Mosquitoes are the bane of the tropical world. They bite, they itch, they spread countless diseases among the human and animal populations. The builders of the Panama Canal around the turn of the 20th century found that massive amounts of DDT temporarily solved the annoying pestilence, but dumping untold volumes of poison in the environment is hardly a long-term solution. Like any smart assemblage of genetic material, the mosquito knows that if it just keeps breeding, even in the worst of times, eventually one or a billion of its offspring will find a way around mankind’s chemical solutions. Right alongside the ever-burgeoning mosquito population rides a tidal wave of evolving bacteria, viruses, and parasites, each becoming more and more resistant to our anti-biotic warfare. One such is dengue fever, which admittedly has never blinked an eye at the lackluster attempts at controlling it medically, a disease with no treatment, prophylactic, or cure save avoiding the buzzing bloodsuckers that carry it. Now Oxford scientists have developed a genetically modified male mosquito, which born in captivity to be dependent on tetracycline to survive, once released into the wild can breed with normal females and pass this trait on to unwitting offspring. Since there are few mosquito-sized pharmacy windows in the deep bush of Africa and Southeast Asia, the now genetically doomed children of these captivity-born males are fated to a short and painful life, if they are ever born at all. Since the female that spawns them only mates once then dies, this ultimately means that each essentially sterile male released into the population serves at a genetic endpoint for the female as well. Of course, you could ask the question: what happens when one of these offspring develops a suppressing trait for this genetic handicap?
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I’m journeying through Ken Burns amazing documentary about America’s National Parks. Teddy Roosevelt’s zeal for stuffing animals was as unknown to me as the degree of his importance in protecting our nation’s beautiful landscapes. Here are two quotes I found most interesting:
“Why, in your hurry to subdue and utilize nature, squander her splendid gifts? Why allow the noxious weeds of Eastern politics to take root in your new soil, when by a little effort you might keep it pure? Why hasten the advent of that threatening day when the vacant spaces of the continent shall all have been filled, and the poverty or discontent of the older states shall find no outlet? You have opportunities such as mankind has never had before, and may never have again. Your work is great and noble: it is done for a future longer and vaster than our conceptions can embrace. Why not make its outlines and beginnings worthy of these destinies the thought of which gilds your hopes and elevates your purposes?” -James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, vol 2
Our path could have easily ended at a country in ruin from complete resource depletion. Thankfully several leaders were wise enough to think past their own generation. TR was leading the charge:
“I think it is hard to exaggerate the significance of Theodore Roosevelt in the history of American conservation. He creates a presidency, when he arrives in the white house, that sets in motion most of the conservation agendas that will define the first half of the twentieth century.” William Cronon, The National Parks, America’s Best Idea (1890-1915)43.640251 -116.208266
The interesting trend of new lizard species being discovered on the menus of pacific rim countries before being ever catalogued by scientists in the wild continues with Leiolepis ngovantrii, a small green lizard found primarily in the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam. Other than being a fairly handsome member of the genus, although apparently not very tasty, this species is unique for one other reason: it appears to contain only females and reproduces solely by parthenogenesis. All the individuals are direct genetic copies of their mother. You may recall this capability was observed in komodo dragons several years ago, and it has been witnessed in other lizard and fish species as well; however, intriguingly, leiolepis appears not only to be capable of parthenogenesis, but at this point it seems to be the primary, if not singular, mode of its reproduction. No males have yet been found on the buffet line or in the wild.
South Korean schools are embarking on a program to introduce robot teachers to 8,400 elementary schools across the country. They are starting off primarily teaching English and will slowly be expanding their roles to include science, math, obedience, and enslavement. Fighting each other for sport under the dead eyes of their digital masters comes later.
It has long been known that people who get sick or injured on the weekends generally have a statistically worse prognosis than those who come in during a normal work day. A recent study by the Canadian Stroke Network demonstrates that this trend persists for sufferers of stroke, indicating that regardless of severity of the infarction a 7.0% chance of death raises to 8.1%, when they walk into the door on a Saturday or Sunday. I think this is clearly just a case of hospital’s bringing up the B squad on off days, but I suppose there could be a more insidious reason: one or two weekend night nurses killing thousands of patients in the lonely late night hours with their syringes full of sodium pentathol?