McMaster scientist Hendrik Poinar has been plumbing the depths of the ancient world for its secrets for years, and on Thursday afternoon, he was at CBC Hamilton for a live chat to take your questions.
Poinar is an evolutionary biologist — which means he studies the nature of how humans got here and where we’re going. He happily admits his childhood dream was to travel the world and travel back in time.
“No-one imagines that there’s actually something still hidden within a bone that’s been buried for a few thousand years or 100,000 years, let alone the possibility of resurrecting it or bringing it back to life,” says Poinar. “I mean, that’s sort of completely bizarre. It’s like a time machine, yeah, it’s a kid’s dream.”
But Poinar is living those dreams. His research has taken him all over — Italy, Germany, Britain and across the Unites States. He’s been trying to unlock one of greatest mysteries of science – a mystery that has eluded researchers for more than six centuries: the secrets of the fourteenth century killer disease that caused the Black Death and wiped out more than 50 million people.
On Monday, McMaster announced that scientists had an answer — that two devastating plagues that decimated much of Europe hundreds of years ago were actually caused by distinct strains of the same pathogen.
Click play on the button above to listen to Poinar take your questions about that research, as well as some fascinating research about reviving extinct species like the woolly mammoth and the ethics that surround that kind of decsion.
Visit CBC Hamilton at 2:15 p.m. EST to chat live with Poinar and ask him your questions.