Wednesday, 27 February 2019

The Replicants are coming !


One of the most popular ideas seen in science fiction is the idea of man creating replica living organisms.
Exact copies of living or extinct animals and even people.
From the owl seen in blade runner and its human replicants, artificial copies, exact in every detail only given away as being manufactured because of the way the lenses of the eyes reflect light.
An unnatural flash of red all replicants' share, human and animal alike.
These replicants should not be confused with creations that have android bodies seen in film like ‘surrogates’ and the new anime adaptation ‘Alita Battle angel.’
I would say that idea of replacing the body with a mechanical one is a transhumanist dream.
What we are talking about here is life cloned, engineered and grown.
This is no longer only in the realms of fantasy it has become a reality.
Japanese microengineer Ken-Ichiro Kamei has created "bodies on a chip"
Let’s take a look



This invention which has been given the slightly creepy name of “Bodies on a chip” acts as stand in for living beings, created to cease the need to use living animals as test subjects.
It was soon known that this technology could go a lot further inspiring new cures for rare diseases and even providing the means to resuscitate dead species
The chip is a made up of a crystal-clear silicone rubber layer which contains faintly visible troughs and channels.
This biotech is the first step on the path to replicate organs, systems and eventually entire bodies on chips. The chip contains an interconnected system of channels, valves and pumps these allow for complex interactions which are capable of mimicking a living system.
Currently the chips only mimic particular tissues or organs, the end goal is to create a chip or group of chips to replicate whole animals.
If that is not the same technology as seen in Blade runner I don’t what else could be?
The construction of these devices is also eerily similar to what is seen in the movie.
 The microfluidic chips constructed in a lab, primarily using a laser cutter and a 3D printer.
So how do these “first steps on the road to replicants” work
Various types of cell tissue are added into the six chambers which are connected to micro-channels, the chip is then connected to a pneumatic micro-pump to create circulation.
Currently the chip is then used to test the effects of drugs on the cells and develop new therapies that lack unwanted side effects.
The technology can also be used to redesign cells. Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells can be created from virtually any other type of cell in the body. Reprogrammed back into an embryonic-like pluripotent state this enables the development of an unlimited source of any type of human cell needed for therapeutic purposes this including sperm cells and eggs for fertility treatments, or any others in the body for pharmaceutical trials.
The "bodies on a chip" will not only be used to improve human medicine; they could also become a tool in animal conservation.
   The creation of animal Stem cells used to create endangered species, these used as products to satisfy market demand without capturing or killing real wildlife.
This reminds me of the tigers from Babylon A.D.
These iPS cells may be used to synthesize meat, welcome to a world of lab grown burgers, meat consumption being a hotly debated topic at the moment.
Real money being thrown into the creation on non-animal based meat products this seen as a way to alleviate inhumane treatment of livestock and the environmentally harmful effects of factory farming.
In terms of species conservation and bringing back extinct animals the “Body on a chip” technology has been hailed as miracle. iPS cells open up a seemingly endless array of possibilities for species conservation.
Kazak Scientists are still struggling to understand why 200,000 saiga antelopes , over half of the world’s population, suddenly died from a bacterial infection in 2015, Tasmanian researchers have been working for years to find a treatment for a contagious face cancer that is threatening the survival of Tasmanian devils.
Genetic diversity can be banked and restored by turning cells into animals or by using cellularly-based technologies to restore genetic variation, then there’s less risk of extinction
 Gorillas are prone to heart attacks, no one knows why, and no one has been able to provide a fix.
 “The chip could replicate a gorilla’s heart helping identify what kinds of drug and treatments will help them. As with many medical advancements the creation of which is seen as advancement and something that will be used for good, they often become twisted and corrupted.
I fear this chip could be the same, why spend time finding cures for these animals when the possibility of using these chips create sperm and egg cells and just replicate them.
The northern white rhino – a subspecies of white rhino that is now reduced to just two living individuals could be the first replicant creature.
Using frozen tissue samples from dead rhino’s iPS cells will be made. The iPS cells would, in turn, be made into egg and sperm cells to create viable, genetically diverse embryos to then be implanted in to surrogate rhino mothers from a less endangered group. Many think that this is the only hope for saving this subspecies from extinction. Regardless of the project’s success, it will likely pave the way for similar species-saving efforts in the future.
Then we have to answer the sticky question, are these replicas living things or products?
A question even more poignant as we are talking about a species that was hunted to the brink of extinction due to the demand for its ivory.
Will we create replica rhino to meet the demands of this market?
This is being developed, laboratory grown ivory blocks that would be easy to manufacture into hankos” – the name seals that account for 80% of ivory use in Japan- presenting an alternative legal source for ivory goods.
We can see the early signs that this is creating a new market, those that hoped this technology would alleviate the suffering of animals will see their creation perverted into a science that has made life a commercial product. 
Another worrying idea for the use of this new technology is in the field of behavioral science.
Scientist are interested in using it to study how hormones and neurotransmitters like serotonin affect animal behavior and how gene function underlies behaviors.
This once again may start with animals but could the temptation to modify human behavior be resisted?
This technology has yet more similarities with Blade runner.
The replicant humans in the movie were created to fight off world, to be sent out into space and carry out dangerous tasks and fight on behalf of their human creators.
Ken-Ichiro says that his goals extend even higher – literally beyond the bounds of earthly problems, all the way into space.
 In the US, the National Center for Advancing Translational Science and the International Space Station US National Laboratory already created a “Tissue Chips in Space” project to test the effects of space on human cells and organs, and Kamei believes they could be of equal value in ensuring animals can make a smooth transition to a post-Earth future. “Humans won’t be the only ones going into space – pets and livestock will, too,” Kamei says. “While I won’t be going to Mars, it’s my dream to help those who do.” 
We are at a real turning point in human history with this new technology, as with all technology it is only a tool there is no inherent evil baked into its design, but the use is down to mankind and history has given us many warning of new technology going awry.
We must be careful that devices like this do not devalue life, a lesson many science fiction books movies and TV shows have tried to warn us about.
What do you think about this technology?
Do think that it is a good thing?
Are you worried it will become corrupted, and see the creation of a second class of lifeform?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below




Monday, 25 February 2019

Bondo apes


Humanoid cryptids have always been there, stalking the history of mankind, these hairy relatives sometimes being considered friend other times foe.
Those that believe in the existence of the creatures are often firm in their beliefs, they usually point to strange sounds of fleeting glances as proof that they have encountered a living cryptid hominid.
Outside of these reports proof however has been hard to find, many artefacts have proven to be nothing more than hoaxes, but does this mean we should lose faith in one day finding an animal like Wildman, a Sasquatch or yeti?
Well maybe not.
Famously the gorilla hid from the modern world for hundreds of years and was regarded as being a fictitious animal, an animal we now know to be real.
Could there be another species of undiscovered great ape, a species said to stand at some 6 feet in height, aggressive and capable of tool use?
 Could it once and for all prove that there is more hidden in the forests and jungles of the world than people would rather admit?
Let take a look the creature they call “the lion killer.”




The story begins with discovery of an odd gorilla-like skull found in Central Africa during the 1990s. This skull had some distinct differences which provoked wild speculation about a new species of great ape.
This skull was similar to that of a gorilla, having the sagittal crest but was more chimp like in its dimensions. Primatologists made the suggestion that the skull represented a new subspecies of gorilla, others believed it to be a strange chimpanzee-gorilla hybrid.
Locals in the area told of a monstrous man sized ape that was feared and was so strong it was known to tear lion’s limb from limb.
This story grew and the animal was given the name the Bondo Ape or Bili ape.
 It was said that this cryptid ape could kill a fully grown lion using its bare hands, and it was even capable of using simple tools and poison tipped arrows.
Local hunters say they had heard the animal howling at the moon and when it is seen it is a huge, vicious, strong killer an intelligent predator both strong and smart.
Something these men feared!
This is very much like the stories of wildmen and even Sasquatch.
The difference being that the stories about man sized chimps were believed and science took serious interest.
The University of Amsterdam and it primatologist Cleve Hicks tracked the mystery apes for over a year. Hicks’s and his team gathered many hours of film footage, collected DNA, and examined the tools fashioned by the apes.
Alas, genetic testing determined that the mystery apes were a known subspecies of chimpanzee, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii.
Although the species was known, the scientist did notice that this group of apes displayed unique group behaviors, a culture if you will.
This included a high protein based diet, this could go some way to explaining the reported larger size of the apes. Could it also explain their intelligence the consumption of meat has long been linked to the development of human intelligence?
Are we seeing, before our very eyes, the beginning of a new stronger more intelligent chimpanzee species?
So what behaviors make them different from regular chimpanzees?
These animals nest on the ground like gorillas, smash open turtle and snail shells using hard surfaces, they use different types of sticks for collecting different species of ants, and have been spotted feasting on a leopard carcass.
Although little evidence supports the popular legend that the animals howl at the moon or are ferocious lion killers that does not mean they aren’t intimidating.
In the deep forest, the chimps are fearless, “approaching us in the trees to get a better look,” Hicks says, rather than fleeing at the sight of humans, as chimps in other regions tend to do.
Mr Hicks.  Told of how previous researchers had only managed to snatch glimpses of the animals or snap photos of them using camera traps.
Hicks was able to use his local knowledge to get a lot closer to them photograph and film them.
Hicks spoke of his encounters saying,
"We were told of this sort of fabled land out west by one of our trackers who goes out there to fish," said Mr Hicks whose project is supported by the Wasmoeth Wildlife Foundation. "I call it the magic forest. It is a very special place. Getting there means a gruelling 40km (25-mile) trek through the jungle, from the nearest road, not to mention navigating croc-infested rivers. But when he arrived he found apes without their normal fear of humans. Chimps near the road flee immediately at the sight of people because they know the consequences of a hunter's rifle, but these animals were happy to approach him. "The further away from the road the more fearless the chimps got.”
They can get away with sleeping on the ground opposed to other chimps, even when there are lions, leopards, golden cats around as well as other dangerous animals like elephants and buffalo. Because although I don't like to paint them as being more aggressive, maybe they prey on some of these predators and the predators kind of leave them alone."
"The ground nests were very big and there was obviously something very unusual going on there. They are not unknown elsewhere”
This could prove another link to creatures like Bigfoot, those that research the cryptid say that it too nests on the ground or in caves a similar behavior that could have manifested due to the same cause, Sasquatch also having nothing to fear.
The Bigfoot is also known to build and bend and manipulate trees and saplings into all sorts of shapes maybe even creating tools, this behavior is seen with the Bondo apes.
The primatologist describes the Bondo as having a "smashing culture"
Having found hundreds of snails and hard-shelled fruits smashed for food, chimps were seen carrying termite mounds to rocks to break them open and they also discovered a turtle that was almost certainly smashed apart by these chimps.
As with chimp populations in other parts of Africa, the Bondo chimps use sticks to fish for ants, but the Bondo apes take it to the next level with their 2.5 meter long tools.
The exciting thing about the Bondo is that it is much bigger than anyone first realized and could be one of the largest remaining continuous populations of the species left in Africa. Mr Hicks and his colleague Jeroen Swinkels surveyed an area of 7,000 square kilometers and found chimps everywhere. Their unique culture being found throughout.
However, the future for the Bondo apes is far from secure. "Things are not promising," said Karl Ammann, an independent wildlife photographer who began investigating the apes 1996. "The absence of a strong central government has resulted in most of the region becoming more independent and lawless. In conservation terms this is a disaster."
Maybe this provides us with the last and possibly saddest link to the Wildmen legends. IF the Bondo numbers dwindle it’s all too easy to see how they too could become a cryptid creature once again. Like Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and yeti they would be consigned to legend.
Fleeting glances of a 6 foot hominid form hiding in the jungle, the finding of discarded tools maybe large footprints seen in the ground and hey presto we have a new Congolese Bigfoot cousin.
We must also remember that Neanderthals got very cosy with humans. Studies show that inter species relations were a thing and that hidden inside our genomes are signs of ancestors that we never knew existed. Geneticists call them “ghosts”.
We may not have much in the way of the physical record for these ancient hominins, there are sometimes no bones, no tools, and no archaeological remains whatsoever.
Yet the traces of genetic code which they left within the fossils of other hominins, and  even in living humans too, is offering profound and unprecedented insights into how our species came to be.
Scientist have been studying the genomes of wild chimps and bonobos in central Africa.
They found odd fragments of DNA. The fragments couldn’t be explained by ancient matings with each other, or by random mutations. The DNA, they say, comes from an unknown or “ghost” bonobo population
This population must have become isolated, evolved independently and later mixed back in with its long-lost relatives.
Could that be the same with other types of cryptid hominid reported around the planet?
Do you think this discovery provides hope in finding Bigfoot or any of the many wildmen?
Do you think the Bondo Chimps are an example of an evolutionary jump occurring before our very eyes?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.



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