Dream of the Dragon

Month: May, 2010

The heart of it.

by Justin

News of Elena Kagan’s nomination to replace that magnificent dissenter John Paul Stevens just isn’t as thrilling as I may have hoped. The tedium of the news flow – the mounting disaster in the Gulf, car bomb incompetence, and the labyrinth of British elections – while interesting and important, isn’t moving me to write. The benefit of a blog is that I can be as indulgent as I like and don’t for the moment need to cover Ms. Kagan, though Supreme Court Justices are in many ways more important than presidents. So I’m going to wax a little poetic and remind myself what I want to do and why I believe in journalism. This one’s more personal than the usual scathing account of Ahmadinejad’s antics or excitement about the latest NASA future science. Read the rest of this entry »

Resurrecting Mammoths

by Justin

Hold on to your butts. University of Manitoba professor Kevin Campbell has ushered in an era of “virtual scientific time travel” by recreating the hemoglobin of the long extinct woolly mammoth. And if that immediately reminds you of Jurassic Park, it’s only going to get more uncanny:

Campbell and his team were able to extract DNA from three woolly mammoths preserved in the Siberian permafrost. And because mammoths are so similar to elephants, he was able to modify living elephant DNA, letter by letter, to make working mammoth genes. He inserted those genes into e. coli bacteria.

Then, Campbell says, “the e.coli simply followed the recipe” and made mammoth hemoglobin that did “everything it would have done if it had been inside a mammoth.”

That’s taken from the NPR All Things Considered story about this latest bit of science fiction. Read the rest of this entry »

A Tree Killing a Whale

by Justin

A bit of Friday lightness. The British Kew Gardens joined with an organization called Velvet to launch an excellent children’s competition with the following prompt:

Imagine your dream tree! What does it look like? What grows on it? What kinds of insects, animals and birds live there? Let your imagination run wild and then draw a picture of this amazing tree.

Every entry is rewarded with a new tree planted and a special certificate honoring that contribution to ‘Trees for Cities.’ And then special prizes are available to the winners selected in the competition. The Guardian covered it in an online gallery showcasing a good range of artistic skill and childlike insanity. Read the rest of this entry »