Japanese scientists said Tuesday they had produced a mouse that tweets like a bird in a genetically engineered "evolution" which they hope will shed light on the origins of human language.
A team of researchers at the University of Osaka created the animal in their "Evolved Mouse Project," in which they use genetically modified mice that are prone to miscopying DNA and thus to mutations.
"Mutations are the driving force of evolution. We have cross-bred the genetically modified mice for generations to see what would happen," lead researcher Arikuni Uchimura said.
"We checked the newly born mice one by one... One day we found a mouse that was singing like a bird," he said, noting that the "singing mouse" was born by chance but that the trait will be passed on to future generations. Click here to see and hear the singing mouse.
"I was surprised because I had been expecting mice that are different in physical shape," he said by telephone, adding that in fact the project had also produced "a mouse with short limbs and a tail like a dachshund."
The laboratory, directed by professor Takeshi Yagi at the Osaka University's Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences in western Japan, now has more than 100 "singing mice" for further research.
The team hopes they will provide clues on how human language evolved, just as researchers in other countries study songbirds such as finches to help them understand the origins of human language.
Scientists have found that birds use different sound elements, put them together into chunks like words in human languages and then make strings of them to sing "songs," that are subject to certain linguistic rules.
"Mice are better than birds to study because they are mammals and much closer to humans in their brain structures and other biological aspects," Uchimura said.
"We are watching how a mouse that emits new sounds would affect ordinary mice in the same group... in other words if it has social connotations," he said, adding that ordinary mice squeak mainly under stress.
Considering that mutant mice tweet louder when put in different environments or when males are put together with females, Uchimura said their chirps "may be some sort of expressions of their emotions or bodily conditions."
The team has found that ordinary mice that grew up with singing mice emitted fewer ultrasounds than others, which could indicate that communication methods can spread in the same group like a dialect.
Uchimura dreams of further "evolution" of mice through genetic engineering.
"I know it's a long shot and people would say it's 'too absurd'... but I'm doing this with hopes of making a Mickey Mouse some day," he said.
As long as the Boston Red Sox are going to have the highest payroll in MLB next season—pending a blockbuster move by the Yankees—they might as well keep the wallet open. General Manager Theo Epstein had made some key additions, but there are still holes to fill and problems in the lineup that need to be addressed. The pitching staff is short on lefties while batting order is riddled with them. Boston’s current 25-man roster is the obvious favorite in the AL East—on paper—but there’s still the possibility of implosion. Principal owner John Henry, ever mindful of his franchise’s revenue stream, can’t afford to have his $180 million club sink to the middle of the standings again this year.
The Red Sox feature a ferocious batting order. The problem is that most of those strong batters are left-handed, leaving the offense open to strikeouts from late inning lefty specialists and southpaw starters. One more right-handed power bat would balance out the lineup; for example, Josh Willingham was a perfect fit for Fenway Park before he was traded to the A’s last Thursday, and now his bat will wilt in the endless, dark dungeon that is the Oakland Coliseum. The Diamondbacks’ Justin Upton also seemed like a genuine fit, but apparently Epstein was against including star reliever Daniel Bard in any potential trade. (The addition of Bobby Jenks may have changed his tune.) If the Snakes were willing to accept a package consisting of Jacoby Ellsbury, Bard, Felix Doubrant and few other prospects, Epstein should have jumped on the offer. Upton is still a young athletic center fielder with enormous upside, and players of his caliber don’t come along very often. He would flourish at Fenway Park and benefit from the deadly lineup surrounding him. As a righty, Upton also fills the immediate hole in an otherwise stellar lineup.
Although the team didn’t make it to the playoffs last season, Sox fans had a lot to be happy about, including Clay Buchholz’s breakout. In 173.2 innings he pitched to a 2.33 ERA and 17 wins, but held a 1.20 WHIP and only struck out 120 batters. The reduction in strikeouts is easy to live with if it means that fewer runs are allowed, but the 67 walks he surrendered killed his overall innings pitched. So far, Buchholz has had an up and down career, but it appears Epstein has total faith in him. But would it be all that surprising to see him regress to a 3.50 ERA and average only five innings a game? The Brewers are constantly looking for pitching, and rumor has it that they’re still in the hunt, even after acquiring Shaun Marcum and Zack Greinke within the last couple of weeks.
At one time, Baseball America ranked Buchholz the best pitching prospect in the minors and now considers him one of the most promising starters in the majors. His skill-set isn’t in question: the general consensus is that he has the makeup of an ace, but does he have the mental ability to pitch adequately in Fenway Park? With five more years of team control left, his value is at an all time high, but he’s not always the most confident of pitchers. Milwaukee’s star outfielder Ryan Braun had a disappointing year—by his standards—and a change of scenery may suit him well. A Buchholz and Ellsbury trade for Braun matches up well for both teams. Boston gets a middle of the order right-handed masher with a team friendly contract and Milwaukee receives another young ace and a speedy and athletic, if injury-prone, center fielder. That said, the deal would lean towards the Red Sox side, so maybe a couple prospects would have to be added in, or maybe even Bard.
Epstein’s had a terrific off-season, dramatically improving the Red Sox, but with some more tinkering he can increase the possibility that the team goes wire-to-wire in 2011, leaving the Yankees in the dust.
Lost is a show about the survivors of a plane crash living on an island. No, wait. It’s about survivors of a plane crash living on an island, trying to get away from an evil monster made out of smoke. No, wait. The smoke monster is being controlled by a mysterious group of people who have lived on the island for years. Natch. Decades. Natch. A thousand years. And there’s a hatch now. And the island also has mystical properties that allow people to heal. But those properties are being controlled by a set of rules that are made by two mysterious figures who represent two sides of mankind and are at war with one another for really silly reasons. Also, there’s a cabin in the jungle that keeps on moving. Oh, and we almost forgot — the island can also travel through time.
Lost isn’t really a show about anything. Or, if you look at it upside-down, it’s a show about everything. Over the course of six seasons, Lost transformed from a simple story about people struggling to survive in surreal circumstances into a show obsessed with its own mythology. As the episodes went on, there was less and less about what the characters wanted and more repositioning of the characters so that they could be in the right place at the right time to learn something about the universe. Luckily for us viewers, the universe of Lost is extremely interesting and complex – kind of like the world of Hard Drive 13, a very Lost-ian series about a young computer hacker uncovering a galaxy-wide conspiracy theory.
Lost has come to an end, and with it, several mysteries that were posited early on in the series were left unsolved. Fans who cried out for answers were thrown a few scraps and told to tune in to Fringe. We decided that it’s time to get off our hammocks, sift through the expansive Lost mythology, and demand an answer to the most dangly of the dangling threads.
1. What caused Walt’s powers?
We learn early on that Walt has special powers (other than his proclivity for being captured). He can make things appear using only his mind. Like in “Special” when he asks his father to look at the picture of a bronze cuckoo clock and a bronze cuckoo crashes into their apartment window. Or when he says a number in backgammon and rolls it. Coincidence? Not likely. Most Lost theorists say that Walt’s powers derive from the same thing that gave Desmond his powers: a prolonged exposure to electromagnetic energy.
2. What caused The Incident? The drilling or the bomb?
The Incident is alluded to a great deal in the early seasons as the reason the hatch exists. If not for The Incident, then no one would have to push the button. If the button isn’t pushed, then the world will end. We find out later that The Incident is when a time-travelling Jack and Company detonate a nuclear weapon at the bottom of a well hosting a pocket of electromagnetic energy, releasing a huge quantity of it. But we’re not quite sure what happens next. Or if the bomb or the drilling is what caused The Incident to occur. Did the bomb do anything? And if it did, why are there no traces of it in current times?
3. Who was shooting at our heroes in the outrigger during their time travels?
Without the supplementary materials that come with the complete set on DVD, we’d have no idea that the outrigger crew chasing Juliet, while she was traveling through time, were members of the Black Rock crew. It’s a small bone thrown to fans who were clamoring to know why someone in a boat would fire without warning. It seemed like they were trying to kill them with great intent. Apparently, this is one thing that the show’s producers had an answer to, but decided not to follow up on for the sake of telling a better story. To quote Damon Lindelof:
“…we started talking about paying that off this season, it felt like the episode was at the service of closing the time loop, as opposed to what the characters might actually be doing in that scenario. It never felt organic. We decided we would rather take our lumps from the people who couldn’t scratch that itch than to produce an episode that was in service of putting people in an outrigger and getting shot at.”
4. Who killed all the Ajira passengers and why?
In the episode “Recon,” we finally see what happened to the remaining passengers on the Ajira flight that brought the Oceanic 6 back to the island: they died. These poor people, who had no idea what they were getting into when they booked their tickets, ended up rotting on the beach. And they weren’t even given the proper respect of having on-screen deaths either. We can kind of assume that the Man in Black killed them all, but there’s no real reason he’d have to. It’s not like they were posing a threat to him. He’d have to have done it purely out of boredom.
5. How was the cabin able to change locations?
There’s a mysterious cabin in the middle of the jungle where a powerful man named Jacob is supposed to live. We learn later on that Ben Linus, who leads Locke to the cabin in the first place, has no idea where Jacob really is, or what he looks like, or what he wants, and that Jacob left the cabin a long time ago. We can even gleam from sparse details that Smoke Monster, aka Man in Black, lived in the cabin after Jacob left it. But we never learn how the cabin is so good at switching locations. It’s there one minute, gone the next. Are we meant to assume that the Smoke Monster is moving the cabin from one place to the next? It’s been two thousand years. You think the guy would settle down.
6. Why did Jacob leave the cabin?
Another cabin-related question: if we’re correct in assuming that Jacob did live in the cabin after Horace and his lady vacated, and that’s why Richard told Ben to look for him there, what made him give up on the place and relocate to the foot of the statue? It’s altogether possible that Richard lied to Ben about where Jacob lived to keep him as far away from him as possible, or that Ben was lying about his knowledge of the cabin. There are too many variables. Let’s just assume that Jacob didn’t have enough room for his giant loom.
7. How were the ancient Egyptians able to build a magical lighthouse?
The Lighthouse is one of those last-minute structures that appeared in Lost’s final season. Why no one had seen the lighthouse up until that point is explained with the fact that the lighthouse can only been seen by someone who is looking for it. So it’s already pretty magical at that point. Upping the magic quotient even higher is the lighthouse’s ability to keep tabs on any of its candidates at any time. How are the ancient Egyptians so adept at building such a magical property? Were they assisted by some power-giving magic juice from the Source, perhaps?
8. Who is Mother, and how is she able to kills all the Romans, burn down the village, and enter the well?
Mother is one of the most mysterious figures in the show. She appears in only one episode as the caretaker of Jacob and his brother but not before she murders their real mother. All we really know about her is that she came to the island by accident, doesn’t like outsiders, and knows a heck of a lot about the mystical properties of the island. At one point, she murders an entire town full of Romans, which strongly suggests that she was the smoke monster before her ward took the mantle.
9. How did Eloise Hawking know Brother Campbell?
There ended up being a lot of connections between the characters during Lost’s seven-year run, but none have seemed as strange as that of Brother Campbell and Eloise Hawking. Brother Campbell is Desmond’s former religious advisor who fires him after finding him drunk. Eloise Hawking is a former Other who killed her own son and tried to undo it in a time-travelling paradox. In what universe would these two people meet to pose for one poorly-Photoshopped picture? Only in this one. And we’ll never know why.
10. Why do some characters have the ability to talk to the dead?
Like Walt’s ability to create objects out of thin air, some other characters have powers that were never fully explained. Both Miles and Hurley have the power to communicate with the dead, albeit in totally different ways. Miles seems to get the short end of the stick. He’s able to only hear the final words of the dead by getting real close to the ground. Hurley can talk to them like they were his best buds asking for a piece of his chicken bucket. No explanation is ever given as to why these two characters have these powers. We’re left to assume that some people have it and some people don’t, and perhaps the island has nothing to do with it.
11. Why was the island underwater in the flash-sideways timeline?
We know that the island sinks when the plug at the source is removed – because the place falls apart in the finale. But there’s no reason the island should be underwater in the flash-sideways timeline. In the flash-sideways timeline, Oceanic Flight 615 never crashes, therefore no one is around to travel back in time and sink the thing. The only answer we might be happy with is that the collective minds of those creating the flash-sideways timeline surmised that only a sunk island would have prevented the plane from crashing, therefore it had to be underwater.
12. If David Shepard is real, then what the hell is he doing with all these people he doesn’t really know?
The flash-sideways timeline is a creation of all the people who have died on Lost. When they die, they immediately enter a place where they’ve forgotten everything that happened on the island, and live their lives in a different way than it actually went. But everyone who exists in the flash-sideways timeline is real. Jack’s father says that explicitly. So then, who the hell is David Shepard, and what is he doing in this cathartic dimension of the mind? If he’s real, then he must be someone else’s kid, because Jack never had a chance to pop a real one out in his lifetime. Does that mean that he’s on loan from someone else’s heaven? How does one get a gig like that, and does it pay well karmicly?
13. Is Michael trapped on the island forever?
In the final scene in the church, Michael is suspiciously absent. We’re led to assume then, that Michael’s spirit is still trapped on the island for killing Ana Lucia and Libby. This doesn’t seem very fair to us, seeing as how pretty much everyone in that room did some pretty horrific things to stay alive, and that Michael didn’t really plan to kill Ana Lucia and Libby, it must be a mistake. Fortunately for Michael, in “The New Man in Charge,” a short that premiered with the DVD box set, Ben Linus and Hurley travel to Santa Rosa to recruit Walt. Their mission? Help Michael move on. WAAAAAAAAAAAAALT!
Chris Littler lives in Hollywood. He has a degree in Dramatic Writing from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University, one of the most prestigious writing programs in America, which he totally plans to hang on the wall when he has a Study. Chris currently covers video games at UGO.com when he’s not performing improv at iO, and is currently writing a one-hour TV pilot with his friend Wes. Like everyone else you know, he has an album available to purchase on iTunes and has lots of things to say on his blog: chrislittler[dot]com.
David Cameron marked a historic moment for Britain last night when he turned on the lights at London's 2012 Olympic Stadium for the first time.
The Prime Minister, flanked by London Mayor Boris Johnson and Games organising chief Lord Coe, pushed the button to switch on the floodlights during a special ceremony at the snow-covered stadium.
It was the first time that all 532 bulbs had been lit together - in a scene that will be repeated during the 2012 Games.
Light show: The Olympic Stadium floodlights are officially switched on by Prime Minister David Cameron
Mr Cameron joked that the £537million stadium in Stratford, east London, looked more like a winter Olympic venue with ski-jumper Eddie the Eagle expected at any moment rather than the setting for the London 2012 summer Games.
But he told the 400-strong invited crowd, which included 2012 builders and a choir of local schoolchildren, at the site that 'the biggest show on earth' will be coming to east London in one year, seven months and seven days.
'It is being delivered on time and on budget thanks to British genius and many of the people here,' he added.
Introductions were carried out by Mr Johnson, who did not seem aware that the lights take up to eight minutes to reach full power.
'They are coming, they are coming,' he told the crowd before all the lights had phased in.
Biggest show on earth: Mr Cameron spoke to schoolchildren alongside London Mayor Boris Johnson who couldn't find anywhere to sit inside the stadium which was covered in snow
He described it as a 'wonderful and historic evening', while also joking that with plans so advanced, including 75 per cent of building work complete, London 2012 might consider holding a snap Olympics now 17 months before the Games 'to catch the world napping'.
There are 14 lighting towers reaching 70m (230ft) above the sports area. Mr Cameron also spoke of changes to unpopular plans to cut £162million from school sport.
Earlier, the Education Department announced it will fund School Sport Partnerships to the end of the summer term 2011 at a cost of £47million, ensuring they can run until the end of the academic year.
Waiting game: The Olympic Stadium is set to be fully delivered next year for completion
Works goes on... The stadium is currently ahead of schedule leading Mr Cameron to joke London should hold a snap Olympics to 'catch the world napping'
A further £65million has been earmarked to enable every secondary school to release one PE teacher for a day a week in the school year 2011-12 and in 2012-13. This recognises the considerable impact the current network of School Sport Co-ordinators have had on PE and school sport throughout the country over the past decade. The Department also announced it will fund the Youth Sport Trust (YST) to expand its Young Ambassadors programme so that every secondary school and some primary schools can create more Young Ambassadors ahead of London 2012. The Government also restated its commitment to a nationwide school sport competition.
Once finished the Olympic Stadium will dominate the skyline in the east of the the capital
Bloated with absurdly extravagant baubles, even the Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog pales in comparison to the Iron Dog 05 Huraxdax.
At $4 million, this gold-plated, wood-fired range is the world's most expensive stove. (Iron Dog also makes a cheaper version in silver for the profligate penny-pincher.)
Designed by sculptor Joseph Michael Neustifter, the Huraxdax is made to order and takes two-and-a-half months to fabricate. Not quite a last-minute stocking stuffer. Not a show pony either.
The Huraxdax stands two-and-a-half feet high, weighs 572 pounds and works at 82% efficiency. (We have no idea how that last statistic was quantified, but it sounds very official.) The gilded range heats up to 1,000-square feet of space, which also makes it the world's most expensive space heater.
Indeed, the Huraxdax is full of practical applications and "can be put to everyday use," according to the Iron Dog website. Perhaps for making pizza. We'd be wary of soiling Midas' stove, but if one can drop $4 mil on a stove, one can spring for a maid.
Stamped on the sides and back of the stove is the word "huraxdax." Our Bavarian is a tad rusty, but we want to believe the reported translation -- "decampment of joy" -- because that makes this the world's saddest and most poetic stove. Maybe your joy departs when you realize you've spent $4 million on a stove. (Don't ask how much the vegetable peeler costs.)
"Nothing is as free as art and the people who love it," the Iron Dog website declares. And nothing is as excessive as the Iron Dog 05 Huraxdax and the people who buy it.
For the rest of my life if anyone ever asks me who I think some of the most interesting book and movie characters are (of all time) I will always mention Willy Wonka. More so the character Gene Wilder played than anything else. He was just such a weirdo and yet so charming, perverted, and awesome at the same time.
I mean talk about an original. And let’s not even mention the Johnny Depp version because I’ll just get really angry. So I decided to see if there were any fans out there who could make some interesting interpretations of the 70s movie character.
Turns out there were a few brave souls. Check out the artwork…
Thanks to the artists at Deviant Art for these. If you need specific credit please contact us. Thanks.
All you art collectors out there. Here is a chance to get a Giclee copy of some of Ian M Sherwin work. Ian is planning on doing a whole series of Marblehead, Massachusetts paintings. His work is amazing.