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Resurrecting Dinosaurs & Privacy Update

Date: 04-25-09
Host: Ian Punnett
Guests: Jack Horner, Katherine Albrecht

During the second hour, award-winning paleontologist Jack Horner discussed his remarkable research that may one day make it possible for scientists to recreate dinosaurs, bringing Jurassic Park to life. He dismissed the classic concept of deriving DNA from the bones of fossilized dinosaurs. To that end, he referenced his work on the B.Rex discovery and said that "even though we're getting proteins and some other materials out of B.Rex, it's not providing a way in order to make a dinosaur."

"Technically speaking, in order to make a dinosaur you don't have to do anything because birds already are a group of dinosaurs," Horner mused. Along that line of thinking, he proposed reviving dinosaurs by working backwards with known bird genomes. He explained that, early on in a chicken embryos development, they more resemble their dinosaur ancestors. By "turning off" genes which contribute to the development of a full grown chicken, you could allow the creature to retain such attributes as a long tail and five fingered hand. While this theoretical animal would look bizarre, Horner noted that "it wouldn't behave any differently than a chicken, probably."

Privacy Update

Appearing in the third hour, privacy expert Katherine Albrecht raised concerns about the CDC and Google tracking IP addresses of flu-related searches, creating electronic medical records, and how chipping animals to prevent disease outbreaks may one day lead to chipping humans. "If we get into the habit of microchipping anything that may wind up with a disease, then obviously the next step is microchipping people," she opined about an emerging push to track all farm animals who may contract diseases such as swine flu.

On the subject of Google's emergence in the health industry, Albrecht noted that "Google boasts that they know more about American's health, based on what we type into search engines, than the CDC, the HMOs, than anybody on planet Earth." She talked about how the company has not only begun sharing that search information with the CDC, but has even partnered with some HMOs to create online medical records. Chillingly, she shared the story of one person who was told about this by their HMO after it happened, with "no chance to opt out and no chance to say no to this."

The last hour of the show featured Open Lines.

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Ian Punnett's Blog

Check out Ian's latest musings and insights at his blog site.

Insect Invaders Repelled by Rock Music

Insect Invaders Repelled by Rock Music

Starting around May of each year, a plague of Mormon crickets blanket parts of northern Nevada and western Utah. The two-inch-long insects have been known to march in columns two miles long and a mile across, devastating crops and causing car accidents. Last year the swarm was so numerous that snowplows had to be called to scrape their corpses off of a highway in Elko County, Nevada. Residents of the tiny town of Tuscarora have come up with their own novel way of repelling the insect invaders—they aim boom boxes toward the desert and blast local rock station KHIX from dawn to dusk. More at WSJ.com.

Graphic by Jesus Diaz, Gizmodo

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