30,000 year old giant virus

New giant virus, Mollivirus sibericum, has been discovered in the melting permafrost of the Siberian ArcticPithovirus sibericum, another giant virus described last year, came from the same sample.

Two interesting details:

  • More giant viruses! Their discovery changing the interpretations of how viruses evolved. Nifty!
  • Global climate change will have more frozen viruses thawing out. Some might be virulent.

I listened to this Radiolab broadcast on giant viruses a few weeks ago right before stumbling across this story. It’s obvious in retrospect, but it surprised me how viruses actually evolved to become smaller.

30,000 year old giant virus discovered in Siberian permafrost

30,000 year old giant virus discovered in Siberian permafrostMollivirus sibericum is from the same sample in which Pithovirus sibericum was discovered last year. It’ll be interesting to see what else comes up, because the relatively recent giant viruses, hiding in plain sight, have altered the understanding of how viruses evolved. It’ll also be interesting to see whether any of these viruses will thaw in the global climate change and turn out to be virulent.

By the way, it’s not all that shocking to find a frozen virus 30,000 years old. They’re not even technically alive. Hell, there have been 750,000 year old bacteria, actual living organisms, that have been thawed out.

Monkey brain-net

Wiring together a network of brains cannot go awry, can it?

He dismissed comparisons with science fiction plots, however, saying: “We’re conditioned by movies and Hollywood to think that everything related to science is dangerous and scary. These scary scenarios never crossed my mind and I’m the one doing the experiments.”

Or he could read science fiction, which be uncannily prescient with future-tech concepts. This is wondrous and fascinating research, but the way the ethical concerns gets waved off as Hollywood-induced paranoia, in the same way genetic engineering does, is unnerving.

Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia

It’s a 500 page encyclopedia of the knowledge of five shamans on the uses of local plants in treating ailments. This is a brilliant project, but there’s one kink that bugs me

The Encyclopedia is written only in Matsés. It is by and for the Matsés and no translations will be made into Spanish or English. No scientific names are included nor photographs of flowers or other easily identifiable characteristics of the plants to outsiders.

This is extremely logical, as pharmaceutical companies will sweep in and rip them off immediately. They’ll likely have someone learn Matsés just to glean hints of what to explore and exploit from a pirated copy of the encyclopedia. Currently, I don’t see that the work is copyrighted in any way. Copyright is one of those things that is abused horribly, but if anyone deserves the protection of copyright law, it’s an indigenous culture with unique knowledge that could be of great benefit to mankind. It’s the first thing that popped into my head when I read that passage. It’s also currently the top comment on the article on the site. Hopefully this will be addressed, because this encyclopedia is obviously a great work.

vis Metafilter

the parietal lobes of self-reported alien abductees

Daily Grail has an interesting take on the findings of a neurologist who studied the electrical activity of the parietal lobe of people who report themselves as alien abductees.

…we still don’t know why a parietal abnormality found in different auto-proclaimed abductees, would end up rendering ‘hallucinations’ with such a persistent narrative.

He relates to to the peculiarly consistent visions from the use of ayahuasca. I’m with him on this.