Stories tagged age

Jan
21
2010

Removing plant oil: Ok, she isnt removing plant oil from a Dead Sea Scroll, but this is how I imagine it would look when they eventually do.
Removing plant oil: Ok, she isnt removing plant oil from a Dead Sea Scroll, but this is how I imagine it would look when they eventually do.Courtesy Walters Art Museum
The Dead Sea Scrolls have been radiocarbon dated two different times since they were discovered (excludiing the test on a piece of linen associated with the scrolls in the 1950’s by Willard Libby(the guy who invented the radiocarbon dating method)) by the Zurich Institute of Technology (1990) and the University of Arizona (1994). From these tests, researchers concluded that the scrolls are roughly 2,000 years old. However, scientists now think they can take “roughly” out of the picture, and provide more precise dates for the origins of the scrolls.

How would they do this? Is there a brand new method used for dating ancient objects?! Umm…no. Scientists will still use carbon-14 dating, but they found that a good ol’ scrub before the dating process provides better results (that usually holds true for people, too). I don’t mean that they’ll use soap and water (that would probably not be a good idea), but rather a chemical to remove plant residue. What happened was that in order to unroll the scrolls and spread them out without pulverizing them, researchers treated the scrolls with plant oil. This oil is thought to have interfered with the carbon-14 dating.

But now, after more than ten years of lab work, archaeochemist Kaare Lund Rasmussen and his team of researchers have developed a chemical that will remove the plant oil without harming the scrolls themselves. With this residue gone, the Dead Sea Scrolls can be more precisely dated, and history can be more accurately written (if you subscribe to the “accuracy” of history). At this point, there has been no new round of tests on the scrolls, and it’s unclear when that will take place.

Feb
12
2009

These guys have been eating bacteria all day: That's all it takes!
These guys have been eating bacteria all day: That's all it takes!Courtesy Dave Austria
Hey y’all! Get a earful of this: Russian scientists claim to have found bacteria living in the superfrost that may be able to significantly extend our lifespans!

Whoa!

Oh, also, “superfrost” isn’t the word the original article used. In fact, “superfrost” isn’t a real word in the first place. The perpetually frozen sandy soil the bacteria were found in is actually called “permafrost.” I just invented the word “superfrost” because it was kind of cool in this post’s title. I also used the fake word to honor the original article, which contains an amount of information somewhere between zero and almost zero.

Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten my hopes up over a quasi-science article coming from a the Daily Mail, considering that the other stories on the page feature shots of the octuplet mother’s explosive looking belly, and Chris Brown leering over Rhianna’s shoulder… but it seems so cool! Seriously, this is sci-fi stuff!

What I can tell is this: Russian scientists were digging in an area of Siberia known for its abundance of wooly mammoth remains. Among the biological materials they recovered was a species of bacteria that appears to live in the permafrost. Finding it was an accident.

After doing a partial DNA analysis, the scientists determined that they were working with a unique type of bacteria. I don’t know if this means it’s a new species, genus, family, order, class, phylum, or kingdom… whatever. Probably not important, right, Daily Mail?

What’s interesting about the bacterium is that it appears to be very, very old. Three to five million years old, according to the article.

Say what, Daily Mail? Say what?!

I mean… What? Check out the wikipedia page on long-living organisms. With the exception of this weird jelly fish that could potentially live forever (we won’t get into it), 3-5 million years puts everything else on the list to shame. By far.

I’m guessing that the age was estimated based on the age of the associated mammoth remains in the area (they’re about 4.8 million years old), but how they know that the bacteria were alive at the same time as the mammoths isn’t explained.

Some scientists have made claims that certain bacteria might be able to remain in stasis for millions of years before being revived. But those claims are disputed, and, anyway, we’re talking about bacteria trapped in amber or salt deposits, not permafrost (which, despite the “perma,” has probably been considerably more dynamic over the last 5 million years than most amber).

If the bacteria were in stasis, which wasn’t suggested in the helpful article, that wouldn’t explain what the Russian scientists did with the bacteria next: they put it in some mice.

We aren’t talking gene therapy here, either. All the article says is that the mice were “vaccinated with the bacterium extract.”

That makes sense, right? I mean, I know turtles and parrots live a really long time, so if I’m always eating turtle soup and parrot cake, so I’m pretty much guaranteed to live a long time, right? And if I supplement that diet by shooting up some alligator (into my veins with a needle, say), I’ll be alive forever!

I don’t know. Somebody help me out here. Why would vaccinating yourself with a bacterium imbue you with properties of that bacterium? Wouldn’t it just help your immune system figure out how to kill that organism? I was vaccinated with weakened mumps virus, but, as far as I know, I don’t have the ability to make anyone’s face inflate on cue, nor did the process transform me into a protein shell full of bits of DNA.

Nonetheless, after their inoculation with the bacteria, the mice demonstrated “growth of physical, mental, and sexual activity” into their old age. Female mice were even able to give birth at an age equivalent to a human 70-year-old.

That’s freaking amazing, isn’t it? So, hmm… here at the Daily Mail, we seem to have an exclusive story on this awesome biological breakthrough. What should we title this story? What… should… we… call… it? I know! “'Pre-historic Viagra' found in Siberian mammoth DNA could boost your sex life and let you live longer”

Duh. I mean, it says in the article that the bacteria and the mammoths, though they were found in the same area, are not believed to be linked to each other, but nothing else makes sense, so why should the headline? Mammoth DNA! Pre-historic Viagra! Print it!

How frustrating. This seems awesome, but until I can get some better, and possibly less fake, information, I have to file it under “Thhhbbtttbbbtbb.” Fudge.

Sep
26
2008

Say you want to walk on the oldest rocks on the surface of the Earth. Well, it turns out that Canada is the place to go. Recently, Science magazine has reported that researchers have found rocks in Quebec that could be as old as 4.28 billion years old. Yes, billion. 4,280,000,000. Now, keep in mind that the Earth is estimated to be around 4.6 billion years old. There are at least three pretty neat points to make here:

1. It is harder than you think to find really old rocks, as most of the crust of the Earth is constantly recycling itself, courtesy of plate tectonics. Fortunately, there is not a great deal of tectonic activity happening in Canada, thus keeping these rocks at the surface.

2. 4.28 billion years old is pretty darn old. Think about it this way; this post is 2,129 characters long. That includes all of the letters and spaces. We will pretend that the very first characters of this post are the youngest, and the ones at the end are the oldest. Humans, which we will understand to be modern Homo sapiens, have only been around for approximately 40,000 years, which would be the very top of the "S" in "Say" that started this post. That is not even one full letter! These rocks have been around for all but the very last sentence of this post. That is a lot of characters/time.

3. They say that these could be the oldest rocks, as old as 4.28 billion years old, but... Dating of really, really old things like this use a technique known as radiometric dating. This type of dating does not give a specific date for the object in question, but rather, a range of dates. So these samples have dates ranging from 3.8 to 4.28 billion years old. The previously known oldest rock samples, also found in Canada, have dates that could be as old as 4.03 billion years old. So... these recently found rocks, if they are actually towards the younger end of their date range, could actually be younger than the potentially 4.03 billion years old rock that was already found.

No matter what, these rocks are still very exciting and can tell us some interesting things about the formation of the Earth's crust!

Jul
25
2007

We are not amused.: Photo by adpk from flickr.com
We are not amused.: Photo by adpk from flickr.com

More breaking news from the No Duh Department: New research shows that old people have no sense of humor.

Which explains why Ken doesn’t get JGordon’s posts.

Oh no he didn't!

And stay off my lawn.

Mar
08
2007

As the first wave of baby boomers approaches retirement age, a new report from the National Institute on Aging shows that they complain more about their health than earlier generations did at that same age.

Compared with the oldest group, the youngest group was more likely to have reported difficulty in walking, climbing steps, getting up from a chair, kneeling or crouching, and doing other normal daily physical tasks.

Analysts cite two possible reasons for this. One is that the boomers didn't take very good care of themselves, and are now paying for the excesses of their youth. The other is that this generation still sees itself as "young." And when the normal aches and pains of middle age show up, they feel something must be wrong.

Having grown up in the shadow of these narcissists, I opt for theory #2. Any generation that still listens to Strawberry Alarm Clock and Jefferson Airplane after age 20 or so clearly has a distorted notion of how old it really is. ;-)