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Showing posts from June, 2016

A special plea for West Virginia

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This will be an unusual post.

You might have been following the story about the flooding in West Virginia.  In my house, it's very personal, since it's very nearly my wife's hometown.  We were just there the week before the flood happened.  I just spoke in their church, Elkview Baptist, which is now flooded.  So is the high school where she went to school.  Thankfully, my inlaws live on the top of a mountain there, but it's still been hard watching my wife struggle with the pictures and stories on Facebook.  Her childhood best friend Autumn lost everything.  Literally everything.

West Virginia is mountainous, so building options are three:  You can level the top of a mountain (like they did with the Charleston airport), live on the side of a mountain, or take the only flatland: floodplains.  The present flooding is the worst in more than a hundred years.  People are calling it a thousand-year flood.  Some folks don't just have flooded houses, they've lost their…

What is Homo naledi, anyway?

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There's a new study on the phylogeny of Homo naledi published today in the August issue of Journal of Human Evolution (it's a preprint).  The study is written by Mana Dembo and colleagues.  They compiled a massive matrix of 391 characters (a supermatrix), all from the skull and teeth.  They scored these characters on 22 different hominins and chimps and gorillas.  For H. naledi, they compiled only 123 of those characters from the original bones at Wits (Dembo was on the H. naledi research team).  That's considerably more than the 87 published in the supplemental material of Berger's original description of H. naledi, which I used previously to do my own phylogenetic analysis.

For this analysis, Dembo et al. used Bayesian methods to infer the phylogeny.  I've always been a bit suspicious of Bayesian methods, mostly because of the need for a model for which the probability is known.  That's technically not knowable, but Bayesian methods get around this by drawing…

Support student internships

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Feedback? Email me at toddcharleswood [at] gmail [dot] com. If you enjoyed this article, please consider a contribution to Core Academy of Science. Thank you.