Van der Merwe lifts Soweto Open title

first_img18 April 2011Izak van der Merwe went one step better than he did in 2010 when he captured the Soweto Open men’s singles title at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Centre in Jabavu after a hard-fought battle against fellow South African Rik de Voest on Sunday.The final had been moved back a day because of rain and rain, once again, made an appearance in the final, forcing the players from the court for over two hours with Van der Merwe leading 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 3-2, and the contest on serve. Ultimately, he went on to a 6-7, 7-5, 6-3 victory.The victory, his second in a Challenger Tour event, has lifted Van der Merwe to a career-high ranking of 134th in the world.Last year, he made it into the final but was beaten by Dustin Brown. This time around the fourth-seed made sure of success by defeating the German 7-5, 7-6 (7-5) in a hard-fought semi-final.Tie-breakersIt was far from an easy walk to the title for the big-serving South African who played tie-breakers in every one of his matches.Van der Merwe began his title challenge with a tough 7-5, 7-6 win over Englishman Daniel Cox in his first round match. He followed that up by sending another Englishman packing after defeating Chris Eaton 6-4, 7-6.In the quarterfinals, he faced seventh-seed Andrej Martin and once again it proved to be a tight contest. Van der Merwe won it 7-6, 7-6, claiming both tie-breakers 7-2.Path to the finalOn his way to the final, De Voest, the sixth-seed, recorded victories over fellow South African Raven Klaasen, Denys Molchanov, and Michal Przysiezny before facing Australian Greg Jones in the final.It took a gritty comeback for De Voest to win a match that was interrupted by rain. When the heavens opened, he was 3-6, 4-3 down, but went on to win 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.In the final, he became the only player in the tournament to win a tie-breaker against Van der Merwe. By reaching the title-decider, he improved his world ranking to 158th.Women’s titleThe women’s honours went the way of Russia’s Valeria Savinykh, who proved to be a giant killer on her way to lifting the title.She ousted fourth-seed Eva Birnerova 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the first round. Then, after an easy 6-2, 6-2 win over Oksana Kalashnikova in the second round, she upset seventh-seed Corinna Dentoni 6-4, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.Savinykh followed that up by disposing of top-seed Ann Keothavong in the semi-finals when the Briton retired at 6-3, 3-0 down.In the final, second-seed Petra Cetkovska proved no much for the 20-year-old Russian, who cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 victory and the biggest win of her career.South African women failed to make an impact as none of the four players in the draw made it out of the first round.DoublesGermany’s Michael Kohlmann and Alexander Peya of Austria claimed the men’s doubles title with a convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory over South African-born Australian Matthew Ebden and Germany’s Andre Bergemann.Sadly, the women’s doubles final was a victim of the weather and was not played.Would you like to use this article in your publication or on your website? See: Using SAinfo materiallast_img read more

Weekly Writers Round-Up: The Millennial Vote, Lessons from Venezuela, and Politically-Motivated Spying

first_imgEach week, we’ll be featuring opinion pieces from the alumni and current participants of AFF’s Writing Fellows Program. A few highlights from the past week are below. For more information on how the program can help launch your career in writing, see here.Respectful Presidential Town Halls Can Attract Millennials to Politics by Kristiana Bolzman (Spring 2019) in TownhallLike much of the millennial generation, I would prefer to avoid political participation and the baggage that comes with it. But my view is changing in light of the surprising civility and bi-partisanship demonstrated in the recent Fox News town halls featuring Democratic presidential candidates. These events and the constructive conversation they have fostered give me hope for the 2020 election—and my generation’s participation in it…Venezuela Shows Why Socialism’s Failure Still Matters by Chelsea Follett (Summer 2017) in The National InterestLast week, a number of left-wing activists occupied the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC, while Venezuelan-Americans counter-protested outside the building and demanded the end of socialism in the Latin American country. Today’s proponents of socialism often fault their critics for equating twenty-first-century “democratic socialism” with totalitarian versions of that philosophy, which dominated many countries in the twentieth century and continue to exist in places like Cuba and North Korea today…Government Surveillance Of Political Activists Is Scary, Illegal, And Common by Luke Wachob (Fall 2018) in The FederalistIn the early years of the Obama administration, newly formed conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status were subjected to lengthy delays and inappropriate demands for information, preventing the Tea Party from operating at full strength.Then there was the John Doe fiasco in Wisconsin, which saw conservative activists subjected to pre-dawn police raids as part of a sprawling investigation ultimately shut down by the state supreme court. Even when a group is not charged with violating the law, constantly being watched and hassled by the government takes a heavy toll…No Evidence, No Problem: The Crumbling Case for Soda Taxes by Guy Bentley (Spring 2017) in The Washington ExaminerNo matter how many times they’re debunked, disproven, or discredited, some policies refuse to die with dignity.Despite a dearth of evidence from anywhere in the world showing soda taxes reduce obesity, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics continue banging the drum against king Coke…last_img read more

Amazon’s Cloud Business Is Worth At Least $70 Billion

first_imgTwo years ago VMware president Carl Eschenbach snidely suggested that he found it “really hard to believe that we cannot … beat a company that sells books.” Two years later, the truth has become blindingly clear: He can’t. In fact, two years later and an amazing quarter later, it’s equally clear that Amazon is increasingly “a computing company with books,” as Quentin Hardy tweeted:Operating income at AWS is > all that retail stuff combined, w/ net sales growing almost 3x faster. It’s a computing company w/ books.— Quentin Hardy (@qhardy) October 22, 2015What’s less obvious is just how big Amazon Web Services has become, in terms of overall value of the business. Logging $2.09 billion in its latest quarter, AWS is on a $8 billion run-rate, booming 78% year over year. So, if AWS were a standalone company, what would it be worth? Roughly $70 billion.$70 Billion Might Be The Conservative EstimateThat number comes from The Wall Street Journal’s financial editor, Dennis Berman:If you valued Amazon Web Services’ $8 billion in revenue at prevailing multiples, you’d have a $70 billion standalone company. $AMZN— Dennis K. Berman (@dkberman) October 22, 2015But, it’s worth noting, it could be much, much higher. As EchoSign co-founder Jason Lemkin notes,  Buddy Media, a cloudy SaaS (“software as a service”) company growing at roughly the same pace as Amazon (albeit on much lower revenues), was acquired at a 20X valuation multiple. That would put AWS’ valuation at $160 billion. Pretty heady stuff.Closer to earth, SAP acquired SaaS company Successfactors at a roughly 10X valuation multiple. That would put AWS at $80 billion. See also: Amazon To Everyone: You’re Toast If we leave the enterprise software (SaaS or otherwise) world behind, and focus on companies that get a big multiple based on their potential to grow fast and completely change industries and the world, we get companies like Facebook (24X, putting AWS at $192 billion) and Twitter (14X, or $114 billion in AWS valuation terms).The actual valuation for Amazon doesn’t matter that much. What’s much more interesting is how much value Amazon is giving its customers. Why Amazon Is WinningTwo years ago VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger declared, “We all lose if they end up in these commodity public clouds.” But it’s clear the only losers are the companies that persist in trying to “extend our franchise from the private cloud into the public cloud and uniquely enable our customers with the benefits of both,” as Gelsinger went on to say. Those companies include Oracle, IBM, and other legacy heavyweights with mountains of cash to fund a shift to cloud, yet with very little to show for their investments.  They blame currency fluctuations and other “headwinds,” but Amazon deals with those same headwinds and has grown at a torrid pace. It would be easy to lamely say, as these companies have, that “change is hard!” But Microsoft, with tens of billions of cash at stake in its legacy businesses, is seeing soaring demand for its Azure public cloud, which saw Azure revenue and compute usage double year over year. Because, you know, Microsoft isn’t just trying to stick a cloud label on its legacy business. It’s actually building a serious rival to AWS, and in the process has more than doubled the cloud platform progress of Oracle, SAP, HP, and IBM. It’s All Public CloudLet me make this clear: Public cloud is winning, and in a massive way. Only AWS and Microsoft Azure are credible contenders today, because they’re the only two building serious public clouds designed for developer productivity rather than ways to keep customers tied to their outdated and outmoded products. Today AWS is worth close to half the value of IBM’s ($141 billion) or Oracle’s ($161 billion) entire businesses, will shortly displace SAP ($92 billion), and already exceeds that of HP ($53 billion). It’s only going to get worse for these titans, because AWS promises a different, better way to think about enterprise software. But for customers and developers, things are just going to keep getting better. Lead photo by Steve Jurvetson  Related Posts Matt Asay How Intelligent Data Addresses the Chasm in Cloud Serverless Backups: Viable Data Protection for …center_img Cloud Hosting for WordPress: Why Everyone is Mo… Tags:#Amazon#Amazon cloud#Amazon Web Services#AWS#HP#IBM#Microsoft Azure#Oracle#public cloud Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostinglast_img read more

What NSF’s new diversity grants say about attempts to help minority students

first_img By Jeffrey MervisSep. 14, 2018 , 11:50 AM Nima ShahabShahmir/Green Bank Observatory Students design, construct, and test radio telescopes at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia under a National Science Foundation grant. Ted Hodapp has spent the past 5 years helping boost the number of minority students pursuing U.S. graduate degrees in physics. But Hodapp, who works on education and diversity issues at the American Physical Society in College Park, Maryland, knows the society’s Bridge Program will at best make only a small dent in the nationwide dearth of blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans working in all science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. He wanted an opportunity to show that Bridge’s approach—which starts by encouraging graduate schools to de-emphasize scores on the standardized GRE entrance exam in the student selection process—could work in other STEM disciplines and, in doing so, promote the value of diversity in U.S. higher education.Last week, the National Science Foundation (NSF) in Alexandria, Virginia, gave Hodapp $10 million to make that happen. The grant was one of six 5-year awards that the agency announced on 6 September under its new Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) initiative, which NSF Director France Córdova rolled out in 2016 as one of her priorities. The $57 million outlay marks NSF’s first major investment in INCLUDES. The five Alliances, as NSF calls them, will allow STEM educators to scale up existing diversity efforts by partnering with like-minded businesses, schools, nonprofit organizations, and local and state governments. The goal is to tear down disciplinary, geographic, and cultural barriers that hinder efforts to promote broader participation in STEM. (NSF also made a $10 million award to SRI International in Menlo Park, California, to coordinate activities and carry out research across all the alliances.)center_img Removing a barrierFor Hodapp, the new grant means extending Bridge—which includes remedial training, mentoring, and other means of support—to graduate training programs in chemistry, astronomy, the geosciences, and material sciences. He’ll be working with the professional societies in those fields, as well as other academics, in hopes of revising graduate admissions practices at departments throughout the country.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)“A major research university might get 600 applications for 30 slots, and maybe 350 of the students would do just fine,” he says. “So how do you choose? As a first cut, many use the GRE, which is not a good indicator of success and also puts women and racial minorities at a disadvantage.”In 2013, Hodapp found six universities willing to abandon that simplistic metric and welcome a dozen deserving students with low GRE scores, most of them minorities, who had either been rejected by other programs or who considered it pointless to even apply. Five years later, 38 departments are on board, 168 students are pursuing advanced degrees, the retention rate is 87%, and the program expects its first cohort of Ph.D.s to graduate next spring.Surging enrollment, Hodapp says, puts the Bridge program within reach of its goal of halting the steep attrition rates in physics between undergraduate and graduate training and, simultaneously, doubling the annual number of black, Hispanic, and Native American students earning a physics Ph.D. Hodapp hopes the new Alliance grant, dubbed the Inclusive Graduate Education Network, will produce similar numbers across the physical sciences.The NSF three-stepINCLUDES is the latest addition to NSF’s $925 million stable of diversity programs, which range from elementary school through postdoctoral training and beyond. They are not meant to be mutually exclusive; Hodapp, for example, received a $3 million NSF grant in 2012 to launch Bridge. At the same time, INCLUDES reflects Córdova’s conviction that the only way to make a dent in this seemingly intractable problem is to enlist many sectors of society for the long haul.“The design and focus of INCLUDES is on collaborative partnerships, communications, sustainability, and scale,” says Sylvia James, who leads the Human Resource Development division within NSF’s education directorate. “We’re looking for unique approaches that can integrate NSF’s investment in broadening participation.”“It’s one of NSF’s 10 big ideas,” James adds. “So there’s a 10-year plan for it in our budget.”The distinctiveness of the INCLUDES Alliance program is reflected in how NSF structured the awards. Instead of just asking the community for its best ideas, NSF officials pursued a three-step process.It began with a 2016 call for proposals for pilot grants that would give scientists the chance to test their ideas. NSF received several hundred proposals and chose 70 of these 2-year, $300,000 grants in two rounds of funding.The foundation’s second step was to bankroll a dozen conferences so that the lead scientists on the pilot grants could find soulmates. The idea was to broaden the scope and size of the pilots. It hoped those intellectual marriages would spawn more comprehensive and sophisticated proposals for one of the large Alliance grants. To ensure continuity, each Alliance application had to include a principal investigator from at least one of the pilots.In the end, NSF received 27 Alliance applications, and funded five. That’s twice the number NSF suggested it would fund in the solicitation, James notes, a testament to the high quality of the proposals and the willingness of other NSF directorates and programs to chip in. Applications for a second round of Alliance grants are due in April 2019.An unplanned tiltPreparing a diverse STEM workforce requires engaging students at all levels. But the first round of Alliance winners is skewed toward higher education, specifically, running from 2-year community colleges through graduate training.In addition to Hodapp’s project, NSF gave $10 million to the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, based in Washington, D.C., and the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. They are pursuing a three-pronged attempt to improve the skills of STEM faculty members at dozens of universities in mentoring minority students, grow the ranks of minority STEM faculty, and promote diversity throughout academia. Another $10 million Alliance award, based at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, will help community college students in California and three other states overcome deficits in math as the first step into a STEM major. A fourth $10 million Alliance grant, based at the University of Texas in El Paso, will support expansion of a 12-year-old computing alliance among academic institutions that serve a large number of Hispanic students.The absence of any Alliances focused on precollege or informal science education “was not intentional,” James says. “These projects rose to the top during our merit review process. We’re definitely interested in K-12 and we hope to provide support to that sector in subsequent awards that would complement our first cohort.”Matchmaking woesBecause K-12 education in the United States is largely a local and state responsibility, scientists with pilot grants focused on that population faced a higher bar in trying to build coalitions and attract other partners. April Marchetti, a chemistry professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia, ran into that challenge in when she tried to recruit partners for an Alliance proposal.The pilot project offers a summer STEM program for Hispanic girls starting high school, with the goal of bringing them back in subsequent years to provide a glide path for their entry into college and a STEM career. Marchetti had already forged ties with STEM-based companies and other employers of STEM workers, and she hoped an Alliance grant would strengthen those ties and provide additional student support. But like-minded programs were scarce.“We couldn’t find a suitable partner in time for the [Alliance] deadline,” she says “There are so many populations to be served, and so many types of interventions. We want to continue to be part of INCLUDES, but we don’t want to have to change our focus.”Marchetti was able to parlay a chance meeting at one of the NSF conferences into a consultant’s role with a fifth new Alliance. Led by Erica Harvey, a chemistry professor at Fairmont State College in West Virginia, the First2 STEM Success Network will work with students from rural West Virginia, many of them the first in their families to attend college. The $7 million project hopes to reduce the steep outflow from STEM fields in the first 2 years of college with an array of activities designed to cement a student’s interest in science and engineering by showing its relevance to their lives.Harvey was co–principal investigator on a pilot project led by Sue Ann Heatherly, senior education officer at the Green Bank Observatory in rural West Virginia. The radio telescope, built by NSF, had long served as a magnet for STEM educators throughout the state seeking research opportunities for their students. The pilot provided rising freshmen with a 2-week summer program at one of the two institutions, and the Alliance hopes to build out that successful trial.The West Virginia Alliance has an unusually diverse group of partners assembled in large part to satisfy an NSF requirement that all projects include an institutional “backbone” to coordinate activities and to work with NSF and the other Alliance programs. That capacity and expertise already exists at most major research universities and large nonprofit organizations. But it was a significant obstacle for the grassroots operation run by Heatherly and Harvey.“I’m a chemistry professor, and I have my hands full running the internships along with everything else I do,” Harvey says. “It had never occurred to us that it’s worth paying for the infrastructure needed to provide that type of continuity and accountability.”So Heatherly and Harvey reached out to a state entity, the Higher Education Policy Commission. The commission was already managing an NSF-funded program, the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, to help states with relatively small amounts of federal research funding, and was eager to come on board. The scientists also enlisted SRI International as a “mentor backbone” to help the commission climb the learning curve.Bending the barsHowever, some scientists with pilot grants found the backbone component to be an insurmountable hurdle.Jannette Carey, a chemistry professor at Princeton University, and a few colleagues have been running a science education program in the New Jersey prison system for a dozen years with more than 100 student volunteers. She used the pilot, dubbed STEPS (Scholarship and Transformative Education in Prisons) to STEM, to add additional offerings, including a first-ever laboratory course, as stepping stones toward a 4-year degree for prisoners after they are released. “But as a volunteer organization,” she says, “we couldn’t meet the requirement for the infrastructure needed to collaborate and communicate with other organizations and institutions.”Her own attempts at matchmaking also proved a disappointment. “We went to the conferences in hopes of finding partners who had a realistic chance of submitting a credible proposal,” Carey says. “But none of the other pilots shared our goals of bringing university-level courses into a prison.” A last-minute partnership with another pilot grantee that focuses on improving the math skills of underrepresented minorities failed to make the initial cut, she says.Carey has a good sense of what passes muster at NSF, having run an NSF-funded program to provide research experiences for undergraduates (REU) in biophysics for several years. And she hasn’t abandoned the idea of gaining additional NSF support for something that occupies a unique niche in the agency’s portfolio of efforts to reach underrepresented populations.That hope is embodied in her latest proposal. She’s asking that her next REU grant allow her to work with students in all fields that NSF supports, not just in the physics, mathematics, engineering, and computer science programs that relate to biophysics. It’s an essential step in meeting the needs of this underserved population, she argues.“A lot of formerly incarcerated students gravitate toward psychology, sociology, political science, economics, and other disciplines in the social sciences,” she says. “So including them could make an important contribution to growing the STEM workforce.” What NSF’s new diversity grants say about attempts to help minority studentslast_img read more

Frequent inbreeding may have caused skeletal abnormalities in early humans

first_img Erik Trinkaus Early humans faced countless challenges as they fanned out of Africa: icy conditions, saber-tooth cats, and, according to a new study of ancient skeletons, an unusually high number of birth defects, both debilitating and relatively inconsequential. It’s unclear why such abnormalities seem to be so common, but scientists say one strong possibility is rampant inbreeding among small hunter-gatherer groups.“This paper represents a valuable compilation,” says Vincenzo Formicola, an anthropologist at the University of Pisa in Italy who wasn’t involved in the new work. “Many cases reported in the list were unknown to me and, I assume, to many people working in the field.”Many human fossils from the Pleistocene (roughly 2.5 million B.C.E. to 9700 B.C.E.) have unusual features. For example, femur bones with abnormal bowing have been found from China to the Czech Republic. The skull of a toddler found in the Qafzeh cave in Israel had a swollen braincase consistent with hydrocephalus, a condition in which fluid floods the skull. And a fossilized man in Liguria in Italy had a bowed right upper arm bone but a normal left one.Sign up for our daily newsletterGet more great content like this delivered right to you!Country *AfghanistanAland IslandsAlbaniaAlgeriaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBolivia, Plurinational State ofBonaire, Sint Eustatius and SabaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of theCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’IvoireCroatiaCubaCuraçaoCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuatemalaGuernseyGuineaGuinea-BissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsle of ManIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJerseyJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontenegroMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorwayOmanPakistanPalestinianPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRWANDASaint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da CunhaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Martin (French part)Saint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and the GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbiaSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSint Maarten (Dutch part)SlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and the South Sandwich IslandsSouth SudanSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwanTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-LesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuela, Bolivarian Republic ofVietnamVirgin Islands, BritishWallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabweI also wish to receive emails from AAAS/Science and Science advertisers, including information on products, services and special offers which may include but are not limited to news, careers information & upcoming events.Required fields are included by an asterisk(*)By and large, these were viewed as one-off curiosities. But Erik Trinkaus, a paleoanthropologist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, noticed a pattern: These skeletal deformations seemed to be suspiciously common in the fossil record.So Trinkaus did the math. He assembled data on 66 individuals with skeletal abnormalities mostly dating to the past 200,000 years. The fossils, most from young adults, were found in sites scattered throughout the Middle East and Eurasia and represent several different species of Homo. Trinkaus then researched how common their conditions are in modern human populations.He found that about two-thirds of the ancient abnormalities occur in less than 1% of modern humans. Another dozen or so didn’t match any known modern developmental disorder. Trinkaus ran the odds that archaeologists would have uncovered so many ancient abnormalities by chance, and he found that it would have been a “truly, vanishingly small probability.” That suggests, he reports today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that early humans faced some cultural or environmental pressure that led to so many deformities.One possibility, previously proposed by other researchers: Ancient people with skeletal deformities might have been seen as shamans and given careful burials, making their bodies more likely to be preserved and later found. Another: Pregnant mothers didn’t get enough of the right nutrients, leading to more skeletal disorders. But Trinkaus notes that, whereas some skeletal disorders like rickets affect the whole body, many skeletons were found with deformities on only one side of the body. He also says many fossils in his analysis show no evidence of special rites.However, several bodies show abnormalities consistent with known genetic mutations, and multiple individuals from at least one site exhibited several different conditions, suggesting the people might be related. It’s thought that most human populations at the time were small and isolated, Trinkaus says. In those conditions, inbreeding can lead to widespread harmful genetic mutations.Evidence of low genetic diversity among Pleistocene humans based on ancient DNA analysis also supports this hypothesis, says Hallie Buckley, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. “Of all the arguments put forward … this seems the most likely explanation.”Further analysis of ancient DNA at these sites might confirm inbreeding, but prepping samples for such investigations often means destroying them. “Ancient DNA has become increasingly viewed as a ‘magic bullet’ to shoot at any question about past human populations, but that may not always be justified,” Buckley says.Siân Halcrow, Buckley’s colleague at the University of Otago, says that although she appreciates Trinkaus’s thorough cataloging, his paper has several weaknesses, most notably in its estimates of how common these abnormalities are in modern people—and how common they used to be. It would be better to compare the ancient rates to later populations in prehistory or early historic populations, she says, but unfortunately those data don’t exist.No matter the cause, many of the deformities would have been debilitating. The fact that so many survived past childhood suggests early humans must have offered each other social support and medical knowhow, Trinkaus says. For example, although hydrocephaly is rarely a death sentence thanks to modern treatment, it can easily be fatal if left untreated. “The Qefzeh child with hydrocephaly lived until about 3 or 4 years old. When you consider it lived 100,000 years ago, that’s pretty amazing.” By Michael PriceNov. 5, 2018 , 3:05 PM These bowed femurs were found (top to bottom) in China’s Tianyuan cave, Russia’s Sunghir burial site, and the Czech Republic’s Dolní Vĕstonice site. Frequent inbreeding may have caused skeletal abnormalities in early humanslast_img read more