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Ian Punnett's Blog Post 5/9/10

A new 'dimension’ of water has been discovered in space for the first time.

This weird space water vapor was discovered in an interstellar dust cloud by the European Space Agency's Herschel space observatory.

Unlike the three more familiar phases of water – namely solid ice, liquid water and gaseous steam – this newfound 'phase' of water doesn't occur naturally on Earth.

In the birth clouds surrounding young stars, ultraviolet light is pumping through the gas, and this irradiation can knock an electron out of the water molecule, leaving it with an electrical charge.

"This detection of ionized water vapor came as a surprise," said Arnold Benz of ETH Zurich in Switzerland. "It tells us that there are violent processes taking place during the early birth stages which lead to widespread energetic radiation throughout the cloud." (from space.com)

Ionized, not quite liquid or vapor? Isn't that bong water? I've never smoked dope but that's what my mom told me.

And as one mystery is created, perhaps another is solved:

An English mayor is seeking to solve one of the biggest mysteries in American history: what happened to the settlers who were part of the so-called Lost Colony, Britain's The Guardian reported Friday.

Andy Powell is convinced the English settlers who mysteriously disappeared from modern-day North Carolina's Roanoke Island joined the local Native American tribe, an assertion he says can be verified with DNA evidence in both America and Britain.

Tales about blue-eyed Croatoans and white men spotted in the tribe seem to support Powell's hypothesis, but historians have never been able to verify what really happened.

"What we now need is to establish if there are any living family descendants of those lost colonists living here in the U.K., and from them produce a reference library of DNA to match the American results against," Powell told the newspaper.

"If we are right and there are descendants of those lost colonists alive in America today, then Bideford will become known for having played a pivotal role in the founding of America 33 years before the Mayflower set sail." (from FoxNews)

The settlers of the Lost Colony reportedly departed from England in 1587 and set up a colony that was known to be friendly with the local Croatoan tribe. In 1590, however, subsequent colonists arrived to find the settlement completely deserted, the only trace of the original settlement was the word "Croatoan" etched in a post.

I think DNA will resolve that issue but that wasn’t the biggest shock to me. In the first line of the news story, instead of an “English mayor” had solved the mystery, I thought I heard an “English major.” As a former college English major, I was all excited to hear that an English major had resolved anything other than checking on the kitchen to find out what was taking the customer’s hamburger so long.

Maybe we’ll find out that the both the Croatoans and the English colonists were already related by their caveman DNA.

After extracting ancient DNA from the 40,000-year-old bones of Neanderthals, scientists have obtained a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome, yielding important new insights into the evolution of modern humans.

Among the findings, published in the May 7 issue of Science, is evidence that shortly after early modern humans migrated out of Africa, some of them interbred with Neanderthals, leaving bits of Neanderthal DNA sequences scattered through the genomes of present-day non-Africans.

"We can now say that, in all probability, there was gene flow from Neanderthals to modern humans," said the paper's first author, Richard E. (Ed) Green of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Neanderthals lived in much of Europe and western Asia before dying out 30,000 years ago.

"The scenario is not what most people had envisioned," Green said. "We found the genetic signal of Neanderthals in all the non-African genomes, meaning that the admixture occurred early on, probably in the Middle East, and is shared with all descendants of the early humans who migrated out of Africa." (from PhysOrg)

Just goes to show you that we are all pretty much the same and that starting a civilization is so easy, even a caveman can do it.

Now if some people could just stop mixing species in the wild today, we’d all be a lot better off:

FLORIDA CITY, Fla. — Thousands of Burmese pythons, the offspring of former pets, have invaded the Everglades, eating birds, bunnies, even alligators. It has gotten so bad that Congress is considering an outright ban on buying or selling nine kinds of giant snakes.

“People need to view exotic species invasions as pollution — biopollution,” said David E. Hallac, chief of biological resources for Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks. “In some cases, this form of biopollution can be even more difficult to remedy than chemical pollution, mainly because in most cases, we have no way of cleaning up exotic species from our natural environments.”

Nowhere is the problem more visible than in the open expanse of southwestern Dade County, where tract housing gives way to sawgrass and airboat engines.

The area has become a dumping ground littered with both human ruin — a shuttered fish farm, a closed juvenile detention camp and a former rocket test site — and abandoned animals. In addition to the pythons, there are cobras and black mambas, emus and ostriches. Since the recession started, more horses that owners can apparently no longer afford to feed have been set free in the Everglades. (from NYTimes.com)

And speaking of airboat engines, how about that vintage Cadillac photo? I just took that Saturday at the grand opening of a friend’s business.

It’s not my car. I wish it were but if you’ve you’ve got an airboat, I’ll still race you.

Ian Punnett's Blog Post 5/9/10 Ian Punnett's Blog Post 5/9/10

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