blivet

From Space Science News but I got the original pointer from slashdot.

February 18, 2000 — Yesterday, a medium-sized solar flare erupted from a sunspot group near the middle of the solar disk. It was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME) that appears to be headed directly for our planet. There’s no cause for alarm — CMEs aren’t dangerous to people — but this one could trigger beautiful aurorae and other geomagnetic activity when it passes by our planet around February 20.

I’ve never seen the Aurora, as I imagine it, it’s completely awe-inspiring.

More on Kennewick: before we get into the Reuter’s story and my comments I need to mention that NOVA broadcast Mystery of the First Americans on February 15, 2000. This was an excellent show on Kennewick and the issues surrounding the skeleton and its interpretation. Though it has been criticized by certain members of the professional community for not coming to a resolution, I think it accurately represents the professional community’s lack of concensus on this issue.

from Reuters Some Native Americans Had Neanderthal Roots. Loring Brace, a specialist in bone measurements at the University of Michigan in discussing the "European-ness" or "Ainu-ness" of the Kennewick skeleton (and other human skeletal material on this continent that are over 7,000 years old) says that it is easily explainable through the common Neanderthal ancestry of both the European and Ainu population groups. (continuing from the Reuters story):

It is a controversial theory because most scientists believe that Neanderthals were an evolutionary dead-end, people who lived side-by-side with the Cro-Magnons who were the earliest Homo sapiens but who did not interbreed with them. “To produce a modern European out of a Neanderthal, all you have to do is reduce the robustness,” Brace said. Scale down the heavy teeth, jaws and brow of the Neanderthal and you have a European, he said.

<begin blivet commentary wherein we probably place foot in mouth and chew> First, let me issue a disclaimer of bias and tell you where I stand, both intellectually and <deity or construct of choice> forbid, somewhat emotionally (you may pick up your rocks and rotten produce now). I think that the human fossil record represents a continuum, and that Neanders are an ancestral, relic population of Homo sapiens adapted to Pleistocene glacial environments. They are representative of the range in the plasticity of the human phenotype. Having said that, back to Brace’s comments. I think this (his comments) begins to position the debate where it should be, refocused on the issues of human ancestry that have been swirling in Anthropology for decades, away from who "owns" these human remains and the heavily politicized repatriation litigation.

The debate is rooted in hoary nineteenth-century science, and from my perspective seems to distill down to the continuing debate of concerning human evolution of multi-regional development v. Out of Africa. Which is to say that the Reuters statement of "most scientists agree" is simplistic news reductionism. If someone were to stand at the podium of the upcoming AAA (American Association of Anthropologists) meeting and proclaim that "Neanderthals were an evolutionary dead-end and did not interbreed with modern humans" you could witness "most scientists agree[ing]" in the ensuing shouting match. (Actually, it might be fun to watch from a distance.)

We’ve having problems talking about the populations of the New World ten thousand years ago because we can’t lucidly speak of the skeletal populations of Asia, Africa, or Europe ten thousand years ago. The sample size for all of these populations is amazingly small and there is far from any consensus regarding the phenotype of these groups. We have a larger number of complete T. rex skeletons than Paleoindian skeletons for crying out loud. We are feeling our way in the half-light of partial knowledge, but typically speaking as though the "facts" are known. Simply put, we need to make the statement that infuriates non-scientists: more work needs to be done. I would put forth for further investigation that there were multiple groups that came to the New World (a la Turner) over several thousand years, all representative of the eastern Asian populations of the time, and that those populations, through time and genetic drift, became progressively more "Asiatic" in phenotype. We need more study of the skeletal populations of Asia. The earliest Paleoindian groups resemble the present-day Ainu who, because of the Ainu’s reproductive isolation – they still resemble (skeletally) that earlier population. The fact that we can even speak of the Ainu as a distinct group in eastern Asia is testament to ongoing changes in the human phenotype and the value of studying populations that have isolated themselves, either through cultural or geographic means, and retain phenotypes distinct from the larger population.

This will continue to confound those that do not realize that science is a process, a way of doing things, not a belief system or an intellectual destination. Science done in the open is too much like the old adage concerning sausage making. If you see everything that goes into it, you might think there is something wrong with it. In science we occasionally pursue things that don’t work, we abandon positions we’ve passionately held for years, we may cling to positions knowing that there is contrary evidence. But if you present someone who claims to be a scientist with evidence that refutes their position, they must revise or change their position, or they’re not a scientist. The problem is, the farther away from Math, Chemistry, and Physics you get, the scarcer those irrefutable facts get. Out here in Anthropology-land, they’re pretty scarce. Still, it is science, it can be well reasoned, and it does approach the ‘facts,’ as we understand them. Just remember they are always subject to revision.

Granted, this does not address other burning issues such as the arrival of lithic blade technology in the New World, or ‘whose’ ancestor are we speaking of. Personally, I’m not sure anyone "owns" the skeletal material. These issues of power and control seems to only perpetuate the reification of the past, making me, as an Anglo New World archaeologist, forever relegated to perform "the Archaeology of the Other", unless I’m doing certain types of Historic investigations. In the Zen sense, this is classic dualistic thinking, aggravated and perpetuated by the allegiance to a certain German philosopher whose last name begins with "H". We’re all connected, we’re all one, a single group of humans on this pale blue dot. To perpetuate anything else is delusional. It just may be bad science as well.

blivet

China may launch a man into space next month. [BBC News]

Scientists Find Origin of AIDS
Researchers using a supercomputer say they’ve traced the AIDS virus back to around 1930, much earlier than the disease was previously thought to have originated. from Wired, CNN

Mars Lander Disappoints … Again
Scientists hoping to detect a signal from the Mars Polar Lander come up empty handed. Last week’s presumed peep from Mars goes unexplained. from Wired

Vonnegut in critical condition following fire [CNN]
Novelist Kurt Vonnegut is in critical but stable condition Tuesday following a fire in his home Sunday. I’ve read most of his books. Claudia maintains that one of the professors in the Anthro Department is Kilgore Trout.

Federal DNA tests planned on Kennewick Man remains
"The federal government has decided to perform DNA testing on Kennewick Man, the 9,000-year-old bones that have prompted a legal struggle between a group of scientists and Pacific Northwest tribes who claim the remains as an ancestor.
Dr. Frank McManamon, chief archaeologist for the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service, yesterday announced that his agency will try to perform DNA testing on the bones as part of the government’s effort to determine if Kennewick Man can be linked to any modern Native Americans." from the Seattle Post Intelligencer

Historic Reno hotel demolished A loss for preservationists. Reno, like the rest of Nevada, wants its yokel politics and politicians and a sophisticated image at the same time. It doesn’t fly. Even Las Vegas is almost beginning to wake up to preservation issues. from CNN

Experts Urge Big Firms Back Depression Study "Specialists from the United States and Hong Kong on Tuesday urged businesses and governments to allocate more funds to research into depression — which they described as the "cancer of the 21st century"." Look into the eyes of your friends, or perhaps the mirror. Granted, depression is almost a given in grad school, still, it seems endemic. from Yahoo Daily News.

SF great A.E. Van Vogt, 1912-2000. A good comment at slashdot "let’s think about where we want science fiction to be going". Perhaps I’m just getting too long in the tooth, but I can count the current authors I follow on one hand. Something seems to be missing. More information on Van Vogt’s career here and here.

blivet

College has roared into session. It seems very unnatural knowing my diploma will have the date “2000” on it. I feel like I should have a data jack just below my right ear or something. Where’s my hovercar? We were supposed to have hovercars in the year 2000! We were supposed to have colonies on the Moon and Mars too, for that matter. The futures just not what it was all cracked up to be. Where does that phrase “all cracked up to be” come from? I don’t even know what that is supposed to mean though it gets used often.

Karl is in town for the Scuba Con. We getting together Thursday night, it will be the first time we’ve seen each other since 1977. Coool.

Work proceeds on the Las Vegas Springs Preserve Master Plan. It is truly strange to be involved a project that has a roll-out in 2005 and think that there isn’t much time to get things done. So much science to do, so little time.

blivet

In the USA, the third Monday in January is a holiday to honor the birthday of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Federal, as well as most state and county employees have the day off work.

More Kennewick – How NAGPRA affects Kennewick Man
The Department of Interior has confirmed a 9,000+ year old date for Kennewick Man, which makes him de facto Native American and therefore subject to NAGPRA. From kris hirst at about.com.

The Kennewick skeleton has become a flash point for a reaction by some of the professional archaeological community about legal constraints on how we do our work. It has also raised some long smoldering notions concerning the initial populations of the New World.

The Mars Polar Lander is officially lost. <sigh> The story from NASA’s Polar Lander site; CNN; BBC.

blivet

I expect there will be more Kenniwick Man news, as well as more on Microsoft …

I’ll be your teaching Assistant …

I'll be your teaching Assistant …:

I saw this on slashdot:

The Matrix is now the focus of an introductory philosophy class at the University of Washington in Seattle. According to Sci-Fi Wire, instructor David Nixon based the class on the philosophical themes and religious archetypes of the film. Nixon got the idea after seeing the film five times in theaters and realizing that it served to illustrate such concepts as perception, the mind and free will.

blivet

17:40 Lots more to notice after I get home.

“KENNEWICK MAN OVER 9000 YEARS OLD AND NATIVE AMERICAN ACCORDING TO NAGPRA LAW Cultural Affiliation Studies underway to analyze evidence of Shared Group Identity with present day American Indian Tribes The Department of the Interior today announced its conclusions on the first of two questions Interior is answering for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: whether the human skeletal remains found in the Columbia River (known as Kennewick Man) are to be considered Native American. The Department of the Interior considers the Kennewick remains “Native American” for the purposes of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA). The decision is based upon recent radiocarbon dating, analysis of a lithic point embedded in the left hip and other anthropological and sediment analysis performed in February, 1999.” more from the National Park Service

“Kennewick Man expected to go Native.” more from Channel 13 in Seattle

“Department of the Interior scientists have dated the remains to 8,410 radiocarbon years – or as old as 9,300 calendar years. Interior officials planned to release their results today, along with their decision on whether to classify the skeleton as Native American under federal law. In other developments, the leader of an Old Norse pagan group said Wednesday that the Asatru Folk Assembly was withdrawing from the legal dispute.” more from ABC News

16:30 Wow! Lots of things happen during the day.

Gates steps down as CEO of Microsoft. And so it begins…

Researchers clone monkey by splitting embryo

At 7:15 (-0700 GMT) a quick pass over Scripting News, CNN, slashdot, Wired, and some blogs didn’t turn up anything that piqued my interest. Not that there isn’t anything out there, we all know there is. I need a crawler…

Off to work.

blivet

This is management wisdom, pure and simple. Doing a Job by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, U.S. Navy, retired. It sounds like he never became a pointy-haired boss. He was probably a bear to work for, but I suspect in a good way. Thanks to Dan Gillmor for the pointer.

Archaeology and Science

Predicting El Niño in Primitive Way Associated Press

Sites of Distinction Washington Post

Chimp Shows Capacity to Recall Random Numbers

from: ABC, the BBC, MSNBC, Associated Press, and Nando

I’m glad you asked about the Mars Lander!

Scientists say Mars probe probably plunged into canyon, an exclusive to the Devner Post.
The Associated Press picked up the story from there (byline Denver) so there is additional coverage from all over but the Post has the scoop. This time Lockheed is pointing fingers at NASA/JPL. Everything concerns the topography of the landing site. The Nasa/JPL web has some perspective views of the landing site available.

Additional coverage:

Miami Herald, CNN, ABC News, MSNBC