Dr. Who?

Wanted: Mom for Neanderthal &
The Lecture That Shook the World

You may be convinced that science can’t pack heat, but it does and how. In part because new discoveries are inherently frightening, and often such fears are well founded. Also, it may sound stereotypical, but scientists are not really the most socially skillful people around.
Cases in point: a geneticist has announced that a woman could, potentially, give birth to a Neanderthal, a species that evolution selected out thousands of years ago. And you wouldn’t believe how a physiologist demonstrated publicly his erectile dysfunction therapy.
There’s no need for alarm, though. We’re not about to pile on the work of these incredibly gifted individuals, just because they wouldn’t know who the Kardashian are. Many members of the not-so-bright but sociable cognizant crowd like us spend a great deal of time trying to forget them too.
Still, in a profession where trial and error is essential for success, even if it takes decades if not centuries, some blatant examples of vexing lack of social awareness have already had their day in the sun. Thus at least theoretically, they wouldn’t need to be repeated ad nauseum as they do.
What those two examples above demonstrate, however, is that many of the very shining examples of human intellect can’t, well, pay attention for too long. Or that when Desperate Housewives is on, they’re simply peeping through some microscope, finding out how our world will change in the next millennium.

To underline this point, and add yet another layer of caution to the proceedings, take the L’Aquila earthquake, that struck Italy’s region of Abruzzo, in 2009. The country’s deadliest quake since 1980 killed 297 people and left hundreds of injured, besides causing the usual misery and widespread material destruction.
So, what did the Italian government under flamboyant billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi do? Persecuted seven seismologists at the Commission for Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, of course. Continue reading

Blue Men

The Appalachian Fugates &
Early Humans’ Interbreeding

This a short tale about a Kentucky family, their rare recessive genes and the correlation of their condition to what happened thousands of years ago. Somewhere between then and the 1800s, when a Frenchman Martin Fugate married a local girl, scientists learned about blue methylene and the perils of interbreeding.
Recent findings about human ancestry showed that we already were, as it turns out, a pretty promiscuous species, even in our early times on Earth. DNA sequencing of Neanderthal bones and of another Asia-based population of hominins, all genetically distinct from our own makeup, showed that both groups interbred with our ancestors.
In the case of pre-humans, the reason for such interbreeding may have been survival of the species, or at least, part of its genetic code. For despite having gone the way of the dinosaurs, give or take a few dozen million years, both groups remain alive inside the Homo sapiens’s genomic mixture, through a process known as hybridization.
As for families living in isolated areas in the early 1900s and before, interbreeding was pretty much the only game in town. As you’d come to age to form your own family, your cousin was pretty much the only other single you’d ever known, give or take a few other people living in Continue reading