Friday, December 14, 2007

Human Evolution Speeding Up?

Ralph E. Schmid at Time has an article titled Human Evolution Speeding Up? In it he wrote, "People are evolving more rapidly than in the distant past, with residents of various continents becoming increasingly different from one another, researchers say."

Researchers have been discovering the genes and evolution do not always work as we thought we understood them. Evolution can happen quickly. It does not always take thousands of years.

I recently read Survival of the Sickest by Sharon Moalem. In the book, he wrote about jumping genes and retroviruses. Moalem noted, "The capacity of African primates to support the persistent of other viruses may have put our evolution on fast forward by allowing more rapid mutation through exposure to more retroviruses. It's possible that this capacity helped spur our evolution into humans" (p. 153).

Further, Epigenetics is showing that genes can be modified in a generation to deal with issues such as famine. If the gene markers are not turned off after a few generations, the genes can be modified. The Scientist has an article on this titled Epigenetics: Genome, Meet Your Environment.

The article in Time does not deal with all of this but it is interesting. It postulates that evolution is occurring more frequently now due to a larger human population and the fact that humans live in more diverse environments. Schmid wrote, "Harpending and colleagues looked at the DNA of humans and that of chimpanzees, our closest relatives, they report in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If evolution had been proceeding steadily at the current rate since humans and chimps separated 6 million years ago there should be 160 times more differences than the researchers found. That indicates that human evolution had been slower in the distant past."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Year 1000: A Legacy of Science & Technology

Year 1000: A Legacy of Science & Technology. This is an online exhibit that explores the events in Europe and influences from China, India, and the Islamic world that began an intellectual revolution.

I found this site informative, easy to navigate, and fun to read. Some sections include medicine, astronomy, algebra, alchemy, horticulture, and water power.

From the site:

Sometimes when people think about the year 1000, they think of a time of darkness and chaos for civilization. In fact, the turning of the first millennium was a time of marvelous change. This time period marks the turning point towards High Medieval civilization with individuals and societies around the world making contributions to science, technology and culture. The exchange of goods between China, India and the Islamic world brought with it the exchange of ideas and inventions.

The year 1000 was a time influenced by the dominance of Islamic culture in science and technology. Most of the new knowledge coming into Europe came through Islamic scholarship. It also marks the beginning of the end of Islamic control in Spain. This allowed European-based civilization to begin its first steps on its own cultural expansion. These steps would eventually bring about the Renaissance in Europe.

Tremendous growth in Chinese commerce during the Song Dynasty affected technological development worldwide. Although the Chinese culture remained remote, Chinese inventions and scholarship traveled with trade into the Islamic world and from there to Europe. The influence of Indian knowledge also traveled the trade routes with extremely important results.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Top 3 Worst War Films

Back in September, The Osprey Publishing Blog had a post on the Top 3 Worst War Films. I discovered this post via the 7th Military History Carnival. The carnival author noted, "I asked what the Top Three Worst War films were and what war films our readers would like to see."

I found the discussion on this post inspiring. I can come up with three bad war films! My reasons are different from those who posted (I am not clever enough to recognize the wrong uniforms and planes in the films) but I do like well told stories that at least try to be close to historical reality. Poor or silly story lines helped me come up with a list of three.

My choices:

Wake Island (1942) - The ending of this film is entirely fictitious. The movie shows the Wake Island garrison fighting to the last man. In reality, they surrendered to the Japanese after repelling the first wave of the Japanese attack. They could have held out longer and may well have done so if the survivors had known what they were going to be in for at the hands of the Japanese. I do not find the film that well done well technically either. The film probably achieved the goal of helping encourage American men to enlist and to show that American soldiers were hard fighters, but the film is still bad history and makes the top of my list for bad war films.

The Patriot (2000) - This is not a bad action movie and do like Mel Gibson. However, the portrayal of the British in the film is unacceptable. They were not Nazis and did not participate routinely in the slaughter of children, women, and captured soldiers. They did not burn down churches full of civilians. And the Americans did not win the Battle of Guildford Courthouse. The British did. This film is just a really bad representation of the American Revolutionary War.

Independence Day (1996) - Ok, this film is not based on history. It is alternate history based on what might have happened if aliens bent on eradicating the human race had invaded Earth in the 1990s. It is not real history but it is a war film so I can include it on my list. The movie is exciting, has some good acting, and it technically brilliant. I actually loved the President's inspirational speech before the final climatic battle. However, how is it that a technologically advanced species that can travel between stars can lose dogfight battles with 90s era fighter planes? Why are their alien computers vulnerable to a computer virus? Is the evolution of computers on different worlds so similar that uploading a virus based on a human created programming language would have any chance of working? How is it that the aliens had such bad record keeping that they did not notice a ship missing for forty years (the Roswell crashed one!) attempting to dock on their mothership? And of course we also learn that an alcoholic dust cropper can learn to fly a fighter jet in under a day and win a battle almost all by himself.

If this topic interests you, go take a look at the post that inspired this at the Osprey Publishing Blog. Many films are nominated for a variety of reasons and it is worth perusing.

Monday, December 10, 2007 Launches the Largest Collection of World War II Photos on the Web Launches the Largest Collection of World War II Photos on the Web

Snapp Conner PR for Jeremy Kartchner, (801) 994-9625 today announced the addition of thousands of US Air Force photos to their digital World War II collection. This release coincides with the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor bombing, and contains tens of thousands of original World War II photos and documents from the National Archives. Among this collection are missing air crew reports, documents from allied military conferences and photos of Japanese air targets.

"They say that a picture is worth a thousand words," says Russell Wilding, CEO of "What's exciting about this collection of photos is they also include captions that tell stories of the people and events in the photos." has added these new pictures and documents as part of a much larger, ongoing effort to preserve the heroic memories and stories of the brave men and women that served in World War II and other wars.

"We are providing priceless content from our archives and libraries that is only a part of a much larger picture," continued Wilding. "While this is an extensive collection of history, we understand that many people out there have valuable pieces of history in their personal record collections within their own homes. We encourage everyone to upload their own photos, letters and documents contained in their old shoeboxes." is leading the movement to preserve the documents and stories about World War II and invites everyone to join in this effort. Uploading photos and documents and creating memorial pages is completely free on To view samples of these photos and other World War II documents, visit About Footnote, Inc. is a subscription website that features searchable original documents that provide users with an unaltered view of the events, places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At all are invited to come share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit