Is Bigfoot real?
That’s what researchers at Oxford University in England and the Lausanne Museum of Zoology in Switzerland hope to find out.
The Oxford-Lausanne Collateral Hominid Project is taking a scientific approach to the Yeti myth, trying to “entice people and institutions with collections of cryptozoological material to submit it for analysis,” according to wired.co.uk. “Anyone with a sample of organic remains can submit details of where and when it was collected, among other data.”
Samples can include teeth, scat or body parts, but scientists are mainly interested in hair, according to the project website. That doesn’t mean you should grab that clump of hair you found in the woods last year and send it out via airmail. Instead, you should send the researchers your contact information, a physical description of what you’ve got, photographs if you have them, an explanation of how and where you obtained the material, your guess as to what it is and a statement saying that you’re authorized to share the material and they’re welcome to publish their results.
If they’re interested, they’ll send you a sampling kit. Don’t send remains without hearing from the team first; they won’t be tested, and they won’t be returned.
Materials will be accepted through September. After that, the most promising samples will be subjected to genetic testing.
The results will be published in a peer-reviewed science journal.
Many cultures have legends about giant beasts that walk upright and stalk the forests. Tales of Sasquatch and Bigfoot abound in North America, including variations such as the Skunk Ape (Florida) and the Ohio Grassman. In other countries, the creatures are known by such names as Orang Pendek (Southeast Asia), Yeren (China), Mande Barong (India) and Almas (Asia/Mongolia).
Bryan Sykes, a professor of human genetics from Oxford’s Wolfson College, told wired.co.uk: “Theories as to their species identification vary from surviving collateral hominid species, such as Homo neanderthalensis or Homo floresiensis, to large primates like Gigantopithecus widely thought to be extinct, to as yet unstudied primate species or local subspecies of black and brown bears. …
“Mainstream science remains unconvinced by these reports both through lack of testable evidence and the scope for fraudulent claims. However, recent advances in the techniques of genetic analysis of organic remains provide a mechanism for genus and species identification that is unbiased, unambiguous and impervious to falsification. It is possible that a scientific examination of these neglected specimens could tell us more about how Neanderthals and other early hominids interacted and spread around the world.”
If all goes as planned, James Doohan will be launched into space tomorrow (Tuesday, May 22).
Doohan, who played the perpetually overworked engineer Scotty on “Star Trek,” died in 2005. He was 85. Before his death, he requested that his body be cremated and his ashes sent into space.
So far, attempts to grant his wish have been unsuccessful.
In 2007, a space capsule containing his ashes reached suborbital space “for several minutes,” according to The Telegraph newspaper. However, the capsule fell back to Earth, and his ashes were lost in New Mexico for about three weeks.
SpaceX, the private space transport company, attempted to send some of his ashes into space in 2008. The rocket blew up and plunged into the Pacific Ocean.
Now SpaceX is ready to try again. The company has contracted with NASA to deliver a 1,000-pound payload of food and clothes to the International Space Station. The mission has encountered snags. Launch dates have come and gone; the current launch window is set for tomorrow.
If the mission succeeds, it will mark a new era in space travel. For the first time, a commercially owned space craft will dock with the space station, potentially leading to at least a partial shift from governmentally sponsored space flight to the privitization of space travel.
And if it succeeds, Scotty — as well as 307 others whose ashes are aboard the craft — will at last find his way into space. A capsule containing the ashes will be released from the rocket nine minutes into its flight. The capsule will circle the Earth for about a year before burning up in the atmosphere.
It’s a fitting end for a man whose work inspired generations of people to dream of a better future among the stars.