Science Friday: Ancient Humans Had More DNA Than Us | Earthquakes Have Moved an Italian River by About Twelve Miles

1st, what is DNA?

 10 AUGUST 2015 11:30 AM

Our ancestors weren’t blessed with smartphones, WiFi and Amazon Prime, but for what it’s worth they did have a little extra DNA. According to a study published today in Science, Homo sapiens have shed about 40.7 million base pairs of DNA since migrating out of Africa nearly two million years ago.

The human genome’s 3 billion base pairs — chemicals represented by the letters A,T,G, and C — are often likened to a set of blueprints, or an instruction book. But this analogy doesn’t quite do justice to the fact that evolution has made a crazy mess of our autobiography. Pieces of the human genome are constantly being rewritten, duplicated, and crossed out for no good reason. You’d be better off imagining a book that a four-year-old with scissors and a copy machine got his hands on.

Nevertheless, brave scientists are trying to make sense of the human genome to reconstruct our evolutionary history. By comparing copies of the genome between populations, we can start to piece together how human populations have evolved and diverged over time.


16th century Italian earthquake changed river’s course

By Nanci Bompey

In 1570, a 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck the northern Italian city of Ferrara, causing dozens of deaths, major damage to the city and thousands to flee. At the time, Pope Pius V said God sent the earthquake to punish the city’s duke who had given hospitality to Jews and Marranos who had escaped Spain.

Now, a new study finds that the 16th century earthquake and subsequent aftershocks were the last step in a tectonic process that occurred over thousands of years and changed the course of the Po River. The final rerouting of the river left Ferrara dry by the end of the 16th century, an event depicted in a painting that now hangs in the Vatican Museum.

The new research used historical data and new modeling techniques to find that the 1570 earthquake occurred on a fault buried underneath the sediments of the Po River, about 14 kilometers (9 miles) north-northeast of Ferrara. The fault corresponds to the outermost, buried front of the northern Apennine Mountains that has slowly risen over millions of years, causing uplift of the southern portion of the Po Valley.



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