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Tangled Bank – The Future, Present, and Past

Welcome to issue #66 of Tangled Bank! Now with extra segues!!

Remember how you used to believe that we would have our own personal space cars by now and half of our friends would be robots? The future is such a disappointment! But many of this week’s Tangled Bank submitters are looking towards the future, or at ways to prolong our time in the future by lifespan extension.
May I present: The future, present, and past

The Future
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Mark A. Rayner wrote a piece of fiction based on a New Scientist article, about a world without humans. Science fiction, but in the most literal way – it’s more philosophy than Star Trek. In his story, an alien visits Earth after all humans left. He (it?) is some sort of researcher on his home planet, and concludes that Earth became unlivable because of religion.

Phil B. from Phil for Humanity considers the slightly less distant future, when humans are still on the planet. He outlines the benefits and risks of genetic engineering and nanotechnology.

Avant News brings us satirical news from the future. It turns out that in 2024 we will finally discover that Dark Matter is mostly composed of socks, keys, and ballpoints.

And PZ Myers of Pharyngula has a wish for the future: he wants a cow to give birth to Paris Hilton’s baby.
It will be ethical and moral, don’t worry!
In fact, this brings us to the research review boards of the present:

The Present
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While PZ plotted an elaborate cloning technology involving hamburgers and hotel heiresses, Orac at Respectful Insolence argues that institutional review boards might be too restrictive and hamper research with their strict regulations.
I suppose that means no cow moms yet.

Meanwhile, despite the strict regulations on research, some work still gets done. Last week was all about mice and wine.
If you haven’t had time to really read into it yet, the basic idea is that there is a compound in red wine, resveratrol, which mimics the healthy effect of a low caloric diet, and this was shown to lead to longevity in mice.

But before you all hit the bottle now, you should head over to Science Made Cool, where Jim Cambias reminds us of the negative effects of wine.
What’s more, Chris Patil of Ouroboros points out that caloric restriction does not extend the lifespan of wild mice, and discusses the risk of extending lab controlled animal experiments to non-lab conditions.
Okay, so what other options do we have to extend our lives if red wine doesn’t necessarily do the trick? Head on over to Balacing Life, where Sunil notes that
a lower body temperature also leads to a longer lifespan.
There are also still all kinds of food supplements that you can take, but Cathy Davies of Lab Cat explains that the regulation of dietary supplements is a very fuzzy area.
Finally, Fight Aging is a blog entirely devoted fighting aging. Its author, Reason, discussed the difference between slowing aging and reversing aging in two posts.

This talk of living longer is all well and good, but what if you have this newly found extra long life and every day is the same? The Wandering Visitor was watching the hilarious Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day, and muses about the fact that we all somehow live repeating days. (Warning: movie spoilers inside)

At least our days are not as repetitive as the honey bee’s. They don’t even get weekends off. But they do have a fully functional CpG methylation system, as reviewed by Trevor of Epigenetics News.

Mike of 10,000 Birds explains what a cardinal is in honor of St. Louis’ World Series victory. Nice way to connect sports and science!

Speaking of the birds and the bees, over at Postbloggery we learn some juicy details about the sex lives of the Greek gods in this post about heteropaternity and black-and-white twins.
But seriously, if you are going to have sex with two men so shortly after each other, you shouldn’t be worried so much about the colour of your twin babies but more so about STDs. Thankfully most of us know how to protect ourselves, and Tara Smith of Aetiology mentions that circumcision also reduces the risk of STDs. Interesting, I didn’t know that.

Apparently I also don’t know anything about MS, because I did pretty badly on the Multiple Sclerosis quiz over at Dr Kavokin’s RDoctor Medical Portal. But it’s really hard! You need to check multiple boxes per question and they all have to be correct! If this was an exam I would surely have received partial marks, especially with the wimpy school standards these days!

The leniency of today’s education system was one of the topics that came up in in an interview with PZ Myers that Hsien-Hsien Lei conducted at Genetics and Health. They also talked about bioethics and genetic technology, and about religion, which brings me to the next submission, in which the Neurophilosopher discusses the intelligent design of synthetic life in a review of the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition.

Synthetic life? Maybe we do live in the future!
After all, we already have so much knowledge about so many things. We even know why the whites of our eyes are white. Robert S. of Hitched to Everything explains it: it’s so other people can see what you’re looking at!

But how can we have evolved to be so smart that we can design synthetic life, and understand in rough terms how our bodies work, but we still have wars? Stuart Coleman of Daily Irreverence ponders this question in his post Evolution, Morality, and War.

The topic of wars brings me back to the past, because they’re so often used as “have we not learned anything from previous mistakes” examples. And as it turns out, we really haven’t learned from the past.

The Past
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Jeremy Bruno of The Voltage Gate read a popular science book from the 1930s and noted “We have come so far in understanding our world since then and yet we still deal with many of the same ethical issues decades later, after many steps forward.”

And Tim Abbott of Walking the Berkshires wrote this Linnaen Lament about the collapse of once abundant species. “Some of these loses are now unavoidable and it is too late to change course. Many, many pass unnoticed. Others we will have to act to save.”

On a cheerier note, we might not be learning from the past, but we’re certainly learning about it: Martin Rundkvist has photos of an archaelogical dig in the Swedish town of Sigtuna. The town was founded in the 10th century, and they have found urban layers dating back to the Middle Ages, including churches of that time.

Hey, do these last two links about The Past remind anyone of the very first link in this Tangled Bank? The story about the alien visiting an abandoned earth in the future? Humans are all extinct, and he finds remnants of their churches…

I was going to say “This brings us to the end of this week’s Tangled Bank”, but I guess you have to start all over again at the beginning! It’s…it’s just like…Groundhog Day.

(And when I said “now with extra segues” I meant it!)
——-
update
In the chaos of my inbox I missed one submission:
Jenn of Invasive Species Weblog wonders about Koi keeping regulations.