I reviewed four new science books for The New York Times. They span millions of years, beginning with the birth of humanity and ending with a serious look at AI.
Can a language really be raised from the dead? I don't think so, but this piece has some good information about what it looks like to try.
Mark Cawardine, who co-wrote Last Chance to See with Douglas Adams, has a piece in this week's New Scientist on the Yangtze river dolphin. The overall picture remains grim, though Cawardine does mention a possible recent sighting in August. New Scientist.
Of the many possible explanations for the demise of the Neandertals (competition with humans, sex with humans and being folded into our genome, infection from humans, climate), researchers say in this week's Nature that climate can now be ruled out. A massive project at The University of Leeds examined three possible extinction dates for our sister species. They compared the dates with a deep-sea core drilled from the Cariaco Basin in Venezuela and found that in two cases there was no change in the weather, and in the last case, an encroaching cold change was 1000 years in the making--not the kind of cataclysmic event that would extinguish a species overnight.
The Yangtze River dolphin, so memorably sought by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine in Last Chance to See, has been declared extinct. A 2000-mile survey of the river in December didn't sight any of the delicate mammals. Noise and other pollution from humans is thought to be responsible. Time, Slashdot.