Yetis in the lab: The search for mythical beasts
Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yowie - names that conjure up images of giant reclusive creatures that never quite stay still long enough for the photographer to focus their camera.
Over the years, hundreds of sightings of these supposedly mythical beasts have been recorded around the world by the public and so-called cryptozoologists, who scour the world in search of evidence for their existence. “Proof” comes in many forms, from fuzzy photographs and shaky videos to plaster casts of footprints and tufts of hair. But, as yet, none of these encounters has provided any conclusive evidence and cryptozoology remains a field largely disregarded by science. Instead, with a knowing look and a snigger, “sightings” of “cryptids” are explained away as hoaxes, existing species or the products of over excited imaginations.
So it makes it all the more extraordinary that established scientists would become involved in a search that, on the face of it, looks like it could help to prove whether or not these undocumented creatures exist. But, in May of this year, researchers from Switzerland and the UK did just that when they launched the Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project.
“It’s one of the claims by cryptozoologists that science does not take them seriously. Well, this is their chance. We are calling for people to send us their evidence, and we will test it through DNA analysis,” says Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics at the University of Oxford in the UK.
It is likely that the project is the biggest and most comprehensive attempt yet to probe suspected “remains”. “Nothing like this, on this level, has been done before,” says Richard Freeman from the Centre for Fortean Zoology in the UK. But therein lies the rub. For people like Freeman who devote their lives to looking for these creatures, it is the biggest signal yet that after years out in the cold mainstream science is finally taking the seriously. But for some scientists, the whole venture is an embarrassing curiosity to be held at arm’s length. Continue reading at Yetis in the lab: The search for mythical beasts
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MoD: Britain is not at risk from UFOs
It is official at last: Britain is not at risk from unidentified flying objects.
Those who have long feared an invasion from Mars or further afield can relax – at least, that is, if they believe the Ministry of Defence.
An end has been ordered to all official investigations of Unidentified Flying Objects, or UFOs, after the ministry ruled they do not pose a threat to the nation’s security.
It comes as the head of UK Air Traffic Control admitted the country is visited by around one unidentified flying object a month.
Asked on BBC Radio 4's Today programme about the existence of UFOs, Mr Deakin confirmed they were still being seen by his staff.
He said: "Occasionally there are objects identified that do not conform to normal traffic patterns. It does not occupy a huge amount of my time. There are approximately one a month."
Yet despite this, the MoD insists it will no longer investigate UFO sightings.
The ruling came after the careful collation over the years of reports of strange lights in the skies, odd noises and apparent close encounters.
The move to end all investigation was disclosed after a dedicated hotline for UFO sightings was discontinued for cost grounds, and the “UFO desk”, which cost £44,000 a year was also removed.
Now officials say that any UFO investigation would divert valuable resources and instead a sophisticated network of radar infrastructure and anti-ballistic missile systems to monitor British airspace will spot any genuine threat.
An MoD spokesman said: “In over fifty years no UFO report revealed any evidence of a potential threat to the United Kingdom.
“The MoD had no specific capability for identifying the nature of such sightings and there would be no benefit in such an investigation. Furthermore, responding to reported UFO sightings diverted MOD resources from tasks that were more relevant to defence.”
The abandonment of the UFO hotline and dedicated desk officer in 2009 had already caused concern among those who believe in the phenomena.
Now the decision to abandon investigations entirely has frustrated some members of the public convinced they have glimpsed the extraterrestrial – and those who are simply unsure of what they have seen.
Jane Randall, a housewife from Woking, Surrey, captured a strange looking object in the skies above Silbury Hill in Wiltshire when she took a photograph using her mobile phone while taking part in a field trip to learn about the archaeology in the area.
She said: “I didn’t see anything at the time, nor did the ten people I was with, but when I looked back over the photos there were two pictures a second apart with this strange conical shape hovering behind the hill.
“The pictures I took either side of this didn’t have any mark on them so I don’t think it could have been dust on the lens.
“I’m just an ordinary person, but thought I should report it to someone so they could take a look. When I phoned the police, they said it was not a police matter and I spoke to someone at the RAF who said they did not investigate UFOs any more.”
Nick Pope, who ran the MoD’s UFO desk from 1991 to 1994 and now researches UFO sightings privately, said: “One of the problems was that an increasing number of the reports the MoD was getting were low quality.
“When someone has a photograph though, that should be considered to be a different situation. The MoD has the personnel and equipment to very quickly analyse an image to tell whether it has been altered and identify what an object might be.
“A lot of ordinary members of the public feel it is their duty to report anything out of the ordinary.
"I get a lot of people contacting me now about sightings and it is frustrating that there is no where official that they can report them – it has become a black hole.” - telegraph
NOTE: I could think up a helluva 'Monty Python' sketch for this...Lon
The UFO Files: The Inside Story of Real-Life Sightings
Shadows in the Sky: The Haunted Airways of Britain
A Covert Agenda: The British Government's UFO Top Secrets Exposed
Will DNA unlock the Elephant Man's final secret?
He was the thing of children's nightmares, outcast by a Victorian society unable to comprehend his grotesque deformities, but was later immortalised in films and plays. Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man, is one of medical history's enigmas: 122 years after his death, no one knows exactly what caused his extreme disfigurement. But scientists will attempt to solve the puzzle next month by extracting DNA from his bones for analysis.
Merrick came to the attention of the medical profession in the 1880s. Ever since, scientists have struggled to explain the huge growths that caused him to be first shunned and finally celebrated by society – by the end of his life his courage and humility had, at last, been recognised. Merrick became a folk hero for speaking up for others who were similarly afflicted.
It was initially thought that he suffered from Elephantiasis, a parasitic infection characterised by the thickening and enlargement of skin and tissue, hence his nickname.
Then, in 2001, some scientists suggested that Merrick had suffered from a rare disease called Proteus syndrome – a congenital disorder that causes skin overgrowth and abnormal bone development. But other experts questioned the diagnosis, saying that the way his disease manifested was not typical of that condition. It is hoped this latest research will finally prove conclusive.
Scientists will extract DNA from Merrick's skeleton, which has been kept at the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel, east London, since his death, aged 27, in 1890. Tests will then be carried out to see if it is possible to sequence Merrick's genome thereby identifying any gene alteration. The already complex technique has been made harder by the fact that Merrick's skeleton has been poorly preserved, and years of bleaching to keep it clean have degraded the remains.
Researchers hope that, by finally diagnosing his condition, they will be able to treat other sufferers.
Professor Richard Trembath, vice principal and executive dean at Queen Mary, University of London, who is overseeing the research and who holds responsibility for the safe keeping of Merrick's skeleton, said: "This is going to be extremely demanding. We know we can get genetic material out of the bone of Merrick. We now need to know whether we can get sufficient from what we believe to be abnormal bone as well as sufficient from normal bone.
"In doing it, we have an absolute regard to make sure we preserve the skeleton. We can't just mash a whole amount of it up. We have to preserve it for future generations because it's an important historical record."
Merrick was born in Leicester in 1862. Because of his deformities, he was rejected by his father and stepmother and was forced on to the street to earn a living. He wore a cap and hood in an attempt to hide his disfigurement. He finally took a job as a sideshow "freak", exhibited as a curiosity. It wasn't until the surgeon Frederick Treves took him under his wing and brought him to the London Hospital, where he lived out his final years, that he became something of a celebrity – he was even visited by Alexandra, Princess of Wales.
Such is the power of Joseph Merrick's story, that adaptations of it continue to run today. The American actor Bradley Cooper is currently starring in a stage adaptation of The Elephant Man, and David Lynch's 1980 film of the same name, where Merrick was played by John Hurt, earned several Oscar nominations. An opera has also been composed that tells the story of Merrick's life. - independent
The Elephant Man
The True History of the Elephant Man
Cannibal killer gets gastric band
A cannibal who weighs 23 stone has received gastric band surgery in a private hospital – paid for by the NHS.
Graham Fisher, 39, who killed two women, requested the operation after becoming obese on a diet of crisps and cake.
The procedure – from which he is said to be recovering in a private room – is thought to have cost taxpayers £15,000.
Fisher, who ate the flesh of one of the women he killed, put on weight at the high-security Broadmoor Hospital.
After complaining to staff that he was too fat and unfit, he was given permission to have the £8,000 operation.
He was reportedly taken by guards to a private hospital in Oxfordshire last week after being on a waiting list for just three months.
It is expected he will recover from the surgery in a private en-suite room for several days, bringing the cost of the entire procedure to £15,000.
Fisher’s first victim was Clare Letchford, 40, in January 1998. He killed the recluse at her flat in Hastings, East Sussex, before cutting flesh from her arm and eating it.
Eight days later, Beryl O’Connor, 75, was found dead at her home nearby. Both of the victims – who had been former neighbours of Fisher – were strangled before Fisher set the bodies on fire.
Just days later Fisher attempted to rape and murder a 19-year-old Czech student on a train.
It was not until 2010 that he was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court to 21 years for the manslaughter of Miss Letchford and Miss O’Connor.
Fisher had confessed to his psychiatrist after being transferred to Broadmoor during a five-year jail term for indecently assaulting two Spanish students at knifepoint in Eastbourne, East Sussex, in May 1998.
He was transferred to Broadmoor under the Mental Health Act following concerns that he was a ‘grave danger’.
Lewes Crown Court heard he confessed because he knew he remained a danger.
Prosecutors said Fisher targeted lonely women, some of whom he knew, to satisfy what one psychiatrist described as a ‘sexually sadistic’ aspect to his personality.
Robert Oxley, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the extraordinary case would ‘go down poorly with ordinary people’ who are struggling financially
A spokesman for West London Mental Health NHS Trust, which is in charge of Broadmoor Hospital in Berkshire, said: ‘People receiving treatment for mental illness are entitled to the same level of care as anyone else.’
Eight thousand surgical weight-loss operations were carried out in England on the NHS last year, most of them using a gastric band – in which a silicone band is fitted around the stomach to make it smaller.
The other major operation is a gastric bypass, where a small pouch is created at the top of the stomach and connected to the small intestine, bypassing the rest of the stomach and bowel.
The aim is to reduce appetite and speed up feelings of fullness. - dailymail
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