Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Heads Up Again

Have you ever wondered why, if we're all descended from Africans 2,000 generations ago, we look so different? How people could possibly have arrived in Australia soon after Africa, and much later in Europe, which is connected by land? Sometimes I sort of wonder these things, in the non-scientific way my mind has, like, hmmm...I know that "sun people" are dark, and "ice people" are light", but how did this happen? Wait, what's for dinner?"

Hmmm. I could have called this post, "We're all African", "Walking for Evolution", or "Science vs. Traditionalists". Ted and I stumbled upon a great show on PBS tonight, called "Journey of Man". Has anyone seen this show? It's a two hour documentary that details the journey of man from Africa to Australia, Africa to Europe, Africa to Asia, and Africa to the Americas. We loved it. Poor Ted had to go to bed before it finished, but that's OK, I put it on our Netflix Queue, so we can see the whole thing. Who was so great, we may want to buy it, so we'll have it around when Maya's a bit older. It's that good. The thing is, the science for this show is truly fleeting. The people who put it together were so very lucky to have the technology to study DNA they way they did, when they did. Because there is just a short window here, with modern technology on the one hand, and globalization on the other. The geneticist who tells this story, Spencer Wells (HEY! That's my dad's last name! Maybe we're more related than we think!) talks to people in the most remote areas of the world, who have specific DNA that links them directly back thousands of generations, and makes connections that could not otherwise be accurately be made. So give this 20 or 30 years, with the current rate of globalization, and the DNA will be much more muddied than it is today. Go back 10 or 15 years, and the technology wasn't there. So really, there was just this tiny window of time for people to do this research, and this group were able to be there and do it. What else are we missing out on, either because it's too soon or too late? Damn.

Anyway, this is an amazing show, and I HIGHLY recommend that you check your local PBS station to see if it's playing anytime soon. We have 4 PBS stations here, so we're pretty darned fortunate that way. If it's not playing, check it out on DVD. Truly wonderful and amazing science, and beyond that, really good stories, really good TV.

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