Bacteria-run computer solves math puzzle

From Bacteria-Run Computer Solves Math Puzzle.

A new living computer, bred from E. coli bacteria instead of stamped from silica, has for the first time successfully solved a classic mathematical puzzle known as the Burnt Pancake Problem.

While this bacteria-based computer is more proof of concept than practical, a living computer might one day solve complex mathematical problems faster than silicon supercomputers.

"The computing potential of DNA far exceeds that of any other material," said Karmella Haynes, a researcher at Davidson University and lead study author. "If we figure out how to increase that capacity in a practical manner we will have much more computing power." [continue]

A statistical approach to studying genetic variation promises to shed new light on the history of human migration

From Science Daily: A statistical approach to studying genetic variation promises to shed new light on the history of human migration..

Scientists from the University of Oxford and University College Cork have developed a technique that analyses shared parts of chromosomes across the entire human genome. It can give much finer detail than other methods and makes it possible to delve further back in time and identify smaller genetic contributions.

Application of the method has already turned up such surprising findings as a strong Mongolian contribution to the genes of the Native American Pima people and gene flow from the north of Europe to Eastern Siberia. [continue]

Orkney Islanders have Siberian relatives

From The Telegraph: Orkney Islanders have Siberian relatives.

Orkney Islanders are more closely related to people in Siberia and in Pakistan than those in Africa and the near East, according to a novel method to chart human migrations.

The surprising findings come from a new way to infer ancient human movements from the variation of DNA in people today, conducted by a team from the University of Oxford and University College Cork, which has pioneered a technique that analyses the entire human genetic makeup, or genome.

Although it provides relative genetic contributions of one group to another, rather than timings, it confirms how the first modern humans came out of Africa 50,000 years ago, mostly from a group in southern Africa called the San.

But the subsequent movements around the world, via the near east, central Asia and then Europe, turned up some surprises including a strong similarity between the Sindih, a people who once lived in Pakistan, and Orkney Islanders, or Orcadians.

In turn, the Orcadians are closely related to the people who first colonised Siberia. [continue]

Genetics confirm oral traditions of Druze in Israel

From Science Daily: Genetics Confirm Oral Traditions Of Druze In Israel.

DNA analysis of residents of Druze villages in Israel suggests these ancient religious communities offer a genetic snapshot of the Near East as it was several thousands of years ago.

The Druze harbor a remarkable diversity of mitochondrial DNA types or lineages that appear to have separated from each other many thousands of years ago, according to a new study by multinational team, led by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology Rappaport School of Medicine.

But instead of dispersing throughout the world after their separation, the full range of lineages can still be found within the small, tightly knit Druze population.

Technion researcher Karl Skorecki noted that the findings are consistent with Druze oral tradition suggesting the adherents came from diverse ancestral lineages "stretching back tens of thousands of years." The Druze represent a "genetic sanctuary" or "living relic" that provides a glimpse of the genetic diversity of the Near East in antiquity, the researchers write in the May 7th issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

But there is a modern twist to their story: [continue]

Iceman’s family found

From the Vancouver Sun: Iceman’s family found.

Sisters Sheila Clark and Pearl Callaghan of Whitehorse clutched each other’s hands and blinked back tears Friday as they talked about their ancestor Kwaday Dan Ts’inchi, better known as Long Ago Person Found.

Eight days ago, 17 aboriginal people from northern B.C., Yukon and Alaska were told that DNA testing has proved they are direct descendants of the iceman.

The body of the young aboriginal man was found in 1999 by three hunters at the foot of a melting glacier in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park, part of the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. [continue]

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Viking blood in England

From Science Daily: Viking Blood Courses Through Veins Of Many A Northwest Englander.

The blood of the Vikings is still coursing through the veins of men living in the North West of England — according to a new study.

Focusing on the Wirral in Merseyside and West Lancashire the study of 100 men, whose surnames were in existence as far back as medieval times, has revealed that 50 per cent of their DNA is specifically linked to Scandinavian ancestry.

The collaborative study, by The University of Nottingham, the University of Leicester and University College London, reveals that the population in parts of northwest England carries up to 50 per cent male Norse origins, about the same as modern Orkney.

I loved the place name section of this article:

After their expulsion from Dublin in 902AD the Wirral Vikings, initially led by the Norwegian Viking INGIMUND, landed in their boats along the north Wirral coastline. Place names still reflect the North West’s Viking past. Aigburth, Formby, Crosby, Toxteth, Croxteth are all Viking names — even the football team Tranmere is Viking. Thingwall is the name of a Viking parliament or assembly (Thingvellir in Iceland) and the only two in England are both in the North West — one in Wirral and one in Liverpool. [continue]

DNA indicates lice reached Americas before Columbus

From the New York Times: DNA Indicates Lice Reached Americas Before Columbus.

When two pre-Columbian individuals died 1,000 years ago, arid conditions in the region of what is now Peru naturally mummified their bodies, down to the head lice in their long, braided hair.

This was all scientists needed, they reported Wednesday, to extract well-preserved louse DNA and establish that the parasites had accompanied their human hosts in the original peopling of the Americas, probably as early as 15,000 years ago. The DNA matched that of the most common type of louse known to exist worldwide, now and before European colonization of the New World.

The findings thus absolve Columbus of responsibility for at least one unintended tragic consequence to the well-being of the people he discovered and called Indians. The Europeans may have introduced diseases, most notably smallpox and measles, but not the most common of lice, as had been suspected. [continue]

Team identifies ancient cargo from DNA

From Team IDs ancient cargo from DNA.

For the first time, researchers have identified DNA from inside ceramic containers in an ancient shipwreck on the seafloor, making it possible to determine what the ship’s cargo was even though there was no visible trace of it.

The findings, by a team from MIT, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Lund University in Sweden, are being reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archeological Science.

By scraping samples from inside two of the containers, called amphoras, the researchers were able to obtain DNA sequences that identified the contents of one as olive oil and oregano. The other probably contained wine, and the researchers are conducting further analyses to confirm this. [continue]

Sea floor off Charlottes may explain how people came to the Americas

From the Vancouver Sun: Sea floor off Charlottes may explain how people came to the Americas.

In a Canadian archeological project that could revolutionize understanding of when and how humans first reached the New World, federal researchers in B.C. have begun probing an underwater site off the Queen Charlotte Islands for traces of a possible prehistoric camp on the shores of an ancient lake long since submerged by the Pacific Ocean.

The landmark investigation, led by Parks Canada scientist Daryl Fedje, is seeking evidence to support a contentious new theory about the peopling of the Americas that is gradually gaining support in scholarly circles. It holds that ancient Asian seafarers, drawn on by food-rich kelp beds ringing the Pacific coasts of present-day Russia, Alaska and British Columbia, began populating this hemisphere thousands of years before the migration of Siberian big-game hunters — who are known to have travelled across the dried up Bering Strait and down an ice-free corridor east of the Rockies as the last glaciers began retreating about 13,000 years ago.

The earlier maritime migrants are thought to have plied the coastal waters of the North Pacific in sealskin boats, moving in small groups.

Over many generations, they migrated from their traditional homelands in the Japanese islands or elsewhere along Asia’s eastern seaboard.

Interest in the theory — which is profiled in the latest edition of New Scientist magazine by Canadian science writer Heather Pringle — has been stoked by recent DNA studies [continue]

Medici writers exhumed in Italy

From the BBC: Medici writers exhumed in Italy.

The bodies of two famous Italian literary figures from the 15th Century have been exhumed from St Mark’s Basilica in Florence.

Scientists want to learn more about their lives and find out what caused their deaths.

Pico della Mirandola, a humanist philosopher, and the scholar and poet Angelo Ambrosini, known as Poliziano, both died in Florence in 1494.

They belonged to the court of the powerful Medici family.

Pico della Mirandola is believed to have been poisoned, but this has never been confirmed.

Now, DNA analysis of his bones could establish beyond doubt whether this story is true or not. [continue]

DNA testing to uncover Czech noble mysteries

From DNA testing to uncover Czech noble mysteries.

DNA testing will be used in a unique scientific project to solve a more than thousand-year mystery over the noble occupants of Dark Age graves in Prague castle, a team of Czech specialists announced on Tuesday.

DNA tests on remains from 19 bodies, thought to belong to the Czech noble Premyslid family, considered the founders of the Bohemian kingdom who ruled the country for 400 years, will be used to determine who is who. In parallel, 50-70 tests will be carried out on remains from ordinary graves found around the ancient castle site. [continue]

Researchers tinker with bacteria to store data

From Researchers tinker with bacteria to store data.

These days, data get stored on disks, computer chips, hard drives and good old-fashioned paper. Scientists in Japan see something far smaller but more durable — bacteria.

The four characters — T, C, A and G — that represent the genetic coding in DNA work much like digital data.

Character combinations can stand for specific letters and symbols — so codes in genomes can be translated, or read, to produce music, text, video and other content.

While ink may fade and computers may crash, bacterial information lasts as long as a species stays alive — possibly a mind-boggling million years – according to Professor Masaru Tomita, who heads the team of researchers at Keio University. [continue]

How goat skin DNA solved Dead Sea scrolls mystery

From the Jerusalem Post: How goat skin DNA solved Dead Sea scrolls mystery.

Scientists at the Hebrew University’s Koret School for Veterinary Science near Rishon Lezion are helping to piece together some of the 10,000 fragments of Dead Sea Scrolls found decades ago in Qumran by examining the DNA profiles of the goats whose skin was used to make the parchment and reducing the number of possible matches.

Dr. Galia Kahila Bar-Gal said during a journalists’ tour at the nearby Hebrew University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where students learn and treat animals, that she and colleagues were looking at genetic forms from each fragment to know which came from specific animals. Once they know that two pieces came from the skin of the same animal, it is easier to piece them together, she said. [continue]

Native American DNA found in UK

From the BBC: Native American DNA found in UK.

DNA testing has uncovered British descendents of Native Americans brought to the UK centuries ago as slaves, translators or tribal representatives.

Genetic analysis turned up two white British women with a DNA signature characteristic of American Indians.

An Oxford scientist said it was extremely unusual to find these DNA lineages in Britons with no previous knowledge of Native American ancestry.

Indigenous Americans were brought over to the UK as early as the 1500s.

Many were brought over as curiosities; but others travelled here in delegations during the 18th Century to petition the British imperial government over trade or protection from other tribes. [continue]

Etruscans: migrants to Italy?

From the New York Times: DNA Boosts Herodotus’ Account of Etruscans as Migrants to Italy.

Geneticists have added an edge to a 2,500-year-old debate over the origin of the Etruscans, a people whose brilliant and mysterious civilization dominated northwestern Italy for centuries until the rise of the Roman republic in 510 B.C. Several new findings support a view held by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus — but unpopular among archaeologists — that the Etruscans originally migrated to Italy from the Near East. [continue]

Pig study forces rethink of Pacific colonisation

From Pig study forces rethink of Pacific colonisation.

A survey of wild and domestic pigs has caused archaeologists to reconsider both the origins of the first Pacific colonists and the migration routes humans travelled to reach the remote Pacific.

Scientists from Durham University and the University of Oxford, studying DNA and tooth shape in modern and ancient pigs, have revealed that, in direct contradiction to longstanding ideas, ancient human colonists may have originated in Vietnam and travelled between numerous islands before first reaching New Guinea, and later landing on Hawaii and French Polynesia.

Using mitochondrial DNA obtained from modern and ancient pigs across East Asia and the Pacific, the researchers demonstrated that a single genetic heritage is shared by modern Vietnamese wild boar, modern feral pigs on the islands of Sumatra, Java, and New Guinea, ancient Lapita pigs in Near Oceania, and modern and ancient domestic pigs on several Pacific Islands. [continue]

Headless bodies hold secrets to Pacific migration

From Headless Bodies Hold Secrets to Pacific Migration.

Archaeologists working on the Pacific islands of Vanuatu have found the region’s oldest cemetery, and it’s filled with a slew of headless bodies.

The peculiar 3,000-year-old skeletons belong to the Lapita people, the earliest known inhabitants of the Pacific Islands. Their DNA could shed light on how the many remote island specks surrounding Vanuatu were colonized, the researchers say.

"Both Vanuatu and Western Polynesia were first settled by the Lapita culture but their populations are somewhat different genetically and this has not yet been explained," said dig leader Matthew Spriggs, an archaeologist with the Australian National University.

The Vanuatu burials—which include mismatching bodies and heads of individuals from different corners of the Pacific Islands—could help explain how everyone eventually ended up where they did, he said. [continue]

English and Irish may be closer than they think

From the International Herald Tribune: English and Irish may be closer than they think.

Britain and Ireland are so thoroughly divided in their histories that there is no single word to refer to the inhabitants of both islands. Historians teach that they are mostly descended from different peoples: the Irish from the Celts and the English from the Anglo-Saxons who invaded from Northern Europe and drove the Celts to the western and northern fringes.

But geneticists who have tested DNA throughout the British Isles are edging toward a different conclusion. Many are struck by the overall genetic similarities, leading some to claim that both Britain and Ireland have been inhabited for thousands of years by a single people that have remained in the majority, with only minor additions from later invaders like Celts, Romans, Angles, Saxons, Vikings and Normans. [continue]

Skull man suffered bad toothache

From the BBC: Skull man suffered bad toothache.

A human skull found in woodland in Buckinghamshire belonged to an 18th Century man with severe toothache.

The skull was found on 7 January by a member of the public walking his dog in Wendover Woods near Aylesbury.

Forensic archaeologists took DNA samples from a tooth and dated the skull between 1757 and 1788.

It belonged to a man aged between 20 and 40 who would have suffered from toothache as there was bone deformation caused by an abscess. [continue]

Poor fellow.

Have you noticed that it’s always people walking their dogs who find these things? When I take our dog for a walk, I tell her Please don’t find any bodies.

Yorkshire clan linked to Africa

From the BBC: Yorkshire clan linked to Africa.

People of African origin have lived in Britain for centuries, according to genetic evidence.

A Leicester University study found that seven men with a rare Yorkshire surname carry a genetic signature previously found only in people of African origin.

The men seem to have shared a common ancestor in the 18th Century, but the African DNA lineage they carry may have reached Britain centuries earlier. [continue]

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