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Is the Mystery of the Abominable Snowman Finally Solved?
Lots of colorful characters went looking for the Yeti. And there have been several hoaxes.
Legends of a hulking half-man, half-ape roaming nearby mountains or forests, is part of many cultural traditions around the world. In America we have Bigfoot or Sasquatch. The Yeti is the incarnation known to the Himalayan region. Footprints and sightings abound as do colorful myths and firsthand encounters. In popular culture, the creature has spawned a TV show on the Travel Channel, a halfway decent SyFy original movie, “Rage of the Yeti,” and a number of guest appearance on a smattering of cartoons, movies, and TV shows.
The Sherpa of Nepal, indigenous people and guides to the explorers of Everest and other Himalayan mountains, have held the Yeti as an important part of their history and folklore for at least five hundred years. In their tales, the appearance of or even hearing the beast is a sign of foreboding.
The creature is said to be muscular, covered in shaggy reddish brown or gray fur, and weighing 200-400 lbs. (90-181 kg). Accounts make it anywhere from five to nine feet tall. According to legend, they live high up in the mountains and seeing a Yeti or even hearing it could freeze you in fright, leaving you vulnerable to attack.
The Yeti has been part of Sherpa culture for hundreds of years. Getty Images.
Colonel Charles Howard-Bury, British adventurer, botanist, and conservative politician, was the first to introduce the Yeti to the Western world, after a 1921 Everest expedition. He attempted to reach the summit from the Tibetan plateau or the north face of the mountain. He’d seen usual footprints about 17,000 ft. up and when he asked his guides about them, they told him stories of the mysterious “man bear” or “snow man.”
Journalist Henry Newman interviewed Howard-Bury about it. It was he who first named the creature the Abominable Snowman. Sir Edmund Hilary, the first ever to reach Everest’s peak, also searched for the Yeti. But it wasn’t until 1951 that widespread interest was sparked. That’s when a photo of a footprint hit the press, taken by British explorer Eric Shipton.
Several expeditions have been launched since, along with a number of hoaxes. In one 1986 case, experienced Himalayan hiker Anthony Wooldridge claimed to have seen a Yeti and took convincing photos of it. A group of experts launched the next year however, found that Wooldridge had taken pictures of a rock outcropping that from a distance looked like an upright figure.
Another famous case was in 2010 when two Chinese hunters from Sichuan province claimed to not only have seen a Yeti but to have captured one. Their quarry turned out to be a civet, a cat-like animal with a face like a kangaroo. This one had lost all its hair due to a disease. Photographs of footprints about. Some have theorized these are from a holdover of an extinct species of ape, bear, or hominid. What’s made scientists skeptical is the lack of fossils or remains.
Eric Shipton’s Yeti footprint photograph. By Gardner Soule - The World's Most Mysterious Footprints. Popular Science. December, 1952. Wikipedia Commons.
Italian mountaineer Reinhold Messner, who spent a considerable amount of time in the Himalayas, was the first to insist that the footprints were caused by indigenous wildlife. After spotting a footprint himself in the 1980s, he returned to the “Roof of the World” dozens of times, and slowly became convinced that the Yeti was actually a bear.
In 2013, a sliver of scientific evidence was finally offered. Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes, announced that he and colleagues matched alleged Yeti hair samples with the DNA of an ancient polar bear species, gone extinct. The results of their study were published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Other notable figures on that study were Eliecer Gutierrez of the Smithsonian Institute and Ronald Pine with the University of Kansas' Natural History Museum and Biodiversity Research Center.
The researchers examined hair samples from this particular “cryptid” or undiscovered species. A total of 50 samples were acquired from museums and private collections from all over the world. 36 were selected for sequencing. These samples were matched against a database named GenBank. IT houses all of the genomes of all the species sequenced thus far.
There were a lot of dead ends. Alaskan Bigfoot samples and Russian Almas or wild men, turned out to be hairs from a variety of native species, for instance goats, bears, wild cats, and so on. What’s remarkable is, two Yeti samples, one from Nepal and the other Bhutan, got interesting hits.
A supposed Yeti scalp. Khumjung monastery, Nepal. Wikipedia Commons.
These matched with 100% accuracy a piece of ancient polar bear jawbone discovered in Svalbard, Norway. It lived between 40,000 and 120,000 years ago. Sykes and colleagues say it’s closely related to the brown bear. Bears have been known to interbreed. Two follow-ups studies have been conducted, as some scientists have questioned this first study’s methods. But so far they haven’t discredited the brown bear hypothesis.
Prof. Sykes wrote a book about the endeavor entitled, The Nature of the Beast. He believes a hybrid species of brown bear, whose ancestor mated with this ancient polar bear, may today roam the Himalayas in small numbers. The bear itself however is yet to be found. Until then, cryptozoologists or those who study unsubstantiated creatures, can remain skeptical.
Recently, social activist, conservationist, and author Daniel Taylor tossed in his own theory. The Yeti is a type of Asian black bear. Taylor grew up in India where he became fascinated by the Yeti story. He recently traveled back to the Himalayas to search for it.
Taylor was advised by the King of Nepal to try the remote Barun Valley, a microclimate of dense jungle that’s seen little exploration. He found so-called Yeti tracks and showed them to a local hunter, who said a “tree bear” had made them. Its print looks like a humans, the theory goes, as it has an opposable digit used to hang on bamboo or tree limbs. But what might this bear be doing high in the Himalayas above the tree line?
Taylor has since worked to preserve the valley, which resulted in the establishment of the Makalu-Barun National Park, where if you visit in the future, you can walk the (soon to be constructed) Yeti trail. Taylor wrote about his theory, explorations, and conservation project in his new book, Yeti: The Ecology of a Mystery.
To learn about the history of Bigfoot, America’s Yeti click here:
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Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
A study looks at the performance benefits delivered by asthma drugs when they're taken by athletes who don't have asthma.
- One on hand, the most common health condition among Olympic athletes is asthma. On the other, asthmatic athletes regularly outperform their non-asthmatic counterparts.
- A new study assesses the performance-enhancement effects of asthma medication for non-asthmatics.
- The analysis looks at the effects of both allowed and banned asthma medications.
WADA uncertainty<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMDc4NjUwN30.fFTvRR0yJDLtFhaYiixh5Fa7NK1t1T4CzUM0Yh6KYiA/img.jpg?width=980" id="01b1b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2fd91a47d91e4d5083449b258a2fd63f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="urine sample for drug test" />
Image source: joel bubble ben/Shutterstock<p>When inhaled β-agonists first came out just before the 1972 Olympics, they were immediately banned altogether by the WADA as possible doping substances. Over the years, the WADA has reexamined their use and refined the organization's stance, evidence of the thorniness of finding an equitable position regarding their use. As of January 2020, only three β-agonists are allowed — salbutamol, formoterol, and salmeterol —and only in inhaled form. Oral consumption appears to have a greater effect on performance.</p>
The study<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTIzMDQyMX0.Gk4v-7PCA7NohvJjw12L15p7SumPCY0tLdsSlMrLlGs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3141" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ebe7b30a315aeffcb4fe739095cf0767" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="runner at starting position on track" />
Image source: MinDof/Shutterstock<p>Of primary interest to the authors of the study is confirming and measuring the performance improvement to be gained from β-agonists when they're ingested by athletes who don't have asthma.</p><p>The researchers performed a meta-analysis of 34 existing studies documenting 44 randomized trials reporting on 472 participants. The pool of individuals included was broad, encompassing both untrained and elite athletes. In addition, lab tests, as opposed to actual competitions, tracked performance. The authors of the study therefore recommend taking its conclusions with just a grain of salt.</p><p>The effects of both WADA-banned and approved β-agonists were assessed.</p>
Approved β-agonists and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMzkxODk0M30.3RssFwk_tWkHRkEl_tIee02rdq2tLuAePifnngqcIr8/img.jpg?width=980" id="39a99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b1fe4a580c6d4f8a0fd021d7d6570e2a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="vaulter clearing pole" />
Image source: Andrey Yurlov/Shutterstock<p>What the meta-analysis showed is that the currently approved β-agonists didn't significantly improve athletic performance among those without asthma — what very slight benefit they <em>may</em> produce is just enough to prompt the study's authors to write that "it is still uncertain whether approved doses improve anaerobic performance." They note that the tiny effect did increase slightly over multiple weeks of β-agonist intake.</p>
Banned β-agonist and non-asthmatic athletes<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUzNzU1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI3ODU5Mn0.vyoxSE5EYjPGc2ZEbBN8d5F79nSEIiC6TUzTt0ycVqc/img.jpg?width=980" id="de095" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="02fdd42dfda8e3665a7b547bb88007ef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="swimmer mid stroke" />
Image source: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock<p>The study found that for athletes without asthma, however, the use of currently banned β-agonists did indeed result in enhanced performance. The authors write, "Our meta-analysis shows that β2-agonists improve anaerobic performance by 5%, an improvement that would change the outcome of most athletic competitions."</p><p>That 5 percent is an average: 70-meter sprint performance was improved by 3 percent, while strength performance, MVC (maximal voluntary contraction), was improved by 6 percent.</p><p>The analysis also revealed that different results were produced by different methods of ingestion. The percentages cited above were seen when a β-agonist was ingested orally. The effect was less pronounced when the banned substances were inhaled.</p><p>Given the difference between the results for allowed and banned β-agonists, the study's conclusions suggest that the WADA has it about right, at least in terms of selection of allowable β-agonists, as well as the allowable dosage method.</p>
Takeaway<p>The study, say its authors, "should be of interest to WADA and anyone who is interested in equal opportunities in competitive sports." Its results clearly support vigilance, with the report concluding: "The use of β2-agonists in athletes should be regulated and limited to those with an asthma diagnosis documented with objective tests."</p>
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.