June 14, 2013
Gene Patenting Not Allowed – The Daily Orbit
Just exactly how fast is a cheetah?
Why is the number 58 important?
Uh-uh! You ain’t patenting those genes!
And some wild weather on the Daily Orbit!
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Well there’s a new Supreme Court ruling that says you “can’t put no patent on genes!” Yep, genes belong to the public. Myriad Genetics Inc. had tried to patent breast and ovarian cancer genes but the court was having none of that! They ruled that patenting the DNA the company isolated from the body violates patent rules because the laws of nature, natural phenomena and abstract ideas cannot be patented. The patent would have kept other researchers from working with the BRCA gene, but this ruling opens up that opportunity. The judge simply said “Myriad didn’t create anything.”
Seen that commercial where the guy outruns the cheetah? Ha! Just how fast is a cheetah? Well a team of scientists set to find out with GPS-based motion sensing collars that they put on cheetahs in the wild. They recorded speeds up to 58 mph, more than twice the fastest human on the planet—Usain Bolt. Previous speed estimates had been based on direct observations and film. The research team not only used GPS technology but also accelerometers, magnetometers, and gyroscopes. Most of the high-speed data coincided with hunting of course. But it wasn’t necessarily speed that caught the Impala—which makes up 75% of the cheetah’s diet—maneuverability was the key to success in hunting campaigns. Fast like a cheetah!
And the number 58 is important for another reason that is out of this world! Temperatures on Mars can swing as much as 58 degrees F during the day. NASA scientists said they see a maximum temperature in the middle of the day but also a little after midnight. This semi-diurnal pattern—tides of temperature, wind and pressure that go up twice a day—were unexpected during non-dusty seasons but once the NASA team took into account the water-ice clouds into their models it made more sense. Temperatures on Mars go up and down up and down.
Weather on Mars might be crazy, but the weather here on Earth is getting pretty crazy too! Have you noticed? According to the National Climatic Data Center, last year’s wild weather made 2012 the most expensive year since 1980 with costs adding up in the billions, 11 different weather and climate disasters, and 377 deaths. The yearlong drought and Hurricane Sandy won the most damaging award with $30 billion and $64 billion respectively. Though the weather patterns were typical, what made 2012 so different was the severity of each of these weather events and the unusual areas where they struck. What’s up Mother Nature?
But this wild weather isn’t keeping us from populating the world. A new estimate puts the world population at 11 billion by the year 2100. That’s 8% more than last year’s previous projection of 10.1 billion. So what’s changed? Africa. The UN had expected the birth rates to decline more than they have on that continent. The current population of Africa is 1.1 billion but it’s expected to reach 4.2 billion by the end of the century. The study took into account increasing life expectancies and improved fertility forecasting methods. Researchers say we need to renew policies on family planning and family education.
Well that’s it for the Daily Orbit… See you next week!