November 2007

Redhead NeandertalA recent paper in Science used genetic analysis of ancient Neandertal DNA to show that at least some individuals had red hair and fair skin (similar to their modern European counterparts). The researchers were able to extract a pigmentation gene, mc1r, from the bones of two Neandertals (one from Spain, the other Italy).

The picture at right is a reconstruction of what a Neandertal who possessed these particular genes would have looked like.

The same researchers also recently isolated the FOXP2 gene from Neandertals, and showed that it was identical to modern humans. The FOXP2 gene is one of the genes known to play a major role in speech and language. Since the Neandertals had an identical version of this gene, they may well have had the capacity for speech.

macbeth 1The boys and I went to see a production of Macbeth this past Sunday. It was by the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, based in Ellicott City, MD. The venue is a small theater (seats about 100). Acoustics are good, and I didn’t have any problem hearing the actors. It didn’t hurt, I guess, that we were in the front row. :) lady macbeth

The actor playing Banquo came out into the lobby before the play and using pictures and diagrams he explained the play to the kids. I like that part, since it at least gives them a fighting chance to understand what is going on (since even I have a hard time following spoken Shakespeare; an eight-year-old gets lost quickly). The play was very well-performed. I hadn’t seen Macbeth performed before so I can’t compare it to a like performance, but this acting company is excellent. If you can’t make it to Macbeth before it ends in December, I can definitely recommend any other productions by this company – I’ve been to 3 or 4 now and have never been disappointed.