This week on Exploration, Spencer Wells retraces the origins of human migrations. Then, Simon Singh discusses the big bang and origin of the universe.
Spencer Wells (born April 6, 1969 in Marietta, Georgia, USA) is a geneticist and an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society, and Frank H.T. Rhodes Class of ’56 Professor at Cornell University. He leads The Genographic Project.
He wrote the book The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey (2002),which explains how genetic data has been used to trace human migrations over the past 50,000 years, when modern humans first migrated outside of Africa. According to Wells, one group took a southern route and populated southern India and southeast Asia, then Australia. The other group, accounting for 90% of the world’s non-African population (some 5.4 billion people as of 2014), took a northern route, eventually peopling most of Eurasia (largely displacing the aboriginals in southern India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia in the process), North Africa and the Americas. Wells also wrote and presented the 2003 PBS/National Geographic documentary of the same name. By analyzing DNA from people in all regions of the world, Wells has concluded that all humans alive today are descended from a single man who lived in Africa around 60,000 – 90,000 years ago, a man also known as Y-chromosomal Adam.
Since 2005, Wells has headed The Genographic Project, undertaken by the National Geographic Society, IBM, and the Waitt Family Foundation, which aims to creating a picture of how our ancestors populated the planet by analyzing DNA samples from around the world. He presents the knowledge gained from the project around the world, including at the 2007 TED conference, where he spoke specifically about human diversity.
As director of the Genographic Project he said this about the possibility of two human species living today together[clarification needed]: “We don’t know how long it takes for hominids to fission off into separate species, but clearly they were separated for a very long time”. This question may be estimated by comparing other species with similar speed of reproduction.
Simon Lehna Singh, MBE (born 19 September 1964) is a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner. His written works include Fermat’s Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat’s Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World’s Greatest Mathematical Problem),The Code Book(about cryptography and its history), Big Bang (about the Big Bang theory and the origins of the universe), Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial(about complementary and alternative medicine) and The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (about mathematical ideas and theorems hidden in episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama).
Singh has also produced documentaries and works for television to accompany his books, is a trustee of NESTA, the National Museum of Science and Industry and co-founded the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme.