Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

SciSchmoozing Through Time and Space

Homo longi or Homo altaiensis or Homo denisova or . . .

A 150,000-year-old skull found in China is described in a journal this week. The skull is not Homo sapiens. The authors chose to name the species Homo longi but many scientists suspect the person was Homo denisova.

Just eleven years ago, it was announced that novel DNA was sequenced from a girl’s finger bone found in a Siberian Altai Mountain cave that had been the home of a Russian hermit named Denis. The bone was about 60,000 years old, so nobody blamed Denis for her demise. The girl was not Homo sapiens nor was she Homo neaderthalensis, although both her ancestors and Neanderthals had been using Denis’s cave for over 200,000 years. It has been suggested that the girl’s species be named Homo altaiensis after the Altai Mountains, or Homo denisova after Denis the hermit. Just two years ago, a Denisovan jaw bone was identified from a cave a thousand kilometers away in China. It is now certain that Denisovans, Neanderthals, and ‘modern’ humans all interbred in various global localities. So it goes.

Midnight, Anchorage

I was fortunate to spend June Solstice in Anchorage, slightly south of the Arctic Circle. Judging by car traffic, i was not the only one reluctant to retire while the Sun was still up.

You may have heard of the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada where the tidal difference is 16 meters. Somehow i had not heard of Alaska’s Turnagain Arm where the tidal difference is 12 meters and surfers ride the tidal bore, which locals call the “bore tide.” The bore tide i followed in my son’s car was pretty small but surfers were successfully riding it.

Rides into space are coming. Virgin Galactic received approval from NASA to take paying passengers up above 80 kilometers. Tickets are $250,000 each. Blue Origin auctioned off it’s first ticket to take a passenger up above 100 kilometers for $28 million. The founder of Blue Origin and of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, will be on the same July flight to space and over 120,000 people have petitioned to keep him there, although no one has figured out how that can easily be done. Space Perspective will take passengers up above 30 kilometers using a hydrogen-filled balloon for $125,000 each. You can reserve your seat for $1,000. Their first ascensions are planned for late 2024.

My Livestream picks for the week:

My Live Event pick:

Some scientists are looking forward to using electricity and microbes to make food out of air. I’m sure that won’t compare to the fresh blueberries i had this morning, but maybe it will compete with the breakfast cereal i had with the berries. If electricity becomes sufficiently cheap – say from fusion or geothermal sources – then the process would help reduce the level of CO2 in our atmosphere.

Potpourri: I first heard about axolotls when i was a kid, and i’ve been hooked ever since. A new way to create a ‘warp drive’ for traveling faster than light was just published. Here is an overview of life expectancies. ¿Ever heard of World War I Moss Drives? ¿Have you ever wondered why school buses are universally yellow?

Enjoy your week – nobody else can do that for you,
Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.”
― Douglas Adams, English author (1952 – 2001)

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