Sunday, September 21, 2008

National Geographic: Neanderthals Revealed; ABC: Emmy Awards

Tonight the National Geographic channel presented a two hour documentary “The Other Humans: Neanderthals Revealed,” supplementing its October 2008 magazine issue (recently discussed on my books blog). The film is narrated by Nick Sharatzi. The web reference is this.

The film tackles the question as to whether modern humans and Neanderthals could have interbred. There is increasing evidence that we might have inherited a gene related to modern language from them. They hunted in “prides” (like lions) to bring down big animals and used spears for impaling from close contact. They would have needed to communicate to hunt successfully. (How do lions do it?) Modern humans from Africa used spears that they could throw and would have had a more solitary “feline” life. The TV movie made the Neanderthal culture look more advanced (because of cooperation) than did the magazine article (which suggested job differentiation, diet variation, and job complementarity).

Neanderthals also had red hair, related to the need to import vitamin D in low sunlight environments. But their red hair, related to gene MC1R on chromosome 16, is not the same as the Neanderthal gene.

The film showed the work at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, website.

There is some comparison to baboon interbreeding, among species who stayed apart for about 1 million years. Neanderthals and modern humans lived separately for only about 200000 years. The wide range in change in superficial characteristics in humans in only the last 40000 years could be explained by some mixing with Neanderthal genes.

The film makes a comparison to European "conquest" of North America. Native Americans were not replaced; their genes were assimilated to some extent. Neanderthals are thought to have disappeared, but not completely. We may have some of their genes, although relatively few. There seem to be no people with mostly Neanderthal genes. Neanderthals would seem to "look" Caucasoid. Is it conceivable that there could be a connection with the Basque peoples, whose origin in mysterious? (I visited Bilbao in 2001.)

Emmys on ABC:

Tonight ABC broadcast the Emmys from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. There was a quote, “Truth is what you can get other people to believe.” Isn’t acting related to manipulation? The final results are given here. ABC has lots of excerpted widgets and videos at its Emmy site here.

There was a lot of controversy about Josh Groban's "brutal" disco-style parody of the music from popular shows, with bizarre double images in the background. The YouTube link for the 4 minute performance is here. The AOL survey results are mixed.

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