The great thing about science is that it offers lessons in humility to anyone who becomes overly confident that something is an accepted fact. The big science news this week is the discovery of what might or not might be a tenth planet, depending upon the definition of “planet” that you accept. Isn’t it great that something we’re all taught as an established fact in elementary school (that there are nine planets) is actually subject to significant debate. As far as I’m concerned, this is what science classes should really be teaching — that science is about the ongoing process of discovery and experimentation, not the set of facts that we accept at any given time. Anyway, this brings me to a book that I just finished reading last night, The Journey of Man, by Spencer Wells.
The book describes how genetic researchers have used various genetic markers to trace mankind back to its origins and track the migration of human beings throughout the world. The researchers have surmised that all people living today have a common ancestor from Africa who lived around 60,000 years ago, that the indigenous peoples of North and South America really did arrive from Asia on a land bridge during the last ice age, and Australian Aborigonal people descended from the first group of people to leave Africa. The book is only about 200 pages long, and unless you’re well studied in the topic covered, it’s bound to blow your mind more than a few times. It even ends with a twist. I’d recommend it to anyone, if for no other reason than because it refutes absolutely every bigoted notion one might have when it comes to the genetic potential of people from various races and ethnicities. There’s also a documentary by the same name that complements the book, but I haven’t seen it. (My mother bought the book for me after seeing the documentary, so it must be good.)
Update: The documentary is called The Real Eve.