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DNA Research

Date: 07-09-12
Host: George Noory
Guests: Bryan Sykes, Seth Shostak

Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford since 1997, Bryan Sykes, discussed some of his fascinating DNA research findings, including his study of American genetics. The United States' population contains a convergence of DNA from a number of continents, with interesting crossovers such as some African Americans having European genes. According to earlier research (not done by Skyes), Native Americans actually originated from Siberia, China, and even Europe, but the DNA blood testing that yielded these results was done without their consent, and thus raised controversy and ire, he detailed. Interestingly, some people from Britain have been found to have Native American genes, he added.

Sykes described his work on the "Seven Daughters of Eve." Astonishingly, almost everyone in Europe has mitochondrial (maternal) DNA they inherited from one of seven actual women who lived between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago. Additionally, there are "36 maternal ancestors spread throughout the world," he noted. It's suspected that Genghis Khan also established a legacy, with his particular Y chromosome shared among some 15 million males in Asia. The Y (male) chromosome in general has been subject to more degeneration and mutation than the X (female) chromosome, and if this continues males might eventually become extinct, he warned.

In his latest project, Sykes is doing DNA testing of suspected Yeti and Bigfoot hair samples in tandem with the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. So far, some of the samples have turned out to be from bears. If the results indicate an unknown species, he said could compare DNA sequences and place the species somewhere on the evolutionary tree, such as between chimps and humans. Recent evidence has shown that in addition to Neanderthals, there were other human-type species living concurrently with homo sapiens, and Sykes posited that Bigfoot and Yeti might be "small relic populations of these other human species."

SETI Update

First hour guest, SETI astronomer Seth Shostak spoke about SETI's latest targets which are mostly in the constellation Cygnus-- mirroring the direction the Kepler Telescope is looking in for planets that might be Earth-like. He believes Kepler will find such planets in the next few years, and that they might not be particularly rare. He also reacted to Stephen Hawking's concern over the risks in contacting an alien civilization. Shostak noted that because we've been broadcasting various signals such as FM and radar for decades which go out into space, aliens could already be aware of us, regardless of whether we intentionally try to contact them or not.

News segment guests Lauren Weinstein, Tim Conway

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