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Comment Re:And what seeded the comet or asteroid? (Score 5, Informative) 199

The article didn't say life starting in space. One of the major problems with the leading hypothesis about how life began here on Earth is that many of the chemical elements required by said hypothesis were not present in sufficient quantities in early Earth. Or at least were not present based on what we think we know about the early composition of the planet. Chief among these problems is the absence of organic compounds in the rock matrix of the oldest known rocks.

Fast forward a few hundred million years and now these ancient-but-not-oldest rocks now have organic traces. What was different from when Earth cooled vs a few hundred million years later? Uncountable millions of comet and meteor strikes. Objects that have been shown to contain just the missing ingredients needed to complete the shopping list for the formation of Life.

Inert organic compounds have since been found throughout the known cosmos, from nebula containing ethanol to ammonia in asteroids. There are a multitude of hypothesis about why organic compounds form better in cosmic bodies instead of planets, from ionizing radiation in solar wind to the fact that planet formation is too hot an event for any traces of the compounds to remain after consolidation.

Comment Rather misleading (Score 1) 435

This is a rather sensationalist report. I'm not faulting the submitter, I go back to the source. Let's step through it, shall we?

They are taking a male embryo and generating a stem cell line from it. They then have a way of selecting for cells that have lost their Y chromosome, creating an XO cell line.

Now at this point, I would not even consider the cell line to be male. Classically in humans, XO individuals are considered females with Turner's Syndrome. The source may have been a male cell line, but by removing the Y, especially at a stem-cell stage, you have created a female with a genetic disorder no matter if it was an XX->XO or XY->XO

But still, let us give them the benefit of the doubt and consider the cell line to be male.

They then take the XO cells and inject them into a fully female zygote. This creates a chimeric organism, or simply an organism that is comprised of cells from more than one individual. This can happen naturally, most notably in the case of when one parental twin absorbs the other in womb. Most individuals with this condition never realize their dual nature, but there have been some notable exceptions.

In this case, the resultant animal is female, with some "male" cells making up various bits and parts of the body. But overall, the form is female, not male.

Anyway, if the right sort of chimera is formed, within this chimeric XX/XO organism, *some* of the egg cells will be from the XO injected line. The cells that undergo the right meiosis will contain the right "half" of the equation and keep the X.

If that resultant egg is then fertilized normally by sperm, then yes, you have technically created a new organism that has it's DNA source from two males. One normal male, and one male *line* that was manipulated to being what is classically considered female, and hosted in a female body.

What it most certainly is NOT, is the collection of sperm cells from two males and generating offspring from it.

Comment So much for Ohio being a new biotech leader... (Score 1) 197

I am a molecular genetisist...UC Davis, class of 2001. Just stating my credentials.

There is research going on world-wide that involve using hybrid genomes. My own company injects human immune system genes into mice embryos in order to create mice that produce human antibodies. This sort of transgenic research is common place in the entire spectrum of animal research. By definition the mice we create, or the pigs with human circulatory system gene modifications, or zebrafish with human neuron genes, or rats with human breast cancer promoters... all are human-animal hybrid creations that would be banned by this sort of law. Dozens, if not hundreds, of species of research animals have been crossed in one way or another with human genes. Or vice-versa as solutions to human deficiencies are found in animal genomes for the purpose of gene therapy. Ohio is effectively killing their own biotech industry with this sort of law.

I agree there is an ethical line that needs to watched here. Long before human-embryo research was actually banned in the US, biotechs had already gotten around the restriction by taking the human genome and injecting it into an animal oocyte. This creates a human-animal hybrid in which the genome is human but the *original* cellular machinery is animal. As the egg cell divides, the human genomic instructions are used for the cellular machinery production and the organism basically becomes, for all intents and purposes, a human embryo. This obviously skirts both the strict letter and the intent of the original laws.

Personally, I don't have much of a problem with this sort of research, provided that the development is terminated well before they become anything resembling a human, i.e. by the 6th week or so. I don't support a hard ban though, if suitably justified to an ethics board that would need to be created to handle any such research petitions.

Comment Re:Really? (Score 1) 201

Huh? The point of this research is to eliminate the passage of said genetic disorders.

The mother has a rare mitochondrial disorder. She wants to have kids but doesn't want them to have her disease.

She and the father create a fertilized egg.

The get a woman with healthy mitochondria to denote an egg cell. That cell has its nucleus removed but the mitochondria left intact.

The nucleus from the fertilized egg is transferred to the nucleus-free egg.

Viola, one mitochondrial-disease-free embryo for the happy parents-to-be.

Comment Missed importance (Score 1) 141

Theorizing on interplanetary life is cool and all, but there is a vastly more important point of research here that has major implications to us a species - what role, if any, these bugs play in creating the oil deposits that fuel our civilization.

As noted in the OP these are the same sort of bugs that are found deep in oil wells. These subterranean bugs have lead many a researcher to believe that perhaps fossil fuels aren't so fossil-ish afterall. Instead of being formed by decaying plant matter and the occasional dinosaur from eons past, a competing hypothesis purport sthat oil sludge is a byproduct of teaming underground microbe populations.

The ability to observe and investigate these bugs in a natural habitat at the surface of the planet in a place like Pitch Lake may shed light on the likelihood of an oil-shortage catastrophe that the fossil-fuel model predicts.

Comment Re:More nonsense use to justify immoral action (Score 1) 201

Well, you should be happy then. This procedure doesn't destroy any embryos, it just transfers the genetic material from a fertilized egg into an empty egg.

The source embryo was a fertilized egg had mitochondrial problems, so it may not have survived to term and even if it had the child would have had significant health problems.

The destination egg wasn't an embryo, it was an unfertilized egg.

So unless you weep every time a woman has a period, what's the problem?

Comment not cloning (Score 1) 201

That would depend on whether the source embryo was still in the 1-cell stage or not. The article says the genomic material was taken from a fertilized egg, which would technically imply 1-cell. Taking the genetic material from a 1-cell stage embryo isn't technically cloning, though the procedure is the same. To be cloning it would have to come from a 2+ cell embryo, thereby creating a clone of the source embryo.

Comment Program is not shut down (Score 3, Informative) 6

If one were to read the rest of the article, one would see that the program is still up:

"The agency now prohibits volunteers from having access to children’s family names and addresses, said spokeswoman Sue Brennan. The Postal Service instead redacts the last name and addresses on each letter and replaces the addresses with codes that match computerized addresses known only to the post office"

This system was put into place last year when the sex offender was discovered. It worked then and it is working now.

It is true that not all post office sites have the capacity to use this new system, however many of the major hubs are still open. Seems odd to me that with this service being such a central part of the North Pole, Alaska operation that they wouldn't find a way to meet the system requirements.

Comment Stupid. (Score 1) 234

This pisses me off. Account compromising is already a problem in WoW, having a single login tied to all your Blizzard games just increases the opportunities for your account information to be lifted.

I already hate that the Bliz forums require your account login info in order to post, they could have had a one-off login for the forums so if your computer is infected with a keylogger or packet sniffer your game account would not be compromised.

For Steam games it's not that big a deal - the games aren't MMOs so you don't have toons that you have worked on for months or years being destroyed if you get hacked.

Single-account login is a step backwards in security, not a step forward. The Bliz exe who thought up this brain-dead idea probably uses the same login and password for his bank, credit card, phone, energy company, and email. Stupid.

Comment Re:At the Risk of Sounding Like an Apologist (Score 1) 832

I believe his primary function is a flight droid so they were built to interface with ships. Not a lot else. John Scalzi seems to suffer from the "must have everything" school of thought and doesn't think the future will focus on minimalism and getting one thing right. Thank god he's not writing software and just another hot air blogger. I reject Episodes I, II & III so I don't know what he's talking about with the oil slick and jets.

I can understand R2 series not coming factory-installed with a voice mod. However, given the disproportionate ammount of time this particular astromech droid spends trying to communicate with non-binary-speakers, I have a hard time believing that all of his owners would have the patience to rely on crude beep-code translations, C3P0, or wait for him to jack into a terminal to figure out what he was trying to say.

The little guy tries to save the day as often as any other character in the series, how could the other characters not be annoyed at missing critical information when translation wasn't available?

Hell, I've upgraded all of my main boards to brands/models that have voice error messages instead of annoying beep codes that require a manual to decipher. You can be damn sure that a voice mod would be one of the first things I did to a sentient droid.

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The only possible interpretation of any research whatever in the `social sciences' is: some do, some don't. -- Ernest Rutherford