The Universe is under no obligation to make sense to you
The Brain Scoop:
Carl Akeley’s Fighting African Elephants
The first time I remember being stunned by a museum exhibit was when I was a high school junior on a school trip to Washington, D.C. We were given an afternoon to explore and I somehow ended up at the National Museum of Natural History. Not only was it a formative experience because I had never entertained the idea of not having to pay admission to enter a museum (seriously, that fact blew my mind, I thought they were joking when they said it was “free”), but upon entering the rotunda visitors are immediately greeted by the Fényköv Elephant, which happens to be the largest elephant in a museum today. I couldn’t tell if it was real. Was it real? If it wasn’t, why would someone fabricate a humongous elephant for this hall? Wouldn’t it be incredible if it was real? If it is, how did they do that? I don’t think I got very far in the NMNH that day, stunned by what I was staring at in the entrance.
I’ve never forgotten that feeling of wonder, and it never ceases to amaze me when I look at our Fighting African Elephants here at The Field Museum. It’s a joy to walk by them every day, and continue to marvel at the unlikelihood of their existence, both as living creatures and now forever frozen in time, leaving not only the legacy of their natural selves but also an impression of those unique individuals responsible for their preservation.
Museum animals may be stiff, glass-eyed, and deader than dead, but each one is stuffed with history. Or in this case, hauls with it a trunk full of history.
See what I did there?!
I vote to rename one one of the elephants “Stuff-aluppagus”. Petition forthcoming …
Q:do we share a common ancestor with plants because we're both eukaryotes or have i misunderstood something?
We do share a common ancestor with plants! Everything shares an ancestor with everything else. We call it LUCA, for Last Universal Common Ancestor (sometimes called just LUA). At least, that’s what the most widely-supported theories say.
That LUCA would have resembled a very basic modern bacterium, with a circular genome (as opposed to ours, which is in 46 linear pieces) and would have lived on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago.
Eventually, some single-celled organisms gulped up small bacteria and used them as internal energy factories. Eventually, those enslaved power plants became mitochondria, which retain their bacterial-type circular genomes today. The parent cells walled off their own DNA inside a nucleus at about the same time, transforming into eukaryotes. Some of those eukaryotes then swallowed up photosynthetic cyanobacteria to go along with their mitochondria, and that was the origin of plants.
Here’s a nice little diagram of how we think it all went down, via Wikipedia:
As for the transformation from single cells to multicellular splendor? That’s a (mostly mysterious) story for a different day.
What’s the worst, most annoying, head-immediately-slamming-into-desk science headline you’ve read recently, or ever?
I’m crowdsourcing ideas that will go into a future video!
For example, here’s one of my least favorite: A chimp-pig hybrid origin for humans?
Feelin’ Like A Lab God
The latest It’s Okay To Be Smart video is a stunner. It’s fun to take 8 minutes to sit and think about the enormity of the Universe and what else might be out there. Also, the video ends with my very favorite piece of writing by Ray Bradbury, If Only We Had Taller Been, read by the author himself.
The other day, when I saw Joe tweet about this video, I was getting into my car to drive home. I kept thinking about it on the drive, wondering what he might have to teach us about exoplanets and ourselves, and I just couldn’t wait to watch it. So I pulled into my driveway and pushed play on my phone. By the end of it, I had goosebumps. It was my first It’s Okay To Be Smart ”driveway moment" and I’m sure it won’t be my last. This stuff just gets better and better and better. Bravo, Joe.
And this is MY first goosebump moment at having someone say such nice things about something I made :)
Thank you, thank you thank you thank you. The only greater gift than getting to wonder and create and teach for a living is the people that I get to reach: You guys! Put a bow on yourselves or something and get under my tree, the whole lot of you!
This is what our planet would look like to visitors from another planet. Alternatively, this is also what the Death Star would have looked like shortly before it blasted Alderaan to pieces.
On October 9, 2013, NASA’s JUNO spacecraft swung by Earth, its home, for the last time, using our gravity as a slingshot to propel it toward its ultimate rendezvous with Jupiter in 2016.
Humming along at nearly four kilometers per second, it turned a special camera toward Earth, and captured the first-ever movie of the moon in orbit around its host planet - us.
Our moon stacks up as 27% smaller than Earth, takes up just 2% of our volume, and is only about 1% as massive, yet that’s still plenty to drag upon our oceans and deliver daily tides. In its elliptical orbit, the moon is, at any moment, an average of 384,000 kilometers from you. Juno, on the other hand, came within 600 kilometers of Earth during its recent visit, less than twice the altitude of the International Space Station.
We are the most creative, the most inventive, the most curious of the multitudes of small creatures that inhabit this planet, and in all the living history that has or ever will take place on this hazy blue marble, none save us have ever or will ever see sights such as these. There’s your significance.
Enjoy this video of the historic fly-by, with some special new music from Vangelis (yes, that Vangelis):