* The science of human evolution is undergoing its own revolution. Although we tend to see the march of species down through time as a single-file parade, with descendant succeeding ancestor in a neat line, the emerging science shows that the story of our species is far more complicated than Biblical literalists would have it—but also more complex than secular science suspected. By analyzing the DNA of today's humans as well as chimps and other species (even lice), scientists are zeroing in on turning points in evolution, such as when and how language and speech developed, and when our ancestors left Africa. DNA can even reveal how many pilgrims made that trek. At the new Hall of Human Origins at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, DNA gets equal billing with fossils. And by comparing the impressions that brains left on the inside of skulls, "paleoneurology" is documenting when structures that power the human mind arose, shedding light on how our ancestors lived and thought. Whether or not you believe the hand of God was guiding these changes, the discoveries are overturning longstanding ideas about how we became human.
* The latest Nature reveals a new primitive mammal fossil collected in the Mesozoic strata of the Yan mountains of China. It's small and unprepossessing, but it has at least two noteworthy novelties, and first among them is that it represents another step in the transition from the reptilian to the mammalian jaw and ear.
* Scientists have identified a leopard found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra as a new species of great cat. It's been named the Bornean clouded leopard or Neofelis Diardi. Genetic and skin tests on the creature show it's almost as different from clouded leopards found on the Asian mainland as lions are from tigers.
Science = cool.
And poo on not being able to get to the lecture; I was going to see what I could get from it for Shayara. Yes, it's fantasy, but it's urban fantasy; writing something set in the same world as New York and Boston has me wanting to keep as many elements of it feeling authentic as I can. That means that I need to know what the evolutionary process between Dasaroi and humans was, and what's the same and what's different, physiologically; I want there to be sense-making reasons for why things are, as much as possible. Even if J. Random Reader never cares. I care.
...yeah, I'm a geek.
And I really, really need more information on mitochondrial DNA, because how can I not take advantage of something that weird and unexplained in the human body?