Friday, January 1, 2010

Two Science stories of 2009

Two Science stories of 2009

Two science stories grabbed my attention in 2009.

Genetics of Britain

Not long ago an investigation of human genes showed that the people of Britain got there in 2 migrations corresponding to the two periods when there was a land bridge to Europe. The first arrivals were still in Cornwall, Wales and outer Scotland. The later arrivals were little changed by those arriving later by sea: Romans, Angles, Saxons, norsemen, Normans and others. The exciting discovery this year looked at genetic history of other mammals. It found exactly the same division with approximately the same boundaries. An older group in Cornwall, Wales and outer Scotland, and a newer group that came over during the period of the more recent land bridge. This is very nice because of the way it embeds humanity in the wider natural world.

Adjusting Temperatures

We are accustomed to think that we know there is global warming and it is just a question of what is causing it (with CO2 being an obvious culprit). However it emerged during the year that the data used to demonstrate global warming has been selected and adjusted from the raw data. Some were quick to claim that this has been done in a biased way intended to accentuate the appearance of global warming. Rebuttals have appeared claiming that it has all been done in a reasonable and unbiased way. I will be amazed if these rebuttals turns out to be substantiated. The energetic attempts to keep the raw data secret and the unprofessional aggressive and biased point of view of some of the researchers makes me believe that they will be found to have had a thumb on the scales. This will do more than damage the particular researchers and the climate change research community, it will damage Science itself.