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Comment The RNA world (Score 3, Insightful) 658

Dinosaurs? Pah! A mere 65 million years away - practically on our chronological doorstep. I'd send a (very very well sterilized) robot back to bring me samples from the RNA world. Then I'd try to find out what preceded the RNA world, jump forward a bit to try to find the origin of the eukaryotes and maybe then go for filling in the minor details, like observing the Cambrian explosion.

Brief explanations:
The RNA world is a hypothesized (but very plausible) stage in evolution where RNA performs the functional roles currently filled by proteins and the genetic role currently filled by DNA.
Eukaryotes are the complex cells with a nucleus, including all known multi-cellular life plus some single celled life (e.g. amoebae.)
The Cambrian explosion was a period about 530 million years ago when multi-cellular life suddenly appeared in a great profusion of forms.

Comment Re:Nothing like what key says about other Dotcom n (Score 4, Informative) 53

John Banks isn't really necessary for the government. There are 121 seats, National (the main governing party) holds 59, ACT (John Banks) 1. Parties with which National could reasonably do deals to pass legislation (or even negotiate a coalition with) are New Zealand First (8 seats), Maori Party (3 seats), United Future (1 seat.) So they could distance themselves from John Banks and still continue to govern as an effective minority government. The opposition Labour Party effectively lead a minority coalition government in this way for years.

Comment Re:Prior Art? (Score 5, Informative) 98

No, the GPL doesn't work like this. Having violated the GPL on this code, Twin Peaks are no longer licensed. They cannot reacquire a license simply by coming back into compliance. They need to explicitly be relicensed by the copyright holder (Red Hat), who are not likely to do so in this case.

It has been the norm for the resolution of GPL violations that the violator comes back into compliance and then is relicensed, because Free Software organizations are generally more interested in cooperation than conflict, but there is no legal requirement for Red Hat to follow this norm.

You can read the GPL here:
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-2.0.html
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-3.0.html

Comment Homo floresiensis? (Score 1) 157

The relatively close proximity of Homo florsiensis remains (Indonesia) and the supposed-partly-descended-from-Denisovans modern population (Melanesia) leads me to speculate that H. floresiensis and Denisovans might be the same. Undoubtedly we'll find out in due course. The big problem is the distance between Indonesia and Siberia - if the (sub)species was so wide spread, we'd expect to have many more remains in between.

Comment Re:Considering... (Score 2) 157

The world of human genetics, according to Svante Pääbo*:
A first wave of humans left Africa on the order of half a million years ago. These lead to the Neandertals and probably the Denisovans. (But perhaps the Denisovans were a separate migration.)
On the order of 100,000 years ago, modern humans left Africa. On the way, they did a little interbreeding with Neandertals, so that all modern non-Africans are about 4% Neandertal by descent.
A subpopulation of these interbred with the Denisovans, and this subpopulation ended up in Melanesia, but somehow left no genetic trace between there and Siberia where the Denisovan finger was found.

I see very little similarity between this and the 19th century 'racial science'. If you insist on dividing people up into categories, this research has three categories, as do *some* of the 19th century schemes, and one of those categories is African. That really is as far as the resemblance goes.

* Errors are mine, not Prof Pääbo's. Dates are from other sources and from my memory.

Comment Re:Oldest? (Score 1) 146

You are right. Neandertal DNA must be at least about 30,000 years old for a start. As I'm not at a university now, I can't check the full paper, but the abstract makes no claim to 'oldest', so this may be a stuff-up by an over-enthusiastic university publicity hack. The paper does claim a full mitochondrial genome, and I'm unaware of whether the older DNA sequences are complete, so maybe this is the seed from which the excessive claim grew.

Comment Re:I fail to see how this is surprising (Score 2) 259

Yes, but in science we still test what we expect to be true. Also, I'm sure that the '% difference from humans' number was not the primary goal of this research, just an easy and interesting number to calculate once you have the data for other purposes.

Rates of genetic evolution can vary along different lineages, so it is possible that since the Bonobo/Chimp split, one had evolved faster than the other. It would have been surprising, however, for the rates to be substantially different after such a short time.

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