the word “sock puppet” is meant on the Web. What rights will reprinted dead people have? If any?

Carbon 14 Dating On Shroud of Turin Were Botched 2005

In 1988 the enigmatic Shroud of Turin was carbon-14 dated to the 13-14th Centuries, roughly its age if it was a fake. However in 2005 chemical evidence arose that suggested the sample area was in fact Medieval, but the rest of the Shroud wasn’t. The samples had come from a patch invisibly rewoven into the Shroud – over the centuries the Shroud has been nearly destroyed several times, with successful repairs masked as the real thing…

Carbon 14 Dating On Shroud of Turin Were Botched 2005

…as Dan Porter explains in this article the Shroud doesn’t show any of the breakdown products that’d be expected from a 700 year old artefact, but plenty that’d be expected from a cloth 2,000 years old.

I believe the Shroud captures the in-situ image of Jesus’s corpse – it may, or may not, tell us something about his putative resurrection too. And more probably it may explain just what the disciples viewed and handled in the wake of that event.

Bipedal Apes before Man

Some 20 odd million years ago a species of African ape became bipedal by a homeotic mutation being selectively advantageous enough to let the species succeed and to spawn many more species, including our own a few “species generations” down the line. What’s more most of those apes remained significantly bipedal, only occasionally reverting to all-fours, like the gorillas, bonobos and chimps. Aaron Filler published his conclusions along these lines in the open access journal family, Public Library of Science…

ScienceDaily: Early Apes Walked Upright 15 Million Years Earlier Than Previously Thought, Evolutionary Biologist Argues

…and it’s an interesting finding. I wonder why bipedalism succeeded for our ape ancestor and why we didn’t end up knuckle-walking (itself an odd locomotive system, unique to the African apes) too. Gibbons and Orang utans remained bipedal because it works in the trees, but our ancestors left the rainforests and ventured into more open terrain around lakes.

An interesting thought, in a SETI context, is why did it take 20 million years for the freedom of the hands allowed by bipedalism to produce an intelligent tool-wielding species? To me that indicates that intelligence wasn’t a given even once bipedalism appeared. Sure apes are smart animals, but none ever got to the level of smashing rocks to make cutting edges and making fire – the two earliest “technologies” unique to humans.

What happened to trigger that?

Power from space? Pentagon likes the idea – Space News – MSNBC.com

Space-Based Solar Power is the new buzz, at least for difficult to supply battlezones. And the US Department of Defense has come up with some new ideas about how to make it work…

Power from space? Pentagon likes the idea – Space News – MSNBC.com

…the Internet-way of generating the ideas was, of course, to blog on it – and they were flooded by new ideas on just how to overcome the problems of past conceptual studies. One new idea is to use mirrors to focus onto a combined photovoltaic/antenna system. The advantage is that the heavy power distribution system of traditional designs is eliminated as well as a moving slip-ring power-transfer system between the rotating collectors and the antenna complex. That’s a lot of weight cut out, plus a reduction in the amount of PVs needed. The PV-antenna system also gravity anchors the whole assembly, pointing the business end at the market – the Earth below.

And the DoD is pushing for megawatt demonstrators in the next few years, which is a fantastic idea for creating raw data on just how well a power-beaming system works busting through the atmosphere and being converted from waves to volts.

Early Oceans of Venus – space – 10 October 2007 – New Scientist Space

Venus is currently drier than a bone. But the high deuterium ratio in the atmosphere hints at isotopic fractionation of a LOT of water in the deep past. Enough for a shallow ocean, or perhaps a deeper one with a bit of tweaking. That’s uncontroversial in most planetological discussions, but what is difficult to determine is just how long that primal ocean lasted for. David Grinspoon and Mark Bullock have suggested strongly that clouds would allow an ocean to last at least a billion years or two, making Venus habitable much longer than previous estimates of a mere 0.5 billion years. In that time enough oxygen might have accumulated from dissociation to give life an oxygenic head-start…
Did Venus’s ancient oceans incubate life? – space – 10 October 2007 – New Scientist Space

…theoretically spores from microbes can be lofted into space electromagnetically and because Venus has no observed magnetic field the atmosphere interacts directly with the solar wind. Life could then be blown outwards to Earth, Mars and even a wet, warm early Titan.

Cosmic ray deflector – space – 13 October 2007 – New Scientist Space

Getting around the planets has one major challenge – cosmic rays. A continual shower of high-energy particles that electrocute cells with every passage through our bodies is a slow way to get cancer and degrade one’s nervous system. Now an engineer has a better idea…
Forget rockets รขโ‚ฌโ€œ go to Mars in a cosmic fruit bowl – space – 13 October 2007 – New Scientist Space

…electrostatic deflection of the particles, at least the lower energy ones that do the most damage because of their overwhelming numbers.

Forecasters predict morning drizzle on Titan – space – 11 October 2007 – New Scientist Space

Dreary mornings on Titan…

Forecasters predict morning drizzle on Titan – space – 11 October 2007 – New Scientist Space

…that lurid orange sky that Huygens showed us could really get to me after a while. A light rain would be a welcome change. When Bussard fusors are up and running a shuttle to Titan would take 11-13 weeks, much better than Cassini’s six-plus years.