* Across Atlantic Ice * A Theory on Thin Ice * A History in Poop * The Emperor's new Numbers * An Encyclopedia of Cancer *



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Across Atlantic Ice
atlantic_ice.jpg

Most archaeologists believe the first people in North America came from Asia. by means of a land bridge from Siberia to Alaska nearly 15,000 years ago.  The descendants of these people, who left behind distinct stone tools about 13,000 years ago, are referred to as Clovis Culture, and all indigenous people in North and South America today are descended from Clovis.   But there is another theory that challenges this idea and it is the subject of a new book co-authored by Dr. Bruce Bradley, Director of The Experimental Archaeology Program at the University of Exeter in England.  The book is called, Across Atlantic Ice - The Origin of America's Clovis Culture.  It suggests that Stone Age Europeans, known as Solutreans, came to North America from France and Spain more than 22,000 years ago by boat along an ice cap that existed in the North Atlantic.  One of the keys to the theory is the similarity in stone tool technology used in both Solutrean and Clovis culture.  The authors suggest the Solutreans gave rise to the Clovis people. 
          
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Across Atlantic Ice. Pt 2 - A Theory On Thin Ice

Beringia_land_bridge-noaagov.gifBeringia land bridge allowed for migration from Siberia to Alaska 13,000 years ago
Among the many archaeologists who are skeptical that Solutreans came to North America from Europe is Dr. David Meltzer from the Department of Anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.  He argues that the evidence - including stone tool blades, genetic material from skeletal remains, and cultural remnants - all point to the Clovis people originating in Asia.  Dr. Meltzer also points to the nearly five thousand year time difference between Solutreans living in Europe and Clovis evidence in North America as being too great a gap to bridge archaeologically.  For Dr. Meltzer, until substantial evidence is found to support the Solutrean idea, the 'Clovis first' theory will stand. 

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A History in Poop

swift_guano.JPGGuano being sampled from the chimney at Queen's University - courtesy Chris Grooms, Queen's University
Dr. Joseph Nocera, a research scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Trent University, and his colleagues, were looking for likely new roosting places for Chimney Swifts.  These small insectivorous birds have been in decline for decades, and Dr. Nocera was part of a group hoping to find good habitat for the birds.  They asked the authorities at Queen's University in Kingston if they could unseal a large chimney of a campus building that had been capped in the early 90s.  When they opened it, however, they discovered a record of chimney swift habitation and diet that went back more than 50 years - all preserved in a two-meter deep layer of guano.  In the guano, they found evidence that part of the explanation for the Chimney Swift's decline was DDT spraying in the post-war period that killed off much of their favoured prey. 
  

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The Emperor's new Numbers

satellite_penguins.jpg1...2...3...4...  Satellite image of Emperor Penguin colony in Antarctica.  Courtesy Digital Globe
Images collected from satellites have provided evidence that there are approximately twice as many Emperor Penguins in Antarctica than previously thought.  The high resolution images indicate approximately 600,000 Emperors, compared to previous ground estimates of between 270,000 and 350,000.  The images also indicate 4 previously unknown colony locations.  Peter Fretwell, a Geographic Information Scientist with the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England was part of the team that used satellite imaging to estimate a species' population for the very first time.  It is hoped the more accurate number will help future conservation efforts as climate change continues to affect Emperor Penguins living along Antarctica's coastline.
 
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An Encyclopedia of Cancer

BRCA2_image.jpgDiagram of the BRCA2 protein implicated in some breast cancers
Scientists are now certain that most cancers, like breast cancer, are not a single disease, but several different diseases, characterized by different sets of genetic mutations, different vulnerabilities to treatment, and with different outcomes.  However, distinguishing these different cancer subtypes has been a difficult problem.  Professor Samuel Aparicio, Canada Research Chair in Molecular Oncology at the BC Cancer Centre and the University of British Columbia, and his colleagues, have just completed a landmark study of the genetics of more than 2000 cancer samples, and they've come up with the first chapter in what they hope will be an encyclopedia of breast cancer.  They've been able to characterize ten different breast cancer subtypes, each of which may be vulnerable to different treatment strategies and drugs.  They hope that this will soon help further tailor breast cancer treatment, and provide new targets for specifically targeted cancer drugs.
 
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Theme music bed copyright Raphaël Gluckstein, Creative Commons License by-nc-nd-2.0