Animals Give Virgin Birth, So Why Not Humans?
Female sharks do it, as do female komodo dragons, so is it possible for humans? Very likely yes, says Dr. Allan Pacey, a reproductive biologist at the University of Sheffield.
What's the Latest?
Fatherless pregnancies happen more frequently in nature than we once realized, enabling species to survive harsh events when males are not present to procreate. This kind of asexual reproduction among species who would otherwise have sex to procreate is called parthenogenesis. Female sharks do it, as do female komodo dragons, so is it possible for humans? Very likely yes, says Dr. Allan Pacey, a reproductive biologist at the University of Sheffield. In the lab, female stem cells have been coaxed into becoming sperm cells, though this is something that would never occur in nature.
What's the Big Idea?
While it might be possible for humans to use modern medical science to procreate asexually, it is probably a very bad idea for evolutionary reasons. Having a diverse gene pool is an important biological trick that weeds out genetic abnormalities, such as the kinds that plagued inbred European royalty for generations. "If you chose to reproduce entirely on your own, your child would only have one parent, and thus half the genetic diversity available to a normal child." In some inconceivable emergency, however, a generation or two could be sustained by asexual reproduction.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
From time-traveling billiard balls to information-destroying black holes, the world's got plenty of puzzles that are hard to wrap your head around.
- While it's one of the best on Earth, the human brain has a lot of trouble accounting for certain problems.
- We've evolved to think of reality in a very specific way, but there are plenty of paradoxes out there to suggest that reality doesn't work quite the way we think it does.
- Considering these paradoxes is a great way to come to grips with how incomplete our understanding of the universe really is.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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