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Humans Nearly Went Extinct 1.2M Years Ago

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the pinch-point dept.

Earth 356

Hugh Pickens writes "Scientific American has a story on researchers from the University of Utah who have calculated that 1.2 million years ago, at a time when our ancestors Homo erectus, H. ergaster, and archaic H. sapiens were spreading through Africa, Europe, and Asia, there were probably only about 18,500 individuals capable of breeding in all these species together (PNAS paper here). Pre-humans were an endangered species with a smaller population than today's gorillas and chimpanzees. Researchers scanned two completely sequenced modern human genomes for a type of mobile element called Alu sequences, then compared the nucleotides in these old regions with the overall diversity in the two genomes to estimate differences in effective population size, and thus genetic diversity between modern and early humans. Human geneticist Lynn Jorde says that the diminished genetic diversity one million years ago suggests human ancestors experienced a catastrophic event at that time as devastating as the Toba super-volcano in Indonesia that triggered a nuclear winter and is thought to have nearly annihilated humans 70,000 years ago."

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Pfft... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888832)

That's nothing. I mean, the whole race started from just two people, right?

Re:Pfft... (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889202)

And a mere 6000 years ago too. All that business about 70,000 and 1.2 millions years ago is a distraction to test our faith.

Re:Pfft... (0, Offtopic)

flyneye (84093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889572)

I'm actually more of a theoretical physics fan, but, I'd take this a lot more seriously as would philanthropists and religious factions (Christians aren't the only religious skeptics), if the words, perhaps, might have, could have and maybe weren't dished around in this wing of science quite as much. Even a devolved proto-monkey like Bill Clinton was able to extemporize what the meaning of "is ", is.
        Believe me ,it's not just the faithful, but, also the more enthusiastic, usually students of the archeological community, who appear to be,.. well...wishful.

Re:Pfft... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889348)

No, that was just the Jews.

Re:Pfft... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889688)

Hey, your bias against Christians is showing!
You must be a liberal. You know, tolerant of everything, except for the things you aren't. I'd make fun of your beliefs but you dont really have any. So I guess I'll just feel bad for you.

Re:Pfft... (4, Insightful)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889808)

I mean, the whole race started from just two people, right?

More like from a guy having sex with his rib.

We were saved! (3, Funny)

Daevad (62067) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888834)

Luckily, magic underwear was discovered and humans survived the event.

"Nuclear" Winter (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888852)

... is either a thoughtless use of words or pathetic effort to sensationalize. Neither is flattering.

Re:"Nuclear" Winter (5, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888890)

The end result is the same as that predicted for nuclear winter. Radiation is not the primary danger from a "real" nuclear winter, it's the smoke and soot that would spread through the atmosphere, drastically reducing the amount of sunlight received at the surface, killing plants and reducing temperatures everywhere. When a supervolcano goes off, the effects are nearly identical.

Re:"Nuclear" Winter (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888974)

The effects might be similar, but the fact remains that they're different things. The end effect of a brain aneurism is also "nearly identical" to being shot in the head - you die due to loss of brain function. There's nothing "nuclear" about climatic changes brought about by volcanic activity. It's a thoughtless grasp for "gee-wiz" vocabulary, and thus bad journalism.

Re:"Nuclear" Winter (3, Insightful)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889306)

While I agree that it's a totally inaccurate term (unless the disaster were a criticality event of an underground uranium reservoir, or similar) it's also the simplest way to get accross to a non-technical public the intended image. I don't expect them to use the term 'catastrophic clamactic event' in a flowing sentence. A better phrasing would have been "nucler winter-like disaster" or "a 'nuclear' winter", though.

Re:"Nuclear" Winter (1)

hughbar (579555) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889240)

So this is the obvious solution to anthropogenic global warming, isn't it? And it'll use up those hard to maintain, easy to steal, weapon stockpiles. What are we waiting for?

Re:"Nuclear" Winter (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889372)

Good news! We should soon be able to prove to everyone that you are correct. From the Wikipedia article on the Yellowstone Caldera, "The three super eruptions occurred 2.1 million, 1.3 million, and 640,000 years ago". If the trend continues, the next eruption is about due.

Re:"Nuclear" Winter (2, Informative)

harris s newman (714436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889122)

The proper description would be volcanic winter.

This means ... (4, Insightful)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888854)

this means that we're really all brothers and sisters, right?

Re:This means ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888914)

Only if you believe in evolution. Or creation.

Re:This means ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889566)

Or incest.

Re:This means ... (1, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888986)

I read somewhere the the most removed any two humans are from each other is 53rd cousins, but I can't remember the source just now and I'm too lazy to search for it 'cause its about time to actually start working. Anyway, not "brothers and sisters," but definitely cousins to some degree.

So, Only 18,500 Individuals Capable of Breeding? (2, Funny)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889012)

Sounds like where we'll be at after another three seasons of American Idol.

Re:This means ... (4, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889096)

More than that, I read a year or so ago (it may have been covered at slashdot, I don't remember) that it was mathematically proven that everyone on earth shares common anscestors from as little as a thousand years ago.

Besides, there was the other near extinction 70K years ago. Wht I find interesting is the near extinctions were probably what led to modern humans' intelligence and other traits (like humor) that makes us so different from other species.

Re:This means ... (3, Insightful)

Chyeld (713439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889188)

The ones that died had wings, could shoot laser beams out of their eyes, and could mind meld using their ponytails. And all we got was 'intelligence' and 'humor' and looking over the unwashed masses, I see not even most of us got that. Bah.

Re:This means ... (3, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889452)

You mean we survived a near extinction event and all I got was this lousy intelligence and humor?

Re:This means ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889176)

No, because we don't all share at least one parent. Unless you wish to render the term "brothers and sisters" redundant and meaningless, then yes why the fuck not.

Re:This means ... (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889186)

In some societies, cousins are considered the same as brothers and sisters.

Re:This means ... (4, Informative)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889632)

You can find just about any belief "in some societies" if you look hard enough. The reality though is that in the English language the words brother and sister have a specific meaning: persons who share at least 1 biological parent. Some relatives from millions of years ago don't count.

Besides, from a biological standpoint, once you're to the genetic "distance" of only first cousins (1/8th DNA in common) the chance of birth defects drops off to the point of being completely fine. Indeed "in some cultures" marriages between cousins is very common (heck even in the US with all the attached stigma it's still perfectly legal for cousins to marry in most states). Thinking "we're all related man!" is only a problem from the standpoint of cultural taboo. Beyond the very immediate family it's not a problem.

So... BSG was right. (4, Funny)

Sasayaki (1096761) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888864)

Obviously this is when Adama and the fleet landed on Earth. BSG was right all along!

Re:So... BSG was right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888970)

I'm pretty sure this will be covered in the next series of Primeval.

Re:So... BSG was right. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889552)

Lame. So very lame.

Do the same tests on different species (3, Insightful)

CubicleView (910143) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888872)

There should be some sort of correlation in the results.

Re:Do the same tests on different species (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889184)

Indeed, saber-tooth tigers misteriously experienced a boom in reproduction by then...

Re:Do the same tests on different species (3, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889446)

I disagree. I think you'd see the same correlations in some species, but not necessarily all.

Let's posit some kind of catastrophic event that puts pressure on early hominids. It does not follow that every species is put under evolutionary pressure, only those that rely on the certain ecological resources to survive. So it doesn't have to be an event like nuclear winter.

Furthermore we might not see these effects in other species because most of the species that survived found the changes brought on by the event favorable to them. The ones that didn't for the most part may not have survived, or may have only survived in certain niches.

Hominids are a special case. Except in a few circumstances migration is not part of their lifestyle, but they have a tremendous latent capacity to migrate, probably greater and certainly more flexible than any land animal. So our posited "disaster" happens, but it doesn't look like a disaster to most of the species that survived. As for those for whom it was a disaster, many perish and a few manage to hold on in isolated geographic niches. These are almost certain to include hominids, with their adaptability and latent capacity to migrate great distances. Most of the hominids either don't get moving quickly enough or don't find a place to survive in, but enough of them do to maintain a breeding population.

Of course, this scenario isn't a scientific one. It's more of a counterscenario demonstrating that we wouldn't necessarily expect to see the same genetic phenomena everywhere we looked.

Slow news day? (1)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888892)

Re:Slow news day? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888922)

Because 1.2 million is the same as 70,000, right? You must work for Goldman Sachs.

Re:Slow news day? (1)

Custard Horse (1527495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889098)

I'm sure *at least* one of those numbers is *exactly* right and there is proof to support it.

I wonder if there was some form of primitive census where, upon realising their dwindling numbers, they decided to 'go at it' like a privvy door when the plague is in town?

Toba volcano ? Nuclear winter ? (0, Redundant)

DrYak (748999) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888896)

But, but...
I though it was the white-bearded magical man who did it !
With a big rain and a big flood !

Re:Toba volcano ? Nuclear winter ? (2, Informative)

laejoh (648921) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888968)

Aight, Bloodninja was his name!

Re:Toba volcano ? Nuclear winter ? (-1, Offtopic)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889252)

Maybe the flood was the near extinction 70K years ago? However, it's been found that there was a flood inbiblical times, but not a worldwide flood so wouldn't have caused mankind to go extinct. It created the Dead Sea, and if you'd lived there it would have seemed as if the whole world had flooded.

BTW, I have a white beard, and was an amateur magician when I was about 12. But I don't think even David Copperfield could make humans go extinct. Your attempts to annoy with your athiest flamebait are fruitless, son. Try again.

Re:Toba volcano ? Nuclear winter ? (4, Funny)

EllisDees (268037) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889392)

From The Onion: [theonion.com]

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World

"Members of the earth's earliest known civilization, the Sumerians, looked on in shock and confusion some 6,000 years ago as God, the Lord Almighty, created Heaven and Earth.
  YIR numbers web 5

According to recently excavated clay tablets inscribed with cuneiform script, thousands of Sumerians--the first humans to establish systems of writing, agriculture, and government--were working on their sophisticated irrigation systems when the Father of All Creation reached down from the ether and blew the divine spirit of life into their thriving civilization.

"I do not understand," reads an ancient line of pictographs depicting the sun, the moon, water, and a Sumerian who appears to be scratching his head. "A booming voice is saying, 'Let there be light,' but there is already light. It is saying, 'Let the earth bring forth grass,' but I am already standing on grass."

Re:Toba volcano ? Nuclear winter ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889526)

But it was not GALG certified(official God approved light and grass).

Re:Toba volcano ? Nuclear winter ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889848)

Wasn't this on Cosmos [youtube.com]

Summary is wrong (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888898)

The 18500 people quoted is not the number of people capable of breeding, but the "effective population", an abstract measure of genetic diversity in a species. According to TFA, the effective population of modern humanity is about 10000, and the argument in the article is that this much lower diversity indicates that a lot of genetic material must have been lost in a near-extinction event.

Re:Summary is wrong (2, Interesting)

Zarf (5735) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889222)

The 18500 people quoted is not the number of people capable of breeding, but the "effective population", an abstract measure of genetic diversity in a species. According to TFA, the effective population of modern humanity is about 10000, and the argument in the article is that this much lower diversity indicates that a lot of genetic material must have been lost in a near-extinction event.

Yes, the idea that the "effective" population of today's human race is only 10,000 is the most disturbing thing in the article. If that's true then the vast majority of us are not contributing anything worth noting to the gene pool. That's not a very nice thought.

Re:Summary is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889462)

If that's true then the vast majority of us are not contributing anything worth noting to the gene pool. That's not a very nice thought.

I'm trying my best, I want to contribute.
But the girls I meet keep refusing my genes...

Re:Summary is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889476)

>If that's true then the vast majority of us are not contributing anything worth noting to the gene pool.

[insert slashdot basement joke here]

Re:Summary is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889492)

With a pool of about 10000, does that mean you can only bang 10K women and then you've seen it all?

Divide by two (1)

Stephan202 (1003355) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889878)

Well, assuming half is male, you can "only" bang 5k women.

say that to the tasmanian wolf (4, Insightful)

chichilalescu (1647065) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888900)

(not trying to rain on your parade or anything)
Back on topic. Humans nearly went extinct during the nuclear missile crysis... In terms of survival requirements, we should have already sent a few groups to the moon and mars.
People enjoy watching disaster movies like 2012 (I saw it as a comedy myself), but they should realise that focusing all your resources (as a species) on "I want a TV in every room" is a losing strategy.
If I had the money, I would be long gone. "Yes, 21st century society is very advanced and we have everything we need, but if they have a power outage or similar in a hidden bunker in Russia, we all die".

Re:say that to the tasmanian wolf (2)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889418)

I think humans are more resilient than we appreciate. I think it would take more than a nuclear war to completely wipe out a species as adaptive as we are. I suspect that nothing short of an earth-destroying asteroid or some sort of weapon far more destructive than nuclear missles would completely wipe us out (and I don't mean a Yucatan asteroid, I mean one that rips the planet to pieces). We're not a passive species like the dinosaur, we can adapt to *much* more hostile environs. And, short on the earth-killing asteroid, earth remains by far the most habitable ball within reach. Surviving anywhere else in a solar system (not to mention the problem just getting there) would be way tougher than surviving on a nuclear war devastated earth.

Re:say that to the tasmanian wolf (1, Interesting)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889630)

I think humans are more resilient than we appreciate

Social security and the welfare state are taking care of that pretty well though.

Re:say that to the tasmanian wolf (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889428)

We do have the technology to put hundreds of people on Mars every year, but we do not have the technology to build a self-sufficient colony with such a small number of people. Remember that they have to be able to produce air and clean water. For that you need electricity. For that you need solar cells. For that you need a factory. For that you need tooling and raw materials. For that you need more factories. You probably also need computers and electronics such as FPGAs. More factories, more mines, more people. It is simply beyond our current technology.

However, the number of people per factory is being cut drastically here on Earth as we speak. The natural conclusion of that development is that factories will have almost no workers. At some point along the way it will become realistic to colonize Mars.

There's a message in this somewhere (4, Interesting)

NotBornYesterday (1093817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888916)

I think this means we are a stubborn infestation, successfully resisting the Universe's attempts to exterminate us thus far. The Universe realized that we are harder to kill than cockroaches, and concluded that the only way to wipe us out is to place the means of our destruction in our own hands. Now, it's just a waiting game.

Re:There's a message in this somewhere (1)

endlessoul (741131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889150)

The scene in The Matrix where Agent Smith likens humanity to a virus comes to mind.

Re:There's a message in this somewhere (1)

justthisdude (779510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889588)

You are reading the message wrong: we went from edge of extinction to what we are today: a threat to the entire ecosystem. Clearly there must be some secret advantage to springing back from extinction, and if we can do it so can the other guys.

This plainly shows that our real enemies are all those creatures presently on the endangered species list. In the name of all that is holy, I call on you all to go out and hunt down the remaining grey wolves and pandas before they devour us all.

Re:There's a message in this somewhere (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889762)

I have my doubts that giving weapons of mass destruction to cockroaches is an effective way to exterminate them. In that sense we are not quite as hard to kill as cockroaches.

(In other news, I've just come up with the Sci-Fi/horror plot of the year.)

Re:There's a message in this somewhere (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889884)

actually, you're not very far off. satan does this.

and we won't go extinct until the dragon rises and gives it's power/authority to the beast, who will rule the world.

The new dogma of genetics (0, Troll)

dorpus (636554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888918)

Genetics today is obsessed with conserved DNA sequences as "proof" of evolutionary kinship. It is based on a faith that DNA mutates at a uniform rate over time. But why should we assume a uniform rate over time, when evolutionary theory says that genetic differentiation happens in leaps and bounds? DNA homology amounts to a linear extrapolation, when it is known that evolution takes curvy, twisted paths. I venture to guess that DNA homology will turn out to be about as reliable as phrenology. I'm getting my PhD in statistics, and I've taken several courses in genetics -- enough to know that all theories in genetics are wrong. Indeed, much of science is based on a giant leap of faith in linear regression; physicists, chemists, doctors, engineers, all use linear regression without questioning its assumptions. The assumptions implicit in linear regression are not justified by real world data when examined closely, but very few science papers go into this level of inquiry. I used to be an atheist, but I've come to the conclusion that science is just as irrational as Wahabbism. They say mathematics is the one infallible science, but numbers are just an idealization of reality; they fail to capture all the complexity. Science wants simple explanations, yet the world isn't simple; it is inherently an exercise in circular logic.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888944)

It is based on a faith that DNA mutates at a uniform rate over time.

Actually one would expect DNA conservation to indicate kinship regardless of the mutation rate.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (1)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889004)

You can't have circular logic with out logic to begin the circle. I'd suggest picking a place to start then figure out if where you started is the right place.

Another of the lying faithful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889024)

Ahh, another christer pretending to have been reclaimed from atheism.
The logical response to believing that a particular bit of science is wrong is not to become religious. Its hardly a motivation at all. Google maps gave me the wrong directions - its time to become buddhist.
Isn't it a premise of your faith to be honest?

Re:The new dogma of genetics (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889028)

The DNA that creates different physical traits does mutate in (more or less) unpredictable leaps and bounds as time goes on. But that's not the DNA they look at in cases like this. There's long strings of junk DNA that does nothing at all - random leftover of mutations that didn't happen to affect our survival one way or the other. Because these don't affect physical traits, they aren't selected for or against and are subject to only one 'force', genetic drift. That's why they're fairly constant.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (1, Interesting)

dorpus (636554) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889204)

"There's long strings of junk DNA that does nothing at all - random leftover of mutations that didn't happen to affect our survival one way or the other. Because these don't affect physical traits, they aren't selected for or against and are subject to only one 'force', genetic drift. That's why they're fairly constant."

Yet, as we're discovering, "junk" DNA is really a misnomer. Every year, we discover more and more ways in which the supposedly inactive junk DNA actually perform important biological functions. It could also be that selection pressures for a given piece of DNA existed during certain time periods and not others; there is no reason to assume a uniform selection pressure (or lack of pressure) over time. The models in use today assume Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, which is never observed in the real world, but is somehow assumed to work over millions of years. The theories are non-testable, non-reproducible, and non-falsifiable. In short, it makes dogmatic assertions no better than religious texts.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (3, Insightful)

SpeZek (970136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889544)

Yet, as we're discovering, "junk" DNA is really a misnomer.

It was never [evolverzone.com] meant to denote that it did nothing, just that we hadn't discovered its function yet, so it got put aside for the moment.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889054)

I'm getting my PhD in statistics, and I've taken several courses in genetics -- enough to know that all theories in genetics are wrong. ... I used to be an atheist, but I've come to the conclusion that science is just as irrational as Wahabbism. ... Science wants simple explanations, yet the world isn't simple; it is inherently an exercise in circular logic.

You sound like that idiot (Jonathan Wells?) sponsored by Reverend Moon to get a Ph D in biology so that he can destroy the Theory of Evolution from inside.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (4, Informative)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889066)

But why should we assume a uniform rate over time, when evolutionary theory says that genetic differentiation happens in leaps and bounds?

See, here is your problem, you're assuming evolutionary theory is correct to begin with.

Indeed, much of science is based on a giant leap of faith in linear regression; physicists, chemists, doctors, engineers, all use linear regression without questioning its assumptions.

No, they use linear regression and then test to prove it's a reasonable assumption.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889080)

I hate to agree with a statistician being a physicist myself but you are mostly correct. Yes all sciences use regression and curve fitting but it should be used to test and create models. As scientists, our job is to understand the natural world to the best of our ability and the only way we can test that understanding is with predictive models requiring mathematical language. We collect facts, make mathematical model, test the model to see if our predictions are correct then repeat. If the model is correct we push it farther or move on to something different, if it isn't we add the new facts to the old and start over. Statistics is just a tool like a computer to help with our understanding. Sometimes we don't need to know all the theory behind it to make it useful.
As for the biological aspect of it, if a prediction can't be tested it is a useless prediction. It is like saying magical pixies came down and started life. That is the major problem with biology, most of what they jabber on about are either so vague to be useless or completely untestable. This is one of those untestable theories.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (5, Funny)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889092)

But why should we assume a uniform rate over time, when evolutionary theory says that genetic differentiation happens in leaps and bounds?

Sources should always be cited when making this kind of argument. I'll do it for you this time:

Pr. Charles Xavier, X-Men movie introduction speech

Re:The new dogma of genetics (1, Flamebait)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889102)

You sound like a crackpot in training.
Everybody in the field knows that DNA mutation rates need not be uniform, so the alleged 'faith' only exists in your imagination.
Furthermore ascribing random claims to evolutionary theory and pretending to have been an atheist is characteristic for the dumber religiously inspired anti-evolutionist pamphlets.
I wonder why you felt the need to post this rubbish when you clearly can be smarter than this.
Or did you just leave your terminal unattended?

Insightful Troll! (1, Insightful)

freaker_TuC (7632) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889138)

If this is a troll, it must be a kick-ass troll ...

I think parent poster should be getting insightful instead; talking about not trusting blindly; even if it is science ...
It's only with an open mind, more options can be found. Remember; there used to be science about the earth being flat ages ago.

Re:Insightful Troll! (4, Insightful)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889268)

If this is a troll, it must be a kick-ass troll ...

I think parent poster should be getting insightful instead; talking about not trusting blindly; even if it is science ... It's only with an open mind, more options can be found. Remember; there used to be science about the earth being flat ages ago.

"not trusting it blind, even if it is science", "open mind", "science used to be wrong" etc are expressions and phrases very heavily overused by creationists. He gives the game away by saying things like, "I used to be an Atheist", "science wants simple answers", "Science is as irrational as Wahhabism". It is very difficult to tell a troll from a true believer in Creationism. If Creationist walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, let us just call him a duck and be done with it.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889166)

Science seeks to explain, ie. to make complex things plain and amenable to human understanding, which is by definition a reductionistic activity. That's hardly a new insight. Your attempt to blame science for the simplicity of its explanations betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of what science can do. Science that is so impressed by "complexity" that it shrinks back from it is obscurantism.

Oh yes - "I used to be an atheist" is a complete non-sequitur in my opinion, especially if the opinions that accompany the statement are an embarrassment to any reasonable theory of science. Get your PhD in statistics if you like. But if your genetics courses were so bad, what makes you so sure that your stats curriculum isn't equally flawed? And have you ever actually talked with your engineering friends? I happen to be an engineer, and have used linear regression, being painfully aware of its assumptions and limitations. There's absolutely no "leap of faith" here. It's acquiring a mental toolset and learning how to use it appropriately.

Re:The new dogma of genetics (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889468)

Genetics today is obsessed with conserved DNA sequences as "proof" of evolutionary kinship. It is based on a faith that DNA mutates at a uniform rate over time. But why should we assume a uniform rate over time, when evolutionary theory says that genetic differentiation happens in leaps and bounds?

Science fail. DNA does mutate uniformly. Genetic differentiation based on the mutations goes in leaps in bounds because of selection pressures that drive evolution,

I'm looking forward to your articles (1)

kanweg (771128) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889624)

I'm looking forward to your articles on this subject in scientific journals.

Bert

Nuclear Volcano? (2, Funny)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888926)

What happened to those? Sounds like an excellent power source...

Re:Nuclear Volcano? (4, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889076)

What happened to those? Sounds like an excellent power source...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_gradient [wikipedia.org]

"The Earth's internal heat comes from a combination of residual heat from planetary accretion (about 20%) and heat produced through radioactive decay (80%)"

In a sense, those "green geothermal" power plants are really nuclear power plants.

Re:Nuclear Volcano? (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889178)

That's a neat perspective though I wonder if scientists have ever measured the radioactivity that is producing the heat or if this is a theory to explain measurements that scientists can't explain otherwise?

Re:Nuclear Volcano? (1)

MrMr (219533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889594)

The radiocativity of rocks can easily be measured, so the heat production is clear. The discussion how relevant the contribution of each rock is for the whole heat budget is more complicated however.

Re:Nuclear Volcano? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889836)

The short answer is "yes". It's done all the time and it has been known since the early 1900s. In fact, it was radioactivity in the Earth that solved a major puzzle at that time: why the Earth was still so hot inside. Even after a few tens of millions of years it should have cooled down from a molten state much more by now if the only source of heat was what was left over from its formation. Once radioactivity was discovered, people realized that it would keep the Earth "hot" for much, much longer.

Anyway, it's fairly simple to take a sample of ordinary rock -- say, a nice piece of granite -- and measure the decay rate of the contained uranium, thorium, and potassium, which are the 3 big contributors to radioactivity, and therefore figure out how much heat is derived from it. There is a nice correlation between regional geothermal gradients and the radioactivity of crustal rocks of different compositions (e.g., areas with higher concentrations of radioactive elements in the rocks tend to have higher geothermal gradients), although you have to be careful about effects from rock conductivity variation, thinning of the crust, or underlying mantle plumes. Anyway, as an example, the geothermal gradient for continental crust is higher than would be expected for its thickness, on average, than for oceanic crust of the same age because continental crust contains much more potassium, uranium, and thorium. That difference is due to the chemical differentiation [wikipedia.org] of the continental crust (it is more "felsic" -- enriched in Ca, K, U, Th, etc., whereas oceanic crust is "mafic"). In other words, although thick continental crust blankets the underlying mantle better than the thin oceanic crust and should yield a much lower geothermal gradient because of that effect, more heat is produced by "in place" radioactivity in continental crust. By contrast, most of the heat flow seen in the comparatively thin oceanic crust is from heat escaping through it from underneath, and relatively little is produced in place. Continental crust still has a lower geothermal gradient than oceanic crust, but the difference would be much greater if not for the measured radioactivity.

While it isn't possible to measure the radioactivity of rocks from very deep in the mantle, and there are big questions about how radioactive the metallic core of the Earth might be because we don't have samples of it (check out the georeactor hypothesis), the numbers do add up pretty well for the samples we have that are closer to the surface.

Re:Nuclear Volcano? (4, Funny)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889554)

In a sense, those "green geothermal" power plants are really nuclear power plants.

Oh no. We better get greenpeace on that to put a stop to that nuclear nonsense.

Re:Nuclear Volcano? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889504)

The term comes from the liklihood of nuclear annhailation that we faced in my youth. "Nuclear winter" was the dust from all those thousands of atomic weapons blocking sunlight, keeping plants from growing.

The term morphed to include other causes of the "winter" besides nuclear war.

Re:Nuclear Volcano? (1)

Drethon (1445051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889576)

Yeah I know the origin of the term but using nuclear to describe non-nuclear items can lead to potential confusion among people who don't understand.

Then again, I've done work developing requirements so maybe I'm just more anal than most... (complete, consise, unambiguous...)

Nuclear winter? Volcano? Paging xenu... (2, Funny)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888928)

I'm just saying, there's some suspicious congruencies there.

That was the reason! (2, Funny)

dangle (1381879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30888940)

More evidence supporting the B Ark theory of human origins...

Monkeys were still safe ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888992)

This makes me related to monkeys how ?

Up next (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30888994)

Pigs could have developed the ability to fly 900.000 years ago had a catastrophicly hungry species not eaten to extinction the pig subspecies that had the avian gene found in modern day crows!

PNAS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889016)

I hear a counterargument has been published in the First Annual Journal of the International Naturalism Association...

Re:PNAS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889132)

I read that the team has a Variable And Goals Indexed Needs Analysis.

mo/3 up (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889018)

cuntwipes Jordan hear you. Also, if FrreBSD showed legitimise doing there are to the original with the number distributions Or make loud noises

The Ancients died of a plague and most of them asc (2, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889068)

The Ancients died of a plague and most of them ascended.

Re:The Ancients died of a plague and most of them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889664)

The Ancients died of a plague and most of them ascended.

To the outer clown plane.

This explains why humans prevailed (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889110)

The humans had a huge mineshaft gap over the neanderthals, and were smart enough to keep 10 women for every one man in their mines!

Re:This explains why humans prevailed (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889506)

The humans had a huge mineshaft gap over the neanderthals, and were smart enough to keep 10 women for every one man in their mines!

Are you saying that the cavemen weren't smart enough to provide themselves with any kind of survivability insurance? Sounds like they could've used Geico.

Migration explains this just as well (1)

Kanel (1105463) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889112)

Ok so they find that humans are genetically homogeneous compared to other species. But how do other species develop diversity? One way is to have isolated populations. If we imagine that humans were different from chimps and other primates in that humans travelled far and wide, there would be no isolated groups of humans, the whole of central africa would be effectively one gene pool. That alone could make humans less genetically diverse than other primates, without invoking any theory of a near-extinction.

we're next (north americans) (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889114)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowstone_Caldera [wikipedia.org]

ah yes, i've heard of mexicans and canadians, there's only a few in the world, but they're real. as for these so-called "americans", i believe this is a mythical nationality, i don't think they ever really existed. they're just bogeymen made up to scare small children

Castastrophic Event? (1)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889286)

The advent of Karaoke!

Hands up, everybody who... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889322)

...thought at first that the headline was "Humans Went Extinct Nearly 1.2M Years Ago" and thought, "Boy, we're doing pretty well for an extinct species..."

Didnt we already know this? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889472)

I mean, don't we already know that our species went through several bottlenecks? If I remember correctly, at one point we went through a bottleneck so small that the total number of breeding females was in the double digits. What I am more concerned about is when the next bottleneck is going to happen, and what will be the cause of it.

Re:Didnt we already know this? (1)

MemoryDragon (544441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889550)

That is rather easy to say, probably within the next 100 years and we will be the cause ourselves, either war or famine, or sickness, but in any case the cause will be greed and overpopulation.
I still believe the earth itself or nature itself has self regulartory effects in the small as in the big, if one species endangers the entire of the host then some self regulatory mechanism strikes in which decimates the numbers again. You can see that in the small with virii and in the big with species doing collective suicide in times of getting to overpopulated.

The Bible Even Says So! (1, Funny)

Jizzbug (101250) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889820)

Leave it to Deseret University (a.k.a., University of Utah), founded by Brigham Young, to come out with these scientific findings...

But the ancient wisdom of the Bible already spoke of this timeline... Daniel 5:25, 7:25, 12:7; Revelation 12:14: "time, times, and half a time", or [y = x + 2x + x/2].

In Revelation, "time, times, and half a time" is spoken of as a three and a half year period (to simplify the equation above, y = 3.5x [Rev. 11:2,3, 12:6, 13:5]). It is given as a time that man would flee from the beast (as nature is red in tooth and claw).

To interpret the length of this time period, we can employ the idea that "one day for God is as 1,000 years for us" (2 Peter 3:8, Psalm 90:4).

If x is equal to one year of days according to God's reckoning, then x = 365*1000... To substitute this value of x into our equation above, we get [y = 3.5(365*1000)].

Or...

y = 1.2775 million years that man has been fighting the fight of evolution with nature

These equations also relate to star polygonal arithmetic and points equidistant on the perimeter of perfect circles, but I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader (hint: y = 7 * x/2).

Great Scott! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30889842)

Is this a headline from 1.2 million years in the future?

Hopefully it doesn't happen again (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30889844)

Back then, I'm assuming survival from a cataclysm had a lot to do with being at the right place at the right time, and you only had to fight for scarce resources with the people nearby. If a cataclysm happened today, it would be easier for people to escape to the remaining habitable areas, and we have a lot more tools to use to fight over those scarce resources. If we ever have a nuclear apocalypse, I bet it will be due to a sudden world war triggered by a natural disaster.
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