Tag Archives: Journalism

How Bigfoot Fits Into His Genes

Bigfoot still is a mystery, dudes. I know. It’s a bit shocking.

Especially considering all the hoo-ha a couple of months ago when a researcher claimed she had a some viable Bigfoot cells and was on the cusp of being able to sequence the entire Bigfoot genome.

You might recall, reputable scientists did just that a number of years ago, under the aegis of the Human Genome Project. We know where every single AGCT goes in our randy little genes. That knowledge should enable us, in the years to come, to delicately craft designer medications that will work best for you, or for that guy over there. Or maybe that dudette in the front row.

Handy thing, knowing yer entire genome.

Imagine my excitement when I learned that Dr. Melba Ketchum, a Texas-based forensic scientist and the face in front of the genome-sequencing effort, announced to a disbelieving world that she was getting ready to map the elusive possibly-primate’s genetic sequence.

Of course, the disbelieving LAME-stream science community poo-pooed the idea. So Ketchum and the others in her group, took their paper describing the Bigfoot genome and got it published in a scientific journal: the online De Novo . In case you don’t keep up with the scientific literature and find you don’t know the name of this journal, that’s because, prior to this paper being published, it didn’t actually exist. And the only paper that the De Novo ever printed was Ketchum’s paper on Bigfoot.

That’s right. Ketchum and her group purchased an existing journal, renamed it De Novo and then published their paper. A paper which: conclusively proves that the Sasquatch exist as an extant hominin and are a direct maternal descendant of modern humans.”

According to Ketchum and her group, the DNA shows a distinct speciation effect, showing that Bigfoot is not human, but a mix of human and something else.

So, yeah. That’s that. Case closed. Bigfoot exists and is the product of relatively recent intermingling between humans and some other primate. By relatively recently, of course, we’re talking tens of thousands of years. Geologic time, you see. Unfortunately for Ketchum and the rest of her group, there’s a whole bunch of scientists who don’t see it the same way she does, including John Timmer, the science editor for Ars Technica.

Timmer and other biologists looked at the samples and saw contamination of the sample, bad science and decomposition of the supposed DNA sample. In other words, it wouldn’t work. Period.

My initial analysis suggested that the “genome sequence” was an artifact, the product of a combination of contamination, degradation, and poor assembly methods. And every other biologist I showed it to reached the same conclusion. Ketchum couldn’t disagree more. “We’ve done everything in our power to make sure the paper was absolutely above-board and well done,” she told Ars. “I don’t know what else we could have done short of spending another few years working on the genome. But all we wanted to do was prove they existed, and I think we did that.”

Timmer has a fantastic article that goes through Ketchum’s research, talking with the good doctor herself, step by step and points out where things got a little wonky.

This is a great example of public science journalism. He’s not out there to make fun of Ketchum. He’s not some sort of rabid disbeliever out to debunk the “TRUTH” (notice the all-caps. Yeah, it’s that kind of truth.). He’s a scientist, a journalist and a curious man.

Go check it out. It makes for a fascinating read.

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That’s The Way It Was

Walter Cronkite died last week and a little part of me died with him.

For most of my adult life I’ve been an ardent supporter of and believer in the power of journalism. In fact, when it became clear that I wasn’t going to be getting into medical school, I decided to become a print reporter. After all, I was nosy and I liked to gossip so I figured it was a natural fit. I’ve always admired people like Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow. People who went out, reported the heck out of a story, found out the truth and then came back to tell the nation what they found.

The truth is a powerful disinfectant. It can squash a number of cockroaches.

Back in the late 1980s, I was a reporter for the FLORIDA TODAY newspaper in Melbourne, FL. It was located just south of the Kennedy Space Center complex, so we were heavily into coverage of any sort of space event. And, one day, boy did we have an event.

Five of the surviving Mercury astronauts, the first Americans into space, and Walter Cronkite, a man fascinated by space and who was one of the program’s biggest supporters, all came together to do a charity event. I was able to meet all of them. I got autographs and generally behaved like the little fanboy that I am.

The Mercury astronauts were what you might expect. Strong, manly and full of that gung-ho spirit.

Walter Cronkite was a different story. When I first met him, he looked like an old man, stooped, slow and quavering. He looked his age and more.

And then something wonderful happened. He shuffled up onto the dais and took his place behind the podium.

As he adjusted the microphone, his back straightened. His face smoothed out from the wrinkled map of years I’d seen just seconds before. He stood tall. Straight. An honest-to-god twinkle came into his eye and he smiled. Lord how he smiled.

He stood there, under the gaze of hundreds of people, and he gave us the news. Just like he had for 19 years as the CBS Evening News anchor. He told us how it was, what it could be and how we could make it happen. It was one of the most inspiring 10 minutes of my life.

When his talk was over, you could see him shut down. The light leaked out of his eyes and the weight of his years settled once more onto his shoulders. He shuffled off the dais and took his seat in the audience. Once again, just part of the crowd.

Walter Cronkite was an amazing man. He spoke truth to power. He was a man I looked up to and I already feel smaller, knowing he’s gone for good.

— Richard

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Re-Jected!

You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. –  Ray Bradbury. Ole Ray was a smart dude. (Although he’d probably evicerate me if he heard himself described as a dude.)  If you don’t know him, he’s one of the founding fathers of modern science fiction, as well as the person who invented the communications satellite. All in all, as I said, a smart dude. I think he’s got some good stuff to say about rejection. And I should know.

See, when I found out that I was not going to be a shrink (long story), I decided to put all those science credits to work lining the garbage cans in my house. I switched over to journalism. Now, in journalism, you get told you’re an idiot — in so many words — at least 10 times a day. Either you’re getting yelled at by a source or your editor tells you that your story makes no sense.

You’ve heard of thick skin? A resistance to injury from harsh words, yeah? Well, a career in journalism gives you thick skin, thick organs and thick heads. If only it gave you thick hair as well, but you can’t get everything. Now, after years of getting my work rejected, I can stand there and listen to someone tear down my work (on those rare occasions when I’m not immediately hailed as a conquering god, come to set straight those mortals living in error) without getting the least bit mad. Oh, I might get a little disappointed that they can’t see genius when it’s dangling under their nose like a runny booger, but that’s about it.

And that’s a good thing. But it’s also something that a lot of little dudes are going without as they go through their lives. Schools are looking to cushion any rejection by smothering it with so many nice words it’d choke a horse. Little dudes and dudettes need to understand that, as they go through their lives, they are going to get rejected. They will lose that all-important competition and if they don’t know how to deal with it, how to pick themselves back up off the canvas. . . Well, they’re going to be in for some long nights and a lot of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as compensation.

While there will be bosses or supervisors who are out to get you, most of the time you’re going to be going up against someone who wants to get the job done, but doesn’t like the way you tried to do it. If you start taking it personally, you’re going to be in for a world of hurt.

That’s why I love that expression like water off a duck’s back. Let it roll off you. Take what you need from rejection and use it to make sure you don’t get rejected again.

— Richard

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