In the Nature Podcast of 7th May 2009 there is a fascinating discussion of pigmy hippos and Homo Florensis. H.Florensis is a species of small stature. There has been lots of discussion about whether Homo Florensis is a new species or an example of Homo Erectus with dwarfism. The discovery of pigmy hippos on an island has supported the argument that H.Florensis could have evolved towards a smaller size in an island terrain energy requirements are less according to the speculation of one of the researchers. There is also a discussion of the overlap between the humanities and the natural sciences with comments from writers and neuroscientists. A study is discussed which shows the possible genetic transmission of birdsong. The study provided evidence that birdsongs of wild birds are developed over generations in an environment without exposure wild songs. This suggests that wildsongs might be innate and has implications for human language.
In the Nature Podcast of 30th April 2009 there is a discussion of a recent genetic study in autism (discussed previously albeit briefly). The study used a large sample size and looked at people with autism and their relatives compared to control with evidence of an association with a neural cell adhesion molecule as well as a ubiquitin protein on chromosome 15. Ubiquitin is used in the intracellular labelling of proteins for degradation and has a number of consquent functions. There is biological validity to the association of neural cell adhesion molecules to neurodevelopment but any such links should be tested by other types of study.
In the Nature Podcast of 23rd April 2009 there is a closer look at human motion through anonymised mobile phone data as the researchers thought there may be benefits in understanding the spread of infections. However this study was controversial given the use of such data to track the owners of mobile phone users without their knowledge although the researchers argue that appropriate safeguards are in place for the use of data. There is also a look at a world digital library being set up by UNESCO which includes a number of scientific papers of interest.
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