Some Science – and Some Fun With It.

It’s possible to do science  “at home.”  It may not be good for your waistline, but you can do some interesting experiments making ice cream.   A few ziplock bags, some half-and-half, a few other ingredients, and you can do some science.  You can even eat the results.   You may need multiple repetitions to get things “just right.”

It turns out that one of the ways you can track human migration across the planet is by … doing genetic sequencing on lice.

Towards that end, Marina Ascunce, an entomologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History Museum, and her colleagues analyzed nuclear DNA, genetic material that is passed on from both male and female lice, in 75 specimen from 10 sites across four regions: Asia, North America, Central America, and Europe. They also collected clothing lice from people in Nepal and Canada.

We brought them along, and it turns out that you can measure how related they are – which also means we can track where we were.  Gross, but interesting.

Did you know that it rains on the Sun?  It does, although you wouldn’t want to be under it.  Leaving aside the little problem of the surface temperature, the rain is not “water.

It’s plasma, so any umbrella would be … well … less than useless.

We’re finding out a lot about dinosaurs these days, but this isn’t educational.  It just is something that’s funny.

While we can determine quite a number of things from DNA, and it’s popular to see just how you’re “related” to various people or groups, there’s a caution:  Human ancestry is rather … messy.

This means that you don’t have to look very far back before you have more ancestors than sections of DNA, and that means you have ancestors from whom you have inherited no DNA. Added to this, humans have an undeniable fondness for moving and mating – in spite of ethnic, religious or national boundaries – so looking back through time your many ancestors will be spread out over an increasingly wide area. This means we don’t have to look back much more than around 3,500 years before somebody lived who is the common ancestor of everybody alive today.

… Nobody is pure this, or pure that, and a substantial proportion of human ancestry is common to all of us. Ancestry is complicated and very messy.

Which is something to keep in mind when people talk about “racial purity” or “superiority.”    Given the migrations, conquests, raids, and traveling merchants over the span of human history, the odds are that any “purity” is just a matter of “didn’t look hard enough.”

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