David Koch and the Hall of Human Origins

by Greg Mayer PZ noted my and Jerry’s pieces on the new Hall of Human Origins at the USNM, and one of his commenters, DavidCOG, points to this piece at Climate Progress (based in part on Jane Mayer’s (no relation) New Yorker article on the Koch brothers), which in turn points to a couple of  […]

The Hall of Human Origins at the National Museum of Natural History

by Greg Mayer The Hall of Human Origins, a new permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian‘s National Museum of Natural History (aka the USNM) opened last March (at which time I got only a peek), and over the summer I finally got a chance to take in the whole exhibit. Like Edward Rothstein of the New […]

Jerry as a Neanderthal

by Greg Mayer At the new Hall of Human Origins at the USNM on the Mall in Washington D.C., you can have a photograph of your face merged with the reconstruction of a Neanderthal, to see what you would have looked like as an early human.  Jerry’s there now, and here’s Jerry’s photo. I’m not […]

New australopithecine described

by Greg Mayer Lee Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand and several colleagues will be describing a new species of Australopithecus, A. sediba, from 1.78 to 1.95 million-year-old deposits in South Africa, in tomorrow’s issue of Science. The issue will also have a geological article on the find by Paul H.G.M. Dirks of James […]

New human evolution hall at the National Museum of Natural History

by Greg Mayer Last Wednesday, the National Museum of Natural History (known to biologists as the USNM, the initials of its former name and still the identifying code on its specimen tags and labels) opened its newest permanent exhibit, the Hall of Human Origins. I was at the USNM much of last week, mostly doing […]

Not all biological pseudoscience comes from creationists

by Greg Mayer In unrelated browses through the interwebs this morning, I came across two references to some high-priced gab fest called TED, whose slogan is “Ideas worth spreading”. Both the Dish and John Hawks link to this talk at TED by Elaine Morgan of aquatic ape infamy (see Jim Moore’s website). Whoever TED is, […]

The bitterness goes way back

by Greg Mayer In a soon to be published paper in the Royal Society’s Biology Letters (abstract only), Carles Lalueza-Fox of Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( website in Catalan!) in Barcelona and colleagues report that they have sequenced the gene TAS2R38 from a Neanderthal man (press coverage by the BBC and NY Times). The ability to […]

The evolution of laughter

Laughter appears to be a “human universal”: one of those many traits that Donald Brown, in his book Human Universals, found in every society.  Well, does that mean it is a trait that evolved in our ancestors, or did it merely appear as a cultural phenomenon early in human society, and spread to all other […]

Did cooking make us human?

Well, everybody’s looking for what propelled us from our common ancestor with chimps to the wonderful species we are today. If it’s not genes, it’s culture.  Today’s NYT discusses Richard Wrangham’s new theory (previously mentioned on this website) about how the taming of fire and its use to cook food were crucial events in making […]

A gene for human speech?

In yesterday’s New York Times, Nicholas Wade reports new research on the FOXP2 gene (see original Cell paper by Enard et al. here).   If you’ve read WEIT, you’ll remember that I discuss FOXP2 as one of those potential genes that “makes us human.”  In other words, evolutionary change at this gene was supposed to […]


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