Tag: elephant

Woolly mammoth making a come back from the dead

While the Dodo has gone the way of the dodo, boffins who have never read Jurassic Park are close to bringing back the woolly mammoth.

Without needing to get any public liability insurance, the team of boffins are on the brink of resurrecting the ancient beast in a revised form, through an ambitious feat of genetic engineering.

Speaking ahead of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston this week, the scientist leading the “de-extinction” effort said the Harvard team is just two years away from creating a hybrid embryo, in which mammoth traits would be programmed into an Asian elephant.

“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with many mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”

So not quite the animal that died out 4,000 years ago but more a “mammophant”, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood.

The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.

So far, the team have stopped at the cell stage, but are now moving towards creating embryos – although, they said that it would be many years before any serious attempt at producing a living creature.

“We’re working on ways to evaluate the impact of all these edits and basically trying to establish embryogenesis in the lab,” said Church.

Since starting the project in 2015 the researchers have increased the number of “edits” where mammoth DNA has been spliced into the elephant genome from 15 to 45.

Some of these modifications could help preserve the Asian elephant, which is also in trouble and might follow its shaggy ancestor into the elephant species grave yard.

Some other scientists are a little worried that the genetics boffins have not thought things through enough.

Matthew Cobb, professor of zoology at the University of Manchester, points out that the mammoth was not simply a set of genes, it was a social animal, as is the modern Asian elephant. What will happen when the elephant-mammoth hybrid is born? How will it be greeted by other elephants?

The woolly mammoth roamed across Europe, Asia, Africa and North America during the last Ice Age and vanished about 4,000 years ago, probably due to a combination of climate change and the fact that mammoth steaks were rather delicious.


Republicans fire advisor who spoke sense on copyright

US Republicans have fired an advisor who suggested a radical shift on its copyright policy.

Derek Khanna penned a paper which suggested that copyright law needed to be reformed because it was not in line with GOP policy on the free market. He pointed out that copyright controls were unbalanced in favour of the rights holder and needed to be changed.

It advocates several key reforms, including reducing copyright terms and limiting the draconian “statutory damages” that can reach as high as $150,000 per infringing work.

The paper was released and was swiftly retracted by the GOP, many of whom depended on Big Content money.

According to Ars Technica, the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of Republicans in the House of Representatives, told staffer Derek Khanna that he will be out of a job when Congress re-convenes in January.

The incoming chairman of the RSC, Steve Scalise, was approached by several Republican members of Congress who were upset that Khanna dared to stand up to Big Content when it was GOP policy to roll over and do what they were told.

But the memo was actually seen as a viable stance on copyright tech policy by scholars and public interests advocates. In fact it was actually seen as the GOP working to make itself electable among young voters and those who know anything about technology.

It looks like the Republicans still think that surrendering to Big Content and its cheque book is more likely to get them elected than sensible policies. 

GoDaddy CEO is PR managers' nightmare

On a list of 100 stupid things that you should not do if you want to give your company a bad name, shooting an elephant is probably right up there with strangling kittens.

While elephants are less cute, GoDaddy’s PR manager is probably in a pub right now drowning his or her sorrows.

GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons is not the sort of person who really cares what PETA or any other liberal types might think. If a grey wrinkly Elephantidae is creating trouble he will shoot it.

A video of Parsons  shooting an elephant in Zimbabwe has gone viral, causing the domain name registry and web hosting company to become a Google Hot Topic.

Obviously PETA, the animal rights group, is furious and has closed its account with GoDaddy and is asking others to follow suit.

Parsons’ logic is that elephants do lots of damage to farmers’ fields. In the video Parsons and his fellow hunters are shown waiting at night for the elephants to return. Then Parsons shoots and kills one of the elephants. Villagers then come and eat the elephant.

GoDaddy competitor NameCheap.com is running a transfer from GoDaddy to Namecheap.com for .com, .net and .org domains for $4.99 with 20 per cent of the proceeds going to SaveTheElephants.com.

GoDaddy itself is staying quiet. At least until Parsons has put the gun down. His holiday video is still up, and it is business as usual. Some of his fans claim that shooting an elephant is actually environmentally friendly and he is helping Zimbabwe farmers out. Particularly by supplying them with elephant steaks.

However as animal rights groups point out, you do not have to shoot elephants and there are much more effective ways of protecting farms from endangered species. Particularly if you have a lot of money.

David Icke has said that shooting lizards is OK.