Discovered: DNA half-life makes Jurassic Park impossible; legalizing assisted suicide doesn't make everyone want to die; look at this venomous blue-ringed octopus; cellular findings earn Nobel.
Dinosaurs can't be cloned. Not that any credible scientists have claimed they could, but now we know for certain that using fossilized DNA to clone dinosaurs isn't possible. Palaeogeneticists led by Morten Allentoft at the University of Copenhagen and Michael Bunce at Australia's Murdoch University have pinpointed 521 years as the half-life of DNA recovered from extinct moa birds. "“This confirms the widely held suspicion that claims of DNA from dinosaurs and ancient insects trapped in amber are incorrect," comments University of Sydney researcher Simon Ho. Lots of sites have run headlines bemoaning the fact that this means we'll never get to visit Jurassic Park, but should we really be upset about that? I mean, didn't Jurassic Park not turn out so well? [Nature]
Don't make fun of this octopus' pretty blue rings, or it will kill you. Actually, we're not sure if hurting its feelings will set the blue-ringed octopus off (click the link below for its photo), but this ping pong ball-sized cephalopod can definitely end a human life. Its saliva carries a venomous neurotoxin that can kill a man in a matter of minutes. If you see it flash the blue rings that give it its name, that's a sign to swim for your life. Scientists have discovered that the creature's mesmerizing ring pattern glows when the octopus flexes its muscles, trying to intimidate foes. Other cephalopods uses little reservoirs of pigment called chromatophores to change color, making the blue-ringed octopus' muscular color-changing mechanism unique. This study, published today in the The Journal of Experimental Biology, just happens to coincide with this week's celebration of International Cephalopod Awareness Days. Happy Squid/Cuttlefish day, everyone! [ScienceNow]
Increased death wish fears are unfounded when it comes to assisted suicide. "But won't everyone just start lining up for lethal injections?" ask the opponents of legalizing assisted suicide. No, answers a new study from Swiss researchers published in Frontiers in Psychology for Clinical Settings. By studying patients with the fatal neurodegenerative disease ALS, researchers from the University of Zurich were able to determine that "a liberal legal setting does not necessarily promote the wish for assisted suicide." Nearly all the ALS patients interviewed said they had no desire to commit assisted suicide, but they could imagine asking a doctor to provide them with lethal drugs they could take at their own discretion. However, those number stay constant regardless of legal attitudes toward assisted suicide. Swiss law currently forbids doctors to administer or help patients self-administer euthanasia. [Wired]
The study that won the 2012 chemistry Nobel. Today the Nobel Prize committee awarded Robert Lefkowitz and Brian Kobilka with the Nobel in chemistry for their work on G-protein-coupled cellular receptors. These receptors play a crucial role in cellular response to chemical messages such as adrenaline, and Lefkowitz and Kobilka's main contribution to GPCR research involved modeling the receptors in 3D. The American scientists' findings are seen as key for developing drugs against cancer, diabetes, and depression. The Nobel committee applauded the research for its potential real-world application, writing, "Around half of all medications act through these receptors, among them beta blockers, antihistamines and various kinds of psychiatric medications." [Reuters]