Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Did Bilbo Baggins serve ristaffel?

Gosh, Mr. Frodo, the anthropologists are coming—Scientists working in Indonesia have found a jaw bone of a small human-like creature, about the size of a hobbit, in a cave in the island of Flores. The finding, reported in Nature, is the ninth individual belonging to a group that may have lived as recently as 12,000 years ago, roaming the world at the same time os we modern humans and dubbed Homo floresiensis. Last year they found the remains of a female, part of a delicate skull and assorted bones, who lived about 18,000 years ago, triggering considerable furor in the anthropology world. Other fragments range from 12,000 to 95,000 years old. The creatures were about three feet tall and had the brain capacity of a chimpanzee. There is no evidence of hairy feet. Or rings. It is worth noting that not everyone is convinced. As John Nobel Wilford points out in the New York Times, there is a loud minority who think the Astralian and Indonesian researchers have simply uncovered the remains of dwarfs or deformed modern humans. In a commentary in Nature, Daniel Lieberman of Harvard said the authors of the paper now are no longer sure of the lineage of the little creatures, but Peter Brown, one of the Australians at the University of New England said they were too. Other critics wonder if it really is a new species. Others call it a possible example of island dwarfing, the tendency for organisms who live in isolation to shrink in size and evolve smaller bodies, their growth restrained by limited resources. Or maybe it's a groupw suffering from genetic microcephaly, small heads and brains. Or, they have indeed discovered Middle Earth and the Bagginses, and the hell with all you smart-assedPh.D.s. A lovely thought.

Note to glorious readers:
The management will be off atoning for his sins Wednesday night and Thursday, the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur. Fear not. I have led a blameless, sin-free life (which turns out to be pretty boring, if you ask me), so it will be an easy fast. I trust that is true for the rest of you sinners as well. For the rest of you, back at you Friday, and thanks for all the fish.

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