Unsurprisingly, American Explorer Terrible at Milking Cows

When explorer and National Geographic grantee Chris Bashinelli went on expedition to live among Mongolian nomads for a month, he had aspirations of racing on horseback across the plains to fulfill his epic vision of nomadic life. Unbeknownst to him, Bashinelli would be spending a fair amount of time with another four-legged hoofed animal: cows.

The nomadic diet is heavily reliant on cow’s milk, so to truly immerse himself in the culture, Bashinelli had to get up close and personal with livestock. Brooklyn boy that he is, Bashinelli felt a little out of his element. “It doesn’t happen in the snap of a finger like when I go to 3rd Avenue and buy my milk from the supermarket,” he says. “When your face is a few inches from a cow’s teat and a few feet away from the cow’s kicking legs, it isn’t exactly the most comforting environment.”

Not only was Bashinelli trying to make himself comfortable, but he also wanted to make sure the cow was comfortable, too. “I had to become friends with the cow before she would let me milk her. One of the techniques that you can use to become friends with the cow is to gently massage the cow’s butt with your hand,” he says, laughing. “That’s what Nara taught me.”

Chris learns the art of cow massage from his host, Nara.

Mongolian nomad Nara and his wife, Buja, hosted Bashinelli for a week, and the trio spent a great deal of time tending to livestock. Nomads collect milk from not only cows, but also yaks, sheep, goats, horses, and camels, and use milk to make everything from yogurt, to cheese curds, to tea, to vodka.

But despite his best efforts, Bashinelli is probably not cut out for nomadic life—due to circumstances beyond his control. “I am lactose intolerant —> Read More

DNA Study Yields Big Surprise About The Tiny ‘Molecule Of Life’

You don’t have to be a molecular biologist to know that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) has a “double helix” structure. But if you think the molecule of life is nothing more than the “two helical chains each coiled round the same axis” outlined by Watson and Crick in their classic 1953 paper, think again.

Scientists now know that DNA molecules twist repeatedly upon themselves to form tightly wound supercoils, and new research on DNA “minicircles” by scientists in the U.S. and Europe shows that DNA is constantly wiggling and morphing into a menagerie of different shapes.

“Some of the circles had sharp bends, some were figure-8s, and others looked like handcuffs or racquets or even sewing needles,” Dr. Rossitza N. Irobalieva, formerly of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and a co-author of a paper describing the research, said in a written statement. “Some looked like rods because they were so coiled.”

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The finding represents more than a scientific curiosity. Scientists say it could pave the way to better medicines, including ones for treating cancer and bacterial infections.

“Since some anti-cancer therapies bind to the DNA itself, and some antibiotics target the enzymes that specifically recognize supercoiled DNA in bacteria, we hope that our research will improve the molecular design of drugs right from the very beginning of the process,” Dr. Sarah A. Harris, a theoretical physicist at the University of Leeds in England and a co-author of the paper, told The Huffington Post in an email

How were the researchers able to arrive at this incredible new picture of DNA? First, scientists at Baylor made little circles of DNA and then used a microscopy technique known as cryo-electron tomography to create detailed images of —> Read More

UC Berkeley Defends Handling Of Astronomer’s Sexual Harassment Charges

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — The University of California at Berkeley defended its handling of sexual harassment complaints against a prominent astronomer amid accusations on campus and beyond that the professor was inadequately disciplined for inappropriate behavior with students.

The university has not shared details of the six-month investigation of Professor Geoffrey Marcy that concluded in June when he was found to have violated campus sex harassment policies. It resulted from complaints brought by former students and dealt with incidents dating as far back as 2001, campus officials said.

Marcy issued a public apology last week while at the same time disputing some of the allegations against him.

After the probe and the nature of the complaints first were reported by BuzzFeed News on Friday, UC Berkeley said Marcy had agreed to clear parameters around his behavior with the knowledge he would be subject to automatic suspension or dismissal for any violations.

In a follow-up statement issued Monday, the school described the agreement Marcy reached with Vice Provost for Faculty Janet Broughton as “the most certain and effective option for preventing any inappropriate future conduct” because it bypassed a lengthy disciplinary process that would have required a hearing before a faculty committee.

“The university has imposed real consequences on Professor Geoff Marcy by establishing a zero tolerance policy regarding future behavior and by stripping him of the procedural protections that all other faculty members enjoy,” the statement said.

The revelation that one of the world’s leading experts on planets outside Earth’s solar system had not been sanctioned more severely has angered some of Marcy’s colleagues and former students, including one of the four women students who filed complaints about him with the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination last year.

“His job as a professor is to mentor and provide guidance to young people; in —> Read More

Boy’s Reaction To Bloody Attack At Alcatraz Totally Steals Shark’s Thunder

Visitors to Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay on Saturday watched in amazement as a great white shark hunted and killed what appeared to be a seal or sea lion just off one of the island’s docks, according to NBC Bay Area.

Video of the bloody chase was uploaded to YouTube Monday, featuring surprisingly adorable commentary from a young boy who was obviously having one of the best days ever.

That’s awesome looking!” the boy says in the video. “That’s the awesomest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Our little buddy certainly knows his “Jaws” trivia and correctly identified the shark as a great white. According to a statement from David McGuire, a research associate with the California Academy of Sciences and director of the shark conservation group Shark Stewards, the predator appeared to be an 8- to 10-foot great white shark.

“It’s actually a sign that maybe the San Francisco Bay is getting a little healthier, that you have top predators like white sharks coming in,” McGuire told KTVU. “It’s the first known predation of a sea lion that I know of in San Francisco Bay in historical times.”

But it isn’t the first time great white sharks have entered the bay.

From 2000 to 2008, several California researchers tagged more than 100 sharks and tracked their movements, according to a 2009 report from the San Jose Mercury News. Five of the tagged sharks swam underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and into the bay between 2007 and 2008, although researchers don’t know where in the bay the sharks traveled.

Makes you wonder about the Alcatraz inmates who attempted to escape the now-defunct prison, doesn’t it?

Also on —> Read More

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