Sharyn McCrumb to Visit Greensboro Public Library

“In Wise County, Virginia, in 1935 a young college girl goes on trial for the murder of her father.  It was the crime of the century, all right.  Sent to cover the trial, a group of unprincipled national journalists assassinated the mountain culture in order to sensationalize the story.  The residual prejudice of their stereotyping exists to this day in every hillbilly joke you’ve ever heard.”

So goes the plot of The Devil Amongst The Lawyers, the latest novel by New York Times  bestselling author Sharyn McCrumb.

Join us at Greensboro Public Library’s Central Branch at 219 N. Church St. for a special evening with Ms. McCrumb on Thursday, July 8th, at 7 PM.  She’ll be discussing her new book, as well as autographing copies. 

For info call 336-373-3617.

Successful Telescope Viewing at Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch!

This is just a brief follow-up to our post on the meteorology/ astronomy program Monday evening at Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch, with special reference to the telescope viewing. 

Three telescopes were set up, two of which belonged to Greensboro Astronomy Club President Stan Rosenberg, who also did an excellent presentation during the meteorology segment of the program, and the Club’s Treasurer, John P. Cory, who brought along a fine long-focus 8 inch reflector which he built himself.  In addition, we set up Kathleen Clay’s 8 inch Dobsonian reflector; the mount was a little shaky and needs some work, but we were able to get some good views of the Moon.

One of the highlights of the evening was a weather balloon, which we just happened to spy over head while viewing the Moon.  Mr. Rosenberg commented that it was only the second one he’d seen in 30 years.  Basically, it looked like a silver orb with a tail flapping around behind it.  Seeing a weather balloon was quite a coincidence, coming just after the branch’s meteorology program! 

As Monday was more or less the longest day of the year, darkness came very late — after nine.  About 9:10 or so we picked up some stars and detected Saturn.  Mr. Cory directed his big reflector at the planet and pushed the magnification up to about 300x with a 6mm eyepiece.  Saturn’s rings are close to edge-on now and quite spectacular!

At any rate, it was a great program and we look forward to doing more.

New Human Species Discovered in Siberia: X-Woman

In a followup to an earlier post, researchers with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have made more than one extraordinary discovery this year.

Just before their recent triumph in sequencing a good bit of the Neandertal genome and producing the startling result that non-Africans have a little Neandertal DNA in them, word came that a Siberian hominid they’ve sequenced is a new species that lived about 30,000 to 48,000 years ago and was thus a contemporary of both modern humans and Neandertals.  And here’s another excellent article on the same topic.

A few years ago, the Neandertals were the only hominids known to be contemporary with Homo sapiens.  Coming on top of the surprising discovery in 2003 of Homo floresiensis, an extinct dwarf hominid or “hobbit” who once flourished upon the Indonesian island of Flores, the discovery of this new Siberian hominid means the list has grown to three in just a few years.  Undoubtedly paleoanthropologists are beginning to wonder what other surprises are in store.

The discovery was made by sequencing the mitochondrial DNA from a small finger bone found during excavations at Denisova Cave, located in the Altai Mountains of Southern Siberia.  The sex of the individual is still unclear, but in some quarters it is being called the “X-Woman.”

Since the Institute’s analysis shows that X-Woman shared a common ancestor with Homo sapiens and Neandertals about 1 million years ago, and this doesn’t coincide with known emigrations from Africa at about 1.9 million (Homo erectus), 500,000 (Homo heidelbergensis > Homo neanderthalensis) and 50,000 (Homo sapiens) years ago, it is therefore believed that the discovery of the X-Woman is evidence of yet another emigration ca. 1,000,000 years ago.

If you’d like to read books about human evolution owned by Greensboro Public Library, check out this previous post.

John Lennon Holograph of “A Day in the Life” Sells for $1.2 Million

Lyrics of the famous Beatles’ song, “A Day in the Life,” written in the hand of John Lennon, brought $1.2 million at a Sotheby’s auction today, MSNBC is reporting.

The song appeared on the Beatles’ influential and critically acclaimed album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” recorded in 1967.  Written with a black felt tip marker and a blue pen with additional annotations in red, the lyrics fill both sides of a double-sided sheet of paper; one side includes Lennon’s first draft, the other apparently his second with corrections including the controversial words, “I’d love to turn you on,” which resulted in a BBC ban of the song owing to the implied association with illegal drug use.

If you’re interested, Greensboro Public Library has plenty of books on the Beatles and John Lennon.  Here are just a few of our most recent acquisitions:  You Never Give Me Your Money:  The Beatles after the Breakup by Peter Doggett (on order); The Cynical Idealist:  A Spiritual Biography of John Lennon by Gary Tillery; John Lennon:  The Life by Philip Norman; Life:  Remembering John Lennon 25 Years Later by the editors of Life Magazine; John Lennon:  All I Want is the Truth:  A Photographic Biography by Elizabeth Partridge (juvenile); The Cambridge Companion to the Beatles, edited by Kenneth Womack; “We’re Going to See the Beatles!”:  An Oral History of Beatlemania as Told by the Fans Who Were There by Garry Berman; Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!:  The Beatles, Beatlemania, and the Music that Changed the World by Bob Spitz; Can’t Buy Me Love:  The Beatles, Britain, and America by Jonathan Gould; Meet the Beatles:  A Cultural History of the Band that Shook Youth, Gender, and the World by Steven D. Stark; Revolver:  The Secret History of The Beatles by Geoffrey Giuliano; The Beatles:  The Biography by Bob Spitz; and The Beatles Come to America by Martin Goldsmith.

Upcoming Runoff Primary, June 22, 2010

A runoff primary will be coming up on June 22, 2010.  The polls will open at 6:30 a. m. and close at 7:30 p. m. If you are not registered to vote already, you will not be able to vote or register and vote on June 22. 

If you are a registered Democrat and were eligible to vote in the May 4 primary, you will be able to vote in this one.  The Democratic contests are for the U. S. Senate and Guilford County Sheriff.

If you are a  registered Republican, were eligible to vote on May 4, AND LIVE IN U. S. HOUSE DISTRICTS 12 OR 13, you will be able to vote in this one.  The Republican contests are in U. S. House Districts 12 and 13.

If you are registered as Unaffiliated, then: If you DID NOT VOTE in the May 4 primary, you can vote in the Democratic primary; or, if you DID NOT VOTE in the May 4 primary,  and IF YOU LIVE IN U. S. HOUSE DISTRICTS 12 OR 13, you can vote in the Republican primary.

If you VOTED A DEMOCRATIC BALLOT IN THE MAY 4 PRIMARY, you must VOTE A DEMOCRATIC BALLOT IN THIS PRIMARY.

If you VOTED A REPUBLICAN BALLOT IN THE MAY 4 PRIMARY and you live in U. S. House districts 12 or13, you must VOTE A REPUBLICAN BALLOT IN THIS PRIMARY.

If you VOTED A NONPARTISAN BALLOT ONLY IN THE MAY 4 PRIMARY, you cannot vote in this primary.

If you are registered as a Libertarian, you cannot vote in this primary.

To see a sample ballot, you can to the the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.  Then, click on Click here for sample ballots.  Next, click on your county.  Finally, ORGUIL1 is the Democratic sample ballot.  ORGUIL3 is the Republican sample ballot for U. S. House District 13. ORGUIL4 is the Republican sample ballot for U. S. House District 12.

To find out your precinct and polling place, you also can use the North Carolina State Board of Elections website.  Once there, click on My Election Information.  Next, put in your first name, last name, date of birth, and county.  Your voter information will come up.  Included will be precinct number and polling place.

As a final note, these other categories of voters will not be able to vote in the June 22 primary: 1) Registered Republicans who live in U. S. House District 6; and 2) Unaffiliated voters who chose the Republican ballot on May 4 and live in U. S. House District 6.

If you are eligible, please vote on June 22 and let your voice be heard!

“Stormy Night,” an Evening of Meteorology at Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch

Please note that we’ll be having a meteorology program at the Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch on Monday night, June 21st, at 7:30 PM.  Sounds like they’ll be doing lots of fun and educational weather-related stuff which the whole family can enjoy.

Also, if weather permits we’ll be pulling out Kathleen Clay’s big reflecting telescope.  I tested it out on the Moon last night, and the view was pretty impressive!  In fact, I think it’s quite likely we’ll have two telescopes set-up for all you star-gazers.    

Hope to see you there!

Unemployment Down Again in N.C.

Just a brief note here that North Carolina’s unemployment rate was down for May to 10.3%, the News and Record reported today.

This is the third straight month of declines since February’s 11.2%.  

As for the national picture, the jobless rate dropped to 9.7%, a decline of .2% versus April, but, according to this MSNBC article, this may be attributable to the fact that lots of folks have simply given up looking.

As always, if you’re looking for work, please remember Greensboro Public Library’s job search page.

Italians 85% Sure They’ve Found Caravaggio’s Remains

In a brief followup to an an earlier post on the search for Caravaggio’s bones, MSNBC is reporting that the team which last year recovered remains thought to belong to the great artist has completed their analysis and announced they have a likely candidate — but they can’t be absolutely sure.  

‘There can’t be the scientific certainty because when one works on ancient DNA, it is degraded,’ Giorgio Gruppioni, an anthropologist on the team, told The Associated Press.  ‘But only in one set of bones did we find all the elements necessary for it to be Caravaggio’s — age, period in which he died, gender, height.’

Caravaggio (full-name Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, (1571–1610), is considered to have been the last of the great Italian Renaissance artists.  His works, known especially for their dark chiaroscuro style, are credited with inspiring the Baroque period of the late 16th-18th centuries.  Others are intrigued by his troubled and tormented personal life, while some believe Caravaggio was the first truly modern painter.

2010, a Good Year for Neandertals

A few posts back, we wrote on the publication in Science of DNA evidence that Neandertals (or Neanderthals) interbred with modern humans and that non-Africans have a bit of Neandertal DNA in them.

This raised my curiosity about our cave-dwelling ancestors and led me to read a very interesting survey of the history of paleoanthropology (i.e., the study of ancient humans) called The Neandertals:  Changing the Image of Mankind by Erik Trinkaus and Pat Shipman.  These authors make it quite clear that there has been plenty of back-and-forth among scholars over the relationship between modern humans (Homo sapiens) and Homo neanderthalensis, dating back to the first discovery of a Neandertal skull cap and other bones in a cave in Germany’s Neander Valley in 1856.

For example, during the last couple of decades, and bolstered by DNA evidence, the so-called “out of Africa hypothesis” advocating total replacement of Neandertals by modern humans has gained sway.  But this theory is opposed by another theory called multiregionalism, which emphasizes continuity through gene flow, i.e., interbreeding.

The recent finding of DNA evidence that Neandertals interbred with sapiens indicates at minimum that total replacement is unfounded and that the “out of Africa” hypothesis will need some modification, since Neandertals are unknown outside Europe and Western and Central Asia.

But as I learned from Trinkhaus and Shipman, the originator of the “out of Africa” theory, a German named Günter Bräuer, argued as early as the 1970s, based upon his study of late archaic hominids in Africa,

that modern Homo sapiens had arisen initially in Africa and migrated outward to populate the rest of the world.  Humans . . . moved northward into Europe and westward across the continent, until they encountered and hybridized with Neandertals. . . .  Consequently, he [Bräuer] believed that Neandertals were not replaced entirely by modern humans, for they had left some genetic contribution to future generations.  [emphasis added]

Nearly four decades ago Bräuer thus seems to have anticipated a theoretical position that fits quite well with the recent finding of interbreeding made by the Max Planck Institute, as they map the Neandertal genome.

But this isn’t the only recent finding of great import about Neandertals.  Earlier this year, archaeologists working in Southeastern Spain led by João Zilhão published evidence that Neandertals used painted seashells decoratively and symbolically.  It had previously been believed that Neandertals adopted body ornamentation from Cro-Magnons (the first anatomically modern humans), who are believed to have begun having contact with Neandertals about 40,000 years ago, but Zilhão’s team found a paint-decorated shell dated to 50,000 years ago, as many as 10,000 years before Cro-Magnons would have arrived in Europe.  This suggests that Neandertals had a capability for symbolic thought that was not previously understood.

Zilhão also believes he now has dating evidence for “evolutionarily significant admixture” between Neandertals and modern humans, what is known as the “Ebro Frontier” model which suggests widespread interbreeding of the two in Iberia before Neandertals died out there about 37,000 years ago, based largely upon the anatomical features of a four year-old child (known as the Lapedo Child) unearthed at the Lagar Velho, Portugal, and estimated to be about 24,000 years old, which exhibits “a mosaic” of Neandertal and modern features.  Remains found at the Isreali sites of Skhul and Qafzeh in the 1930s are also believed to be anatomically modern humans with some Neandertal features.

So, one might say it has been a rather good year for Neandertals, as it seems they’re looking more human with just about each new discovery these days.

Nonetheless, as Trinkaus and Shipman describe in their book, we’ve been through this before.  In the early twentieth century, for example, most paleoanthropologists thought of Neandertals as another species entirely different from Homo sapiens.  By the 1960s, however, they had been rehabilitated and humanized as “the first flower children” by an archaeologist who studied Neandertal remains at an Iraqi site called Shanidar, only to once again be cast into otherness by the “out of Africa” hypothesis and its advocates, such as Chris Stringer, ca. 1990, supported by strong mitochondrial DNA evidence indicating a fairly recent African origin for modern humans — until of course the discovery of interbreeding with Neandertals published in May.

But no doubt the pendulum will swing back again.

At any rate, if you’d like to read more about human evolution, try some of the books from this previous post.

President to Address Nation on BP Oil Catastrophe

With the BP oil disaster in the Gulf reaching epic proportions, President Obama will be visiting Alabama, Mississippi and Florida today, and plans an Oval Office address to the nation Tuesday night, MSNBC reports.

The partially contained leak is now believed to be as much as 40,000 barrels per day — previous estimates were much lower — and oil is beginning to come ashore as far away as Florida.  If the true extent of the still unfolding disaster was unclear before, the grim polluting of Pensacola’s beautiful white sands this last week leaves little doubt that the Gulf faces an event of unprecedented magnitude.

You can view BP’s live video feed of the leak here.

One possible positive outcome from this disaster may be a heightened awareness of environmental issues.  I know that as I’ve read a book on England’s anti-technology, machine-smashing Luddite movement of the early 19th century during the last couple of weeks, I’ve again and again been reminded of how our thirst for petroleum has brought us to the brink of self-destruction and wondered if Americans didn’t need something like a neo-Luddite movement of their own.

If you’d like to learn more about environmentalism, the Green Movement, sustainability and conservation, please keep in mind that Greensboro Public Library has lots of books which may interest you.  Here are just a few recent titles:  True Green Life in 100 Everyday Ways by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin; Shift Your Habit:  Easy Ways to Save Money, Simplify Your Life, and Save the Planet by Elizabeth Rogers with Colleen Howell; S is for Save the Planet:  A How-to-be Green Alphabet by Brad Herzog (juvenile); Whole Green Catalog:  1,000 Best Things for You and the Earth, edited by Michael W. Robbins; Ed Begley, Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living:  Learning to Conserve Resources and Manage an Eco-conscious Life by Ed Begley; Green Guide Families:  The Complete Reference for Eco-friendly Parents by Catherine Zandonella; Do One Green Thing:  Save the Earth Through Simple, Everyday Choices by Mindy Pennybacker; Protecting the Planet:  Environmental Activism by Pamela Dell (juvenile); Tree Spiker: From Earth First! to Lowbagging:  My Struggles in Radical Environmental Action by Mike Roselle with Josh Mahan; True Green Kids:  100 Things You Can Do to Save the Planet by Kim McKay and Jenny Bonnin (juvenile); A Passion for Nature:  The Life of John Muir by Donald Worster; Essential Muir, edited with an introduction by Fred D. White; and The Essential Green You: Easy Ways to Detox Your Diet, Your Body, and Your Life by Deirdre Imus. 

Also, please know that resources on the environment and conservation are a specialty of our Kathleen Clay Edwards Family Branch, located at beautiful Price Park.