Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"X-Woman" Discovered -Shared Ancestry with Neanderthals and Modern Humans

Scientists say a third hominin group may have co-existed with early Homo sapiens and Neanderthals. A DNA sample taken from an ancient pinky bone that belonged to a child who died between 48,000 and 30,000 years ago, suggests that a previously unknown group of human ancestors intermingled with Neanderthals and modern humans.

The finding, published in this week's issue of the journal Nature, emerged from a check of DNA samples from Denisova Cave in southern Siberia's Altai Mountains. Anthropologists know that the cave was occupied by human ancestors off and on for at least 125,000 years, based on the artifacts and bits of bone found there.

An unknown type of human, nicknamed "X-Woman," coexisted with Neanderthals and our own species between 30,000 to 50,000 years ago, according to a new study that suggests at least four, and possibly more, different forms of humans existed in Asia after Homo sapiens migrated out of Africa.

The finding has been described, not from the structure of its fossilized bones, but from the sequence of its DNA. Researchers focused on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), genes passed down from mothers to their children, hence the X-Woman nickname. The child's mtDNA shows X-Woman shared a common ancestor with Neanderthals (skull left) and modern humans (right skull) one million years ago, so X-Woman and her species likely migrated out of Africa 500,000 years before the ancestors of Neanderthals left Africa.

"So whoever carried this mtDNA out of Africa was a creature that was not on our radar screen before," co-author Svante Paabo, director of genetics at the renowned Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, told Discovery News.

Dr Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany said the DNA was different from the genetic code of Neanderthals and modern humans.

Almost nothing is known about the appearance or lifestyle of the new human species. It walked upright on two legs and was probably similar in appearance to the other ancient humans living at the time. They lived at a time when our ancestors were fishing and hunting, wearing jewellery, painting caves and making animal carvings.

Co-author Dr Johannes Krause said: 'We only have the little pinky bone and there are also isolated teeth found in the site but there is no other skeletal remains so far.'

The genetic sequence was then compared with those for 54 present-day modern humans, a Late Pleistocene early modern human from Russia, six complete Neanderthal mtDNA's, one bonobo and one chimpanzee. None of them matched with the new sequence, but they revealed the individual was a human that carried twice as many genetic differences as Neanderthals do with our species.

Since Neanderthals and modern humans were also living less than around 62 miles away in Siberia at the time, Paabo said, "At least three different forms of humans may have coexisted 30,000 to 40,000 years ago," making human history "a lot more complex and interesting" than previously thought for this period.

Conditions were often cold then in Siberia, as they are now, so everyone probably wore heavy, protective clothing. Ornaments dating to the period, such as bracelets, were also found in the cave.

Because the different humans appear to have lived within close proximity of each other, this "increases the potential for interaction," including inbreeding, Paabo said during a press conference yesterday in London with colleague Johannes Krause.

The apparently peaceful coexistence may not have lasted long, however, since only our species survived into modern times. As a result, Paabo believes the extinction of the other human groups may have been "early genocide" or due to environmental factors or competition for resources.

Casey Kazan via The DailyMail and Discovery News.

Glorious full moon above the western horizon and sun rising in the East at six thirty in the morning. Later the sun slanted across Alan Gardens so that my body created a long, long shadow. Grass fully tufted and green. The paper says that many flowers are in bloom in the greenhouses. Must go.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mol Psychiatry. 2000 Jan;5(1):32-8.

The human serotonin transporter gene linked polymorphism (5-HTTLPR)

Nakamura M, Ueno S, Sano A, Tanabe H.

The Department of Neuropsychiatry, Ehime University School of Medicine, Shitsukawa, Shigenobu, Onsen-gun, Ehime 791-0295, Japan.

The serotonin transporter (5-HTT) gene is a promising candidate for introducing the heritability of interindividual variation in personality and the genetic susceptibility for various psychiatric diseases.

In the present study, we examined the 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in detail and identified ten novel sequence variants, concluding that the alleles reported as S and L are divided into four and six kinds of allelic variant, respectively. Subsequently, we developed a method for genotyping. The total number of alleles (14-A, 14-B, 14-C, 14-D, 15, 16-A, 16-B, 16-C, 16-D, 16-E, 16-F, 19, 20 and 22) in the 5-HTTLPR was 14 in our populations (Japanese: n = 131; Caucasian: n = 74) in the present study. In addition, a significant ethnic difference between Japanese and Caucasian populations was observed for distributions of alleles and genotypes. HTTLPR should be revised by genotyping with a more complete subdivision of alleles.

Molecular Psychiatry (2000) 5, 32-38.

PMID: 10673766 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

This is all pretty complicated for me, but I want to follow 5-LTTLPR research and try to make sense of it from a layman's point of view. Some people are clearly more depressed than others and it is clear to me that their life experiences don't always warrant the depressions to which they are subject. As a teenager, I grew up watching my mother go through a serious depression and, from my university days, I have always been fascinated by the brain chemistry component of our emotional states as well as by the suffering we accumulate by what we do and what happens to us.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More from the wonderful world of wikipedia....

NASA photograph showing aircraft contrails and natural clouds. The temporary disappearance of contrails over North America due to plane groundings after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the resulting increase in diurnal temperature range gave empirical evidence of the effect of thin ice clouds at the Earth's surface.[26]


From the Scott report of 1996 on Britain exporting arms to Iraq:

"The main objectives of governments are the implementation of their policies and the discomfiture of opposition; they do not submit with enthusiasm to the restraints of accountability … governments are little disposed to volunteer information that may expose them to criticism … The enforcement of accountability depends largely on the ability of Parliament to prise information from governments which are inclined to be defensively secretive where they are most vulnerable to challenge."

Mmmm, who would have thunk?


Elves often appear as a dim, flattened, expanding glow around 400 km (250 miles) in diameter that lasts for, typically, just one millisecond.[16] They occur in the ionosphere 100 km (60 miles) above the ground over thunderstorms. Their color was a puzzle for some time, but is now believed to be a red hue. Elves were first recorded on another shuttle mission, this time recorded off French Guiana on October 7, 1990.
Elves is a frivolous acronym for Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations from Electromagnetic Pulse Sources.[17] This refers to the process by which the light is generated; the excitation of nitrogen molecules due to electron collisions (the electrons possibly having been energized by the electromagnetic pulse caused by a discharge from an underlying thunderstorm).

Since I was weeping the other day during the battle scene in "The Hurt Locker", I have been been thinking about why we kill each other. I just came across this familiar quote, although I had not realised before who had said it.
The late British philosopher Bertrand Russell observed, “Most of the greatest evil that man has inflicted upon man comes through people feeling quite certain about something which, in fact, was false.”
I would like to amend it to, “Most of the greatest evil that man has inflicted upon man comes through people feeling quite certain about something, whether it is true or false".

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Una furtiva lagrima (A furtive tear) is the romanza taken from Act II, Scene VIII of the Italian opera, L'elisir d'amore by Gaetano Donizetti. It is sung by Nemorino (tenor) when he finds that the love potion he bought to win his dream lady’s heart, Adina, works.
Nemorino is in love with Adina, but she isn't interested in a relationship with an innocent, rustic man. To win her heart, Nemorino buys a “love potion” with all the money he has in his pocket. The “love potion” is actually a cheap red wine sold by a traveling con man. But when he sees Adina weeping, he knows that she has fallen in love with him and the “Elixir” works.

Una furtiva lagrimanegli, One furtive secret tear,
occhi suoi spuntò: from her eyes did spring:
Quelle festose giovani invidiar sembrò. As if those youths who can be playful it ( or she ) seemed to be envious of.
Che più cercando io vo? What more searching do I want?
Che più cercando io vo? What more searching do I want?
M'ama! Sì, m'ama, lo vedo. Lo vedo. She loves me! Yes, she loves me, I see it. I see it.
Un solo instante i palpitidel suo bel cor sentir! Just for an instant the beats of her beautiful heart, (if), I could feel!
I miei sospir, confondere per poco a' suoi sospir! My sighs, if they were mingled for a while with her sighs!
I palpiti, i palpiti sentir,confondere i miei coi suoi sospir... The beats, the beats of her heart, if I could feel, to fuse my sighs with hers...
Cielo! Si può morir! Di più non chiedo, non chiedo. Heavens! Yes, I could die! I ask for nothing more, nothing.
Ah, cielo! Si può! Si, può morir! Oh, heavens! Yes, I could. I could die!
Di più non chiedo, non chiedo. I ask for nothing more, nothing.
Si può morire! Si può morir d'amor. Yes, I could die! Yes, I could die of love.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

If you're interested in virtual art, you should read the Manifesto of Virtual Art: http://www.acva.net.au/blog/detail/acva_manifesto_of_virtual_art or read this essay on "post-convergence": http://www.acva.net.au/blog/detail/seven_theses_on_the_concept_of_post-convergence

Monday, March 15, 2010

Quanta Qualia
Patrick T. Hawes
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Whenever we write about Eastern religion we say "soul or self", as if these were interchangeable. I am very sure of what the self is, but I only have a dimly lit view of what the soul might be. This symbol, sacred to 8000,000 Hindus, was described as a symbol of the soul or self. Isn't there a huge difference between these two things, or is it that what this is a symbol of is something that cannot be described by Westerners in the terms we use to describe what is sacred to us? I do know that Buddhists, who derived their beliefs in part from Hinduism, like lotuses because they represent something that has its roots in the mud at the bottom of a pool and flowers above the water in the same way that enlightenment can emerge from the body.
Hal Clement (Harry C Stubbs)

A short survey found that I would be most like this writer if I wrote Science Fiction.

I am:
Hal Clement (Harry C. Stubbs)
A quiet and underrated master of "hard science" fiction who, among other things, foresaw integrated circuits back in the 1940s.

Which science fiction writer are you?