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May 05, 2010

Using lice DNA scientists determine when people started wearing clothes

Lice Hang Ancient Date On First Clothes - Science News
Using DNA to trace the evolutionary split between head and body lice, researchers conclude that body lice first came on the scene approximately 190,000 years ago. And that shift, the scientists propose, followed soon after people first began wearing clothing. The new estimate, presented April 16 at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists annual meeting, sheds light on a poorly understood cultural development that allowed people to settle in northern, cold regions, said Andrew Kitchen of Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Armed with little direct evidence, scientists had previously estimated that clothing originated anywhere from around 1 million to 40,000 years ago. An earlier analysis of mitochondrial DNA from the two modern types of lice indicated that body lice evolved from head lice only about 70,000 years ago. Because body lice thrive in the folds of clothing, they likely appeared not long after clothes were invented, many scientists believe.

May 03, 2010

Charles Darwin's poor health blamed on inbreeding

Darwin dynasty's ill health blamed on inbreeding - life - 03 May 2010 - New Scientist The picture is of Charles "Chuckie D" Darwin and his son/cousin.
Widespread inbreeding between the Darwin and Wedgwood families was probably to blame for Charles Darwin's ill health, and the childhood tragedies and infertility that blighted his family. That's the conclusion of an analysis examining links between ill health over four generations of the Darwin-Wedgwood dynasty and the degree of inbreeding between the families. The analysis supports Darwin's fears that inbreeding was damaging his health and that of his children, following his ground-breaking studies demonstrating that cross-bred plants are far fitter and more vigorous than self-fertilised plants. "This caused him to reflect on his own condition," says Tim Berra of Ohio State University in Mansfield. After Darwin married his first cousin, Emma Wedgwood, they had 10 children, three of whom died as children. Three of the others married but remained childless, suggesting infertility problems. And Darwin himself, who suffered unremitting ill health following his epic trip on The Beagle, was the product of an "inter-Wedgwood" union, his maternal grandparents being third cousins to each another.

May 02, 2010

Scientists discover that killer whales are really three different species

What type of killer whale was Willy? - life - 02 May 2010 - New Scientist
AND then there were three: long-held assumptions that all killer whales belong to the same species have been blown apart by a DNA analysis of 139 orcas. It reveals that there are at least three separate species. "These have all radiated from one another quite recently, from 150,000 to 700,000 years ago," says Phillip Morin of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California (Genome Research, DOI: 10.1101/gr.102954.109). The three new species differ in appearance, hunting habits and diet. Ross Sea killer whales from the Antarctic are about two-thirds the size of most orcas, eat only fish and have the smallest eye streak of all. Pack-ice killer whales also live in the Antarctic but have the largest eye patch and hunt seals. Both are greyer than the north-east Pacific transient killer whales living off Alaska, which feed on marine mammals, including dolphins. The fact that the species have such different diets could explain the difficulties some aquaria have had getting their captive orcas to eat fish.

April 29, 2010

Alternative health guru Gary Null nearly killed by his own supplements

Gary Null suit vs. supplement manufacturer claims Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal nearly killed him Two daily servings of his supplement gave him a nearly-fatal dose of vitamin D.
A controversial alternative health guru is suing after a taste of his own medicine nearly killed him. Gary Null - described on quackwatch.org as "one of the nation's leading promoters of dubious treatment for serious disease" - claims the manufacturer of Gary Null's Ultimate Power Meal overloaded the supplements with Vitamin D. The buff "Joy of Juicing" author, whose products include Red Stuff Powder and Gary Null's Heavenly Hair Cleaner, claims he suffered kidney damage and was left bloodied and in intense pain from two daily servings of the supplement. "Null continued to take the Ultimate Power Meal, all the while thinking that it would help him, and relieve his condition; instead, it made him worse," the suit says.

April 25, 2010

Stephen Hawking: Aliens might hate us

Stephen Hawking: Aliens might hate us | Technically Incorrect - CNET News
"If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn't turn out very well for the Native Americans," the Times quotes him as saying. And just in case your stomach begins to churn, even without an alien inside it, Hawking expanded: "I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they can reach."