More Neandertal mtDNA stuff…

Has anyone read Hawk’s latest blog about Neandertal mtDNA? He answers some emailer’s questions and goes on a long explanation.

His “Drift” section has me confused. If someone could read what Hawks wrote, and then maybe explain the concept to me like I’m a college freshman who barely understands this stuff, that would be excellent. Basically, I don’t understand how his explanation shows that drift probably didn’t happen. Instead it seems like a lot of mathematical mumbo-jumbo, ending with Hawks stating that “contamination” might just be proof that neandertals and humans shared DNA. I’m concerned because I’m not even sure which part of it I find confusing: the concept of drift, the population genetics involved, what mtDNA tells us, or all three!

His other explanations make sense, if I assume his Drift-stuff is true. Please help!

Our pal is famous

OK, hopefully you have all seen this already. It’s John Hawks’ “How to Blog, part 1” and the follow-up “Grad Students and Blogging“. It’s all interesting stuff, if you want to know Hawks’ views on blogging (most of which are pretty obvious given how he runs his blog). BUT the cool part is that our gelada-studying Beast Ape (I’m trying to respect your right to be anonymous here, but I think our paltry list of readers will be able to figure out who I mean) inspired and thus was quoted in Hawks’ grad student follow-up:

“One reader wrote:

I was wondering if you could speak to graduate student blogging. I recently started a new blog under a pseudonym. I used to write a blog under my real name, but I’m in the process of scrapping it in favor of my new cryptically-authored blog. I did this for several reasons: (1) I was not pleased with the format of the old site/server, (2) I was embarrassed by my earlier posts, since the blog was largely an experiment in writing colloquially about science, and (3) I feared reprisals, especially with regard to funding/ the opinion of my work from faculty. I know you advocate using your real name when blogging for faculty, but what about graduate students? Do you know of dissertation committees viewing blog-writing as wasting valuable research time? Is there any data on the relationship between regular blogging, tenure, grant acquisition, etc.?”

Yeah! That’s him! Go read Hawks’ blog for his response. Kudos to Beast Ape for getting quoted. Apparently he’s also quoted on Aliza’s postdoc journal. If I found the right quote (not sure, so correct me if I’m wrong), I think he says “I thought of ice-cream today.” Pearls of wisdom, left and right!

So now the question: Don’t you wish your name was associated with either of these two quotes? How’s being anonymous going for you so far?

Why won’t those Neandertals SHUT UP?!

I know, lame title. And since I don’t read articles on my own, I am once again linking us to a Hawk’s blog post because his summaries seem to be all I’m willing to skim.

However, this is a neat paradigm shift, and one I know a little about having written an arch 1 paper on this topic. It is now concluded by A LOT of people, that Neandertals DID have human-like language. Hawks even goes so far as to say “I do not see how anyone can maintain the hypothesis that Neandertals … did not have language.”

I’m willing to bet Richard Klein (long-time supporter of the silent neandertals hypothesis) will continue to argue for language being a human development, but the evidence (summarized by Hawks) seems to be against him.

My own opinion is that it seems like Neandertals had language, but I’m still unsure if we can make the jump to “human-like language” – I mean, we talk a lot. It seems difficult to identify what good evidence for human-like language would look like. And (unlike Hawks) I don’t think that having a throat capable of language, using pigment and making decorative ornaments necessarily constitutes proof they talked like we do now. That assumes a mind change that may not be present – we just don’t know. We also don’t know why they used pigment or made decorations. Hawks plans to post more on the pigment evidence, so perhaps he will sway me (I admit I have not read much on pigment usage as evidence for language). But for now, I’m surprised everyone is willing to jump so quickly from one extreme (Neandertals were dumb) to another (Neandertals talked like we do today), without even considering that maybe they had some sort of intermediate language ability.

OK, everyone I took arch 1 with, this is where you should chime in and correct me b/c I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of this stuff we talked about last semester.

Also, don’t forget to comment on Kristen’s post about summer-reading, below.

Coming soon: "3.5 million years BC"

Did anybody else read this review of 10,000 BC on Hawk’s blog? I haven’t seen the movie, but some of these so-called reviews he quotes are hilarious/sad/make me want to become a hermit.

P.S. The joke in the title is not mine, it is stolen from Dave Pappano, who is planning a trilogy movie-series poking-fun at the 10,000 BC movie. For more info, read his blog, “Musings From the Ivory Tower” (see sidebar for link) where he will shortly be detailing this filming-plan of his.

P.P.S. Folks (not including zach), we need to post on here more… did you know we got in a minor car accident road tripping to MSU TWO WEEKS AGO? What about the variety of lectures people have attended? (especially the ones I haven’t gone to… somebody please post about those – Buss, Flannery…). If necessary, I can post about more TV shows, but most of them aren’t as intelligent-ish as my last one. Come on, I know you aren’t always taking notes in class!

P.P.P.S. Please note that the last postscript was directed at myself too, so please don’t hate me.