How Science is Done (2)

Home

 
January 27, 2009

In our occasional series, How Science Is Done, we attempt to show how real scientists, working on real questions, find answers - if not final answers, then suggestive answers that expand our knowledge into hitherto murky areas.

Case in point is an article in Science last week (January 23, 2009) detailing how bacteriological and linguistic research, independent of each other, reached the same conclusion: the peopling of the Pacific islands originated from the island of Taiwan about 5,200 years ago (rather than Southeast Asia as previously thought), jumped to the Philippine Islands, thence Micronesia and finally to eastern Polynesia.

Two independent disciplines, the one creating an evolutionary tree and timeline based on linguistic analysis and the other creating a tree and timeline based on genetic analysis of bacteria found in the human digestive system came to essentially the same conclusion concerning both the direction and chronology of the movements of peoples across the Pacific.

The Taiwanese origin hypothesis is sure to be challenged by those whose research has suggested to them a Southeast Asian origin an d our understanding of the peopling of the Pacific will better as a result of this debate.

Read the the "Perspectives" article and the two papers cited below for the full story on this unplanned collaboration.

Additional information:

Science Perspective http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/323/5913/467

Science - the linguistic analysis http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5913/479?sa_campaign=Email/toc/23-January-2009/10.1126/science.1166858

Science - the bacteriological analysis http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/323/5913/527?sa_campaign=Email/toc/23-January-2009/10.1126/science.1166083