Randy Pausch Time Magazine Interview

I don’t want to get too maudlin about Professor’s Pausch’s passing.   I don’t know the man so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to do a tribute to him.  I was simply inspired by his courage like the rest of the world.  So the best thing to do is to present him in his own words.  Here he is answering 10 questions from readers of Time Magazine. 

 

Note to self: Rent Groundhog Day & Rocky, and buy Sgt. Peppers CD. 

Last Lecture Professor Randy Pausch Dead at age 47

 

The Carnegie Mellon professor who inspired the world with his tremendous attitude and will to celebrate life despite having terminal pancreatic cancer has passed away.  Randy Pausch entered the public arena when his “Last Lecture” was recorded in front a packed theater on the campus of Carnegie Mellon and later released on Youtube and other video sharing sites.  The lecture was later turned into a bestselling book.  He is survived by his wife and three children. 

The family requests that donations on his behalf be directed to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2141 Rosecrans Ave., Suite 7000, El Segundo, Calif. 90245, or to Carnegie Mellon’s Randy Pausch Memorial Fund, which primarily supports the university’s continued work on the Alice project.

You can find more information here: Randy Pausch, noted CMU prof, succumbs to cancer

Human/Animal Hybrids

Oliver, just a chimp or something more?

Oliver, just a chimp or something more?

 

I’m going through one of those phases where I am endlessly fascinated by a particular topic.  This time it is cloning and embryonic stem cell research.  In particular, I’m interested in the creation of human/animal hybrid embryonic cells.   They have done so with a human and a cow.  This was done in the name of scientific research.  They hope to create viable embryonic stem cells that they can one day be used in the research and treatment of various diseases and catastrophic injuries.  Sounds like a plot out of your basic science fiction novel, but it’s real and what’s more, I’m in favor of the research.  What concerns me is that it won’t stop with the embryonic stage.  To convince ourselves that it will is naïve.  Science is driven by curiosity, and curiosity is born from that one archetypal question “What if?”  What if we can carry it past the fetus stage and create a living breathing creature? 

Before cloning, before the first heart transplant, before antibiotics were widely used, it is rumored that in the 1920s the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Orange Park, Florida brought a human-chimp (humanzee) baby to full term.  It in fact lived for several days before they decided to destroy it.  An adult female chimp was artificially inseminated with human sperm.  This is all from an eyewitness account told to Gordon G. Gallup, Jr, PhD.

This was done almost 90 years ago.  Think of what science could do now.  There’s also evidence that both the Soviets and the Chinese dabbled in human/ape hybrid experiments.  To what end, no one really knows, but it seems clear they did conduct studies.

It’s almost certain that science will move beyond the embryonic stage with human/animal hybrids.  It’s quite possible they’ve all ready done so.  What we have to ask ourselves as a society is what rights will these scientific creations possess.  Will they be afforded human rights, or will they be afforded your basic animal rights where they are guaranteed nothing more than humane treatment?  Will they be used for medical research? 

On the face of it, these sound like ridiculous questions, but the day will come when humanity will have to consider these questions.  We should do all the future generations a favor and start the discussion now.   

Holy Handcuffs – Batman Arrested in London

Batman Attacks Sister and Mother After He Finds Out They Work for the Joker

Batman Attacks Sister and Mother After He Finds Out They Work for the Joker

I really only have a passing interest in this story.  I just thought making up a headline about Batman being arrested would be fun.  Seems Christian Bale was arrested in London for allegedly assaulting his mother and sister.  Really?  Wow, so much for the tough Batman persona.  In his defense, Catwoman always kicked his ass so maybe he was just trying to sharpen his skills when it comes to fighting powerful women.  Here’s a quote from thisislondon.co.uk:

Bale, 34, is alleged to have lashed out at his  mother Jenny, 61, and sister Sharon, 40, in his suite at Park Lane’s Dorchester Hotel on Sunday.

Lashing out is a crime in London?  Wow!  Do the London police ever watch the British Parliament on TV?  All those people do is lash out at each other.  They should all be arrested.

The Charcoal Wars and the Conservation Movement – The End of the Mountain Gorillas

Villagers carry a silverback moutain gorilla slaughtered by the charcoal cartel.

Villagers carry a silverback moutain gorilla slaughtered by the charcoal cartel.

Mountain Gorillas of the Congo are being brutally murdered for charcoal. Not the bag of Kingsford charcoal you can pick up at your local Wal-Mart, but charred remains of old growth trees that make up the jungles of the Virunga Mountains. The region has been rocked by a three-way war that has seen a rise in death, rape, and kidnapping in the human population. Humanity in the area is replete with inhumane behavior among the warlords, gangs, and soldiers trying to win control of the one source of energy in the region, charcoal.

Beyond the human toll, the local wildlife is paying a heavy price, as well – namely the mountain gorillas. There are roughly 700 mountain gorillas left of the species. Their habitat is in the middle of the war torn region. The park rangers put into place during and after Dian Fossey’s groundbreaking research into the magnificent primates can no longer effectively protect the mountain gorillas. Many of the rangers have lost their lives in the line of duty, and a small number have joined the darker forces, organizing and contributing to raids into the area to secure more charcoal.

Seven mountain gorillas have been assassinated as a warning to the rangers who refuse to give up on the gorillas. The gorillas aren’t being poached for meat or souvenirs as they were in the past. They are being murdered. The gorilla’s corpses are left in tact for the rangers to discover during routine patrols.

The message? This land now belongs to the charcoal cartel. Interfere and more gorillas will die. But if they don’t interfere, the land will be stripped bare and the gorillas will die. What’s the solution? Clearly the international community has to step in, but to what degree? This is a region that seems to have only one endless resource, brutality. The international community did nothing while civil war broke out among the Hutus and Tutsis in the 90’s. Hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered in the most horrific fashion. What hope is there for the mountain gorillas? I much fear the only solution is a large scale effort to relocate the gorillas. It would take armed troops, a team of scientists and enormous funds. Will it happen? No. It’s not even being seriously discussed. It’s a radical suggestion that no one supports.

The conservation movement can’t save the mountain gorillas. They have good intentions, but they focus too much on conservation. They want to conserve the mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The mountain gorillas are beyond conservation. They need saving, and that will take measures the conservationists are not willing to endorse, and the rest of the world isn’t ready to contemplate.

The only conclusion I can draw is that mountain gorillas will die out soon. There are none  in captivity. It’s been tried, but the captured gorillas have never survived the ordeal. It is a sad comment when the worst thing for a species of animal is that they won’t be preserved in zoos.

I hope I’m wrong in this case. If you’ve read my books, you know how much gorillas mean to me. I wanted to be more upbeat in this posting, but it is impossible to find a positive. Maybe I’m too old and cynical.

You can read National Geographic’s article on this by clicking here: Who Murdered the Virunga Gorillas?