Archive for May, 2008

According to the Brazilian government, the destruction of the Amazon Rainforest is rising once again despite new laws against illegal logging.   Deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest has been declining for three consecutive years until earlier this year when preliminary satellite data from the National Space Research Center detected a spike in logging activities.  The Brazilian Amazon covers about 1.6 million square miles, which is 60 percent of the country.  About 20 percent of the rainforestforest has already been destroyed as of now.

An Aerial Map of the Amazon Rainforest, Where the Brown is Deforested Areas in the Green Rainforest

The government sent environmental agents and federal police units to prevent and halt illegal logging in jungle regions in response to the rising levels of deforestation.  The clampdown was actually met with violent protests from workers because it forced many illegal sawmills as well as around 15,500 tons of illegally felled wood to be handed over to government agents.   

Fortunately, this new government crackdown has reduced deforestation by 80 percent since environmental officials learned about the change.  Unfortunately, as long as there are poor people fighting for survival in Brazil, they will do whatever it takes to feed their families.  So, a social solution is just as necessary as an environmental one.


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Today, I will have cracked two benchmarks on my blog.  First, my last post has received over 200 views in a single day.  Second, this is my 100th blog post!  Hooray!  Now for the actual post.

A United States biotechnology company named BioArts International announced that it will auction off the right for five dog owners to have their pet cloned.  The bidding will begin at $100,000.  Currently, BioArts is the only company in the world that is licensed to clone dogs, cats and endangered species.

How Dogs are Cloned

It uses the same cloning method which produced Dolly, everybody’s favorite cloned sheep.  She was the first mammal to be cloned in July of 1996 from an adult cell.  The clone did not leave a long life as it was prone to infections and diseases.  Dogs are one of the more difficult mammals to clone because of their extensive genome size.   After this, BioArts may not clone any more dogs.

Now, cloning is a huge moral, as well as scientific issue.  Questions arise like, “What about human cloning?”  “Do clones have a soul or are they just like livestock?”  “Can I use clone parts to extend my life.”  Personally, I find this a pretty scary development.  What if some one like Hitler decided to clone himself?  There was a book called House of the Scorpion, in which a young clone discovers that his body parts are to be used to extend the life of his original owner.  Although this is an interesting idea, cloning can definately go too far.  We need to watch where the line in the sand is and be wary not to cross it.

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This discovery hearkens back to Roy Chapman Andrew’s expedition into the Mongolian desert (one of the real life inspirations for Indiana Jones (can’t wait to see the new one)).  Scientists say they have found dinosaur tracks on the Arabian Peninsula.  This new discovery may shed some more light on where dinosaurs lived, their migration patterns, and how they evolved through time.  A Yemeni journalist first made the discovery and members of the Sana’a University in Yemen identified and cleaned the footprints.

The Fossilized Dinosaur Footprints

The tracks are that of a large ornithopod dinosaur (or large lipped dinosaur) and a herd of 11 sauropods (lizard hipped dinosaurs that include the huge, long-necked Apatosaurus (formerly known as Brontosaurus), Brachiosaurus, and Diplodocus) walking along a coastal mudflat in Yemen.

The tracks preserved in the rocks at the site are the footprints of 11 small and large herbivorous sauropods which lived in the Jurassic and Cretaceous moving in a group.  Surprisingly, a herbivorous ornihropod, another dinosaur species that walked on its two hind legs, seemed to be moving in tandom with the group. 

Until now, no dinousaur tracks were found in the Middle East.  Even more surprisingly, only a few fossils have been discovered on the peninsula which is known as the cradle of life.

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Adult European River Lampreys live in the sea near the shore.  In autumn, adults usually undergo reproductive migration from the sea to the rivers giving them their Anglicized name.  During reproductive migration and reproduction, adults do not feed, but instead use their lipid reserves.  They spawn in pre-dug-out pits in river beds, after which they die.   

A European River Lamprey Mouth

The blindlarvae are filter feeders and live mostly buried in river beds where they were conceived.  When they reach around 13 cm., the larvae will metamorphose into juveniles and migrate back to the sea.  They will live there until they are ready to reproduce and feed on fish by sucking out blood and organs by latching onto the fish with their sharp teeth.  After all of the organisms’ tissues are eaten, the lampreys will detach. 

They reside all around Europe in temperate coastal waters.  They can grow up to 50 centimeters long and .15 kilograms. in the wild.  They have characteristic yellow dorsal portion (back)  and a pale white ventral portion (belly).

I found most of this information on a website begun by Dr. E. Wilson, a world renowned entomologist and ecologist called the Encyclopedia of Life.  Check it out for yourself.  http://www.eol.org/index

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Divers have recently found a tiny gold joint toothpick and earwax spoon in the trail of a shipwrecked Spanish galleon off of the Florida Keys.  It is believed to be more than 385 years old.

The Golden Tool

The tool weighs only an ounce, but its value is around $100,000.  It belonged to someone alive during the late 16th or early 17th century.  The divers, were searching for the shipwreck of the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita that sank in a 1622 hurricane, also recovered ceramic pieces, spikes, ships’ fittings, rigging elements and two skeleton keys.

The search for Santa Margarita artifacts began more than a quarter-century ago by the late, famous Key West treasure hunter Mel Fisher.  Almost a year ago, Blue Water divers also located gold bars, gold chains and a lead box containing thousands of pearls that were carried by the Margarita.  The value of that previous find was estimated at more than $2 million.  Hopefully, divers will be able to find the wreck itself soon.

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Astronomers are befuddled by the discovery of a pulsar with a strange orbit that has never before been found.  Pulsars are fast-spinning neutron stars that beam regular pulses of radio waves into space.   They are born from a supernova, the explosion of a dying, massive star (but sometimes the phenomenon creates black holes instead).  They were first discovered by British physicist Antony Hewish and his student Jocelyn Bell in 1967.

An Image of a Pulsar in the Crab Nebula

The new pulsar was named J1903+0327 (try saying that name 5 times fast), and is located 20,000 light-years away from Earth.  It has a mass around 1.74 times that of the sun, making it heavier than most pulsars as well.  It also has an unusually fast rotation of 2.15 milliseconds, or 465 revolutions per second.

The international team of astronomers who discovered the strange body believes that the pulsar may have been born in a dense region of stars known as a globular cluster.  It was then probably thrown out by the star it once orbited.  Another popular theory is that the pulsar may have two companion stars instead of one.

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As most of you know, there was a deadly cyclone in Myanmar and a huge earthquake in China.  I believe that the least I could do is dedicate a post to the innocent victims of these terrible disasters and thank those who have worked to help the victims and their families.


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