Earlier this year, Columbia University Press published a book entitled “Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome” by Nessa Carey. A popular science book written for a general audience, “Junk DNA” is an exploration of all the ways that DNA can function without coding for proteins. As the author rightly decries, the protein-coding regions of our DNA have gotten … More Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome
In the popular coverage of science, the question is sometimes raised, “Are humans still evolving?” Some high-profile science figures such as Sir David Attenborough, and even some biologists, such as Professor Steve Jones of University College London, have said that, “evolution is over” for humans, at least in the developed West. This view is wrong. … More Yes, Humans Are Still Evolving
In the study of human evolution, one conundrum has always vexed us: how did humans evolve such powerful brains? Few Differences in Chimp and Human DNA The genome of Homo sapiens is remarkably similar to those of our closest extant relatives, the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and the pigmy chimpanzee, or bonobo (Pan paniscus). On the sequence level, we … More Genes Found that May Explain Expansion of Higher Brain Function in Homo sapiens
The practice of genealogy, researching one’s ancestors and family tree, has exploded lately. Ancestry.com has become a huge success, boasting millions of subscribers and a net worth well over half a billion dollars. Many, if not most, families in the US have at least one person actively researching the long-forgotten twists and turns of their … More The Meaning and Meaninglessness of Genealogy
Summary Scientists have observed that a Florida lizard species has moved much higher in the trees when faced with competition from a new competitor, an invasive lizard species from Cuba. Living higher in the trees involves different physical demands. Most importantly, the branches are younger, making them thinner and smoother. A recent experiment has shown … More Florida Lizards Show that Evolutionary Change Can Be Rapid
(A discussion of how fear and anxiety evolved in animals is found in my book.) Some animals are genetically programmed to fear their predators. Mice naturally fear cats; fish naturally fear birds. But what about humans? Are we naturally disposed to fear certain dangerous animals? It is certainly true that some things are feared more commonly than … More Are Humans Predisposed to Fear Snakes?
Gluttony is the overindulgence and over-consumption of food and drink and its something pretty much all of us are guilty of from time to time. We all love to eat. We especially crave rich, calorie-packed foods. Knowing that we “shouldn’t” often makes no difference at all. How often has your willpower collapsed at the sight … More The Evolution of Human Gluttony
Have you ever wondered why we humans need to have vitamin C in our diet, but dogs and cats don’t? American schoolchildren often begin their study of U.S. history by learning about the 14th and 15th century European explorers. I distinctly remember a story we were told about how sailors eventually learned to carry potatoes … More Why Humans Must Eat Vitamin C
Summary Anatomically modern humans first appeared around 200,000 years ago, but small changes in skull shape continued until around 50,000 years ago. A new study has revealed that several of the changes in the shape of the human face can be explained by a gradual drop in the levels of circulating testosterone. High testosterone is … More Did a Drop in Testosterone Civilize Modern Humans?