Neanderthal DNA Shows They Rarely Interbred With Us Very Different Humans

Neanderthal DNA For the first time, scientists have sequenced the mitochondrial DNA of a Neanderthal. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, analyzed the genetic material from a 38,000-year-old leg bone found in Croatia and published their findings today in Cell.

The mitochondria are only passed down the female line, so can be used to trace the species back to an ancestral “Eve”, the mother of all Neanderthals. The team analysed the DNA of 13 genes from the Neanderthal mitochondria and found they were distinctly different to modern humans, suggesting Neanderthals never, or rarely, interbred with early humans. The genetic material shows that a Neanderthal “Eve” lived around 660,000 years ago, when the species last shared a common ancestor with humans [Guardian].

It’s difficult to know exactly when one species diverges into two—the sceintists estimated their date by comparing the Neanderthal DNA to that of modern humans, chimps, and bonobos. Starting with the commonly-held idea that chimps and humans diverged six to eight million years ago, and factoring in the rate of mitochondrial DNA evolution, the team dated Neanderthal separation from humans back 660,000 years.

According to John Hawks, a University of Wisconsin-Madison biologist not involved in the study, the work further dispels the idea that modern humans are closely related to Neanderthals. “Comparing the complete mitochondrial DNA genomes of a Neandertal and many recent humans presents a very different picture,” Hawks says. “Humans are all more similar to each other, than any human is to a Neandertal. And in fact the Neandertal sequence is three or more times as different, on average, from us as we are from each other” [Science News].

However, much remains to be learned about Neanderthal DNA: The mitochondrion – a structure often dubbed the cell’s powerhouse – contains a mere 16,565 DNA letters that code for 13 proteins, whereas the nucleus holds more than 3 billion letters that produce more than 20,000 proteins [New Scientist]. Still, study leader Richard Green says he hopes to be well on the way to a complete Neanderthal genome by year.

Reprinted from Discover



Stone Age Temple May Be Birthplace of Civilization

Monday, November 17, 2008 |

One of the T-shaped monoliths in Gobekli Tepe, this one bearing a relief of a fox.

It’s more than twice as old as the Pyramids, or even the written word. When it was built, saber-toothed tigers and woolly mammoths still roamed, and the Ice Age had just ended.

The elaborate temple at Gobekli Tepe in southeastern Turkey, near the Syrian border, is staggeringly ancient: 11,500 years old, from a time just before humans learned to farm grains and domesticate animals.

According to the German archaeologist in charge of excavations at the site, it might be the birthplace of agriculture, of organized religion — of civilization itself.

“This is the first human-built holy place,” Klaus Schmidt of the German Archaeological Institute says in the November issue of Smithsonian magazine.

Schmidt and his colleagues say no evidence of permanent settlement has been found at the site, although there are remains of butchered animals and edible plants.

However, all of the bones are from wild animals, and all the vegetation from wild plants. That means the massive structure was built by a hunter-gatherer society, not a settled agricultural one.

Yet the three dozen T-shaped standing limestone monoliths arranged around the site are 10 feet high, weigh several tons each and bear detailed, stylized carvings of foxes, scorpions, lions, boars and birds. The builders may not have been farmers, but they weren’t primitive.

Massive amounts of manpower would have been needed to build the site, a logistical problem that may have spurred the builders to begin planting grain and herding wild sheep, Schmidt thinks.

Wild grain ancestral to modern wheat grows nearby, and the site itself is just outside the city of Sanliurfa, known as Edessa to the Crusaders — and which locals say is the Biblical city of Ur, birthplace of Abraham. The Euphrates flows eighty miles to the west, putting Gobekli Tepe smack in the middle of the Fertile Crescent.

“This shows sociocultural changes come first, agriculture comes later,” Stanford archaeologist Ian Hodder tells Smithsonian magazine. “You can make a good case this area is the real origin of complex Neolithic societies.”

Reprinted from Smithsonian Magazine


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Police investigate ‘Nazi’ gnome
German prosecutors have launched an inquiry into whether a garden gnome with its right arm raised in a Hitler salute in a Nuremberg art gallery breaks the law.

Published: 5:07PM BST 16 Jul 2009
An art installation by German artist Ottmar Horl featuring hundreds of Nazi-saluting garden gnomes
An art installation by German artist Ottmar Horl featuring hundreds of Nazi-saluting garden gnomes

Salutes and Nazi symbols have been illegal in Germany since the Second World War but investigators may decide the figure is in fact ridiculing the Third Reich.

Wolfgang Traeg, a spokesman for the public prosecutors office, said: “The investigation is ongoing and people are being interviewed.

Photo: GETTY

Reprinted from Telegraph UK



Northern Lights’ Source Found in Giant “Magnetic Ropes”

* By John Borland Email Author
* December 12, 2007 |
* 12:06 am |
* Categories: Physics
An eight-month old NASA mission to unravel the source of the Northern Lights’ energy has made startling progress, discovering giant magnetic “ropes” that connect the Earth to the Sun.

The NASA Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) mission consists of five separate satellites, along with supporting ground-based cameras. This system began observing an enormous substorm, or Northern Light event, on March 23, which helped trigger the discoveries.

The storm moved faster than anyone had expected, crossing 15 degrees of longitude in a single minute, about 400 miles per hour. The entire two-hour event released about five hundred thousand billion Joules, or about as much energy as a magnitude 5.5 earthquake, researchers said.

Which, well and good, but where did the energy come from?

Over the next few months, the spacecraft encountered what researchers call magnetic ropes, essentially bundles of magnetic fields that are twisted together like twine. The first to be mapped by the THEMIS satellites was located about 40,000 miles above the Earth’s surface, in the magnetopause, and about as wide as the Earth itself.

The magnetopause is the region where the solar wind – electrically charged particles that flow away from the sun at incredible speeds –
crashes into the Earth’s magnetic field. The “rope” formed there and unraveled again over the course of just a few minutes, but in the process proved to be a significant conduit for solar wind energy.

Here’s researcher David Sibeck, project scientist for the mission at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

“The satellites have found evidence of magnetic ropes connecting
Earth’s upper atmosphere directly to the sun,” Sibeck said. “We believe that solar wind particles flow in along these ropes, providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras.”

The scientists have also observed the equivalent of a “bow shock,” as at the leading edge of a boat, where the front edge of Earth’s magnetic field first encounters the solar wind. Occasionally a burst of electrical current in the solar wind will hit this “bow shock,”
creating an explosion, researchers said.

The team’s early findings will be presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco in this month.

Reprinted from Wired Science



  • By Clara Moskowitz Email Author
  • January 26, 2009  |
  • 10:30 am  |


George Toomer: Dallas’ ‘Buffalo George’ was a social critic, top adman

06:56 AM CDT on Friday, July 17, 2009

By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News
George Toomer was born in Dallas, but he didn’t grow up, and his admirers are delighted he didn’t.
George Toomer  had a knack for turning a complex observation into a delightful morsel.

He was known internationally as Buffalo George, an award-winning adman, illustrator and social critic of everything from fast food to the city of Dallas. The origin of his nickname was obvious – wearing one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts, he resembled a bison.

A working-class philosopher, he was a fast thinker who encouraged people to slow down; a deep thinker known for his instantaneous one-line quips.

Mr. Toomer, 66, died in his sleep Monday at his Dallas home.

Or, as he predicted the cause of his death in the advance obituary he wrote, knowing the day would one day come: “due to complications of doing all the wrong things, living too well and the addictive results of good cigars, pepperoni and sausage pizza and Häagen-Dazs Butter Pecan ice cream.”

An orphan, Mr. Toomer was raised by foster parents in Dallas, where he attended parochial school and graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1961, “after a long battle” and “within 6th place of the bottom of the class.”

Mr. Toomer attended Allen Military Academy in Bryan, Texas, “which had little effect other than to give him a false sense of superiority that cost him eleven jobs between 1961 and 1968 (thinking weakens the team),” he wrote in his obit.

He possessed many gifts, including the ability to distill a complex observation into a delightful morsel.

His summary of his visit to the Soviet Union: “It’s just like Beverly Hills – no unemployment, clean, friendly.”

Mr. Toomer called himself “a minor celebrity in Dallas in the 1970s and ’80s” who appeared on 20/20, Real People, CBS’s morning news and five times on the Today show. He had his own segment show on Baltimore’s Channel 13 for three years and appeared in Dallas on WFAA-TV’s PM Magazine as a social critic and restaurant specialist.

Early in his career, Mr. Toomer was an organizer for the junior chamber of commerce and a vice president with an advertising firm by the time he was 26, but couldn’t quite figure out the authority thing – he was fired 11 times in seven years.

As an adman, Mr. Toomer created the Frito Bandito character.

“I never got the straight story on that,” said his son, George Toomer Jr. of Dallas.

Mr. Toomer liked to say that he had told the Frito Bandito story so many times “he had forgotten the truth,” his son said.

Mr. Toomer later contributed to restaurant marketing and/or theme concepts for Dick’s Last Resort, Joey Tomato’s, Razzoo’s Cajun Cafe and Bone Daddy’s.

In the draft of his obituary, he noted that he also packaged and marketed notable clients from rock stars to wrestlers “and endless crap that became popular.”

Longtime friend Alex Burton said Mr. Toomer once rejected an advertising project that one of his employees had sold to a potential client because it wouldn’t be fun.

“George said, ‘Yeah, we’ll make money on this, but it won’t be any fun,’ ” Mr. Burton said.

On another occasion, Mr. Toomer fired a client, turning away business.

“The guy said, ‘You can’t do that,’ and George said, ‘I just did,’ ” Mr. Burton said.

In 1968, he turned entrepreneur and founded Image Group Studios, a Dallas marketing-advertising-design firm, where he was “owner and janitor.”

He received more than 200 advertising awards, including the coveted Addy and the Lifetime Achievement Golden Egg Award from the Dallas Society of Visual Communications.

He authored three books and wrote columns, articles and opinion pieces for publications including The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Times Herald, The Washington Post, Texas Monthly and People magazine.

In the 1990s, he focused on drawing illustrations, which graced the issues of the Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and Time, to name a few.

In a 1984 column for The News, Mr. Toomer wrote that he often drove a 1940 Cadillac “to slow me down so I can get in touch with what’s going on around me.”

“There is no way I can agree to be on the other side of town in 15 minutes, something that is easy with my newer car,” he wrote. “I can’t race to beat the signal light; I can’t whip in and out of freeway traffic.”

While Mr. Toomer was known for his public persona as tough and cynical, he was a kind man, said longtime friend Judith Garrett Segura of Dallas.

“He was a very generous person, never wealthy, but had a tender spot for a sob story,” Ms. Garrett Segura said. “There were a great many people who would turn to George for advice, or counseling or help. He would help them get by, whatever it took.”

Mr. Toomer was cremated, but had he chosen to be buried, he wanted his tombstone to read, “I finally found a diet that works!”

Friends are planning a celebration of his life but have yet to set a date.

In addition to his son, Mr. Toomer is survived by a sister, Renee Barnett of Ravenna, Texas.