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June 08, 2006


I was looking at the redwood forest on our place, redwoods known as a 'climax' forest, that is, they are the top competitor and they control the terrain while their forest lasts. Though virtually all the trees here are so-called second growth, clearly clusters of groves of 12' diameter trees are utilizing the parent tree rooting systems of individual trees which likely were seedlings around 3,000 years ago. It makes the transitory existince we call a human lifetime seem a little more fleeting when drawn beside a tree whose life spans thirty human generations. It makes you want to take care of the forest more, because this is their forest, we the visitors and stewards.

Clearly, I could use part of this lifetime to run the spellchecker more carefully, as well.

it raises interesting biological questions about aging, too. how do they live so long?

suppose we could find a way to give humans the lifespan of a redwood. first, obviously, there would be way too many humans. but second, I wonder if it would be easier to care about the environment if we knew we'd be living with our garbage ourselves, not passing it on to our great-great-great-offspring.

I want to knwo who got the chimp genes... wait, let me guess....

There is a new genetic branch of history examining how many strains of humans form the modern homo sapiens; one new aspect of the method is sampling fosilized bone findings by mitochondrial DNA instead of only by anatomical shape. The genetic anthropologist whom I heard on the science radio program described the origin of modern humans as one of several ancestors among the Ethiopian finds, the so-called Leakey finds, among others from that part of the horn of Africa. The scientist went on to generalize about the urge to procreate and sociologic factors as inducted from archeological bone samples. Of course, this guy was a male; but his comment was that over wide geographic areas the local people usually reflect a single dominant male; he even went as far as to reveal that less dominant males' mitochondrial DNA did not appear anywhere near as widely as the most incented male. I am not sure if I believe this theory of aboriginal behavior. The program went on to discuss the tabloid version of some of the research concerning identification of chimps; I wonder if our visitor, above, is alluding to that or a more common moniker on the internet for a certain flawless leader.

As for the redwood forest on our ranch, I pay homage to the aboriginal peoples who did not have technology for deforestation. There is some interesting very early medieval history about the effects of metalwork technology development upon civilization; invention of tools and weapons, art objects and other artifacts. There is a place near one of the Iraq battlegrounds which was the site of one of the oldest known schoolrooms, complete with student assignment clipboards with ancient writing as if the children were schooled in a special location by a designated teacher.
Setting the eons aside for a moment, I believe Kim could find that Jane probably has the perfect photo of the person she is speaking of at FDL; they are getting pretty graphical over there.

A recent advance in that area has been the sequencing of Neanderthal DNA from the nucleus (not mitochondria) genome. Mostly at this point it's a gee-whiz feat, being able to recover DNA sequences from a 45,000-year-old skeleton. But the one result that seems to be coming out of it so far is that it looks as if Neanderthals were very distinct from either modern humans or chimps.

he even went as far as to reveal that less dominant males' mitochondrial DNA did not appear anywhere near as widely as the most incented male
This may be a bit off, because mitochondrial DNA is only inherited through one's mom, so there is no way to figure out paternal lineage by it -- but maybe he meant Y chromosome or other markers. Anyway, the change in genetic diversity today that comes from not having everyone in a small region be closely related is certainly one of the major overlooked revolutions of the last few centuries... and I think its consequences are not yet really appreciated. We are generating combinations of human genomes today that have never been seen before, on a much greater order than we have ever done before.

re: archaeology, there's a piece in Science on development of cultures in north and south mesopotamia 5 or 6 millenia ago, and controversy over which was the dominant culture, but to be honest I am not really understanding it.

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