Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Pterodactyl Stork

"Now I need an adventurous female human."
—A Harvard geneticist would like to bring back Neanderthals, in case you're looking for something to do, and/or your biological clock is more like an ancient sundial.

81 Comments / Post A Comment


All Adventurous Female Humans Do


very well made and entertaining@t


Um is there seriously no ethical barrier to this? Who's going to raise the child? WTF?

Dances With Nerds

@iceberg I can't imagine an IRB in the entire world that would give approval to it, as interesting as it would be.

fondue with cheddar

@Emily Chapman@twitter The only thing I could see getting approved maybe is if they just study the fetal development and terminate the pregnancy before birth. But even that's a big "IF".


It sounds like the premise of some terrible sitcom where a family has a neanderthal who has to fit in with all the other teenagers but proves he's just as human as the rest of us ...

But no, really, they would have to approach it with the sensitivity of creating the first test tube baby because Baby Neanderthal is likely to have it kind of rough.


@teaandcakeordeath You mean Encino Man?


"If you liked Wayne's World, you'll love Encino Man!"

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@iceberg Dude, you know they're just going to have the female gestate, then once that baby is born, it would be subjected to tests for the rest of its miserable life. "But it's not human! It's basically like testing an animal!" Ugh.


Thank you for introducing me to Encino Man!


@teaandcakeordeath Unfrozen Caveman Fetus


@teaandcakeordeath It's a classic! <3 the ridiculousness!

fondue with cheddar

Wow...from an ethical standpoint I don't think this is such a great idea, but at the same time the prospect is really exciting. MIXED FEELINGS


@fondue with cheddar
Yea, nerd-brain is definitely excited and intrigued by this, but WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU THINKING, MAN?!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@fondue with cheddar Jurassic Park = exciting but ultimately a pretty bad idea

fondue with cheddar

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose Haha, yeah...I had a similar thought.


Ummm...I am not a scientist, nor am I terribly concerned with the ethics of this (I mean, it seems wrong, but I'm also a big fan of unfrozen caveman lawyer).

But isn't there some whole thing w/ embryos and DNA and shit where like, it's not only the things written in the DNA but the environment in which they are expressed that determines the end-result? I feel like when I read nerd-books about evolution & whatnot there's words for this, I just don't know them. It totally seems like "a thing" though. Is it?


@leon s It is! Epigenetics. I only made it through the first two lectures before ditching that course, but the gist I got is it has to do with blocking or enhancing the expression of genes by adding/removing methyl groups to/from them.


@leon s yeah, it's why cat littermates can vary so wildly in appearance (beyond the fact that cats can potentially be impregnated by more than one suitor), and cloned calicos don't retain their original fur patterns.

Briony Fields

Anyone else getting serious Twilight vibes from this? I mean, not that any of us have read Twilight....*shifty eyes*


"Now I need an adventurous female human."

As if OKCupid profiles needed any additional reason to be creepy.


@TheLetterL I imagined the reverse: my OKCupid tagline could be "I am an adventurous female human." ARE YOU OUT THERE, Brendan Fraser?


If I knew how to embed a gif, I would post that octopus going "NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE" right now.


@MoxyCrimeFighter At your service!

Briony Fields

@anachronistique This is one of my all time favourite gifs. I have a mental image of this octopus at least three 'wtf' moments a day. I wish I could BE the octopus.


@anachronistique Beautiful! Would you mind sharing your skillz? I have another gif that I feel is an adequate expression of "wtf."


@MoxyCrimeFighter Get the URL of the picture you want to post, then put this code in but replace the square brackets with pointy brackets: [img src="url goes here"] Ta-da!

@Briony Fields The octopus is my role model. NOPE NOPE NOPE-ing on out of everything.


@anachronistique A thousand blessings upon your house!


@anachronistique Thank you! I've been looking for that octopus for a while now! It runs through my head at least 2-3 times per day.


There's a link at the bottom of the article to another article where the guy claims he was mistranslated and this whole thing is a bunch of poo.



@Mandalas Yeeeahhh, I'm a little skeptical of the "I was misquoted!" reneg. English to German translation would not turn "this may be possible in the future but of course we're not going to do this but we should still discuss it so we have protocols in place" to "let's do this! where my laydeez at?!"


@SuperGogo Maybe someone screwed up the conditional tense? Does German have a conditional tense? Some construction like "We WOULD need an adventurous woman [if we were to do this, which we are not, can you even imagine? Ridiculous]."

Or maybe it was a joke and Babelfish doesn't have a humor filter?


@TheLetterL Yes, German does have a conditional tense.


@SuperGogo The science media is also notoriously awful for seriously twisting research and directly misquoting in order to make headlines.


@thenotestaken True. But it's also true that academics can get a little too wrapped up in their ivory tower world and lose perspective, and then the first time their thoughts and ambitions see the light of day, they're caught off guard by society's collective "WTF??"

Judith Slutler

@Mandalas OK, two things: One, Der Spiegel is a sensationalist rag that loves nothing more than to photoshop Islamic crescents onto things like the Brandenburg Gate and write screaming headlines like "IS THIS OUR FUTURE!?"

But, thing two, I found the interview: http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/medizin/genforscher-george-church-will-neandertaler-klonen-a-877554.html and in it, Church also speculates about Neanderthal cloning projects leading to "a type of Neanderthal culture that could gain political power" so ?????

Honestly it sounds like a Spiegel reporter with iffy English skills invited him to speculate on the future of his field, and then assumed he was talking about like... the next 5 years. Either that or Der Spiegel decided to turn it into a sensationalist "IS THIS OUR FUTURE???" type of story.


@thenotestaken I blame news aggregation, personally. Nobody would trust Daily Mail bullshit if it wasn't repackaged wherever


Right - there was a mistranslation. He is not looking for volunteers. A great screaming headline, but not the whole story.

Nicole Cliffe

My book recommendation for this man (should he not have been mistranslated) is Robert Sawyer's "The Neanderthal Parallax": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Neanderthal_Parallax


Maybe even more terrifying, if I recall this correctly, is a Soviet scientist who wanted to create chimp/human hybrids! He was killed in one of Stalin's purges before he could get any work done on the project, the only thing in history I can think of that could conceivably be described as both "Stalinist" and "a good outcome."


@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Or maybe those furry hats he used to wear? Nah, you're right.

tea sonata

Yeeesh. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.


@tea sonata
Haha! Tell that to a scientist!

tea sonata

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll I know that the ultimate answer is "to have proof!" because I had that argument with my dad a few years ago (albeit about a slightly different subject).
The reservation I have with it is that, assuming it's successful, what purpose does it serve? We already know we can manipulate DNA, and science has been doing IVF for quite some time now. We've already done it. I just wanna know who will clean up the mess afterwards! Diapers, toys, neanderthal teenagerhood; I'd imagine the Learning Speech part of growth will be a challenge, as we all assume Neanderthals speak with grunts and growls.

I'm aware I'm totally overthinking this, by the way.


@tea sonata Bless them though, we wouldn't have any scary science fiction to write if it weren't the case.

*runs off to write the terrible tale of what would happen if this was real, it will make you cry a lot

Dances With Nerds

@tea sonata Not that this project/misquote is in any way a good idea, but just to clarify–people actually think the Neanderthals might have spoken (or at least had the mental capacity for it). Their throats are so rarely preserved that we don't know if they had the equipment to do so, but given that we interbred with them, it's possible. Science is neat!


Wait, so modern women are having a hard time finding Neanderthals to impregnate them? The Atlantic lied to me!



My first thought after reading this: "Has this man never been to a frat party?"


Oh wow, Harvard, just looking for a willing uterus? Really working hard to improve the post-Larry Summers reputation still, huh?

a piece of pie

One of my labmates was on a panel with George Church when he mentioned this plan (he also wants to create a woolly mammoth from modern elephant DNA, if I'm not mistaken). My labmate was like "Er... do you think maybe there might be some ethical issues?" and George Church just said "yep!" and then laughed maniacally. I love George Church so much.

But yeah, this is not even a little bit possible at the moment.


@edinorog Apparently, back in the early 1900s explorers in Russia or Alaska or wherever would come upon frozen mammoths so perfectly preserved that their sled dogs were able to eat the meat.

It's one of those Science Things you read about that are so out there you wonder if you didn't just make them up. Like the time they slowed light down to a speed of 38 mph.

Science rules


Okay, so is it Neanderthal or Neandertal? Is this some sort of shibboleth thing?


@frigwiggin Thinking about it makes me want Emmenthal/Emmentaler cheese.

the roughest toughest frail

@frigwiggin it's spelled Neanderthal, but pronounced "Neandertal".

Pocket Witch

Shades of Isaac Asimov...okay, so his was a time-displaced Neanderthal boy. But I still read too much Golden Age science fiction.

Betsy Murgatroyd

@Pocket Witch Oh man, this is the first thing I thought of. I saw this story on TV when I was a child and I cried until I thought my heart would burst.


Call me when he has an adventurous goose ready to give birth to the first mini stegosaurus.


You could so totally get someone to do this just by promising them a reality TV gig. No brainer.


...My dad told me a garbled version of this story, summarized as "Some crazy lady wants to have a Neanderthal baby."


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