In 2003 a team of scientists discovered a diminutive, fossilized skeleton in a cave on the Indonesian island of Flores. The female skeleton was nicknamed "the Hobbit" because initial evidence suggested the remains were from a mature specimen that stood only three feet tall — and because in 2003, everybody was going berserk for anything Lord of the Rings
. Find tiny human ancestor, give it evocative nickname, celebratory beers on the lido deck with other triumphant scientists (who may or may not have called their leader Gandalf) — scientifically speaking, was this the end of a perfect day? No. The team's work was only beginning. Analysis of data, peer review of hypotheses, discussion, debate — this is the scientific process that advances human knowledge. Part of that process takes place at Washington University, where Dr. Charles Hildebolt
studies some of the Hobbit's fossils for a better understanding of how that tiny body fits into our understanding of evolution. Hildebolt discusses his work tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Saint Louis Science Center (5050 Oakland Avenue; 314-289-4400 or www.slsc.org
). Joining him is Dr. Anne Bowcock, who talks about what genetic research has revealed about another set of tiny remains, specifically, the "child mummy" that is on regular display at the science center. Admission to the program is free.
Thu., Dec. 13, 2007