3 comments on “This Week in Science: July 19, 2015

  • Perhaps another noteworthy if somewhat mislabelled plan.


    A university is in “exploratory discussions” to build the world’s deepest swimming pool for spaceflight and human endurance research.

    The proposed 50m (164ft) deep pool at the University of Essex would be far deeper than NASA’s own 12m (40ft) deep training pool in Houston.

    If it goes ahead, the project is expected to cost £40m.

    The pool would simulate the microgravity of outer space and deep sea environments.

    The university’s development partner Blue Abyss said the pool could be used, for human spaceflight research programmes, environmental monitoring ,training in advanced commercial diving techniques, marine and human physiology research and aerospace development.

    I suspect the spaceflight angle is hype, as space research does not need the pressure at depth which deep pools provide. That is much more applicable to deep-diving marine work.

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  • I see there is also a new genetic study on the origins of the native Americans from prehistoric migrations!


    North and South America were the last continents that humans settled. Previous studies of DNA from modern and ancient Native Americans suggest that the trek was made at least 15,000 years ago (although the timing is not clear-cut) by a single group dubbed the ‘First Americans’, who crossed the Bering land bridge linking Asia and North America.

    “The simplest hypothesis would be that a single population penetrated the ice sheets and gave rise to most of the Americans,” says David Reich, a population geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2012, his team found evidence for a single founding migration in the genomes from members of 52 Native American groups 3.

    So Reich was flabbergasted when a colleague called Pontus Skoglund mentioned during a conference last year that he had found signs of a second ancient migration to the Americas lurking in the DNA of contemporary Native Amazonians. Reich wasted no time in verifying the discovery. “During the session afterward, he passed his laptop over the crowd, and he had corroborated the results,” says Skoglund, who is now a researcher in Reich’s lab.

    Skoglund’s discovery — which is published online on 21 July in Nature2 — was that members of two Amazonian groups, the Suruí and the Karitiana, are more closely related to Papua New Guineans and Aboriginal Australians than other Native Americans are to these Australasian groups. The team confirmed the finding with several statistical methods used to untangle genetic ancestry, as well as additional genomes from Amazonians and Papuans. “We spent a lot of time being sceptical and incredulous about the finding and trying to make it go away, but it just got stronger,” says Reich.

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