It’s Friday! Exploding Comets, Burning Ships, and Swimming Dinosaurs!
Another week of grim news, but at least this time I get a three day weekend to rest. Of course it’s Memorial Day weekend which is a bit depressing in and of itself, since their are more people to remember again this year. Nothing enough beer won’t fix, sigh. In web site notes, I have added a description of the header picture above to the About page. I will be trying to change the picture more often, and when I do I will post what I know there. I usually try to use more obscure pictures, any veterans who want to contribute previously unpublished war related pictures I’d be more than honoured to use one in my header. Anyhow, in a lighter vein, this weeks science and miscellaneous news…
A new theory has been proposed that claims that a comet exploded in the atmosphere about thirteen thousand years ago, setting fire to much of the northern hemisphere. This would explain a number of mysterious extinctions that happened about that time, so scientists are eagerly looking into it. Comets or asteroids can indeed explode in the atmosphere from the heat and pressure of re-entry with the force of large nuclear weapons. The Tunguska event in 1908 was the explosion of a rocky asteroid in the atmosphere that yielded a 10 to 20 megaton blast. Fortunately it happened in remote Siberia and only one person was killed.
The Cutty Sark burned. (Yes, there is an actual ship, it’s not just a label on a whiskey bottle.) Thought to be the only surviving 19th century tea clipper, it was being restored when the suspicious fire broke out. It’s going to be a lot more expensive to restore now. The ship set all sorts of records and was one of the last great sailing ships. What I think is kind of cool is that it represented a transition from the old wooden ships to the more modern all metal ships. The Cutty Sark’s frame was made out of iron but the hull planking was made of wood. Only a small number of ships were built this way before they were built entirely out of iron, and Cutty Sark is the only one remaining. Or what’s left of it.
A captive shark had a virgin birth. Great, here we spend two thousand years waiting for Jesus to come back, and what does he do? He comes back as a shark? The Bible doesn’t even mention sharks, God is certainly inscrutable if nothing else. The Bible has a number of mysterious omissions, there are no cats mentioned either. Oh well. Scientifically this is the first time that parthenogenesis (females having offspring without any male involved) has been observed in a shark like fish, though it has been seen in bony fishes. It’s uncommon but not unusual, there are in fact species of lizards where there are no males at all, so all reproduction is in this fashion. In parthenogenesis there are no male offspring, since there is no male involved to contribute a Y chromosome. Parthenogenesis has never been observed in humans, except perhaps once. That would imply that a certain saviour was female, go figure.
DNA testing has shown that remains found in a fourteen hundred year old Chinese tomb are that of a person of European lineage. Kind of neat, and this is the furthest east such evidence has been found. Basically people got around a lot more in the ancient days that we were told in school. It’s not terribly surprising, I mean, one can walk from Europe to China. Marco Polo certainly wasn’t the first, the Roman Empire exchanged ambassadors with China at one point. As an aside, many people believe that Marco Polo didn’t actually make it any further than the Black Sea, and that his stories of travel to China were an elaborate hoax.
Newly found tracks (pictured above) suggest that at least some dinosaurs could swim. Not terribly surprising of course, pretty much any animal can swim, but it’s nice to see the proof. What I thought was kind of fun was the type of tracks they discovered. This wasn’t just some lumbering brontosaurus, no, this was a swimming raptor. Yes, even running into a lake and swimming away won’t save you if a T Rex decides you are lunch. Yikes.
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit: Geology.)