Tuesday, November 04, 2008

keeping occupied

As everyone worries about the economistupid, except all the poor people I know, and I don't know any rich ones, and as others anticipate an extraordinary moment in US political history, as do I very much, I struggle with life and death issues in my own sad meagre life but am buoyed and cheered as always by investigations outside myself. Homo floresiensis returned to my consciousness via an intriguing SBS doco. When last it left it the sceptics seemed to be gaining the upper hand, describing insisting the hobbit was a case of pathology, or hobbits were a case of pathology, microcephaly probably. I an amateur though well they might or must be right, floresiensis upsets too many applecarts, you can't have such a small and small-brained humanoid dating to only 13000 years ago without pathology, there's no possible fit otherwise, but now I hear apparently well-credentialled and richly experienced specialists, on teeth and bones and brains, arguing no way, this isn't pathology, this is genuine hominid enigma, and one of them makes connections between australopithecine bones, dating near two million years ago and never known to have come out of Africa, and the islandic floresiensis just north of Australia. 
Islands, they say, always throw up anomalies, and this is a whopper, it can hardly be underestimated, with a brain around 400 cubic centimetres, less than half that of homo erectus, the human ancestor thought to have brought us out of Africa. How can this much more recent, much smaller-brained species or subspecies, with wrist bones like those of chimpanzees, have survived almost to the present day [it seems to have been a tool-maker on the level of homo erectus]? The generally or previously acknowledged thinking about human evolution has been that of progressively increasing brain size, though the neanderthals who survived to 30000 years ago were an uncomfortable anomaly, but now all is up for grabs and people are wondering about Orang Pendek and there have been discoveries written up from Dmanisi, Georgia about a smaller-brained version of homo erectus in Asia, dating back 1.8 million years, and experts point out that there is so tiny fragmented a fossil record regarding human ancestry, hardly enough to build any coherent theory, and cherished theories can be smashed by so little a floresiensis, it's no wonder scientists are so passionately pro and con. 
So that was engrossing and I wished for a while I Coodabeen a paleontologist and maybe I Coodabeen if I hadn't been such a wastrel or dreamer, a paleontologist chatting with same, exciting each other and arguing with each other, stimulating each other to take home our ideas together and apart and think on them and work on them and examine and write further, modifying theories, creating revolutions.
Meanwhile I sit sometimes with no light and sound wondering what to do, getting fat and old as the external exciting world recedes, and I think, then I think no, avoid that, and soon the US election results will be out and that'll be fun, I'll be able to talk to someone about that maybe.   

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

pavlov's cat