Woolly mammoth resurrection project receives $15 million boost

Woolly mammoth resurrection project receives $15 million boost

Posted: Sep 18, 2021 12:50 PM
Updated: Sep 18, 2021 12:50 PM

We live in a time bookended by extremes.

Many believe our future is in space, where one day humans will live across the solar system.

Looking back, we see evidence of a wild planet where giant creatures once roamed, only to fall in the face of natural disasters that shaped the Earth we know today.

Armed with the know-how, some scientists want to bring back ancient animals. It begs the question we know all too well from "Jurassic Park": Should you do something just because you can?

Exploring space has led to technology that now defines our everyday life. What might we learn from the potential success or failure of resurrecting a species?

It's a delicate balance -- and as we've also learned, life finds a way.

Back to the future

The scientific efforts to resurrect the woolly mammoth, which went extinct 4,000 years ago, just got a $15 million boost.

A group of geneticists led by Harvard Medical School's George Church envisions the mammoth once again roaming its natural habitat.

The goal is to use genetic engineering to create a living elephant-mammoth hybrid that looks just like a woolly mammoth. Proponents of the project believe the beasts could help restore the Arctic tundra ecosystem and preserve the endangered Asian elephant, the woolly mammoth's closest relative.

This bold plan is fraught with ethical issues. Some scientists question if we know enough to make such an attempt -- and the larger point of such an undertaking. But the thought of being up close with a once-extinct creature is a tantalizing one.

We are family

If you ever wondered what our Stone Age ancestors wore, you might think about the draped furs of "The Flintstones." The actual evidence for when humans began wearing clothes is sparse.

Researchers found bone tools used to process animal skins in a Moroccan cave. Dated between 90,000 and 120,000 years ago, these artifacts could be the earliest proxy evidence for clothing in the archaeological record.

Neanderthals and humans likely had to contend with some frigid temperatures, but the climate along Morocco's Atlantic coast was mild at the time.

This means the clothing made from sand foxes, golden jackals and wildcats may have been for ornamentation and style in addition to practical reasons. Yabba-dabba-doo to that!

Defying gravity

The first-ever mission to Earth's orbit crewed entirely by tourists launched Wednesday night, and SpaceX's Inspiration 4 is flying higher than the International Space Station as it orbits the Earth.

The team includes a billionaire who self-funded the mission, a cancer survivor, a teacher and a Lockheed Martin employee. The crew will splash down off the coast of Florida on Saturday.

SpaceX hopes this will be the first of many similar tourism missions, creating a future when it's as common to take a jaunt to space as it is to hop on an airplane.

The launch coincided with Yom Kippur. The history of observing religious practices in space is actually decades long and full of rich anecdotes.

Going green

Each day presents a new challenge linked to the ongoing climate crises. The hole in the ozone that forms annually over the South Pole is now larger than Antarctica. Intense, record-breaking temperatures occur regularly and impact our health.

There is no quick solution for these problems, but researchers are tackling them in creative ways.

To combat the environmental damage caused by livestock waste, scientists are potty-training cows. Yes, cows.

When cattle waste gets into the soil, the ammonia converts into the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. But cattle are clever, and they love a treat. You'd be surprised how many cows were happy to use a latrine during what the study team dubbed "MooLoo training."

A long time ago

Ancient finds allow us to understand the diverse creatures that lived long before humans -- and sometimes, they allow us a peek inside their behavior.

Dripping tree resin trapped female spiders and baby spiderlings in amber about 99 million years ago, forever showcasing the fierce protectiveness still seen in spider mothers today.

This extinct bird with tail feathers 150% longer than its body was likely a clumsy flier, but flashy feathers might have helped him find a mate.

Sometimes, history's mysteries are hidden inside a living creature -- like the prehistoric artifacts found deep in the belly of this massive alligator. And researchers were able to determine the intriguing history of the items.

Discoveries

You won't believe your eyes:

-- A stunning gold mask dating back over 3,000 years is just one of hundreds of relics uncovered from sacrificial pits in southwest China.

-- This boldly rainbow-colored insect has been granted a name that honors a fabulous celebrity. Oh, so fly.

-- These game-changing experiments could help humans travel across deep space -- and they were designed by students.

And don't forget to keep an eye out for the full harvest moon on Monday evening.

Like what you've read? Oh, but there's more. Sign up here to receive in your inbox the next edition of Wonder Theory, brought to you by CNN Space and Science writer Ashley Strickland, who finds wonder in planets beyond our solar system and discoveries from the ancient world.

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