If you are of European or of Asian ancestry, there is a big chance that your human ancestors from around 50,000-80,000 years ago exchanged genetic material (read: had sex) with neanderthals somewhere in the middle east, before migrating out to rest of Europe or westward to China and other parts of Asia. Results of sequencing of fragments of neanderthal genome found in fossilized material compared with those of modern humans from different population groups suggest that Eurasians carry around 2.5% of the Neanderthal genome.
These are what I learned last week in a seminar by Svante Pääbo, the scientist at Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology who led the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome a year ago. Not only was the talk very eloquently delivered, it was also injected with humour not so common in scientific meetings.
Svante Pääbo quipped, “We screwed a lot of Neanderthal bones!” while showing a slide of some fossilized bones full of holes; from many attempts of grinding bones to extract sufficient amount of DNA for sequencing.
Another funny moment was when he showed this figure, about the number of people calling the institute claiming that they are neanderthals, or they are married to a neanderthal. The breakdown of the phone calls were shown as bar graphs:
What would be interesting to know is whether those men who are claiming to be neanderthals are the same men who were reported by their wives as neanderthals. For I’m pretty sure that men who voluntarily reported themselves as neanderthals are somewhat proud of their ancestry, while those reported by their wives are probably not so flattered by this label.
Anyway, jokes aside, for me it does not matter what kind of genes we have in us. What matters most is whether we as human beings are fulfilling the potential of our genetic make-up for the benefit of human kind. Once again, I’d like to quote Leo Tolstoy who once wrote, “To serve humanity alone is the sole purpose of life.”
A new IT enterpreneur took over Metrobloggen’s blog portal.
The Good News is that this blog is going to be advertisement-free (at least for now) and is now powered by WordPress.
The Bad News is that many old comments, those posted earlier than may 2010 has not been transferred (yet). The sidelinks also disappeared and couldn’t be moved properly, hence the current state. The latest post about Origami for Japan also disappeared without a trace.
Anyway, the blog portal’s new owner/administrator was kind enough to provide me with the links to old Mogli blog. I hope I find the time to re-do all the sidelinks.
I hope to reinvigorate this blog from now on.
Thank you for your patience and continued support.
“Dear Mom, it would be great if you are alive. Are you well?”
The four year old girl, Manami, seen here dozed off after struggling to write the message to her mom believed to have been washed by tsunami together with Manami’s father and a younger sister. Manami is too young to write in Japanese character (Kanji), and yet managed to scribble down her thoughts in another form of writing in Japanese called hiragana.
There’s truly nothing more heartbreaking than the sight of an innocent child in pain. The suffering must be immense. Today, hundreds of children like Manami are orphaned as a result of the catastrophic event in northeastern Japan.
Japan has always been among the most generous nations in the world when it comes to giving assistance to other disaster-stricken countries and in giving development aids. I, for one, being a former scholar of the Japanese government has been greatly benefited by its generosity. As a young man on my way to explore the world, it was in Japan where I first developed my wings and literally learned how to fly to reach my ambitions in life. I wouldn’t be where I am at the moment if not for the experiences and lessons in life I learned from my stay in Japan. Thus, Japan will always be a special place for me.
It is not only me who carries such strong sentiments for Japan and its people. Friends from dozen other countries I met there share the same powerful empathic feeling after the catastrophic event. It is for this reason that we felt to launch an initiative to support the Japanese people in this time of great distress.
Please join the initiative at www.origamiforjapan.com. A folded paper crane will go a long way in giving love and hope, especially for orphaned children like Manami. Hopefully we can make it known to these poor survivors that they are not alone and that we are here supporting them.
Here is our founding spokesperson, my fríend Jan from Prague, explaining our mission:
What a catastrophe! Utterly unbelievable. Still wish it was just a bad dream.
Japan was my second home. I lived in Tokyo for a year and in Sendai for three years. Travelled around the country while I was there. Spent some weeks with a Japanese host family in Hokkaido. Visited friends in Nara, Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo. Bungee-jumped in some hanging bridge in Fukushima. Hiked up Fuji-san. Learned to ski in Nagano. And most of all met wonderful people not only locally but also from all over the world.
The places I’ve been in Japan are among my happiest places. When I have trouble sleeping at night, I just think of the good times I have there. I remember in particular a group of small islands just outside Sendai city at Matshushima bay. I can’t remember how many times I have visited the place. Just thinking about it gives a very calming effect on me.
I am still in a state of denial. Though I’m glued on BBC and follows closely the aftermath live on a streaming Japanese channel since Friday, my mind still refuses to accept that my happy places have been ravaged by nature. I have already heard from some of my friends and acquaintances who are still there and I’m just relieved that they are coping well despite tough circumstances. I just wish I could be of help.
I am really filled with sorrow as I am writing this. I can’t fathom the destruction, the thousands of lives lost. The people, the places,,,I never imagined I developed the connection. I did not realize until now that I have a strong bond with them. Seeing what they are going through is literally breaking my heart.
But I know that they will prevail. Their resilience and perseverance are time-tested. If there’s anyone in the world capable of rising from such magnitude of devastation, it is them. I just hope that they recover very soon.
My heart and thoughts are with the Japanese people.
While I admire any people’s movement in exercising its democratic rights, any unprepared and short-sighted future plans would only bring more misery and injustice in the society.
I fear that the anti-government Egyptian protesters would end up like these Nemo-fishes if Mubarak suddenly relinquish his grip.
Perplexed and mumbling, “Now, what?”
The problem is not power vacuum. Thermodynamic laws will see to it that it is gonna be filled. The problem is when the people suddenly finds itself under the grip of forces more sinister than the previous one.
Indeed, the irony with democracy is when the people choose to empower, unwittingly or not, forces with undemocratic ideals.
Like the aquarium, I think Mubarak is a necessary evil. At least for now.