A 48,500-year-old virus revived from the permafrost
Seven types of viruses that have lain frozen in the Siberian permafrost for thousands of years have been revived. The youngest of these viruses were frozen for 27,000 years, while the oldest was on ice for 48,500 years old – making it the most ancient virus resuscitated so far. “48,500 years is a world record,” says Jean-Michel Claverie at Aix-Marseille University in France, who did the work with his colleagues. Scientists are thawing out these ancient viruses in order to assess their impacts on public health. As the permafrost melts in the Northern Hemisphere, the thawing ice releases tons of trapped chemicals and microbes.
French man wins the right to not have to be ‘fun’ at work
France’s highest court has ruled that a man fired by a Paris-based consulting firm for allegedly failing to be “fun” enough at work was wrongfully dismissed. The man, referred to in court documents as Mr. T, was fired from Cubik Partners in 2015 after refusing to take part in seminars and weekend social events that his lawyers argued, according to court documents, included “excessive alcoholism” and “promiscuity.” Mr. T had argued that the culture in the company involved “humiliating and intrusive practices” including mock sexual acts and crude nicknames. In its judgment this month, the Court of Cassation ruled that the man was entitled to “freedom of expression” and that refusing to participate in social activities was a “fundamental freedom.”
DNA showed a mother was also her daughter’s uncle
How can a paternity test suggest a mother is also her daughter’s father? The answer to that medical mystery, sparked by a confusing paternity test result, is “When the genes of a vanished twin brother live on in the mother’s DNA.” The finding, which genetics experts reported earlier this month, suggests that such human “chimeras” — people with DNA from more than one embryo — could be more common than we thought. “What is the frequency of this? We don’t really know,” said Juan Yunis of Colombia’s Instituto de Genética. Only about 20 confirmed cases are documented, he said: “Probably there are more.
What people actually say before they die
Mort Felix liked to say that his name, when read as two Latin words, meant “happy death.” When he was sick with the flu, he used to jokingly remind his wife, Susan, that he wanted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played at his deathbed. But when his life’s end arrived at the age of 77, he lay in his study in his Berkeley, California, home, his body besieged by cancer and his consciousness cradled in morphine, uninterested in music and refusing food as he dwindled away over three weeks in 2012. “Enough,” he told Susan. “Thank you, and I love you, and enough.” When she came downstairs the next morning, she found Felix dead.
The Nutcracker’s’ dark Russian past
Cute kids, antic elders, a dessert buffet that springs to life, all swirling to those gorgeous Tchaikovsky melodies — is it any wonder that “The Nutcracker” is one of the most popular ballets in the country, if not the world? Yet when you dig into the Russian roots of this holiday classic, there’s a dark history that may change the way you think about it. At “The Nutcracker’s” premiere on Dec. 18, 1892, in St. Petersburg, the ballet paid homage to the czar and his empire, and within its affectionate tale of family celebration and childhood fantasy are the footsteps of a more brutal narrative.
The mystery behind blue whale songs
In 2001, a pair of physicists turned whale researchers noticed something puzzling in their data. John Hildebrand and Mark McDonald were trying to build a system that would allow them to automatically detect blue whale songs off the coast of southern California. But their algorithm kept crashing. Blue whale songs fall below the range of human hearing. If you want to listen to one, to actually hear its ethereal patterns of wobbly pulses and haunting moans, you have to speed it up by at least two-fold. But according to Hildebrand and McDonald’s instruments, the tonal frequencies of the songs had been sinking to even greater depths for three straight years.