April 2017

Sample-taking at the archeological site of El Sidrón, Spain (Photo courtesy El Sidrón research team)

An article published in the journal “Science” describes a new method to collect DNA from sediments in archaeological sites, even when there are no bone remains. A team of researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, successfully experimented with this method in sites of various nations, recovering DNA from various mammals including hominids, specifically Neanderthals and the mysterious Denisovans.

Doctor Who - Attack of the Cybermen

“Attack of the Cybermen” is the first adventure of the twentysecond season of “Doctor Who” classic series, which aired in 1985. It follows “The Twin Dilemma” and it’s a two parts adventure written by Paula Moore and directed by Matthew Robinson.

The Sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) has more or less recovered from his regeneration and has decided to repair the Tardis’ chameleon circuit. The first result, however, is that the Tardis behaves abnormally. The Doctor still manages to drive it to Earth in 1985 and to show Halley’s comet to Peri (Nicola Bryant) while it’s passing near the Sun.

On Earth, former mercenary Lytton got into robberies and found some accomplices to steal diamonds for a value of several million pounds. The plan is to enter the bank where the diamonds are kept through the sewers but they find something very different from what they were looking for. Lytton activates a transmitter that emits a signal that gets detected by the Tardis and the Doctor decides to go to investigate.

Reproduction of Homo floresiensis Specimen

An article published in the magazine “Journal of Human Evolution” describes a study on the bones of Homo floresiensis (photo ©Mamoritai), the hominids nicknamed hobbits discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2003. A team led by the Australian National University (ANU) concluded that it was probably a sister species of Homo habilis, that there was no evidence that it evolved from Homo erectus and that it’s almost impossible for it to be Homo sapiens suffering from malformation.

The Islanders by Christopher Priest

The novel “The Islanders” by Christopher Priest was published for first the first time in 2011. It won the BSFA and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award as the best novel of the year. It’s part of the Dream Archipelago series.

The Dream Archipelago includes a large number of islands scattered across a vast territory, so much that the term archipelago is actually improper. The islands form a kind of federation that is neutral in the ongoing war but those regularly inhabited retain a large degree of autonomy.

Within the Dream Archipelago there are groups of islands with strong bonds, others are practically uninhabited and in the inhabited ones there are many languages ​​and cultures. You can see these differences also in various arts but tragic events such as the murder of an artist can be difficult to investigate when there are involved people from different islands with different cultures and languages.

Slimonia acuminata fossil

An article published in the journal “The American Naturalist” describes a research on Slimonia acuminata, a species of sea scorpion that lived about 430 million years ago. According to Scott Persons and John Acorn, two scientists from the University of Alberta, this very ancient predator that could reach a length of about 40 centimeters (almost 16″) used its tail as a weapon to hit its prey.