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Come on, the snake doesn't even seem to be in a very comfortable position when being carried around on the owner's shoulder.
I take my dogs and rat out in public so I probably wouldn't have any qualms about taking a snake out if I get one someday.
And to top all that off, you have to worry about animals there, I really don't want amy of my snakes messing with a wild squirrel, etc.
I have occasionally let mine play on a tree on my own property with me watching, but I have to collect them most times. I won't say that you should never have one, but there are many things you need to consider before doing it, it's a very big commitment (pun intended). From what you have said, I take it that there is no way to train a snake to be subservient to its master. I think one possible reason why keep a snake as a pet is different from keeping a dog as a pet may be because dogs have been domesticated longer and more extensively than snakes. Perhaps if snakes were kept as pets for another couple of hundred years, things might be different.
In return I get an animal that will cuddle on me while I can focus on other things, like reading or drawing.
Posed with a fellow giant—a 200-pound (91-kilogram) Burmese python—bodybuilder Chris Cornier flexes his sculpted muscles. National Geographic explores how we can feed the growing population without overwhelming the planet in our food series. Volunteers risk their lives to vaccinate children in Islamic State-controlled territory in Syria. Learn about what's passed on from generation to generation with an interactive look at DNA. Taking a cat for a walk takes a bit more doing, mainly because cats are not really that good with leashes.
His pet is an eight-foot-long yellow Burmese python and he takes it for a walk in the city of Changzhou in China. So long as I can carry it without dificulty for either of us, I could take it to the part while it's wrapped around my arm or torso.
If you let them go around on their lonesome, I imagine you'd have to physically go and retrieve them when you're ready to leave. If you have a big snake as a pet and you are living in Thailand and you lose your pet snake, chances are your pet snake would end up in someone's pot. So having a snake for a pet is, more or less from what I have understood, a matter of amiable co-existence. I mean keeping the same snake and its offspring for a couple of hundred years, not keeping different snakes for a couple of hundred years. Aside from their sleek exteriors, snakes' internal physiology is perhaps even more intriguing.
Before my adult ball python was euthanized, she used to put her head on my chest and lay there for hours getting her head rubbed. If it's small enough, maybe it could ride around inside of my clothes (That's what I do with my rat. Or maybe there is a way to train a snake to stay near you or approach whenever it sees you. If you are living in Malaysia, chances are your pet snake would have been beaten to a pulp before you can find it.
If generation after generation after generation of snakes were bred by man, they may start acquiring characteristics not found in wild snakes. Can you think of any other advantages of keeping a snake as a pet as compared to, say, a dog? I slip into lane one of the 50-meter (164-foot) pool at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, nod to Kaiser, and shove off the wall.Suddenly my body feels like a bullet ripping through the water. I know that if I take my dog to the park, I can call it to come to me when I ready to go home.
In addition to the wow-factor of deciphering the snakes' interesting innards, the strange systems could help us better understand our own biology. As infrequent feeders, snakes have a highly variable metabolism, which can dip down to one of the lowest-known rates of any vertebrate. I feel instantly euphoric, as if my brain were surging with endorphins.Kaiser has hooked my harness to a pulley system known as a tow, a training device that drags a high-performance swimmer 5 percent faster than he usually swims.
They can increase and decrease their metabolism by some 44-fold and their heart size by more than 50 percent depending on their energy demands. It allows the swimmer to get a feel for the increased speed, adjust his stroke patterns and body rotations accordingly, and eventually swim faster on his own. Behind all of these unusual evolutionary assets are the genes that make these feats possible.
In my case, the tow is moving almost 50 percent faster than my norm.Twenty-three seconds later I touch the wall.
With that and three other events she became the first American woman to win four gold medals in one Olympics.I'm not an Olympic-caliber competitor.
To learn more about how the Burmese python heart undergoes such vast changes, Castoe and his team looked specifically at cardiac gene expression.
I'm a middle-age masters swimmer who's won a few medals in my age group.The human body, I know, did not evolve to swim laps—or to kick a soccer ball or to do somersaults off a 10-meter (33-foot) platform. Over the 72-hour metabolic cycle, they found many rapid changes in gene expression in the heart.
But as long as humans have had a sense of sport and competition, we have invented ways to push our anatomy to its limits. In this Olympic year I am studying some of the men and women trained to perform as if there were none.Numerous factors—genetic, psychological, cultural, and financial—go into making a super performer, but the right genes may be the most critical.
Elite athletes, as these super performers are called, are in a sense fortunate freaks of nature.Take their muscles, for instance.
The fibers within most human skeletal muscles are close to evenly divided between fast-twitch fibers, which contract very rapidly, and slow-twitch fibers, which don't contract as quickly but generate energy much more efficiently. More work remains to be done before these new findings can be translated into potential drugs for heart disease in humans.
Olympic weight lifters have an unusual abundance of fast-twitch fibers; these give them the explosive power to jerk hundreds of pounds from the ground to over their heads in a spilt second.

And as researchers digest more of these big snakes' genome, more medical applications might also emerge. The legs of elite marathon runners, on the other hand, might contain up to 90 percent slow-twitch fibers, giving them the endurance for longer, aerobic activities.Whether fast-twitches or slow, however, elite athletes take human performance to a notch we lesser mortals can only imagine. A second and more thoroughly annotated draft of the python genome is expected out this fall.
And other snakes are set to join the ranks of the sequenced, including the garter snake, the rattlesnake and the king cobra. The faster the current, the faster the swimmer has to stroke to stay clear of the back of the pool."You're going to swim for three minutes, then rest for two while we take some measurements," says Larry Herr, an exercise physiologist. That will allow measurement of my VO2 max, or the maximum volume of oxygen I use per minute while exercising as hard as I can. VO2 max is strongly influenced by genetics, but training can increase it as the body becomes more efficient at delivering oxygen to the muscles and using it there.Next, the technician pricks my earlobe for a drop of blood. Lactate is a by product of the metabolic process that energizes muscles during the initial stage of intense exercise. Soon after exercise begins, the body switches to oxygen-burning, or aerobic, energy pathways, which fuel longer endurance activity.
Normally blood vessels deliver enough oxygen to the muscles and remove enough lactate from them to prevent lactate accumulation.
Coaches measure lactate levels as one way of evaluating an athlete's level of training.Once my beginning lactate level is established, I'm ready for my first round in the flume. The third round feels like a full-pace effort and leaves me with my heart pounding, but I recover well during the two-minute rest period.Midway through the fourth round my lungs begin to ache.
My kick weakens, and my arms feel as if they're moving in slow motion no matter how fast I will them to pull.
With no wall ahead of me getting closer—nothing to look at and say, "OK, I can get there"—I feel lost in a time warp of pain. The untrained, Herr explains, generally reach the same threshold at around 60 percent of VO2 max, while trained athletes don't hit that level until they're at 80 to 85 percent. Athletes rich in slow-twitch muscle fibers appear to have higher lactate thresholds.Elite swimmers regularly approach the heavy lactate threshold of pain. Our training lets us get used to it, and we can ignore it for longer," says Ewers.Lactate threshold aside, Herr gives me many other reasons why I'll never be an elite swimmer—besides the fact that I'm at least 25 years too old.
Most male champions are over six feet (two meters)—taller, more streamlined bodies mean a longer reach and more productive stroke.
And I'm a sinker, meaning too much of my body mass is concentrated south of my lungs, creating excess drag. Also, I don't finish my strokes.Depressing as these facts are, there's more to life than swimming—especially at the Olympic Training Center. A short walk from the pool is the weight room, where athletes with entirely different genetic gifts are pushing their limits. It sounds like a demolition zone as intensely focused men and women thrust barbells weighing as much as 500 pounds (227 kilograms) over their heads, then drop them onto padded platforms.Olympic weight lifting features two types of lifts. In the snatch the lifter propels a heavy barbell from the ground to arm's length overhead in one explosive movement.
In the two-part clean and jerk the athlete lifts the bar to shoulder height, then jerks it above his head.All the lifters have large, powerful thighs. In fact it is the upper leg muscles that initiate the lift by pushing downward into the platform at the beginning.
We can all spring up and slam-dunk a basketball from a dead standstill under the hoop."Surprisingly, a bulky muscle-builder physique is not needed to excel at this sport. More important is a rich supply of fast-twitch muscles, which create the power to heft hundreds of pounds into the air.
At about 105 pounds (48 kilograms), Tara Nott looks more like the soccer player she once was than a woman capable of jerking 220 pounds (100 kilograms).
And Jodi Wilhite, a 105-pound (48-kilogram) teenager from Florence, Texas, was a sprinter on the track team where her high school's football coach spotted her and suggested she try weight lifting.I see Wilhite at work at the American Open Championships—a qualifying event for the Olympics—in Tacoma, Washington. She walks onto the stage and, her face flashing with effort, jerks 177 pounds (80 kilograms)—a junior American record for her weight.Wilhite tells me she is dreaming of the 2004 Olympics.
Lifters perfect their skills by repeating the same motions over and over until they become almost like reflexes, explains Wilhite. You have to repeat the dives hundreds, maybe thousands of times."Louganis credits his thighs, which a biopsy showed to be especially rich in fast-twitch fibers—75 percent—for some of his spectacular success.
If I had been more psychologically and emotionally balanced, I wouldn't have—that's not a real healthy place to be."But sport psychologists feel that most consistently successful athletes are psychologically healthy. They have to be good at setting goals, generating energy when they need it, and managing anxiety."Compulsive or not, Louganis found ways to manage his own anxieties. She'd probably just compliment me on the beautiful splash."The flip side of the intense physical and mental work that elite athletes perform is the ever present danger of overtraining—a syndrome that Louganis, like many Olympians, says he confronted. Not uncommonly, they develop clinical depression."Today most coaches watch carefully for signs of physical and mental strain in order to keep athletes healthy. And few countries devote more energy to maintaining the health of their athletes than Australia, host to the upcoming Olympic Games and one of the most sports-obsessed places in the world.Some Olympic-caliber Australian athletes live and train at the government-operated Australian Institute for Sports (AIS) in Canberra. They work in state-of-the-art facilities, sleep in dormitories, eat meals tailored to their nutritional needs. A team of experts focuses on their development as parents might, lavishing attention and technology on them. Sport psychologists work with the athletes, teaching techniques for coping with stress, visualizing a winning performance, and setting specific goals, such as beating your best time by a certain date. Physiologists measure lactate levels frequently to help coaches bring athletes to peak performance levels right at competition time. For rowers they use such tools a instrumented boats that can provide force profiles for every stroke of the oar.The AIS also runs an intensive program for identifying gifted performers. We have to make it happen."We've modeled the ideal attributes for each sport—speed, strength, or physical traits, for example.
With only 19 million people in Australia the institute is determined not to miss any potential Olympians.Traditionally strong in swimming and rowing, Australia hopes to win medals in other sports, such as diving, in this Olympics. I visit the Aquatic Centre at Sydney's new Olympic Park for a World Cup diving competition, regarded as a test run for the Olympics. Then comes a slow, graceful lifting of the arms, a leap skyward, and a twisting, somersaulting dance with gravity.

Less than three seconds later, like an arrow, each diver pierces the surface with barely a splash."People love to watch this on TV," says Valerie Beddoe, top diving manager of the Australian team. Both occur naturally in the body, but when artificial levels are achieved, their effects become exaggerated. Erythropoientin (EPO), released in greater volume by the kidneys when a person goes to a high altitude, tells the body to increase production of oxygen-bearing red blood cells.
When injected before competition, EPO enhances aerobic performance.Drugs such as hGH and EPO can cause serious medical complications ranging from arthritis and strokes to liver and cardiovascular disease, but in sports where big money is at stake and the difference between silver and gold may be measured in fractions of a second, athletes seem willing to take the risk.
Rampant EPO use scandalized the 1988 Tour de France, and even as I am in Sydney, headlines announce that 22-year-old Australian supercyclist Tim Lyons has been suspended from international competition for two years for tests showing excess levels of muscle-building testosterone.The Australians are committed to preventing such abuse at the 2000 Olympics. The Olympics won't be coming back to Australia for decades, and we've got to show the world we can do it right."That won't be easy. In April a scandal hit the country when customs officials seized a bodybuilding hormone ordered from the United States by sport scientist John Pryor, who works with Olympians at the New South Wales Academy of Sport.
Those raised at high altitudes in countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia, and Morocco have blood that is especially rich in oxygen-bearing hemoglobin—as long as they continue to train at altitude. I'd be punished if I was late."Loroupe, who has won multiple marathons, including New York City's twice, meets me near the town of Kapenguria, not far from the countryside where she grew up. She now lives near Hanover, Germany, but has returned to Kenya to train for the European track season.Loroupe attributes some of her success to the altitude here—about 8,000 feet (2,439 meters)—and some to her cultural background.
If I want something, I will get it."Loroupe exhibited her strong-mindedness at an early age, when her father objected to her running because, as he said, it was not what a woman did. She promised that if he sent her and her brother to boarding school, she would stop, but coaches there insisted otherwise. Roosters crow as their rhythmic pace carries them past missionary schools, country markets, and plots of corn.
Their easy, long-limbed stride is as old as this landscape where humans first evolved, but their dreams are of the modern world. They want to be the best—for Kenya, for their fellow runners, and for the big money Kenyans now win in Europe.The camp is little more than a simple two-story concrete-block dorm on the edge of a farming town. Indeed, the camp lacks the high-tech frills common to training camps in wealthy countries, and the schedule is grueling. Each day begins early with a run lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour, followed typically by intensive speed work at midday and another endurance run in the afternoon—maybe 15 miles (21 kilometers) by the end of the day.
Runners flock to Kiptanui because he has won multiple world championships in distance steeplechases. They also admire his Mercedes.Leg muscles loaded with slow-twitch fibers carry Kenyan runners to their status as the best marathon runners in the world.
But it's fast-twitch prowess that drives the high-flying athletes on Russia's national gymnastics teams, dominant in the sport since the 1950s.The team trains much of the year at remote Lake Krugloye, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Moscow. The camp, surrounded by snow-buried farmland in winter, is a run-down complex of institutional brick buildings. But the spacious training gym, outfitted with the most modern equipment, is as bright and warm as a greenhouse the day I arrive.
Leonid Arkayev, one of the best and toughest coaches in any sport, oversees about a dozen shirtless male gymnasts as they go from parallel bars to high bar to horse to rings."They live here," he says. That's one of the keys to our great success."Like divers—or pianists—gymnasts must turn their complex movements into automatic motor memories through relentless repetition.
As I watch them execute their rituals, Arkayev shouts comments to his protege Yevgeny Podgorny, who has just finished a sequence on the parallel bars.
Don't catch the bar too soon."Podgorny mounts the high bar and arcs around it, snapping out of the swing into a somersaulting turn. Arkayev yells something to him in Russian."That was a move of the highest difficulty," says Arkayev. We'll work on it later."He points out another of Russia's brightest hopes, a five-foot-three, 22-year-old dynamo named Alexei Bondarenko.
They are working muscles," he says—extremely strong and explosively powerful, but not bulky.
Bondarenko walks over to us, and when I shake his hand, he feels light, as if he might lift off the floor and fly away.
Bondarenko weighs about 120 pounds (54 kilograms), and that lightness gives him an advantage.
You not only have to perform the movement correctly, you have to carry your body in the most beautiful way."Fate did not bless Jason Wening with the same gifts as the Russian gymnasts. But glancing over at him as we're crouched on the blocks, about to begin a 100-yard (91-meter) freestyle race, I realize that more than any athlete I've met, this tousle-haired guy from Ann Arbor, Michigan, embodies the spirit of the world-class athlete. He knows what it means to conquer the unconquerable.Wening, holder of six world records in disabled swimming, was born with multiple birth defects, and doctors amputated his deformed feet in childhood, leaving him with stumps just below the knee. One of his hands is, as he puts it, "goofy," meaning it has only three fingers."I got lucky with my parents," he says. When I was younger, I had a lot of difficulty coming to terms with why I was born the way I was. Then I discovered disabled swimming, and I made this very conscious choice to be very good at it. To compensate for his lower body, he focuses intensely on the most minute details of his stroke, down to the position of his pinky finger as it enters the water. He also swims at least three hours a day.As our race begins, I have the advantage of a leg-driven spring into the water—Wening has to lunge off the blocks from a kneeling position. But as hard as I push, this driven swimmer with barely any kick sweeps past me and beats me by about ten yards (nine meters).I tell him he's an inspiration, and he shrugs it off. And when I do, I get for just a moment a vision of the limitless potential of the human race."A few weeks later, back home at swim practice, I find my own inspiration in Wening's words. I had been thinking for a while that my best swims were behind me and that my fastest time for the 100 free would remain just that."How fast can I go?" I start to wonder after a particularly painful sprint. Yet the limits of human performance are set not just by our genes but by our heads as well.

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