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bullet 2006-JUL-05: World: Malaria parasites evolving: Parasites that cause malaria appear to be evolving. They are developing increasing resistant to the two main drugs of choice in the treatment of the disease. Research presented at the 15th World Congress of Pharmacology in Beijing offers hope that a three drug cocktail may offer a solution, until the parasites evolve further. 1
bullet 2006-JUL-10: World: Proposal to build radio telescope to detect TV:  Argentina, Australia, China and South Africa have submitted proposals to host a Square Kilometer Array (SKA) radio telescope that would be 50 times more sensitive than existing units. One application would be to study the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies. Another might be to detect non-human television or radio transmissions from elsewhere in the universe. The selection of a final site will take up to two years. 2
bullet 2006-JUL-28: Canada: Ornithopter achieves flight: This news item has nothing to do with origins but we thought we would add it because it is such a fascinating accomplishment.  Besides, it was achieved by a team from my Alma Mater, the University of Toronto. A UofT news item reported:

"Professor Emeritus James DeLaurier achieved something in early July that has fascinated humankind throughout much of history. DeLaurier and a team of students at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies achieved sustained flight by a piloted ornithopter – an airplane with flapping wings that are mechanically operated – something dreamed of by Leonardo da Vinci, among others. 'He though about it carefully,' said DeLaurier of da Vinci’s design for an ornithopter. 'He put a remarkable amount of thought into it but was limited by the materials of his time'." 3

The plane flew for 14 seconds at an average speed of 88 km/hr (55 miles/hr) over a third of a kilometer (360 yards).

bullet 2006-AUG-17: USA: Scientists find brain evolution gene: One of the real puzzles facing scientists specializing in the study of evolution of species is why the brains of our ancestors evolved so quickly as a chimp-like species evolved into humans. Over a "short" interval of only a few million years, one tiny part of the human genome appears to have evolved about 70 times faster than the rest of our genetic code. This gene was partly responsible for the tripling of the size of the cerebral cortex -- the part of the brain responsible for language, information processing and other complex functions. The gene, called HAR1F, did not exist until 300 million years ago, and is present only in mammals and birds. Scientists at the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering at the University of California, Santa Cruz, found 18 differences in that one gene between humans and chimpanzees. "...scientists still don't know specifically what the gene does. But they know that this same gene turns on in human fetuses at seven weeks after conception and then shuts down at 19 weeks..." 4
bullet 2006-AUG-24: Czech Republic: The International Astronomical Union has determined that Pluto is not the ninth planet after all. It has been considered to be a planet since was discovered in 1930. The new definition of a planet is: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit." Pluto does not meet the final criterion because it has an oblong orbit that overlaps with Neptune. Two new classes of objects have now been created: "dwarf planets,"  and "small solar system bodies" such as asteroids, comets, etc. Pluto is now considered a dwarf planet, along with the asteroid Ceres and Xena, formally known as 2003 UB313.  5,6
bullet 2006-SEP-20: Ethiopia: Skeleton of transition fossil found: A remarkably complete skeleton of a three-year-old female member of the Australopithecus afarensis family was found in the year 2000. Scientists have spent five years removing the bones from the sandstone in which it was embedded; the task will take years more. The skeleton is between 3 and 4 millions of years old. Her lower body is very human-like; her upper body is ape-like. Bernard Wood of George Washington University, wrote that the discovery provides "a veritable mine of information about a crucial stage in human evolutionary history." 7
bullet 2006-OCT-11: Spain: Earth wobbles may be related to mammalian extinctions: Scientists studying rodent fossils in Spain found that mammals and some other species tend to go extinct at regular intervals. New species develop later. Their analysis of this "turnover" rate shows a complex pattern composed of two cycles. One cycle appears related to a 2.5 million year variation in the shape of the earth's orbit. The other cycle is related to a 1 million year variation in the earth's tilt. Both cycles cause an increase in the ice-sheet, general cooling and altered precipitation patterns. 8
bullet 2006-OCT-30: Romania: Evidence that humans and Neanderthals may have mated: Scientists generally agree that anatomically modern humans entered Europe about 40 to 50 thousand years ago. Some ten or twenty thousand years later, the Neanderthals vanished. Scientists have been uncertain whether the humans wiped out the Neanderthals or mated with them and thus absorbed them into their population -- or both.

Erik Trinkaus of Washington University and team analyzed early modern human bones from a cave in Romania known as Pestera Muierii, or "Cave of the Old Woman."

Neanderthal skulls (upper example) can be instantly differentiated from an early modern human skulls (bottom example) by the presence of a heavy brow ridge. A more subtle difference is the arc of the brain cage. There are many body features that show differences as well.

Analysis of the Romanian skulls showed considerable inbreeding. Trinkaus said:

"These earliest modern humans had a mosaic of distinctly modern human characteristics and other characteristics which align them with Neanderthals, suggesting some combination of modern humans dispersing into Europe and interacting with and adsorbing the Neanderthal population."

The fossils show modern human features such as a narrow nose, and a small upper jawbone, small front teeth and brow ridge. But they also showed features common to Neanderthals.

The final resolution of the question awaits the reconstruction of the Neanderthal genome. That project is underway. 9

bullet 2006-NOV-16: Neanderthal DNA partly sequenced: A team led by Edward Rubin, at the Genomics Division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, CA, extracted DNA from the thigh bone of a 38,000 year-old male Neanderthal who lived near what is now Vindija in Croatia. They recovered 65,250 base pairs of DNA from a total of about 3 million which formed the full genome. They found that the Neanderthal genome were at least 99.5% identical to our own. Their analysis showed that the Neanderthals and modern humans shared a common ancestor who lived about 706,000 years ago. This is when the two lineages began to diverge. However, the final split between the two hominoids happened about 400,000 years later. They coexisted in parts of Europe and western Asia until the Neanderthals died out some 30,000 years ago. 10

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Hepeng Jia, "PanAfrica: Old And New Drug Mix Could Be 'Radical' Malaria Cure,", 2006-JUL-05, at:
  2. "Sites under review for telescope that could detect alien TV," World Science, 2006-JUL-10, at:
  3. W.D. Lighthall, "U of T built ornithopter takes off. Flapping-wing airplane achieves sustained flight," 2006-JUL-28, at:
  4. Seth Borenstein, "Scientists Find Brain Evolution Gene," Associated Press, 2006-AUG-16, at:
  5. "Pluto gets the boot: Pluto no longer a planet, say astronomers," CNN News, 2006-AUG-24, at:
  6. "Pluto no longer a planet," World Science, 2006-AUG-25, at:
  7. Malcolm Ritter, "Scientists Find 'Lucy' Species Skeleton," Associated Press, 2006-SEP-20, at:
  8. "Earth’s wobbles may explain some extinctions, research finds," World Science, 2006-OCT-11, at:
  9. Neil Schoenherr and World Science staff, "More evidence for Neanderthal-human mixing claimed," World Science, 2006-OCT-30, at:
  10. "Neanderthal DNA partially sequenced," World Science, 2006-NOV-16, at:

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Copyright © 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-JUL-01
Latest update: 2006-NOV-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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