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Wednesday Watercooler


A model of a neanderthal with a walking stick

“So, want to go out for drinks on Friday?”

Tonight’s video is “Giant Rubber Duck Sails Into Port of Los Angeles,” from LA’s ABC7.

The famous giant duck, designed by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, sailed into the Port of Los Angeles early Wednesday morning.

The duck is just one of the attractions at the five-day Festival of Tall Ships.

At 2 p.m., the six-story-tall duck sculpture will lead a parade of domestic and international ships making their way along the Main Channel.

Event organizers say the rubber duck is an impressive sight to see.

‘This is 61 feet, 11 tons, about 85 feet wide and about 110 feet long,’ said Craig Samborski, spokesperson for the Festival of Tall Ships. ‘I was shocked when I saw the size of it right in front of me.’

Until recently, scientists mostly agreed that Homo sapiens wiped out the neanderthals. Then came evidence of interbreeding. Now a new study suggests that neanderthals faded gradually and were assimilated over time into the human population as their numbers dwindled, rather than the widespread violent extermination believed before. From Live Science:

To help solve the mystery of when Neanderthals went extinct, scientists analyzed bone, charcoal and shell materials from 40 archaeological sites from Russia to Spain. They employed advanced techniques for more precise dating of these specimens that involved ultra-filtering molecules from bone samples for examination and removing organic contaminants that could make specimens seem younger than they actually are.

The new findings suggest that Neanderthals disappeared from Europe between about 41,000 and 39,000 years ago.

‘I think that, for the first time, we have a reliable extinction date for Neanderthals,’ said study author Tom Higham, a radiocarbon scientist at the University of Oxford in England. ‘This has eluded us for decades.’

The Neanderthal extinction occurred across sites ranging from the Black Sea to the Atlantic Coast of Europe. The timing and geography suggest Neanderthals may have overlapped with modern humans for 2,600 to 5,400 years, opening the door for genetic and cultural exchanges between the two groups for millennia.

These findings suggest that modern humans did not rapidly replace Neanderthals in Europe — say, via violent means. Rather, the Neanderthal extinction ‘might have been more complex and drawn out than previously thought,’ Higham told Live Science.

There is some genetic evidence that Neanderthals in Western Europe may have experienced declining genetic diversity about the time when the first modern humans began arriving on the continent, Higham said. “This might mean that they were fading out at this time, although, of course, our evidence suggests that there was a long period of overlap during which this occurred,” he said.

Neanderthals may not even have truly disappeared, but instead have been assimilated into modern human populations. “We know, of course, that we have a genetic legacy from Neanderthals of about 1 to 2 percent, so there was interbreeding,” Higham said.

Bonus: A right-wing think tank was forced to apologize for telling Amnesty International to “suck it,” via Talking Points Memo

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Photo by Erich Ferdinand released under a Creative Commons license.

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Kit OConnell

Kit OConnell

Kit O’Connell is a gonzo journalist and radical troublemaker from Austin, Texas. He is the Associate Editor and Community Manager of Shadowproof. Kit's investigative journalism has appeared in Truthout, MintPress News and