Daily Archives: May 20, 2009

Planning to finish The Wisdom of Bones.


We are going to finish Alan Walker and and Pat Shipmans “The Wisdom of Bones”, a truely wonderful book about Homo Erectus and its place as the “missing link” between ourselves and more apelike ancestors. Walker, with Kamoya Kimou and Richard Leakey, excavated and re-assembled the best H. erectus remains found to date, the “Narioktome Boy” #15000, aka 15K, an adolescent about 1.5 million (!) years old.

With this high quality source material, Walker goes through what can be surmised and concluded, bringing in experts from a variety of fields. Its real science, these are the stories underneath the peer-reviewed papers published since the discovery in the 1980s. Walker builds up to a somewhat startling conclusion, Homo erectus, most likely our direct ancestor, wasn’t fully linguate, leaving no concrete evidence of symbolic thought, and lacking a spinal cord sized for fine control of breath and vocal cords.

Rather than the near human in an ape’s body that is often presumed, Walker concludes that H. erectus ws a near-ape in a human’s body. As big or bigger than ourselves, as strong or stronger, wonderfully adapted to standing and running, a very successful tool maker and hunter. An adolescent with a toddler’s brain.

Makes sense, and Pat Shipman is a glorious writer and anatomist in her own right. They are married. The words are hers, the voice is his. So good books, bad cartoons and not a lot else are our story, while we’re all having and recovering from the flu.

Is 98.6 degree F more precise than it ought to be?


I heard somewhere that the “98.6 degrees F” “normal” human body temperature number isn’t really correct, its a conversion artifact from a European study, in C, not F. Lessee, (98.6 – 32) * 5/9 = 66.6 * 5/9 = 333/9=37.0.

Plausable, not proved.  Further investigation supports skepticism. The 37 (no ‘.’, much less “.0”) is far from categoric. There are real numhers, with variation ranges. 98.6 fits in some of them, but if you don’t measure 98.6 you’re not abnormal.

The British survey team that realized Mt. Everest was the tallest in the world got 29,000′ exactly. They figured nobody would believe it, so they published an official value of 29,002.

See the Wikipedia page on Everest (Chomolungma): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Everest