Confusing Cavemen

By Carl Zimmer | April 8, 2010 1:48 pm

sedibaIn Slate today, I take a look at the newly unveiled fossils of a strange new hominin, Australopithecus sediba. I try to separate the hype from the significance of this long-legged, long-armed, tiny-brained beast. My conclusion: let’s not turn this into another Darwinius affair!

Check it out.

[Photo by Brett Eloff courtesy of Lee Berger and University of Witwatersrand]

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Evolution, Writing Elsewhere

Comments (3)

  1. Lonely Flower

    I am really sad, because one like me, who is not specialized, how can she get
    scientific facts when famous scientific magzines and newspapers many times are not scientifically correct and precise.

  2. Occam's Razor

    Long lower limbs, huh?? Take a look at the pics. The lower limbs are fragments; lengths of the femur and tibia are unknown. And the foot bones are described as unusually primitive….hmmm. A forearm that rivals chimpanzees in relative length, along with curved finger bones. Hardly Homo erectus/ergaster/georgicus-like. And I wouldn’t bet the farm about what adult craniofacial morphology will look like based on a single juvenile skull.
    Fascinating fossils to be sure, and they don’t need to be kissing cousins of Homo to be interesting and important to the science of human evolution.

  3. Monkey

    @Lonely Flower (#1)

    I have this discussion with my parents all the time – me with the science degree and the science teaching gig, them with no notion of science in general. How, they ask, do we let the false notions sinter to the bottom and the reality float?What is real? I think Carl could speak to this specifically, but I want to hazard a guess – an opinion – here: Blogs.

    Thats it.

    Go to a place where people have expertise and have no control of their free expression. Avoid pop-information sites, even be wary of places like ScienceDaily or ScienceNews and their kin (I do like them, but I verify everything and take a sleptical comb to each story…). You can read the journal itself, but sometimes you need an expert to put it in context and build the story for you.

    I think the whole idea of science journalism is paramount in this case. We need scientists to speak, in a manner that is palatable to the public but in line with the reality.

    I usually read the main media, and then immediatley whip over to a host of blogs written by experts (not just any blog…Jims Medicine News should probably be avoided!) to hear their take on it. Its a fascinating movement, scientists blogging, and we need to support it and keep it going.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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