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Discoveries like this always reminds me of that great line from Hamlet: "There are more wondrous things between heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy" (I've taken a slight liberty with the quote and replaced "to" with "between" and added "wondrous". The quote works much better this way as a slogan for science. Apologies to Shakespeare). Stranger than fiction, indeed.

I don't know if you've listened to the recent Radio Lab episode "(So-Called) Life" (which can be found here: ), but it discusses these things in some depth, it includes an interview with the Chimera-woman and a discussion of geeps. Any person who is even mildly interested in science should really subscribe, it's one of the most well-produced, informative, interesting, funny and philosophical radio shows of all time (the episode on morality will knock your socks off, then again, most of them will).

It's staggering to think that while the rest of us mammals and reptiles have gone on and evolved our asses of, all along, there have been the lonely platypus, doing it's own thing, evolving at it's own pace, and now with modern genetics we can look at the platypus and find out about our own ancestry. I can't understand people who don't buy into evolution, look at the wonderful discoveries that they're missing out on! We're learning about what we looked like, hundreds of millions of years ago! Talk about heritage!

(PS. You snuck in a little Buffy-note at the end (I love it when you do that!), so I thought I'd add another: remember Adam? Now HE was a chimera! And remember how they defeated him? With the whole mixing together of the essences? Never really understood what Xander added to the mix, but it's always nice when he gets to contribute to the ass-kicking)

Great article, Jennifer. To add to your tour de force on chimerism, I just wanted to big up a PNAS study from last year, which showed that chimerism is pretty much par for the course for marmosets. Because marmoset twins exchange cells as embryos, the adults can carry tissues that are identical to those of their siblings. Including sperm. Which means that marmoset males can fertilise females with the sperms of their brothers, and marmoset babies can inherit genes from their uncles as well as their parents. I've blogged about this here:

Really fascinating stuff. Makes me wonder what kind of quirky situations will arise in the not-*that*-distant future when DNA testing is affordable and common.

About the platypus, even though it's not a chimera in the other biological sense of fused embryos, I think it's not inappropriate to describe it as an evolutionary chimera as well. But yet much of the coverage on the subject was indeed disgusting, but not because of the eventual use of the word "chimera" itself, but because of the false aura of oddness and strangeness they've created and poor clarification on what it really means. Evolutionary intermediate forms between separated branches are in a certain way, chimeric organisms, they often share traits of the groups that descended from it later, which, by current "standards", look unique to only one of the branches. That's what defines a chimera, isn't it? But the media coverage really made a mess. Platypus happens to be somewhat more prone to confusion, than say, Archaeopteryx, which is a "chimera" that mixtures reptiles and birds, as it has that convergent "duck bill" --which is as biologically related to the duck's bill as a dog's snout anyway-- and to add to that confusion they mentioned that it also has "bird genes" in a way that almost lead to the idea that it would have been either the product of divine creation/humor or of a ménage à trois between animals of different taxonomic classes. Once I heard in a podcast or something, that Matt Ridley's instructions for writing about science in The Economist were "to simplify and then exaggerate"; I think that can be the recipe for disaster.

A fantastic bit on chimeras, focusing on Karen Keegan (you get to hear her tell her story) is on WNYC's Radio Lab podcast (which you should listen to if you haven't, it's by far the best science podcast out there) at


I believe the second reference to a House episode is incorrect. If we're talking about the same pretty young model with testicular cancer, she was not a hermaphrodite. She did not have any sort of ovary or uterus. She had AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, I believe); her body turned testosterone into estrogen, so although her DNA was male, her body was female. As far as I know, AIS is not caused by chimerism, and a person with AIS would have consistently male DNA. However, AIS is still fascinating.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.