morning 04.02.16

View From Space Hints at a New Viking Site in North America. This deserves its own post, but it’s a busy morning.

The site is on the southwest coast of Newfoundland, about 300 miles south of L’Anse aux Meadows, the first and so far only confirmed Viking settlement in North America, discovered in 1960.

Pynchon in Public. A podcast devoted to Thomas Pynchon!

Turkey moves to rebuild San Stefano Russian Monument in Istanbul. After the blowup at the Syrian border, Russia and Turkey are attempting to repair relationships by rebuilding monuments from their conflict during World War I. That seems… backwards.

Clinton aides unite on FBI legal strategy. All four Clinton aides in the State Department being interviewed by the FBI have hired the same lawyer (Beth Wilkinson) and each are paying a flat fee. Politico says that the aides must think there must not be much of a case, because they’re not in fear of one person turning on the others, which would made the lawyer’s job difficult. My theory is that they have a plan as to who is going to fall on his sword to protect Hillary. They are the firewall. This is all about coordination. All they have to do is protect Clinton, hope she is elected, and whoever is the fall guy gets the same treatment Scooter Libby received.

My hero: Flann O’Brien by John Banville.

NASA Satellite Images Uncover Underground Forest Fungi.

Rover reveals puzzling sand dunes on Mars. Some of this is only now catching up with the crazy speculation from orbiter photos from the late ’90s.

Possibly one of the last recorded interviews with Dan O’Bannon.

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Anti-languages. The cants of the persecuted and criminal.

The Temple of Bel should not be rebuilt.

We are viruses

One whole endogenous retrovirus genome — and bits of 17 others — were spotted in a study of 2,500 human genomes.”

A whole virus genome contained in the genome of 50 people of those 2,500?! Madness! Up to 8% of the DNA that we consider human derives from viruses. Some elements of human evolution possibly derive from viruses inserted themselves near human genes and changing the way certain genes are expressed.

The best examples are coming from samples in Africa, because of the greater genetic diversity there.

Exciting. I’ve read of this, but it’s more extensive with each passing month.

Yersinia pestis detected in a 5,000 year old skeleton from Russian steppes

The bacteria believed to be the cause of the Black Death has been detected in several bodies from over a hundred tested from the Russian steppes. One is over 5,000 years old and pushed back the first known case back 3,000 years. Another interesting detail is the the disease lacked the adaptation that allows it to survive in the gut of fleas, which made it much hard to transmit.

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.