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Brazil Has a Plan to Clone Endangered Animals

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Cloning a dinosaur might be a doomed pursuit (much to the dismay of a generation raised on Jurassic Park fantasies), but biologists at Brazil's Brasilia Zoo want to use genetic information from endangered animals to shore up dwindling populations. Next month, zoo researchers plan to begin cloning eight "at-risk" species before they disappear from the planet for good. Here's what you need to know about the bizarre project.

What animals are they cloning?

"The idea is to start with an animal that is endangered, or where species numbers have gone down sharply, such as the jaguar, the maned wolf or even the local deer," says Carlos Frederico Martins, a researcher with Embrapa Cerrado, the government's animal research unit that's working with the zoo on the project. Beyond the animals Martin mentions, prospects for cloning include the black lion tamarin monkey, the bush dog, the collared anteater, the gray brocket deer, the Brazilian aardvark, and the bison. Most of these species are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's red list, but none is "critically endangered," says Andy Coghlan at New Scientist. This isn't the zoo's first stab at cloning; its experts have already successfully produced over 100 copies of cows and horses.

How did they obtain genetic samples?

Researchers spent two years gathering roughly 420 genetic samples, mostly from dead animals scattered throughout the Brazilian outback.

How does the cloning process work?

Take for instance the top candidate for cloning: the maned wolf — an imposing, three-foot-tall animal covered in a thick, red pelt — of which just 23,600 exist in the wild. "A skin cell from the wolf would be inserted into the egg of a common dog from which the nucleus has been removed," says the Associated Press. The embryo would then be inserted inside the uterus of a female dog, which would serve as the cloned wolf pup's surrogate mother.

What will happen after the animals are reproduced?

They'll be kept in captivity as reserves in case wild populations get dangerously low, but there are no immediate plans to release the cloned animals into the wild. The cloned animals would lack the genetic variability of wild populations for the time being anyway, says Martins. "The idea is not to use cloning as a primary conservation tool," and it shouldn't serve as a "substitute to protecting endangered animals' habitats."

Have rare animals been successfully cloned before?

Yes. The ox-like gaur and the sheep-like mouflon have both been genetically reproduced. Biologists even attempted to clone an extinct mountain goat called the Pyrenean ibex, but unfortunately the specimen died at birth. The Brasilia Zoo's more versatile techniques should give its clones a better shot at survival.

Sources: AFPAssociated PressNew ScientistThe Telegraph

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Why a Howling Wind Sounds So Spooky, According to Science
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Halloween is swiftly approaching, meaning you'll likely soon hear creepy soundtracks—replete with screams, clanking chains, and howling winds—blaring from haunted houses and home displays. While the sound of human suffering is frightful for obvious reasons, what is it, exactly, about a brisk fall gust that sends shivers up our spines? In horror movie scenes and ghost stories, these spooky gales are always presented as blowing through dead trees. Do bare branches actually make the natural wailing noises louder, or is this detail added simply for atmospheric purposes?

As the SciShow's Hank Green explains in the video below, wind howls because it curves around obstacles like trees or buildings. When fast-moving air goes around, say, a tree, it splits up as it whips past, before coming back together on the other side. Due to factors such as natural randomness, air speed, and the tree's surface, one side's wind is going to be slightly stronger when the two currents rejoin, pushing the other side's gust out of the way. The two continue to interact back-and-forth in what could be likened to an invisible wrestling match, as high-pressure airwaves and whirlpools mix together and vibrate the air. If the wind is fast enough, this phenomenon will produce the eerie noise we've all come to recognize in horror films.

Leafy trees "will absorb some of the vibrations in the air and dull the sound, but without leaves—like if it's the middle of the winter or the entire forest is dead—the howling will travel a lot farther," Green explains. That's why a dead forest on a windy night sounds so much like the undead.

Learn more by watching SciShow's video below.

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Space
SpaceX's Landing Blooper Reel Shows That Even Rocket Scientists Make Mistakes
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SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launches.
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On March 30, 2017, SpaceX did something no space program had done before: They relaunched an orbital class rocket from Earth that had successfully achieved lift-off just a year earlier. It wasn't the first time Elon Musk's company broke new ground: In December 2015, it nailed the landing on a reusable rocket—the first time that had been done—and five months later landed a rocket on a droneship in the middle of the ocean, which was also unprecedented. These feats marked significant moments in the history of space travel, but they were just a few of the steps in the long, messy journey to achieve them. In SpaceX's new blooper reel, spotted by Ars Technica, you can see just some of the many failures the company has had along the way.

The video demonstrates that failure is an important part of the scientific process. Of course when the science you're working in deals with launching and landing rockets, failure can be a lot more dramatic than it is in a lab. SpaceX has filmed their rockets blowing up in the air, disintegrating in the ocean, and smashing against landing pads, often because of something small like a radar glitch or lack of propellant.

While explosions—or "rapid unscheduled disassemblies," as the video calls them—are never ideal, some are preferable to others. The Falcon 9 explosion that shook buildings for miles last year, for instance, ended up destroying the $200 million Facebook satellite onboard. But even costly hiccups such as that one are important to future successes. As Musk once said, "If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough."

You can watch the fiery compilation below.

[h/t Ars Technica]

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