15 March, 2012 – This Week in Science

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TWIS Gets Bony: Microraptor Feathers, New Humans, And Cloning The Mammoth; An Interview With Dr. Valerie Weiss About ‘Losing Control’, And Much More…

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There is a question that has persisted since the beginning of mankind’s ascendance to planetary dominance of the earth…
Where did we come from?
Were we forged from earth itself, a mix of existing chemicals that came together in just the right way?
Did we drop not so gently from the sky as hitchhikers on a comet, or were we placed here by the whim of some bored but somewhat benevolent deity?
As we have peered back into the mists of time we clever humans have found many clever ways to extract answers we never could have guessed at the start…
The path of our past can be traced back in an almost unbroken thread all the way to the beginnings of life on earth… which still leaves some questions ultimately unanswered.
And looking back we discover not only our own history, but now we are finding more and more evidence that we humans weren’t the only form of humanity that has been on this journey… we can say with unflinching certainty that there were other species of humans who shared all but a brief moment of our history, and have some histories all their own.
Of all the creatures that have lived and passed into extinction, there are perhaps none more fascinating, none more revealing of our place upon the earth than those of other humans, the many evolutionary cousins who looked like us, mastered tools, and fire and crossed seas like us… who had traditional burials, language, art, and must have cared for their young much like we do today… and they very nearly made it to the modern age with us… yet for unknown reasons, they vanished from the earth… or did they?
Looking for hidden human histories and other tales of wonder all ahead on
This week in science…
Coming up next.

Feathers were for sexy
Microraptor, a four-winged, pigeon-sized feathered dinosaur from about 120 million years ago, most likely had iridescent black/purple feathers. The tail and leg feathers were probably for attracting a mate, and not for flight. In fact, scientists believe they didn’t fly at all.

Crowded Planet
A new species of prehistoric humans has been discovered in East Asia, that most likely lived alongside modern humans. They have been named “red deer cave people,” after their apparent favor for venison.

To clone the mammoth, or not to clone the mammoth
Russian scientists and a South Korean biotech company have officially teamed up to clone a mammoth by 2017. The processes and personnel involved in the project do not leave many scientists optimistic about the task at hand.

Get a free audiobook at Audible.com!

Are you reading along with the TWIS Bookclub? This month, check out Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David Montgomery

We Interviewed Dr. Valerie Weiss about her film ‘Losing control’
Dr. Valerie Weiss quit her time in a laboratory to become a film director. Her new film, “Losing Control,” debuts around the country starting March 23rd. The film is about a female scientist and her troubles separating the scientific method in a lab from the unscientific method of love.

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I'm the host of this little science show.