Thursday, July 12, 2007

Day 347: Newz

Today I worked miracles in the kitchen and the apopcalypse did not occur.

Galina hurt her back pretty bad yesterday, to the extent that, to my terror, an ambulance pulled up this morning. Having no clue whatsoever what was going on, I wondered if I was going to lose some signficant percentage of my neighborhood. Luckily the people seemed in no hurry and apparently it was just a house call by the doctor.

I'll take this moment to make a small, hm, not exactly complaint, but observation. I've told Galina and everyone about a MILLION times to let me know if they need help with anything, such as, oh, with lifting something heavy that will throw your back out that you should probably let the big twenty-something girl do. But my services go largely unused.

Anyway, I decided to make cookies for Gaya (probably spelled wrong, but the nickname for "Galina" is pronounced Guy-a), since they're something I can usually pull off. However, I failed to consider that it being Siberia, I lacked about 50% of the ingediants. With eggs and butter already mixed, I used the power of my mind to determine the rest. Sugar is sugar, so no need for brown sugar, and vanilla essense is basically like, a spice, right? So is cinnamon. So vanilla essense is just cinnamon. And since I don't even know what baking powder technically is, it can't be all that important. A hammer and a chocolate bar made chocolate chips, some rough math figured out the celcius stove, and to my utmost surprise, I made edible Siberian cookies from butter which came from an unknown animal.

In proper news, there's been some pretty exciting things going on, science-wise! In my region of the world, the best-preserved mammoth ever discovered was recently unearthed, renewing hopes for cloning. Read about it here!

In other crazy animal news, on one of the creatures I like to recognize when it comes up, check out this giant squid that washed up! Here! Slightly older but!

But honestly, if you haven't heard of these things yet, and you're getting your current news from some girl in Siberia, you should...I don't know. Work on that.

Thanks to people who point these awesome things out to me!

The winds here have been very strange - changing direction frequently during the day, altering the temperature drastically. There's a fire to the northeast, bringing a thick coat of smoke when the wind is from the north - Siberian smog. With a sudden change in the wind, the tin roof shudders and threatens to flap off, in unseasonably strong winds. The wind and the smell of fire make me nervous, like an animal. I am restless.

My Russian name is "Larisa", since the common nickname for Larisa is Lara, which is close to my name.

Whoa! Moments before posting, another interesting news story has been forwarded to me: Norilsk, another Arctic city in Russia, has the dubious honor of being the most polluted place in the world. Some people are taking advantage of that harvest. Read...


Anonymous said...

Good morning, Laurel, I read this article today and thought, hm, possible DNA source for your friend's Iceage Jurassic-like park? Do the scientists there these finds with one another? Love, Aunt Marilyn

Baby mammoth find promises breakthrough By Dmitry Solovyov
Wed Jul 11, 10:11 AM ET

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The discovery of a baby mammoth preserved in the Russian permafrost gives researchers their best chance yet to build a genetic map of a species extinct since the Ice Age, a Russian scientist said on Wednesday.

"It's a lovely little baby mammoth indeed, found in perfect condition," said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Russian Academy of Science's Zoological Institute, which has been taking care of the mammoth since it was uncovered in May.

"This specimen may provide unique material allowing us to ultimately decipher the genetic makeup of the mammoth," he told Reuters by telephone.

The mammoth, a female who died at the age of six months, was named "Lyuba" after the wife of reindeer breeder and hunter Yuri Khudi who found her in Russia's Arctic Yamalo-Nenetsk region.

She had been lying in the frozen ground for up to 40,000 years, said Tikhonov.

The hunter initially thought the mammoth was a dead reindeer when he spotted parts of her body sticking out of damp snow.

When he realized it was a mammoth, scientists were called in and transported the body to regional capital Salekhard, where she is now being kept in a special refrigerator.


Weighing 50 kg (110 lb), and measuring 85 centimeters high and 130 centimeters from trunk to tail, Lyuba is roughly the same size as a large dog.

Tikhonov said the fact the mammoth was so remarkably well-preserved -- its shaggy coat was gone but otherwise it looked as though it had only recently died -- meant it was a potential treasure trove for scientists.

"Such a unique skin condition protects all the internal organs from modern microbes and micro-organisms ... In terms of its future genetic, molecular and microbiological studies, this is just an unprecedented specimen."

But Tikhonov dismissed suggestions the mammoth could be cloned and used to breed a live mammoth. Cloning can only be done if whole cells are intact, but the freezing conditions will have caused the cells to burst, he Tikhonov.

Tikhonov said the next stop on Lyuba's odyssey would be the Zoological Museum in Russia's second city of St Petersburg.

There, Lyuba will join a male baby mammoth called Dima who was unearthed in Magadan in Russia's Far East in 1977 and until now was Russia's best-known example of the species.

"They will make a nice couple, both roughly aged 40,000 years," Tikhonov said.

From St Petersburg, Lyuba will go to Jikei University in Japan to undergo three-dimensional computer mapping of her body. The mammoth will then return to St Petersburg for an autopsy before being put on display in Salekhard.

Hans Mundahl said...

This post made me laugh - thanks! Have you thought about a name for the cookies? How about Chocolate Hammer Cookies? Or Moose Butter Morsels? Siberian Spice Cakes?

Interesting science news as well.


Antonio said...

hey, very interesting post, not only for your cookies ;) and yes DNA from different organisms can be used for so many things... I'm microbiologist & I know a bit of this

I hope this Yamal peninsula not be destroyed by all this people and dealers who are trying to find some remains to sell

By the way, permafrost are full of ancient microbial communities and many research have been carried out in this areas from some years ago to understand something about life in previous time and something about life in extreme environments for example, life in Mars.

take care!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, in yesterday's NYT, I read about that nickel mine in Norilsk. Really interesting, but I feel awful for the miners and residents. I can't imagine the health repercussions.

Laurel said...

Chase - at first I read "health precautions" and I was like, I don't think they have many of those...