About: the world this week, 27th June to 3rd July 2021. A new branch pops-up in the tree of human origin; the Heat Dome of Canada; a brief fighting history of India; and other stories.

Planet Earth came in being about 4.5 billion years ago as an outcome of the Big-Bang-which itself happened over 13.5 billion years ago-when matter and energy that had formed, later coalesced into atoms and molecules. And the first living organisms on Earth appeared about 3.8 billion years ago.

At the moment, we know that the first humans-hominids-evolved from a genus called Australopithecus Africanus (Southern Ape of Africa) in Africa about 2.5 million years ago, originating from a common Ape ancestor. We modern humans, technically called Homo Sapiens, belong to the family of the Great Apes.

Aahuaaa uaaa uaaaaaaaa, Tarzan of the Apes, said it all along!

I was awfully good in Biology at school and here is a big chance to dig into my school-day basics and show it off: A Species consists of animals of a kind, which can mate with one another and give birth to fertile offspring, e.g., Lions are of the species Leo; Genus/Genera is a bunch of Species all of which evolved from one common Ancestor, e.g., Lions-Panthera Leo, Tigers-Panthera Tigris, are different species under the Genus Panthera; Genera, in turn, are grouped together into Families. E.g., the Family of cats consists of lions (and tigers) — Panthera, cheetahs — Acinonyx, and domestic cats — Felis. And members of a Family can trace their lineage to a single matriarch or patriarch. There you have it: Species-Genus-Family.

The first primitive humans moved ‘Out of Africa’ to settle in various parts of the world-in search of food and better living conditions-and thereafter, over millions of years, evolved into distinct species. It wasn’t one human species that evolved in a linear manner, rather there were several species of humans that co-existed at the same time. We’ve read about Homo Neanderthalensis, Homo Rudolfensis, Homo Ergaster, Homo Heidelbergensis, Home Erectus, Home Denisova, Homo Floresiensis, Home Soloensis, Homo Luzonensis, Homo Habilis, Homo Naledi, etc.

Keep in mind Homo is the genus and Sapiens, Neanderthal, etc., is the species.

The truth is that certain species overlapped one another, like Homo Sapiens lived alongside Homo Neanderthals and Home Erectus. Maybe we interbred with them. Whatever, after about 13,000 years all other Human Species went into extinction leaving Homo Sapiens as the only surviving, dominant human species. Here we are, in all our two-legged, upright, brainy glory.

How do we know this? Some of our ancestors left autographs-that are well represented in the fossil records-but most of what we know about, say, Neanderthals and Denisovans comes from genetic information in our DNA. And Scientists all over the world have been digging into Planet Earth like crazy to piece together the complicated zig-saw puzzle of how we came into being the shape and size we are today.

Last week, Scientists confirmed that a more than a 140,000 years old skull found in Harbin, in North-Eastern China belongs to a new ancient species of humans called Homo Longi and have nicknamed it ‘Dragon Man’. It is estimated that the skull belonged to a man, who was about 50 years old when he died, and lived between 138,000 and 309,000 years ago.

The Harbin Skull was discovered in 1933 by a Chinese man, when a bridge was being built over the River Songhua in Harbin, China. At the time, that part of China was under Japanese occupation, and the man who found it took it home and stored it for safekeeping by burying it at the bottom of an abandoned well. After the war, the man returned to farming, during a cataclysmic time in Chinese history, and never re-excavated his treasure. The skull remained unknown to science for decades.

Then the third generation of the man’s family learnt about the secret discovery before his death and recovered the fossil from the well in 2018. The family donated the find to the Geoscience Museum of Hebei, GEO University, China, where Researchers have been studying it for the past three years.

This discovery is the latest addition to a human family tree that is rapidly growing and shifting due to new fossil finds and analysis of ancient DNA preserved in teeth, bones and cave dirt.

Meanwhile, on another dig, in Israel, an international group of archaeologists have discovered, in an excavation site in Nesher Ramla, Israel, what they claim, is a missing piece in the story of human evolution. They recovered a skull thought to represent a distinct human population, which lived in and around modern-day Israel from about 420,000 to 120,000 years ago. The analysis of the skull established that it wasn’t fully Homo Sapiens nor was it Neanderthal, which was the only other type of human thought to have been living in the region at that time.

Instead, the skull to which this person belonged, falls right in the middle: a unique population of Homo never before recognised by science.This human community is believed to have traded both their culture and genes with nearby Homo Sapiens groups for thousands of years.

The mysterious Nesher Ramla Homo may even represent our most recent common ancestor with Neanderthals. Its mix of traits supports genetic evidence that early gene flow between Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals occurred between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago. In other words, that interbreeding between the different Homo populations was more common than previously thought.

We need to keep up the digging, until we learn more about ourselves. And watch that DNA!

Last week, a section of a 12-storey Condominium, Champlain Towers, collapsed in Surfside, a town near Miami, Florida, USA, leaving at least twenty people dead. So far, over thirty-seven people have been rescued and about 145 are still missing. Rescue crews continued to search for survivors amid fire and smoke.

The disaster, which destroyed 55 of the 136 apartments, may turn out to be the deadliest building collapse in America in 20 years. Champlain Towers opened its doors in 1981.

There seems to be no evidence of foul play that led to the collapse. Maybe the building wasn’t built exactly to code? Or, perhaps to keep running costs down critical maintenance and upkeep was thrown into the sea?

The cause of the collapse is still unknown. Some experts believe a column or concrete slab gave way below the pool deck, taking the rest of the building down with it. In 2018, an engineering report found ‘major structural damages’ to the building. And urged the building managers to fix the ‘abundant cracking’ found in columns, beams, and walls of the parking garage below the pool deck. Some reported damage was likely due to corrosion from consistent water leaks and years of salty air along the coastline.

Over the past week Canada has been heated-up by an unprecedented heatwave that has melted all previous temperature records.

On this week’s Tuesday, Canada recorded its highest ever temperature for a third straight day of 49.5 Centigrade © in Lytton, British Columbia. And temperatures in Canada had never crossed 45C.

The heat is believed to have been a contributing factor in the deaths of sixty-nine people in the Vancouver suburbs of Burnaby and Surrey. Most were elderly or had underlying health conditions.

I have a friend, a criminal lawyer, from Tiruchirapalli, Tamilnadu, India, who flew to Vancouver to legally visit his daughter- spread the warmth-just before India’s second wave of the pandemic. And he says Vancouver has outdone and murdered the heat in Tiruchi — known for its boiler temperatures.

One explanation is that the heatwave was caused by two pressure systems, the first coming from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, and the second from James Bay and Hudson Bay in Canada. The Pacific North-West got caught in a region where a series of feedbacks set up these very hot temperatures with very little cloud cover and very warm temperatures at night. And these types of extreme hot weather events are being exacerbated by global warming. Warming is too mild a term, I would use heating, to put the temperature in perspective.

The heatwave is being described as a ‘Heat Dome’ (no relation of Israel’s Iron Dome). The term refers to the idea that this type of warmth extends high into the atmosphere and isn’t just a thin layer, and that it can have an impact on pressure and wind patterns. The Heat Dome showing-up acting in the Pacific North-West has served to essentially shut off the flow of cool marine air off the Pacific into the land area.

How unusual is the Heat Dome? Similar events did not happen that often and take place every one to three decades.

Clever Climate Scientists have got into a Research Dome of their own and declared, ‘Nowhere is safe’.

The World leader in COVID-19 Vaccination doses done is China with over 1.24 billion doses in the year of celebrating 100 years of the Communist Party. The next spot was held by the United States of America, until India overtook it this week with over 340 million doses administered.

All over the world, more than 3.1 billion doses have been administered across 180 countries at rate rate of about 41.9 million doses a day.

Continuing the dig into our history, some Researches have found that there was a kind of devastating coronavirus around while we still living in the caves!

In other news not related to the COVID-19 pandemic: China’s President Xi Jinping said China will ‘Bash the Heads’ of anyone who tries to bully or influence China, Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, said Russia will ‘Knock Out the Teeth’ of anyone who tries to attack Russia.

Better start wearing Helmets, all the time — with that mask tightly tucked inside, courtesy China.

Meanwhile, India too showed some muscle-has been growing it in recent times. When the European Union (EU) Countries unfairly and unjustly refused to accept fully vaccinated- by Covishield and Covaxin- Indians into their countries, India returned the favour and said if you don’t accept our Vaccination Certificates we’ll place anybody from the EU on the mandatory quarantine period, irrespective of any EU Vaccination Certificates, when they enter India. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Last heard, the EU was backing-out and approvals were coming in quickly.

While the Tiruchi Lawyer friend of mine was getting baked in Canada, a Doctor friend, in very much cooler Attur, India, handed me a book to read, Tamil Historical Novel, ‘Vanthargal… Vendrarkal’ (They came… they conquered) written by Tamil Journalist and Writer Madhan. After a hesitant start I became fascinated with the early History of India beginning from the time of Mohammad of Ghazni, in the years after CE (Common Era) 1000. I’ve just started attacking the book, but here are some learnings.

India had natural borders at its head, with the mighty Himalayas lording over the North and the then always-in-spate River Indus in the West drawing a neat meandering line. Peninsular India had the great Oceans watching over it in the South, while the River Brahamaputra guarded the East.

Despite being endowed with such natural boundary walls the great civilisation that was India crumbled under the brutal, ceaseless onslaught of invaders such as, The Afghans, The Turks, The Persians, The Mongols, The Mughals…who came either to pillage its wealth or establish their Kingdoms.

Invaders found chinks in India’s natural armour, which they exploited to the bone — time and again. They ‘walked-into’ India multiple times through the Khyber pass and the Gomal Pass, which Indian Kings did not bother to join-together to seal off. Or maybe build a Fort-Gate to block entry.

Despite India having fantastic warriors, brilliant individual fighters, superhuman heroes, backed-up by a great thriving civilisation, it failed to stop the ceaseless invasions only because India failed to stay united and collaborate in unison against an invading army. In the few times they joined together they made pulp of the invaders, but then these instances were rare and absolutely short-lived. And the Kings would go back to their old ways of ‘showing -off, pleasure warfare’ and infighting.

To give an example, if only the great King Prithviraj Chauhan had joined hands with his father-in-law King Jayachandra and both supported each other, the History of India would have been completely different.

Prithviraj cleverly and bravely stole King Jayachandran’s daughter, Samyuktha, from under his very eyes creating that life-long famous rivalry between them (King Jayachandran drowned himself in humiliation and seethed with revenge until the end) Could the King have got a better Braveheart than Prithviraj for his Princess daughter?

When it was most needed, the father-in-law, King Jayachandran, never offered his ample resources and army to his son-in-law. And Prithviraj never asked.

Mohammad Ghori who invaded India, after Mohammad of Ghazni, used this division and bitter rivalry to his advantage to win a second time, after being throughly whacked in the first battle by Prithviraj, who had magically weaved together the many small Indian Kingdoms to join the fight. While Prithviraj was ‘kind enough’ to allow Mohammad Ghori to escape — and return with a bigger army, Mohammad Ghori had Prithviraj promptly beheaded when he defeated and captured him.

Indian Rulers and Kings fought with mind-boggling bravery, but under the guise of ‘war dharma’ and ‘large-heartedness’ they often let-off captured invaders easily. They considered battles as a show-post of individual bravery and a pastime, limiting themselves to self-protection and self-preservation. While India’s troops were often divided by caste divisions, the invaders were united by religion.

Another reason is Indian Kings failed to raise and breed high-stock horses for battles, instead depending on Arabian Horses, in addition to their own. The Afghan horses were superb riding beasts and were no match to those used by Indian Kings.

Riding to the present, just look around, and you can see the mirror of the past — people endlessly fighting each other, wallowing in petty rivalries: so many examples in our daily lives -within families, within Governments; State versus the Centre, North versus South, Aryan versus Dravidian… Remember where we came from?

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

More brave stories coming up in the weeks ahead. Stay together, collaborate, agree to agree, or agree to disagree, but stay united working to a common purpose of improving the lives of Homo Sapiens, on Earth and beyond.



Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!

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Kumar Govindan

Once an Engineer, now a Make-in-India Entrepreneur; Wordsmith; Blogger; maybe a Farmer!