Interesting Science News: Mainly But Not Exclusively Anthropologically Related

Science Daily reports on an interesting new application of Radiocarbon dating:

From the end of World War II and up until about 1960, the superpowers of the Cold War era, conducted nuclear tests, detonating bombs into the atmosphere. These detonations have affected the content of radioactive trace materials in the air and created what scientists refer to as the C-14 bomb pulse. From the first nuclear detonation and, until the ban on nuclear testing was evoked, the quantity of C-14 in the atmosphere doubled. Since 1960, it has only slowly decreased to natural levels.
This sudden curve has left an impression in the food chain and therefore also in the lens crystallins of the eyes, which have absorbed the increased carbon content through food stuffs. Since the crystallins remain unchanged once they have been created, they reflect the content of C-14 present in the atmosphere at the time of their creation. An event occurring shortly after birth. Using a large nuclear accelerator, physicists at Aarhus University can now determine the amount of C-14 in as little as one milligram of lens tissue and thereby calculate the year of birth.

The research behind the article appears in PLoS ONE (A wag of the finger to Coturnix for not giving me a heads up on this). I haven’t read the PLoS paper yet so I won’t comment further.

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Four Stone Hearth, Vol 33 Is Up

Vol 33 of the Four Stone Hearth is up at Greg Laden’s Blog. There was an excellent turn out by the anthropology blogosphere. Check it out!


I have made a guest appearance at Orac’s blog along with ERV and Bad. I’m just hoping we are not all redshirts

Miscellaneous Comments About Intelligent Design

The more things change the more they stay the same. I mention this because I was perusing a book on creationism published in 1876. The book was written by Thomas Wharton Jones and is called Evolution Of The Human Race From Apes and Of Apes From Lower Animals A Doctrine Unsanctioned By Science. The quote below is from the “advertisement”:

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Luskin Has Fired Up The Ford Pinto: Looses Transmission

Channeling Mel Gibson in Mad Max Luskin goes into attack Pinto mode, unfortunately his intended victim is a friend of ERV’s. ERV is not happy. As an afterthought, although the DI types don’t like, say, PZ and Wesley and some of the other Panda’s Thumbites they really save their scorn for Eugenie Scott and, to an even greater extent, Barbara Forest. Based on her output in the last year, I fully expect ERV to join that illustrious company in the near future, and I hasten to add, that is great company to be in. Maybe the NCSE should recruit her.

Banner Contest and Minor Blog Changes

Well, it’s not really a contest because there are no prizes other than an honorable mention on my sidebar – next to Pough. I’m not planning on replacing my banners, but I would like to add several more to the rotation (I’m thinking three). Since I’m not very proficient at Photoshop, I thought I would throw myself on the mercy of my readers and ask you to design me some new banners. They should be 756 x 93 pixels max. They should also be appropriate for an anthropology blog and have “afarensis: Anthropology, Evolution, and Science” somewhere on them. You can email them to me at:
The minor blog change consists of me moving my blogroll, which was getting quite long, to a tab at the top of my blog.

Mt. Lykaion and the Worship of Zeus

I don’t know how I missed this, but National Geographic has an interesting article concerning archaeological excavations at Mt. Lykaion – one of the birthplaces of Zeus (the other being Mt. Ida in Crete, but we know what Epimenides thought of the Cretans). According to the article, excavations reveal that sacrifices took place at Mt. Lykaion a full 1,000 years before Zeus made an appearance:

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Correcting an Omission: The Beagle Project

I can’t explain why I have never written about The Beagle Project before. It is so unlike me not to mention something related to Darwin. At any rate, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Darwin Project the goal is to:

In 2009, the bicentenary of Charles Darwin’s birth we will launch a sailing replica of HMS Beagle. An icon of scientific progress, she will circumnavigate the globe in Darwin’s wake, crewed by aspiring scientists and researchers. They will carry out original research both at sea and on land, updating Darwin’s observations, breaking new scientific ground and relating the adventure of science to enthuse a new generation of young students.

The project also has a blog to keep you updated. Check it out.

Missouri Republicans Find Their Posterchild

Here in Missouri there is a movement afoot to change the way judges are chosen. Currently this is the way it works:

Judges who serve under this plan have been nominated by a judicial commission and then selected by the governor. After their first 12 months in office, non-partisan appointed judges must go before the voters in a retention election. Voters are asked whether each of these judges should be retained. To be retained, each judge must receive a majority vote. A similar retention election occurs at the end of each term of office, under the same guidelines and provisions. If a judge does not receive a majority of votes, his or her judicial office will become vacant at the end of its present term. The judicial commission will then nominate three candidates for the position and the governor will appoint one to fill the vacancy. The terms for appellate court judges are 12 years. Among trial judges, circuit judges serve six-year terms, while associate circuit judges have four-year terms.
The commission that selects nominees for appellate vacancies consists of a member of the Supreme Court of Missouri, three lawyers and three lay members. Commissions that select nominees for openings on the trial bench are made up of the chief judge of the court of appeals district in which the vacancy occurs, two lawyers and two lay members.

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Free Online Issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

The Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences has an open access issue devoted to Evolutionary Dynamics of Wild Populations. From the description:

This special issue of Proceedings B focuses on exciting new developments in long-term analyses of animal populations where pedigree information has been collected. A range of studies illustrates their use in addressing fundamental questions concerning the genetic basis of phenotypic diversity, patterns of natural and sexual selection, the occurrence of inbreeding and inbreeding depression, and speciation. Within this framework, several important current challenges in evolutionary biology are addressed, including the analysis of evolutionary responses to climate change, exploration of the genetic basis of senescence, the exploitation of rapid advancements in molecular genetic technology, and in-depth reviews of developments in quantitative genetic statistical methodology. With study species ranging from lizards to humans, from sparrows to red deer, this unique collection provides a fascinating overview of the wealth of information available from long-term studies.