Is there a new addition to the tree of life?
Via Jennifer Welsh from MSNBC:
Talk about extended family: A single-celled organism in Norway has been called “mankind’s furthest relative.” It is so far removed from the organisms we know that researchers claim it belongs to a new base group, called a kingdom, on the tree of life.
“We have found an unknown branch of the tree of life that lives in this lake. It is unique! So far we know of no other group of organisms that descend from closer to the roots of the tree of life than this species,” study researcher Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi, of the University of Oslo, in Norway, said in a statement.
The primordial animal from As lake, 30 km south of Oslo, does not fit on any of the main branches of the tree of life. Kamran Shalchian-Tabrizi had to create a new main branch, called Collodictyon.
The organism, a type of protozoan, was found by researchers in a lake near Oslo. Protozoans have been known to science since 1865, but because they are difficult to culture in the lab, researchers haven’t been able to get a grip on their genetic makeup. They were placed in the protist kingdom on the tree of life mostly based on observations of their size and shape.
In this study, published March 21 in the journal Molecular Biology Evolution, the researchers were able to grow enough of the protozoans, called Collodictyon, in the lab to analyze its genome. They found it doesn’t genetically fit into any of the previously discovered kingdoms of life. It’s an organism with membrane-bound internal structures, called a eukaryote, but genetically it isn’t an animal, plant, fungus, alga or protist (the five main groups of eukaryotes).
Particle Physics Taxonomy
From Sean Carroll in Cosmic Variance:
(click to see the large picture, or go to the blog post)
Of course, figuring out the mysteries of science is, well, hard…and many…even educated people don’t understand how it all works.
Though this talk is long, there is a point in which Ricard Dawkins points out that “common sense” is insufficient to understand science:
This might sound arrogant. But let me try to explain it this way: “common sense” is what many use to get through their lives on a day to day basis. For example: if someone in your day-to-day life is trying to sell you on something that seems strange to you (e. g., “doesn’t pass the smell test”), then you are probably wise to reject it. However, in science, many of the strange sounding things happen to be true!
I still remember one of my college physics classes: we were studying how light is polarized and the effects of filters. There was some positing of filters such that when two of these filters were in series, no light got through. But if you put a third polarizing filter in front of those two, light appeared to get through….I said something and my physics professor said “it doesn’t make sense, does it Mr. Nanyes?” 🙂
But…it worked, just as the mathematics said it would.
I’ll give another example of how “what makes sense in our day-to-day lives” is nonsense; this one is very concrete. This comes from General Curtis LeMay’s book: Mission with LeMay.
Then Colonel LeMay was in charge of a B-17 unit in Germany; the B-17 was a bomber which carried several 50 caliber machine guns for defense against fighter attacks.
The guns were operated in turrets, blisters or windows, and the gunners were in charge of their guns. The gunners were told to NOT oil their guns because the oil would freeze at the altitudes at which the B-17 flew and fought. They were told to clean their guns with gasoline. But, as LeMay said “everyone knows that oil is good for gun” and though that they knew better (many hunted prior to the war or were skilled with other guns). And much to their sorrow and horror…the oiled guns….froze up when they had to shoot at attacking fighters.
“Common sense” (thought that worked well in day-to-day life) was nonsense in this foreign environment!
So what about Jon Stewart’s point about “faith”? Well, it is true that scientists are VERY reluctant to overturn a long established theory that has worked very well for a long time. It does happen (quantum mechanics and relativity theory superseded classical mechanics….in a way) but only after a great deal of checking and rechecking.
Here is an example of what typically happens: way back when, people used classical mechanics to predict the orbits of planets. But the predictions for Uranus were a bit off; one possibility was that classical mechanics was wrong (unlikely…and classical mechanics works very well for planetary orbit predictions). The other possibility: something out there had a large mass and was throwing things off. That lead to the discovery of Neptune. Click the link to Greg Mayer’s article at Why Evolution is True for the detailed story; it is fascinating.
Seeing this photo makes me a bit nostalgic. I grew up on air force bases and as a little boy, I loved books about military aircraft. I thought that this was the coolest photo: I loved the glass nose, the gun turrets and just the whole plane in general. I also found war movies to be exciting.
Now when I see this, I think of the horror: I think of the statistics: a B-17 tour was between 25 to 35 missions (depending on when the tour was). Loss rates were between 2 and 5 percent. Even at 3 percent: the probability of finishing 25 missions was 46.7 percent and the probability of finishing 35 missions was 34 percent. But it is worse than that: sometimes a plane would return with wounded or dead crew members: a German fighter might not shoot down the plane but still kill some of the crew.
I think of crew members burning to death as the plane caught fire or being ripped to pieces by machine guns or 20 mm cannon shells.
Of course, there is the horror of those who are under the bombs and the fighter pilots who had to fly into massed gunfire. But being that my dad served 23 years in the Air Force and that I served in the Navy, my thoughts immediately turn to the bomber crews.
Ironically, I spent several years in Japan (and was born there!); as a young teenager I lived in Tachikawa Air Force base, which was a Japanese fighter base in World War II (to protect Tokyo); I also lived in Green Park, which was made from the old Musashino aircraft engine factory:
At the top of the photo is the entrance to the plant…which was turned into this housing area:
Note: the building was very heavily constructed, though the B-29’s did manage to blow off one wing. The rest were more or less intact.
And yes, I thought that the B-29 was cool too. I even built a model of one:
In fact, the B-50 (a heavily upgraded B-29) was still in service when I was in early grade school.
Nevertheless, as an older person, I tend to associate the B-29 with the horrors they caused on the ground:
You are seeing about 1.8 square miles being burned; about 2100 people died in that attack. The Tokyo raid (the March 9 raid) was much worse; 15.8 square miles were burned and about 80,000 people died.
So when I see the cool looking bombers, I cannot divorce my thoughts from the horror in the planes and the horrors going on beneath the planes.
Note: this is NOT a “Japan was a victim” type of post. Not in the least.
It is just that when I was young, I could see the “cool machinery” of war and not automatically think about what the machinery was used for.
And yes, I still have a soft spot for the large military planes; for example I enjoyed this video of the Russian “Bear” Bomber:
(I’ll bet that those fuel efficient turboprops don’t look so silly these-a-days)
And don’t forget the B-52 (I once lived on Ellsworth Air Force Base, which housed SAC B-52’s)
As awesome as these aircraft are, they are still…..well…killing machines.
I admit that I backed then Senator Obama from the beginning, when he announced in Springfield. In fact, I was there.
I loved the fact that he is intellectual and doesn’t try to hide it. I still think that he is a brilliant, classy man of excellent deportment. But I have to admit that he has struggled with some of the “high profile” items in his agenda and that I share some of the frustration that other liberals have, though I am not close to giving up on him. (Now if you talk about the Senate…I am very close to giving up on that stupid institution).
But one of the things that gave Obama the most popularity bothered me:
When I head this, I found myself saying “BS”; I have nothing in common with a large swath of “red America”; those people live in a different universe than I do.
Obama flat out said that we could work with Republicans:
(see about 1:00 to 1:20)
Well, the fact is that some differences are so great that they cannot be bridged; for example, you can’t work with a creationist to design a competent science class!
Washington will remain the object of scorn as a dysfunctional capital, and absent a new Obama approach, the GOP can act with the confidence that only Democrats will pay a price for the failure of comity.
This problem goes directly to the tensions in Obamaism. As a candidate, Obama pledged to change the tone in Washington and restore amicable relations between the parties. But he also promised to accomplish large things, including a substantial reform of the health-care system, major action to ease global warming and a reshaped and more responsible financial system.
At some point, Obama’s ambitions were destined to collide with the views of a Republican Party fundamentally opposed to almost everything he wants to do. Obama could try to get big things done or he could work easily with Republicans, but he could not do both.
As a result, he found himself leaning entirely on support from his own party, forcing a strategy of inside deal-making. This alienated the many rank-and-file Americans who don’t like the looks of such arrangements, however necessary they are.
A related contradiction was between Obama’s commitment to sweeping change and his soothing pragmatism that disdains public fights. In the campaign, this allowed him to unite a left that believed in his promises of transformation with a center that appreciated his conciliatory style.
You know, some things are impossible to do; it is almost as if I made a commitment this year to both get back up to 300 pounds in the bench press (which would require that I gain muscle) AND to walk 100 miles in 24 hours (which would require that I remain light or even get lighter).
Today’s daily address:
Watch airline pilots tackle cross winds on landings (from 3 quarks daily)
This is the Airbus A380 Jumbo Jet. It is HUGE!I admit that I have always had a soft spot for very large airplanes.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
The world’s largest jumbo jet will arrive at Queens’s JFK Airport next week.
The double-decker A380 Airbus will fly from New York to Dubai three times a week starting next Friday.
The super-jumbo jet has a wingspan as long as a football field, an onboard lounge and bar, seats that lie flat and bathrooms with showers.
The Port Authority spent almost $180 million upgrading a terminal in order to accommodate bigger and heavier aircraft.
How big is it?
Mind you, a 747 is HUGE.
Of course, this was quite an engineering feat. To see some of the many challenges that had to be overcome, read this Popular Mechanics article.
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