You, only different

•April 10, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I stumbled upon this site and it has been a wonderful diversion–I should be sleeping. I quite like the option of making people I know look like a chimp 😀

http://morph.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Transformer/

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Ancient Poop!

•April 5, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Humans in North America earlier than thought

DNA from fossilized feces in Oregon provides evidence that humans inhabited the area 1,200 years sooner than theorized.
By Thomas H. Maugh II, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

DNA from fossilized human feces found in an Oregon cave is 14,300 years old, at least 1,200 years older than previous evidence for humans in North America, researchers said Thursday.

The find provides the strongest evidence in an archaeological controversy about whether people of the Clovis culture, which manufactured distinctive stone tools and weapons, were the first to populate the Americas. The new evidence, reported online in the journal Science, indicates they were not.

The fossilized DNA “represents, to the best of my knowledge, the oldest human DNA obtained from the Americas,” said geneticist Eske Willerslev of Denmark’s University of Copenhagen, a co-author of the paper.

“If you are looking for the first people in North America, you are going to have to step back more than 1,000 years beyond Clovis to find them,” added archaeologist Dennis L. Jenkins of the University of Oregon, the lead author of the report.

The find is “a smoking gun” for the pre-Clovis colonization of the Americas, said anthropologist Ripan Malhi of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved in the research.

In addition to changing ideas about when humans arrived here, the new research will also change ideas about how.

Archaeologists theorize that humans from Siberia and eastern Asia migrated to North America across the Bering land bridge when a global warming episode melted the glaciers that had blocked their progress and stranded them for thousands of years in the area known as Beringia.

If humans were on this continent 14,300 years ago — at least 1,000 years before that melting episode — they had to have come before the glacier blocked the route or by a different pathway, Willerslev said.

He argues that a strip of land along the western coast of North America was exposed during the Ice Age, allowing migration along the coast rather than by the favored inland route. Archaeological artifacts from that trek are now submerged under the Pacific Ocean, he said.

The feces fossils, technically called coprolites, were discovered by Jenkins in the summers of 2002 and 2003 in the Paisley Caves in the Summer Lake basin, about 220 miles southeast of Eugene. The eight caves are wave-cut shelters on the shoreline of Lake Chewaucan, whose levels rose and fell with changes in precipitation in the region.

In addition to the coprolites, Jenkins also found manufactured threads of sinew and plant fibers, hides, basketry, cordage, rope, wooden pegs, animal bones and a couple of projectile point fragments — but not enough to link the cave’s inhabitants to the Clovis people or any others.

The small number of artifacts in the cave suggests that whoever occupied it did so only for a short period, rather than using it as a long-term residence, Jenkins said.

Organic material from the coprolites was radiocarbon dated, and the oldest ones were found to be 14,300 years old.

Willerslev’s lab analyzed mitochondrial DNA from the coprolites and concluded that it was similar to DNA from both Native Americans and the populations of Siberia and East Asia.

Fearing contamination of the samples, Willerslev also analyzed samples from all 55 people who visited the cave during the excavations, as well as from all 12 members of his laboratory and showed that none of them had similar DNA.

The coprolites also contained DNA similar to that of the red fox, coyote or wolf. Jenkins said the added DNA could have come from human ingestion of the animals or from the animals urinating on the feces.

Critics, such as anthropologist Gary Haynes of the University of Nevada, Reno, argued that the coprolites could be animal feces and that the human DNA was deposited when humans urinated on them much later.

But Jenkins said that the coprolites also contained human proteins in concentrations too high to have come from urine, as well as human hair.

“Whether the coprolites are human or canine is irrelevant, since for a canine to swallow human hair people had to be present in that environment,” he told Science. “Anyway you cut the poop, people and dogs would have had to be at the site within days of each other 14,000 years ago.”

thomas.maugh@latimes.com


Would Shakespeare have rode a float in a gay pride parade?

•March 15, 2008 • Leave a Comment

*Disclaimer: this is a stream of consciousness, not an analysis.

I say he would.
As a fan of Shakespeare and someone who enjoys literature analysis I am always intrigued as to how people interpret The Bard. However, I have come to the realization that people are far too obsessed with homosexual undertones (or overtones) and/or homo-eroticism in every single play!

I recently had to read Twelfth Night–which is a great play– twice (once in the fall semester and once this spring) and both times I heard people go on about a scene involving Antonio and Sebastian and how it was “quite obviously” that Antonio had a love that far surpassed “friendly” with Sebastian. Here is a link to the part I am referring to; (http://nfs.sparknotes.com/twelfthnight/page_60.epl).I have to argue that I adamantly believe this interpretation is vague at best and I say this because of the fact that much of the language used, though flamboyant or excessive is characteristic of most characters in Shakespeare’s plays, not just the ones who are “in love” with each other.

My opinion is that the bond shared by the two is one of a brotherly, comrade-in-arms sort of affection. To jump to a conclusion of; “Oh, they are gay!” is so rash and unsupported by the text. Especially because it is such a short interaction and there is little to no character development of either of them. I would have to say that if anyone in the play is displaying any sort of homosexuality it is Orsino and his relationship with Cesario (for those who don’t know the play; Cesario is actually a woman, Viola, who has disguised herself as a man because she is all alone in a strange land and in mourning of her brother Sebastian because she thinks he died in the shipwreck. Of course no one knows that Cesario is a woman.)

Back to my point. I heard from one of my Professors that in England they protray the supposedly gay scene between Antonio and Sebastian as a neutral or simply that the two have become good friends. I think that the varying opinions on the matter reveal something about the ambiguity of the scene as well as, forgive my over generalization her, the mentality of the American reader. Cultural relativism at it’s best. We in the 21st century interact with people differently than in the 1500-1600s. We are imposing different cultural values, morals, and experiences (consciously and unconsciously ) on work that was a voice of life in another time.

Could it be that not only is the artist in his/her art, but also that the analyst is in his/her analysis? I whole heartedly think so. I am by no means saying that if “you” see their relationship as being homosexual that “you” are gay, but rather that there is something in the back of you mind, or something insinuated by your Prof. that Shakespeare was gay, wrote about homosexuality a lot, or whatever the case may be that one will expect to see it.

I’d also like to say that the amount of time spent discussing sexual innuendos, undertones, or double meanings in my English class has led me to wonder how many authors are turning over in their graves at some of the parallels people, myself included, draw.