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Scientists solve chicken and egg riddle

Researchers found a protein found in chickens speeds up the formation of eggs. So does that mean the chicken came first?
Researchers in Britain have been credited with cracking the age-old conundrum about the chicken and the egg. But are they right?

After the publication of the rather dry-sounding scientific paper, "Structural Control of Crystal Nuclei by an Eggshell Protein," press headlines proclaimed the answer was… the chicken.

However, one of the paper’s lead authors, Colin Freeman, from the University of Sheffield in northern England, told CNN that the result was not as conclusive as it seemed.

"I would argue that the concept of an eggshell came about way before the chicken, it’s dinosaur or even pre-dinosaur thing. That’s something to talk to an evolutionary biologist about probably," he said.

So how did a paper about "crystal nuclei" become proof that the chicken pre-dated the egg?

Freeman and his team, which included colleagues from the University of Warwick, were researching a protein found in eggshells called ovocledidin-17. It is also found in chickens’ ovaries, but until the team’s research its purpose was not clear.

Using Britain’s national supercomputer, a machine dubbed HECToR based in Edinburgh, Scotland, they were able to simulate the process of biomineralization, or the production of minerals or solid materials inside organisms.

It was a world first and revealed that one potential purpose of the protein ovocledidin-17 is to speed up the production of eggshell within the chicken so that in 24 hours an egg is ready to be laid.

"What we have really identified is that the protein seems to accelerate the crystallization process so it can make that eggshell appear far quicker. In simple terms it accelerates calcite formation," Freeman said.

They also found that the egg can’t be produced without the protein ovocledidin-17 in the chickens’ ovaries, so that means that the chicken must have come first. Right?

"Obviously, it’s not really what we were trying to get out of our simulations, but it’s an interesting question isn’t it?" Freeman said.

Rather than putting an end to bickering over the true order of the egg, the researchers were trying to understand more about how shell is formed so that they can apply their findings in other disciplines, including medicine.

"The quote my colleague John Harding always says is, ‘could we ever be as clever as algae?’" Freeman said.

"They produce these wonderful shells that protect them in the North Sea. That crystal structure is far in advance of anything that we as humans can create in the lab," Freeman said, adding, "We can’t make a human skeleton in the lab…"

Perhaps one day they will be able to. And perhaps one day someone will conclusively put an end to the argument — was it the chicken or the egg?

Google is going to own internet!

Google is going to own internet!

When Google buys something — like YouTube — it usually makes front-page news. That’s why some Google watchers are intrigued by the company’s extremely quiet purchase of miles and miles of dark fiber.

Dark fiber is high-speed fiber-optic networking cable that hasn’t been switched on yet. Insiders say Google owns more dark fiber than any other organization in the world [source: Cringely].

What could a company like Google do with all of that extra wire? The short answer: It could actually hijack the Internet.

This is the doomsday scenario proposed by technology writer and columnist Robert X. Cringely. As more and more people use the Internet to download movies, TV shows, music and other media, Internet service providers (ISPs) will struggle to meet the increased bandwidth demands. Google, meanwhile, will use all of that dark fiber to build its own faster, more efficient version of the Internet. When ISPs reach their capacity, they will have no option but to route all of their traffic through Google.

“We won’t know if we’re accessing the Internet or Google and for all practical purposes it won’t matter,” Cringely wrote in 2007. “Google will become our phone company, our cable company, our stereo system and our digital video recorder” [source: Cringely].

Google representatives have a slightly less dramatic explanation for the dark fiber purchases. They simply want to use it to interconnect data centers located around the globe.

Google also partners with telecommunications companies like AT&T to borrow bandwidth on their nationwide networks. To make these arrangements work, Google has to route a lot of its traffic to specific remote “peering” locations [source: Sullivan]. That requires a lot of extra networking fiber as well.

“You see an article in the New York Times about how AT&T has bought more fiber, and their stock goes up,” Google’s Chris Sacca said in 2006. “Then there is the same article over here about how Google bought some fiber, and it’s like ‘Google is trying to take over the world.'” That doesn’t seem to be the case — at present.