Mammoths according to the bible

I’ve had this think again.  I wondered how old the earth is, according to the christian bible. On “god and science” I found this:

Archbishop Ussher took the genealogies of Genesis, assuming they were complete, and calculated all the years to arrive at a date for the creation of the earth on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C.

Okay, so bible-addicts should agree that the world is a bit over 6000 years old, as a result of 4004+2014. That makes 4017 years. No, not 4018 as it’s not past October 23rd yet this year. Please pay attention!  😉

This means that they’ll never believe something that I found in the New York Times:

scientists digging in the republic of Georgia have found 1.7-million-year-old fossil human skulls

The skull is at best 6000 years old as by then the Christian god wrapped up his 6-day working week and declared the world done. Either that or Georgia was an exception to the rule and was created earlier. Perhaps a pilot project? Well, probably not, an infallible god doesn’t need that.

So when we can safely assume that, mammoths can’t be as old as scientists declare either. Last year the British Daily Mail reported about a 39,000 year old woolly mammoth going on display. Rubbish of course, since the world was created only 6000 years ago! Therefore we can only agree with the creationists who fully believe that carbon dating is bullshit. These carbon-daters find stuff that’s much older than the world, so they’re all liars and frauds, so go grab your creationist science book and feel like you’ve learnt something good today.

Rock around your inner clock

“Almost all organisms, from bacteria to mammals, have a circadian clock—a mechanism in their cells which keeps them in sync with Earth’s day-and-night cycle. But many organisms follow other rhythms as well. Now, new research provides the first evidence that animals have molecular cycles independent of the circadian rhythm. They include a sea louse whose swimming patterns sync up with the tides, and a marine worm that matures and spawns in concert with the phases of the moon. The discoveries suggest that noncircadian clocks might be common and could explain a variety of biological rhythms.”

Read the entire article at ScienceMag. 🙂

Could a computer save lost languages of the ancient world?

Could a computer save languages from extinction?
(found on ScienceRecorder)

Could a computer save lost languages of the ancient world?

Until now, saving languages from extinction largely depended on whether computer scientists could create algorithms able to capture samples before individuals speaking the language died off.

Now, it seems living speakers of ancient languages may not even be a requirement.

According to a new report, a Canadian scientist suspects that advanced computer programs could be used to recreate dead languages. The research team, comprised of Alexandre Bouchard-Cote at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and his co-workers at the University of California Berkeley, posits that dead languages could be reconstructed by feeding modern successors into computer programs configured to build extinct languages word by word.

Bouchard-Cote says a machine-learning algorithm could identify changes before they actually occur, a technological advancement that could be reversed-engineered to recreate dead languages. Citing an example of sound shifting, researchers said the well known Canadian Shift, where many Canadians now say “aboot” instead of “about,” is just one example that shows promising signs.

In a proof of concept, researchers reconstructed a set of languages from a database of more than 142,000 words that form 637 Austronesian languages — many of which are spoken in Southeast Asia, the Pacific, and regions in Asia. The program was able to accurately suggest how certain languages sounded and also identified which sounds were most likely to change.

The computer program could provide scientists around the world with potent tool for staving off the extinction of a number of languages, many of which are already on the decline. For centuries scientists have had to depend on deciphering lost languages by hand, relying on bits of parchment and other historical artifacts.

The language program is widely seen as a major advancement for language technologies in general. Researchers involved in the project say it is a compelling example of how big data and machine learning are beginning to make a significant impact on all facets of knowledge. That said, it is not the first time the idea of using computers to halt the decline of languages has come about. In mid-2012, Google announced its intention to collaborate with scholars, researchers, and language communities, through an initiative called the Endangered Languages Project. Through the project, people can learn about the Earth’s endangered languages follow the documentation being created to preserve them.

The paper is published in the most recent edition of the  journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Science in sign language

As found on tor.com:

New Signs Created to Communicate Science in ASL

Did you know that most versions of sign language do not have established vocabularies for scientific terms? In an effort to change this, reseachers at the University of Washington have been developing these terms, and with the help of Lydia Callis (the amazing ASL interpreter who we saw beside Mayor Bloomberg during Hurricane Sandy), they’re going to teach you how science works in American Sign Language.

Because the deaf community need these signs to be useful in their every day lives, the University of Washington has been showing different versions of the same terms on their ASL-STEM forum. Then users can vote on which sign they prefer for any given word, allowing the community to chose what is right for their language. This type of crowd-sourcing in the development of new terminology is made possible largely throught he advances the internet has provided us.

With any luck, these terms will make it much easier for those with hearing impairment of any kind to pursue classes and careers in science and engineering! Which is amazing. Go science!

Hit the link to tor.com for some more if you are curious.

We are our data storage

DNA: The Ultimate Hard Drive

sn-storage.jpg

Genetic hard drive. Scientists have found a way to store an entire textbook in the code of DNA.
Credit: Sergey Volkov/iStockphoto

 

When it comes to storing information, hard drives don’t hold a candle to DNA. Our genetic code packs billions of gigabytes into a single gram. A mere milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare. All of this has been mostly theoretical—until now. In a new study, researchers stored an entire genetics textbook in less than a picogram of DNA—one trillionth of a gram—an advance that could revolutionize our ability to save data.

A few teams have tried to write data into the genomes of living cells. But the approach has a couple of disadvantages. First, cells die—not a good way to lose your term paper. They also replicate, introducing new mutations over time that can change the data.

To get around these problems, a team led by George Church, a synthetic biologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, created a DNA information-archiving system that uses no cells at all. Instead, an inkjet printer embeds short fragments of chemically synthesized DNA onto the surface of a tiny glass chip. To encode a digital file, researchers divide it into tiny blocks of data and convert these data not into the 1s and 0s of typical digital storage media, but rather into DNA’s four-letter alphabet of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts. Each DNA fragment also contains a digital “barcode” that records its location in the original file. Reading the data requires a DNA sequencer and a computer to reassemble all of the fragments in order and convert them back into digital format. The computer also corrects for errors; each block of data is replicated thousands of times so that any chance glitch can be identified and fixed by comparing it to the other copies.

To demonstrate its system in action, the team used the DNA chips to encode a genetics book co-authored by Church. It worked. After converting the book into DNA and translating it back into digital form, the team’s system had a raw error rate of only two errors per million bits, amounting to a few single-letter typos. That is on par with DVDs and far better than magnetic hard drives. And because of their tiny size, DNA chips are now the storage medium with the highest known information density, the researchers report online today in Science.

Don’t replace your flash drive with genetic material just yet, however. The cost of the DNA sequencer and other instruments “currently makes this impractical for general use,” says Daniel Gibson, a synthetic biologist at the J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, “but the field is moving fast and the technology will soon be cheaper, faster, and smaller.” Gibson led the team that created the first completely synthetic genome, which included a “watermark” of extra data encoded into the DNA. The researchers used a three-letter coding system that is less efficient than the Church team’s but has built-in safeguards to prevent living cells from translating the DNA into proteins. “If DNA is going to be used for this purpose, and outside a laboratory setting, then you would want to use DNA sequence that is least likely to be expressed in the environment,” he says. Church disagrees. Unless someone deliberately “subverts” his DNA data-archiving system, he sees little danger.

http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/08/written-in-dna-code.html