Cloned dogs will mate, chimps are not human, and plants are cleared of wrongdoing.

Reality Bites the Dust
And you thought quantum physics couldn’t get any weirder. Sure, you may think you’ve shed every assumption you had about the physical world in order to accommodate decaying nuclei that are in two states at once or photons that instantly affect each other even though they’re light years apart. But no! I bet you still think that quantum equations describe reality. Alas, according to a paper recently published in Nature, quantum physicists may have to dispense with the assumption of realism, the idea that objects actually have specific properties such as color or location or spin, independent of whether they are observed. Many years ago, physicist John Bell showed that local realism doesn’t hold in the quantum world. Most physicists assumed that locality—the notion that local behavior can only be affected by local actions—is violated in quantum mechanics; they hardly thought to question the “realism” part of “local realism.” But now, experiments by a team of Viennese scientists show that non-local realistic theories do not suffice to explain quantum behavior. The researchers conclude that physicists must abandon certain aspects of realism to explain the world. What does this mean? It’s hard to say. Author Anton Zeilinger suggests that we may have to abandon the idea of counterfactuals in the quantum world. As a companion piece in Nature says, “‘We do this all the time in daily life,’ says Zeilinger—for example, imagining what would have happened if you had tried to cross the road when a truck was coming. If the world around us behaved in the same way as a quantum system, then it would be meaningless even to imagine that alternative situation, because there would be no way of defining what you mean by the road, the truck, or even you.” Now that’s surreal.

Clone Consolidation
Since everyone’s favorite pandas failed to mate, the world has been bereft of celebrity animal sex news. But we didn’t have to wait long for the next prospective couple: Snuppy, the first cloned dog, is now destined to mate with Bona, the second cloned dog, later this year. Snuppy, who was created by a Seoul National University team led by the infamous researcher Hwang Woo-Suk, turned two last week. Bona was born on June 18, 2006. Doesn’t that mean that by the end of this year she won’t even be 11 in dog years? Perhaps, but researchers are eager to study the reproductive capacity of the two Afghan hounds. While much of Hwang’s research was discredited by authorities, it still appears that Snuppy is an authentic clone. Two years into his life, Snuppy is healthy and happy, SNU scientists say.

Al Gore Rhythm
The wind-powered rumor mill is churning, and it says that former Gore campaign staffers are getting together for a possible 2008 presidential run. The former vice-president and current environmental activist has repeatedly said that he has no plans to run for the country’s top office next year, but neither has he ruled out a bid for the presidency. A former member of Gore’s team told the Telegraph that a former Gore strategist had approached him about his availability toward the end of the year. The idea, he said, was that if Gore does decide to run, his campaign staff will already be in place and can move quickly. “He hasn’t asked them to do this, but nor has he told them not to,” the former campaigner said. Recent opinion polls indicate that were Gore to run, he would come in as the third most popular candidate, behind Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama but ahead of John Edwards. In about three weeks, Gore will publish a new book, The Assault on Reason, which supporters believe will keep him in the public eye. And of course, many pundits believe the most reliable indication of whether Gore will run is his waistline. If he starts shedding pounds this summer, they say, we can look for Gore to hop into the race this fall.

I’m Hiasl, I’m 26 Years Old, and I Don’t Need a Governess
Apes are not humans, an Austrian judge recently decreed in a ruling considered a blow to a growing apes rights movement. The judge turned down a request to appoint a British woman living in Austria as the legal guardian of Hiasl (pronounced Hee-sel), a chimpanzee from western Africa. Apes rights activists hoped that the ruling would set a precedent for appointing legal guardians to chimps. If an ape has a guardian, they argue, that ape can’t be bought or sold, and it could sue those who mistreated it. They had hoped that Hiasl, who was kidnapped from Africa and destined for a research lab before he was redirected to the Vienna Animal Protection Shelter, could win damages from the lab, so he could support himself financially. The judge, however, ruled against Hiasl, not because she didn’t want to bump up his status, but because she did not want to sent the message that people with legal guardians are at the same level as animals.

Clearing the Forest
Plant-appeasing scientists, no doubt in the pocket of Big Flora, are once again playing the blame game, this time by saying that plants do not emit large amounts of methane gas and therefore do not contribute to climate change. It’s easy to figure out that these blame-humans-firsters believe that people are responsible for the high concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. A paper recently published in the journal New Phytologist claims that a previous study that indicated plants emit lots of methane came to the wrong conclusions. Plants actually emit no more than 0.3 percent of the previously published values, the new paper says. After the first study, pro-humanists rallied to support the exposure of villainous plants. But the scientists backpedaled, issuing a press release saying their research was “misinterpreted” and that “the blame is not with the plants.” Scientists who authored the new study grew six plant species in a heavy-carbon-rich environment and measured the emission of 13C-Methane. Very little gas was produced. The plants may have won this round, but next time we’ll catch them in the act, and justice shall prevail.

Originally published May 1, 2007


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