There’s even more frightening news out of Russia: A never-before-seen virus that lay dormant for 30,000 years under 100 feet of Siberian permafrost has come back to life. And it’s infectious. But don’t worry—scientists meant to do it.
— Could Global Warming Cause Our Next Pandemic? (via vicenews)
How to Swim from Cuba to Florida
On August 31, 2013, Diana Nyad jumped into the shark-friendly waters of Cuba and swam 110-odd miles—without the protection of a shark cage—to Key West, Florida, 53 hours later. Why would anyone stare down the ocean and risk death to face up its indomitable conditions? Who knows.
Let’s take a tour, shall we?
Our site Motherboard just got a whole new look!
Are People ‘Born Gay’? Who Gives a Shit?
It’s OK to be gay because I say so. Fuck science. If you want to bump uglies tonight with someone who has the same set of genitals as you, go for it. Seriously, this is on me, folks—as one of Britain’s leading slut bags, I now pronounce you free to go gay. Or not. Whatever. I really couldn’t give a shit.
You may’ve read some stories recently about researchers actually finding this mythical and vitally important “gay gene.” Others say they might now be able to tell if someone is gay by their earwax. A lot of this research isn’t peer reviewed, but who cares about dreary old details like that? And who cares that despite years of searching, scientists don’t even know which genes control height?
These quests to find the mythical “gay gene” have proven to be pretty controversial, to the point that the scientists involved have come out and defended their efforts. Qazi Rahman, a psychologist at King’s College London, recently insisted to the Guardian: “We need to do ‘gene finding’ studies… to have a better idea where potential genes for sexual orientation may lie.” Why? Why do we need to know? There are other areas of human sexuality that might be worth investigating. Is there, for example, a rapist gene? A pedophile gene? That knowledge could be useful. But what’s the point of finding a gay gene? So homophobic moms-and-dads-to-be can abort gay fetuses? If that’s not the reason, what is?
How does taking photos affect our brains? We asked a scientist.
If it was a time for anything, 2013 was a year that saw the Snow Fall(ing) full-bleed layout solidify itself as the du jour template for longform non-fiction storytelling on the Internet.
I Got My Personal Genome Mapped and It Was Bullshit
Last Friday, the FDA forced personal genomics company 23andMe to stop marketing its tests to the public in their current form. Before the order came in, customers would send a spit sample to the firm, who would sequence the DNA and look for genes indicating a risk of up to 254 diseases and conditions, providing a breakdown of any issues.
The FDA cited a lack of supporting evidence for some of the claims made and expressed particularly serious concern over their assessment of the BRCA gene, which is linked to breast cancer, suggesting 23andMe’s tests might result in false positives that could lead to women undergoing traumatic and unnecessary surgery. The FDA’s actions have led to an explosion of opinion across the science blogosphere, but in all of that commentary a big question remains unanswered: What exactly is the point of personal genomics?
My first experience with the industry came about three years ago, when I was offered the chance to have a test done with Navigenics, a firm since taken over by a biotech firm called Life Technologies. Being a curious sort of guy, I jumped at the chance. A sample tube arrived via Fedex a few days later, which I duly spat into and sent back for analysis.
The results came back in the form of a sort of “wall of death”—a breakdown of all the things that might harm or kill me over the coming decades, detailing how likely I am to have each condition. Drilling into the figures, I can see that I have a higher risk of prostate cancer than 95 percent of the population and a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s—twice the average risk. So I’ll probably get cancer, but on the plus side I’ll be too forgetful to care about it.