Is this theory on origins of modern-day Romania plausible?

Is this theory on origins of modern-day Romania plausible?


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I watched a documentary which basically claims that modern-day Romanians are not the descendants of Rome, but that the Romans and the Romanians share a common ancestor with the same language. One of their stronger arguments is that it's impossible for the Romanian language to become so latinized in the 150 years or so in which Rome occupied a small part of Romania (I think they said about 16%), because in other places where they occupied a much greater region (such as Egypt) the languages only show traces of Latin. What do you think, is this a good theory? There is also a part 2 in which they also show genetic evidence among other things, but I was not able to find a translated version of it. If you would like more detailed information from part 2, please let me know. Thanks.


I'm not a linguist so I can't comment on whether 150 years are enough or not to thoroughly Latinize a language. However, I think I can point out that the analogy with Egypt is deeply flawed.

When the Romans conquered Egypt from the Ptolemaic dynasty they took over a country that had roughly speaking two distinct populations: a "Greek" elite and semi-elite that was already Hellenized and spoke Greek and a native Egyptian population which spoke its own language and took no part in the political, cultural, administrative or financial affairs of their masters (except for the priests, but they were a thin layer which was probably as distant from the plain native folks as the foreign overlords).

With the advent or Roman rule nothing much changed for the Egyptian native peasant - he kept tilling his land, paying his taxes and had as little need or incentive to learn the language of his masters as before. Therefore, small wonder that his own language bears few traces of theirs.

Why was the linguistic situation different in other modern-day-Romance countries which the Romans conquered (such as France or Spain)? I think it's because in these countries the mass of native population had willy-nilly constant contact with the Romans and adopted eventually their language. A new elite grew up through trade and services to the Romans which associated itself with Latin. On the other hand, in Egypt there were no conditions for the rise of such an elite because there was little internal trade and the Romans did not settle the hinterland densely or required the direct services of the natives, having the "Greek" segment of the population at their beck and call.

So, to sum up, the comparison of Romania to Egypt is not a valid one.

P.S. There was a third major part of the Egyptian population at the time: the Jews. But for the purposes of this discussion this is not crucial so I left this fact out to keep matters simple.


Those backing the idea that Romanians are the descentants of Romance language speakers who arrived in the territory of modern day Romania during the Middle Ages are mainly Hungarian historians and this has to do with the dispute over who settled first in Transylvania. This theory is however contradicted by Hungarians' own 'national chronicle', Anonymous's Gesta Hungarorum, which lists the Vlachs as well as 'the shepards of the Romans' among the peoples encountered by the Hungarian tribes when arriving in the area. Interesting is that, while Hungarians do agree with some other stuff that their chroncler wrote, they regard this part as pure fiction'.

I dont't see no violence in this dispute, though…


From my prospective the outlined 2 possibilities may be considered not only opposed, but may also be seen as complementary to each other. We have a similar situation with the Russian language which is a synthesis of "Danubian" Slavic language and "Novgorod" Slavic language, the later is a more archaic version of Slavic. What if there were a series of migration waves of Latin-speaking population? The written sources mention at least 2: (i) after the Roman conquest of Dacia and (ii) the migration of Italic colons to Dalmatia and further to Balkans under emperor Diocletian.


The territory of the Republic of Moldova is for more than 200 years under strong Russian influence - political, economical, cultural, linguistic etc. But up till now there is no sign of assimilation of the indigenous Romanian-speaking population. If compared with the antiquity over the last 200 years there were much more "channels" for promoting the assimilation policy but the result is well known - the local population preserved its ethnic and linguistic identity. For this reason it is hard to believe that only 160 years of Roman presence in 16% of Dacian territory could lead to the latinization of the local population. From the other hand when speaking about partial Russification over the last 200 years we must distinguish two separate phenomena - the increased percentage of Russian native-speakers in the region and the "contamination" of the Romanian language of indigenous population. The local Romanian-speaking population borrowed a lot of Russian words which are used in daily communication, but the structure of the language did not change at all. The Russified Romanian language in Moldova is a Romanian language with plenty of Russian loan words but with intact grammar. The same phenomenon can be seen in Ukrainian villages in Moldova which are surrounded by Romanian villages. Sometimes they speak an Ukrainian language with so many Romanian insertions which is understood only by the members of that small community. The point is that for changing the language spoken in a region it is not enough to teach them another language. In the best(or worst) case they will borrow more or less words from the new language and will use them in their traditional language.


I had read in a book that, when Avars and Slaves tribes that arrived north of the Danube river, where today Romania is situated in the VII century, after they raided several Romanised cities in the Balkans they took by themselves a large number of people to use them as ransom tools against the Byzantine empire. Sometimes they killed them, as a chronicle mentioned it "where around 20 thousand peoples where killed after the Byzantine emperor refused to pay them the amount of money they required to him", but sometimes the Romanised population where taken north of river Danube.

In the cases when ransom wasn't paid they left them free to live in this area, because those tribes didnt needed slaves to work in their fields. In this way we had on one side, deserted and depopulated cities south of the Danube and in the north, we had a large number of Romanised peoples who were living tax free and undisturbed by the slavic raids.

There this Romanised population started a new life that resembled these tribes, which explains some slavic words in their vocabulary. After the Seventh Century, Avars and Slaves moved into the warmer and more developed countries in the south while the Romanised population remained there and combined with the romanised population from Rome which started the nucleus of the Romanian Nation.

This hypothesis explains also why all the Romaniana are situated in the north of Danube. From this time, the differences between the two dialects of Romanian Language started to develop. North of Danube, contact with the Greek culture were less developed, while the Romanised population that remained in the south was within the empire territory or near them and had more cultural diffusion, especially Greek words in their vocabulary. (p.s. this is only a personal opinion) M.S


I'm late to the party, but for what is worth, here are my 2 cents. Keep in mind that I am not a historian, just a logical individual with limited knowledge of history (even of my own people's history, I am Romanian, ethnically). DNA analysis should settle any questions, this is science, not open for debate. You can establish historical migration patterns, as well as deep time ethnical/racial roots , based on DNA analysis (that's a fact). I am not aware of any serious study in this direction, but that can definitely answer your/our question. I also want to point out that the Rosia Montana gold mine is one of the largest gold reserves in Europe (if not the largest, present day ), and it was at some point in time a Roman gold mine (after the conquest of Dacia). The Empire was interested in this resource. It is interesting to take into consideration the notion of "gold rush". For reference/comparison, see the impact of massive migration , related to the Californian gold rush (as a well documented "measuring stick" of the phenomenon). In other words, this might explain the special circumstances related to the the Latin origins in that part of the world. It was more than just the Roman legionaries that stationed there for almost 200 years.


The question is to what degree the romance language speaking ancestors of the Modern Romanians in Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia were descended from ancient Romanized Dacians and Roman colonists, and to what degree they were descended from Romance language speakers who arrived in the 3 Romanian regions from elsewhere sometime (probably over centuries) during the Middle Ages.

Those 2 possibilities are at the extreme and opposite ends of the spectrum of possible origins for the Romanians, and from what I have read Romania is deep enough into southeastern Europe that the supporters and defenders of those 2 extreme positions are often very violent supporters of their views.

So it is possible that some other persons who might answer later may shed more heat than light on the question due to their strong ethnic identification with one or the other extreme view.


Romanians

The Romanians (Romanian: români, pronounced [roˈmɨnʲ] ) are a Romance [54] [55] [56] [57] ethnic group and nation native to Romania and Moldova, that share a common Romanian culture, ancestry, and speak the Romanian language, the most widespread spoken Balkan Romance language, which is descended from the Latin language. According to the 2011 Romanian census, just under 89% of Romania's citizens identified themselves as ethnic Romanians.

In one interpretation of the census results in Moldova, the Moldovans are counted as Romanians, which would mean that the latter form part of the majority in that country as well. [58] [59] Romanians are also an ethnic minority in several nearby countries situated in Central, respectively Eastern Europe, particularly in Hungary, Czech Republic, Ukraine (including Moldovans), Serbia, and Bulgaria.

Today, estimates of the number of Romanian people worldwide vary from 24 to 30 million according to various sources, evidently depending on the definition of the term "Romanian", Romanians native to Romania and Republic of Moldova and their afferent diasporas, native speakers of Romanian, as well as other Balkan Romance-speaking groups considered by most scholars and the Romanian Academy [60] as a constituent part of the broader Romanian people, specifically Aromanians, Megleno-Romanians, Istro-Romanians, and Vlachs of Serbia (including medieval Vlachs), in Croatia, in Bulgaria, or in Bosnia and Herzegovina. [1] [2] [3] [61] [62]


Genetic Study Shows Diversity of Early Europeans

It is known that modern humans originally evolved in Africa and that they only began migrating to Europe and Asia around 80,000 years ago. They did so, at least in part, because the climate in Africa was getting dryer, as a long-term consequence of the onset of the last Ice Age approximately 120,000 years ago.

Until now it was believed that the number of people who chose to leave their African homeland was relatively small and homogenous. Consequently, their descendants in new lands would have lacked genetic diversity since their ancestors all came from a genetically limited population base. Whatever genetic diversity they did possess would decline noticeably over time, as the original migrants divided up into separate groups that mixed with each other less and less.

This theory was developed to explain the results elicited from the existing human fossil record. DNA samples taken from ancient skeletons recovered in various locations in Europe and Asia have shown a low level of diversity, in comparison to ancient skeletons recovered in Africa. But there was a flaw in this research. The human fossils analyzed previously were not as old as the skull recovered from the cave in Romania.

Mattias Jakobsson, professor at the Department of Organismal Biology at Uppsala University and one of the authors of the genetic study. ( David Naylor / Uppsala University )


American Scientist

As the frontiers of knowledge have advanced, scientists have resolved one creation question after another. We now have a pretty good understanding of the origin of the Sun and the Earth, and cosmologists can take us to within a fraction of a second of the beginning of the universe itself.

Figure 1. Origin-of-life studies became an experimental science with the Miller-Urey experiment, which produced organic molecules in a flask from components thought to be present in the paleogeological atmosphere—homemade primordial soup. But how did soup ingredients become life? A recent model called Metabolism First proposes that life didn’t climb over a thermodynamic barrier, it fell into place according to knowable laws of chemistry and thermodynamics.

Image courtesy of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

We know how life, once it began, was able to proliferate and diversify until it filled (and in many cases created) every niche on the planet. Yet one of the most obvious big questions—how did life arise from inorganic matter?—remains a great unknown.

Our progress on this question has been impeded by a formidable cognitive barrier. Because we perceive a deep gap when we think about the difference between inorganic matter and life, we feel that nature must have made a big leap to cross that gap. This point of view has led to searches for ways large and complex molecules could have formed early in Earth’s history, a daunting task. The essential problem is that in modern living systems, chemical reactions in cells are mediated by protein catalysts called enzymes. The information encoded in the nucleic acids DNA and RNA is required to make the proteins yet the proteins are required to make the nucleic acids. Furthermore, both proteins and nucleic acids are large molecules consisting of strings of small component molecules whose synthesis is supervised by proteins and nucleic acids. We have two chickens, two eggs, and no answer to the old problem of which came first.

In this article we present a view gaining attention in the origin-of-life community that takes the question out of the hatchery and places it squarely in the realm of accessible, plausible chemistry. As we see it, the early steps on the way to life are an inevitable, incremental result of the operation of the laws of chemistry and physics operating under the conditions that existed on the early Earth, a result that can be understood in terms of known (or at least knowable) laws of nature. As such, the early stages in the emergence of life are no more surprising, no more accidental, than water flowing downhill.

The new approach requires that we adopt new ways of looking at two important fields of science. As we will see below, we will have to adjust our view of both cellular biochemistry and thermodynamics. Before we talk about these new ideas, however, it will be useful to place them in context by outlining a little of the history of research on the origin of life.

The Origin of Origins

Most historians would say that the modern era of experimental research in origin-of-life studies began in a basement laboratory in the chemistry department of the University of Chicago in 1953. Harold Urey, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, and Stanley Miller, then a graduate student, put together a tabletop apparatus designed to look at the kinds of chemical processes that might have occurred on the planet soon after its birth. They showed that organic molecules (in this case amino acids) could be created from inorganic materials by natural environmental conditions such as acidic solution, heat and electrical discharge (lightning), without the mediation of enzymes. This finding triggered a wave of new thinking about both the origin and nature of life. (Today, the consensus is that Miller and Urey had the wrong atmospheric components in their apparatus, so the process they discovered was probably not representative of the emergence of life on Earth. It nevertheless pointed to the potential fecundity and diversity of nonenzymatic primordial chemistry.)

Since 1953, we have found many of the same simple organic molecules in meteorites, comets and even interstellar gas clouds. Far from being special, then, the simplest of the molecules we find in living systems—life’s building blocks—seem to be quite common in nature. To many, the real question was how these basic building blocks got put together into living systems, and, equally important, how the molecules that led to modern life were selected out of the messy molecular milieu in which they arose.

The ubiquity of simple molecules suggested an appealing scenario that had a profound effect on the way investigators approached the origin of life throughout the last half of the 20th century. The scenario went like this: After the Earth cooled enough to allow oceans to form, the Miller-Urey process or something like it produced a rain of organic matter. In a relatively short time, the ocean became a broth of these molecules, and given enough time, the right combination of molecules came together by pure chance to form a replicating entity of some kind that evolved into modern life.

Scientists called this scenario the Oparin-Haldane conjecture, but it was given a provocative nickname that endures in the popular consciousness—Primordial Soup.

The essential legacy of the Primordial Soup was twofold: It simplified the notion of the origin of life to a single pivotal event, and then it proposed that that event—the step that occurred after the molecules were made—was a result of chance. In the standard language, life is to be seen, in the end, as a “frozen accident.” In this view, many fundamental details about the structure of life are not amenable to explanation. The architecture of life is just one of those things. Although many modern theories are less extreme than this, frozen-accident thinking still influences what some of us ask about the origin of life and how we prioritize our experiments.

RNA World

The next major advance came in the early 1980s, when Thomas Cech and Sidney Altman showed that some RNA molecules can act as enzyme-like catalysts. The frozen-accident argument was then replaced by a suggestive scenario in which something like RNA was assembled by chance, and was then able to fill twin roles as both enzyme and hereditary molecule in the runup to life. The RNA systems were then acted upon by natural selection, leading to greater molecular complexity and, eventually, something like modern life. Whereas most scientists believe, on the basis of Cech and Altman’s work, that life went through an early RNA-dominated phase (dubbed “RNA World”), the “RNA First” scenario has again a quality of frozen accident. Between prebiological chemistry and RNA World, a large leap occurs, requiring that molecules appear having at least a familial resemblance to the complex molecules in the vials of Cech and Altman, for that is the assumption upon which the relevance of their findings to the origin of life depends.

Figure 2. RNA World has been the prevailing theory for the origin of life since the 1980s. The emergence of a self-replicating catalytic molecule accounts for signature capabilities of living systems, but it doesn’t explain how the protobiological molecule itself arose. Metabolism First seeks the answer in primitive reaction networks that generate their own constituents, offering a substrate for chemical selection and a launchpad for life.

Barbara Aulicino and Morgan Ryan

Inserting RNA molecules into an RNA First scenario without explaining how they got there seems to us an inadequate foundation for an origin theory. The RNA molecule is too complex, requiring assembly first of the monomeric constituents of RNA, then assembly of strings of monomers into polymers. As a random event without a highly structured chemical context, this sequence has a forbiddingly low probability and the process lacks a plausible chemical explanation, despite considerable effort to supply one. We find it more natural to infer that by the time complex RNA was possible, life was already well on the road to complexity. We believe further that we can see the primordial chemical architecture preserved in the universal metabolic chemistry we observe today.

The compelling feature of RNA World is that a primordial molecule provided both catalytic power and the ability to propagate its chemical identity over generations. As the catalytic versatility of these primordial RNA molecules increased due to random variation and selection, metabolic complexity began to emerge. From that stage, RNA had roles in both control of metabolism and continuity across generations, as it does today. Depending on which function one prefers to emphasize, these overall models have been called “Control First” or “Genetics First.” In either case, the proliferation of metabolism depended on RNA being there first.

Adherents have come to call the other possibility “Metabolism First” (though by this they have meant many slightly different things). In our version of Metabolism First, the earliest steps toward life required neither DNA nor RNA, and may not even have involved spatial compartments like cells the earliest reactions could have occurred in the voids of porous rock, perhaps filled with organic gels deposited as suggested in the Oparin-Haldane model. We believe this early version of metabolism consisted of a series of simple chemical reactions running without the aid of complex enzymes, via the catalytic action of networks of small molecules, perhaps aided by naturally occurring minerals. If the network generated its own constituents—if it was recursive—it could serve as the core of a self-amplifying chemical system subject to selection. We propose that such a system arose and that much of that early core remains as the universal part of modern biochemistry, the reaction sequences shared by all living beings. Further elaborations would have been added to it as cells formed and came under RNA control, and as organisms specialized as participants in more complex ecosystems.

Networks of synthetic pathways that are recursive and self-catalyzing are widely known in organic chemistry, but they are notorious for generating a mass of side products, which may disrupt the reaction system or simply dilute the reactants, preventing them from accumulating within a pathway. The important feature necessary for chemical selection in such a network, which remains to be demonstrated, is feedback-driven self-pruning of side reactions, resulting in a limited suite of pathways capable of concentrating reagents as metabolism does. The search for such self-pruning is one of the most actively pursued research fronts in Metabolism First research.

A Pair of Analogies

Here’s an analogy that will provide an outline for the argument we make: Consider the requirements of the U.S. Interstate highway system. The system includes an enormously complex network of roads major infrastructure devoted to extracting oil from the Earth, refining oil into gasoline and distributing gasoline along the highways, a major industry devoted to producing automobiles and so on. If we wanted to explain this system in all of its complexity, we would not ask whether cars led to roads or roads led to cars, nor would we suspect that the entire system had been created from scratch as a giant public works project. It would be more productive to consider the state of transport in preindustrial America and ask how the primitive foot trails that must certainly have existed had developed into wagon roads, then paved roads and so on. By following this evolutionary line of argument, we would eventually account for the present system in all its complexity without needing recourse to highly improbable chance events.

In the same way, we argue, the current complexity of life should be understood as the result of a multistep process, beginning with the catalytic chemistry of small molecules acting in simple networks—networks still preserved in the depths of metabolism—elaborating these reaction sequences through processes of simple chemical selection, and only later taking on the aspects of cellularization and organismal individuality that make possible the Darwinian selection that biologists see today. Our task as origin-of-life researchers is to look at the modern highways and see what they reveal about the original foot trails.

Sidebar

Metabolism 101

At any given moment in a living cell, hundreds of reactions occur in which chemical precursors are converted into products. Nearly all of these reactions would not occur without the assistance of enzymes, proteins tuned by evolution to bind reactants with astonishing specificity, often in pairs, facilitate the reaction between the and release the projects.

The reactions carried out by enzymes have a thermodynamic feature in common—the overall energy of the products is less than that of the reactants.

Put another way, the flow of metabolic reactants is in the direction of equilibrium. Enzymes, like all catalysts, do not affect the position of equilibrium at all, they just help chemical species achieve equilibrium faster—often millions of times faster—than they would without the catalyst present.

In cells, metabolic reactions occur in sequences called pathways: The products of the enzyme-catalyzed reactions in pathways are acted upon by other enzymes.

Reactions for which the drop in energy is high are called irreversible. In the conditions found in cells, they run in the forward direction only. For many cellular reactions, like the horizontal reactions in the figure above, the change in energy for the reaction is near zero. If the product begins to pile up (perhaps because the activity of an enzyme further down the pathway is interfered with by a chemical inhibitor), the reaction pair will achieve equilibrium by running in the reverse direction until there is again an equilibrium balance between the reaction and product. The change in the concentrations of reactant may be accompanied by increased traffic ("flux") into branching reactions.

After four billion years of evolutionary tinkering, the cell has conjured the sprawling, winding sequence of reactions found in modern cells, captured in the famous metabolic map steadily refined by Donald Nicholson of Leeds University since 1961 and found on laboratory walls everywhere.

How did this astounding system come into being? Buried in this maze is a circular pathway of reactions, often called the hub of metabolism, that the authors believe may be the foundations of life itself—the place where it all started.

The very robustness of modern life makes such questions difficult, because the metabolism that we see today seems to be one on which life has converged, and around which it reorganizes after historical shocks such as the oxygenation of the atmosphere at the beginning of the paleoproterozoic era, the emergence of multicellularity, dramatic climate changes that have reshaped environments and so on. To avoid confusing this convergent form with one toward which evolution was “directed,” we focus instead on the nonliving world that preceded life and ask “what was wrong” with such a world, which created the first steps toward life as a departure. In other words, what was the “problem” that a lifeless earth “solved” by the emergence of life?

Another analogy will illustrate how this question should be understood. Imagine a large pond of water sitting on top of a hill. We know that there are any number of other states—any in which the water is lower than it is at the top—which have lower energy and are therefore states toward which the system will tend to evolve over time. In terms of our question, the ”problem” faced by the system is how to get water from its initial state to any state of lower energy—how to get the water down the hill. We need not think of the laws of physics as being endpoint directed rather, they simply adjudicate between states of higher or lower energy, with a preference for lower. Can we apply the same reasoning to the chemistry of life?

For real hills, we understand not only that the water will flow downward but also many things about how it will do so. Molecules of water will not each flow down a random path. Instead the flowing water will cut a channel in the hillside. In fact, the flow of water is at once constructing a channel and contributing to the collapse of the energy imbalance that drives the entire process. In addition, if we look at this process in detail, we see that what really matters is the configuration of the earth near the top of the hill, for it is there that the channeling process starts. This part of the analogy turns out to be particularly appropriate when we consider early chemical reactions.

In the analogy, the “problem” is the fact that the water begins in a state of high energy the creation of the channel ”solves” this problem by allowing the water to move to a lower energy state. Furthermore, the dynamics of the system are such that once the channel is established, subsequent flow will reinforce and strengthen it. There are many such systems of channels in nature—the lightning bolt is an example, although in that case the forces at work are electrical, not gravitational. (When lightning occurs, positive and negative charges become separated between clouds and the ground. The charge separation ionizes atoms in the air, creating a conducting channel through which the charges flow—the lightning bolt—much as water flows down a hill).

We argue that the appearance of life on our planet followed the creation of just such a channel, except that it was a channel in a chemical rather than a geological landscape. In the abiotic world of the early Earth, likely in a chemically excited environment, reservoirs of energy accumulated. In effect, electrons (along with certain key ions) were pumped up chemical hills. Like the water in our analogy, those electrons possessed stored energy. The “problem” was how to release it. In the words of Albert Szent-Gyorgi: “Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest.”

For example, carbon dioxide and hydrogen molecules are produced copiously in ordinary geochemical environments such as deep sea vents, creating a situation analogous to the water on the hill. The energy of this system can be lowered if the electrons in the hydrogen ”roll down the hill” by combining with the atoms of carbon dioxide in a chemical reaction that produces water and acetate (a molecule with two carbon atoms). In the abiotic world, however, this particular reaction takes place so slowly that the electrons in the hydrogen molecles find themselves effectively stranded at the top of the energy hill.

In this example, the problem that is solved by the presence of life is getting energized electrons back down the chemical hill. This is accomplished by the establishment of a sequence of biochemical channels, each contributing to the whole. (Think of the water cutting multiple channels in the hill). The reactions that create those channels would involve simple chemical transactions between small organic molecules.

How can we translate these sorts of general arguments into a reasonable scenario for the appearance of the first living thing? One way would be to look closely at the metabolic chart shown earlier, the diagram that maps the basic chemical reactions in all living systems.

Figure 3. The reactions and molecules of the citric acid cycle are universal in modern organisms. However, in many microbial species, the cycle runs in reverse. Instead of oxidizing the fuel molecule acetate ("activated" by attachment to a carrier molecule) and releasing CO2 as waste, the reverse cycle incorporates CO2 in organic molecules by exploiting the electron-transfer potential ("reducing power") of geologically produced molecules such as H2. A reductive cycle could have served as the foundation for primordial biosynthesis.

Barbara Aulicino and Morgan Ryan

At the very core of metabolism—the starting point for the synthetic pathways of all biomolecules—is a relatively simple set of reactions known as the citric acid cycle (also called the tricarboxylic acid cycle or the Krebs cycle). The cycle involves eight molecules, each a carboxylic acid (a molecule containing —COO groups). In most present-day life forms on Earth, the citric acid cycle operates to break organic molecules down into carbon dioxide and water, using oxygen to produce energy for the cell—in effect, ”burning” those molecules as fuel. (Technically, a molecule like glucose is first broken down into smaller molecules like pyruvate, which is then fed into the citric acid cycle. Full decomposition of pyruvate to CO2 and water is facilitated by transfer of high-energy electrons to certain coreactants that, in the modern cell, ferry the electrons to other reactions). When the cycle operates in this way, we say that it is in its oxidative mode.

The cycle can also operate in the opposite direction, taking in energy (in the form of high-energy electrons) and building up larger molecules from smaller ones. This is called the reductive mode of the cycle. If an organism has access to high-energy electrons like those produced by geochemical processes, in fact, it can thrive with the cycle exclusively in the reductive mode, having no use for the oxidative mode at all. One way to think about the two modes of the cycle is this: In the oxidative mode, the input is an organic molecule, and the output is chemical energy, carbon dioxide and water. In the reductive mode, the input is chemical energy, carbon dioxide and water, and the output is a more complex molecule.

This must have been the way the cycle operated on the early Earth, because molecular oxygen was not available primordially to support the oxidative mode, and because we see it operating this way today in some anaerobic organisms that seem to have preserved this aspect of the biochemistry of their ancestors. In the reductive mode, the cycle provides a way for high-energy electrons to flow down the chemical hill. It is similar to the acetate reaction shown earlier, which is thermodynamically feasible but very slow, but with the addition of a network of small molecules—the reductive citric acid cycle—acting to mediate and speed up the reaction. On biochemical and thermodynamic grounds, then, the reductive citric acid cycle (or some simpler precursor) would be a good candidate for the threshold of early life—the point where the pond of high-potential water is breached and the downhill pathway is etched out. The slow uncatalyzed conversion of carbon dioxide and hydrogen into acetate and water, shown earlier, occurs efficiently as the energy and reactants enter a primordial network of reactions like the modern-day reductive citric acid cycle.

In the metabolic maps of all modern organisms, the small molecules and reactions of the citric acid cycle are the starting point of every biosynthetic pathway—all roads lead from the citric acid cycle. However, in some organisms the reactions do not form a closed—cyclic—reaction sequence. For that reason, even among researchers convinced that these reactions are vestiges of the first metabolism, debate remains over whether the very first metabolic footpath was a cycle. However, because only cycles can act as self-amplifying channels, and because in organisms not running the closed cycle, sophisticated compensating adaptations are required, we consider a primordial reductive citric acid cycle the most likely route from geochemistry to life—the rivulet that formed at the top of the energy hill, through which the pond of energy began its thermodynamic escape. We then ask how, from this simple beginning, could the complexity we see in the modern cell arise. The first thing to notice is that, taken by itself, the cycle captures only part of the energy in the carbon dioxide and hydrogen that constitute its input. In transforming the carbon dioxide to acetate, for example, the cycle harvests only about a third of the energy available in the electrons. Even in the deep core of metabolism, however, we do not see the cycle in isolation. Its lowest-energy molecule, acetate, is the starting point for other pathways that make the essential oils used in cell membranes, harvesting another third of the electron energy. Further reactions, such as those that generate methane, can capture the remaining available energy, though methane is a gas and therefore a waste product, unlike the earlier molecules in the pathway, which are constituents of biomass.

Selection Begins

We note that there is a fundamental difference between the way chemical reaction systems could have operated before the appearance of the first self-replicating molecules and the way they operate now that self-replicating systems have developed. In the beginning, the only potential source of order would have been networks of chemical reactions operating according to the laws of chemistry and physics. After molecules appeared that could replicate more or less independently, such as RNA, however, evolution could have proceeded according to the rules of natural selection, with the success of subsequent generations dependent on adaptive properties. Exactly when and how this transition occurred remains an open question debated by researchers, but the fact that it did occur is plain. Another way of saying this is that before the appearance of the first self-replicating molecules or assemblages of molecules (and, again, we have to emphasize that these may or may not have been inside cells), what mattered was the persistence of the chemical network after such a system appeared, natural selection took on its more familiar form of selection among rival reproducing “individuals.”

Once natural selection began, systems with slightly different chemistry would appear on the scene through random accident. For example, acetate can be used in two ways to make oily molecules, and the major domains of life divide, in part, according to which class they make and how they use them. Methane production purely for energetic purposes may have been primordial, or it may have been coupled to metabolism in a later, more complicated age (another topic of serious debate among researchers investigating the deepest branches of the tree of life).

The important pattern to appreciate is that the primordial cycle provides the stability and starting materials that make an age of selection possible. We think it was at the transition to this stage that geochemistry began to take on the features of replication and selection recognized by Darwin as distinctive of life. After such an age has begun, it can maintain the complexity and diversity needed to explore for refinements—in efficiency, in adaptation to the geological environment or in specialized division of labor within communal systems. The same pattern repeated itself when the environment was changed by the accumulation of a destructive toxin—oxygen—that was produced by primordial organisms as a waste product. As they adapted, organisms did not abandon the reductive citric acid cycle, which we believe was the unique foundation for biosynthesis. Instead they acquired the ability to run the cycle in reverse, extracting energy from the breakdown of molecules similar to those the cycle formerly produced.

The role of the citric acid cycle as a foundation for complexity applies not only to subsequent adaptation by organisms under selection it can be seen even within the chemical structure of the metabolic core itself. A particularly powerful way to make this point is to rework the schematic chart of current metabolism first developed by Nicholson. The original Nicholson chart was developed to elaborate human metabolism and was gradually expanded to incorporate the complex webs of chemistry on which humans depend. Recently, one of us (Morowitz) and Vijay Srinivasan used evidence from microbiology to distill the Nicholson chart, with its complex modules and domains of metabolism, down to a minimal common core, the necessary and sufficient network of reactions to make a living system. Within this core chart, which will be published soon, we arrayed pathways as layers built around citric acid cycle precursors. A fragment of that detailed chart is shown in Figure 4. The innermost layer consists of molecules that can be built from cycle intermediates with one chemical reaction, the next layer consists of those that can be built with two reactions, and so on. (Once you get past the first few layers, the counting becomes ambiguous, as the reactions often involve molecules that were themselves the products of layers farther in).

From this layered structure we believe we can see the chemical cascade that comprised the earliest steps in the evolution of life.

Figure 4. The famous metabolic map on page 209 was recently reworked to feature metabolism of chemoautotrophs—organisms that derive energy from inorganic sources and synthesize all necessary compounds from CO2. Arraying the reactions in concentric rings reveals a short route to essential biological products.

Barbara Aulicino and Morgan Ryan

The primordial core chart is simpler than the elaborate chart made by combining organisms today, but it is not much simpler biosynthetically. It contains the major modules for sugars, oils and amino and nucleic acids, and we have proposed that it was—at least in broad outline—the agency of chemical selection in an era that preceded natural selection on distinguishable organisms.

If this notion turns out to be true, it will have important implications for a deep philosophical question: whether we should understand the history of life in terms of the working out of predictable physical principles or of the agency of chance. We are, in fact, arguing that life will appear on any planet that reproduces the environmental and geological conditions that appeared on the early Earth, and that it will appear in order to solve precisely the sort of ”stranded electron” problem discussed above. The currently popular view that complex life was something of a frozen accident was set forth in Jacques Monod’s classic book Chance and Necessity (1970). We, of course, are arguing the opposite, if only for a significant part of basic chemical architecture. (It is important to appreciate that Monod studied regulatory systems, and in the domain of his expertise, we recognize the importance of accident, though we believe he advocated it too broadly.) It has not escaped our notice that the mechanism we are postulating immediately suggests that life is widespread in the universe, and can be expected to develop on any planet whose chemistry resembles that of the early Earth.

The view of life originating as a network of simple chemical reactions will require a lot of testing before it is adopted by the scientific community. We identify two areas where research is being pursued: the development of the theory of nonequilibrium statistical mechanics and the experimental pursuit of those first nonenzymatic chemical reactions that led to modern life.

On the theoretical side, we have to start with the realization that if we apply standard equilibrium thermodynamics to living systems, we arrive at something of a paradox. Living systems possess low entropy, which makes them very improbable from the equilibrium thermodynamic viewpoint. From the point of view of theoretical physics, the basic problem is that classical thermodynamics has only been well developed for systems in equilibrium—systems that do not change over time—or that change only by moving through successive, infinitesimally different equilibrium states. What is needed, therefore, is an extension of ordinary thermodynamics so that it can apply to systems maintained far from equilibrium by the flow of energy.

One promising approach was first suggested by E. T. Jaynes in the mid-20th century. He recognized that information (and hence entropy) is associated not just with states but with whole histories of change, which can include channel flows of the sort we have been discussing. Technically, one cannot talk about the entropy “of a state” if the state depends for its context on a process of change only the entropy of the whole process is expected to be maximized. To return to our pond on the hill, there is not a separate entropy of the pond, except as an approximation. Rather, there is an entropy of paths of change that include pond, channel, construction and relaxation. When such a formulation is analyzed for a simple system, the establishment of a channel can be seen as a phase transition, similar to the freezing of an ice cube or, to use a more precise mathematical analogy, the formation of a magnet from molten iron. (In the latter case, the phase transition occurs as the metal cools when the atomic dipole magnets line up in the same direction—paradoxically, a more ordered state). The full entropy of the process will be maximized in the system, even though the approximate entropy associated with the “state” of the channel may not be, thereby eliminating the paradox.

Current research into this foundational question now centers on the fact that the chemical substrate of living systems is much more complex than that of simple physical systems that have been examined so far. One important new direction of research involves the development of small-molecule catalysts in increasingly complex cooperative networks. The hope is that when a full theory is available, we will see the formation of life as an inevitable outcome of basic thermodynamics, like the freezing of ice cubes or the formation of magnets.

Figure 5. PRIMOS—the Prebiotic Interstellar Molecule Survey—has focused on Sagittarius B2(N), a cloud near the center of our galaxy (left, radio telescope image top right). The radio footprints of many organic molecules have been detected there (bottom right). Where aqueous carbon chemistry occurs, is metabolism far behind?

Image at left courtesy of NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA). Image at top right courtesy of Gaume, R., et al. 1995. Astrophysics Journal 449:663, reprinted by permission of the American Astronomical Society. Illustration at bottom right by Barbara Aulicino.

On the experimental side, some researchers, such as George Cody at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C., are trying to work out the basic rules of organic chemistry for exotic environments that might have been relevant to the origin of life. Cody, for example, has worked on unraveling organic interactions at the kinds of temperatures and pressures that obtain at deep ocean vents. Mike Russell at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, (author of “First Life,” January–February 2006) is building a large chamber to model the geochemistry of those environments. Shelley Copley at the University of Colorado at Boulder has been sorting out the intermediate chemistry leading to the current nucleic acid–protein system of genetic coding, with an eye toward resolving the chicken-and-egg problem. These experiments represent a major paradigm shift from the top-down control envisioned in RNA World scenarios. Rather than supposing that a few large RNA molecules control the adaptation of a passive small-molecule reaction network, Copley supposes that whole networks of intermediate molecules support each other on the path toward complexity. In this experimental setting, networks of small and randomly synthesized amino acids and single RNA units aid each others’ formation, assembly into strings and evolution of catalytic capacity. Both types of molecules grow long together. Complexity, adaptation and control are distributed in such networks, rather than concentrated in one molecular species or reaction type. Distributed control is likely to be a central paradigm in the development of Metabolism First as a viable theory. We eagerly anticipate more experimental efforts like these to explore the many facets of small-molecule system organization.

In a larger sense, however, the future of the experimental program associated with the Metabolism First philosophy is tied to the development of the appropriate theory, guided by experimental results. The hope is that the interplay of theory and experiment, so familiar to historians of science, will produce a theory that illuminates the physical principles that led to the development of life and, hence, give us the ability to re-create life in our laboratories.

Assuming the experimental and theoretical programs outlined above work out well, our picture of life as a robust, inevitable outcome of certain geochemical processes will be on firm footing. Who knows? Maybe then someone will write a book titled Necessity, Not Chance.


The “Out-of-Africa” Theory vs the Multiregional Theory- The Origin of Mankind

Despite the Earth’s existence for over 4.6 billion years, many debates still cover its being, especially concerning the Earth itself as well as its inhabitants. One of today’s most prominent debates has to do with the origin of the modern species of humans, Homo sapiens.

In 1974, our earliest ancestor Lucy, a woman of the Australopithecus family, was found in Ethiopia. Commenting on her discovery, in 2012, scientist Derek Rossi stated “More specifically, the Afar region of Ethiopia has been the site where many of the most significant early hominid fossils have been unearthed, including the Australopithecus afarensis fossil find by Donald Johanson, dubbed Lucy.” Lucy’s importance to paleontology became evident, as it was clear that she was probably the oldest ancestor for every species of hominin.

However, despite her major contribution to science, Lucy was not the only human-like species to be found in Africa. In 2008, the two million year old remains of the Australopithecus sediba were discovered in Johannesburg, South Africa. Paleontologists determined that its human-like features in South Africa developed just as the afarensis developed in the East. The evolution of the two genuses into the eventual modern day humans shows that several different species of humans existed in Africa two million years ago.

Our species, the modern day humans- Homo sapiens, are of the genus Homo. Homo sapiens evolved from primates such as monkeys, orangutans, and chimpanzees on the basis that they could walk upright, making them become classified under the family Hominidae. The Homo erectus, our direct ancestor, shows several key physiological differences from its predecessor, the Australopithecus including a smaller mouth size, an increase in brain size as well as an increase cranial capacity.

With the general consensus that humans have ties in Africa, two hypotheses have attempted to explain the origin of modern humans in a different light. The Out-of-Africa hypothesis proposes that a migration out of Africa happened about 100,000 years ago, in which modern humans of African origin conquered the world and completely replaced the Homo erectus, which had already established itself in regions such as Eurasia. The multiregional hypothesis states that Homo sapiens evolved from several, different human populations in different areas of the world during the million years since Homo erectus migrated out of Africa. Despite both hypotheses having their own rebuttals, the former is more widely accepted, demonstrating that a larger part of the population seems to feel that modern-day humans evolved out of Africa only recently, making their ties to the continent stronger.

Modern-day Africa currently houses over 1.2 billion people, with an additional 170 million people claiming some sort of descent found in some part of the continent. As an African immigrant myself, my family and I have grown accustomed to describing Africa as “the motherland” when directed at my own family tree. However, these discoveries in paleontology have led many people in all parts of the world to look towards Africa as their “motherland,” whether their ties to Africa traced back 50 years ago or two million years ago.

Click here for more information on each of the theories relating to the origin of modern humans.


7 Blueprints In Literature


In 1928, H.G. Wells published a book called The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution. In the book, he lays out a recipe for establishing a new world order that will last for generations, all of which will be run by the &ldquoAtlantic&rdquo elite. In 1940, he followed it up with the aptly named The New World Order.

Most people are familiar with H.G. Wells from books like The Time Machine and War of the Worlds, but his guidelines for the New World Order were anything but fiction. As an outspoken socialist, he believed that a world government was inevitable and that widespread eugenics was the proper course for humanity.

True to form, conspiracy theorists are quick to assume that his NWO literature is &ldquorequired reading&rdquo for the world elite. They see it not necessarily as a prediction but as the impetus that brought the &ldquocurrent&rdquo New World Order into existence in the first place.


Rome founded

According to tradition, on April 21, 753 B.C., Romulus and his twin brother, Remus, found Rome on the site where they were suckled by a she-wolf as orphaned infants. Actually, the Romulus and Remus myth originated sometime in the fourth century B.C., and the exact date of Rome’s founding was set by the Roman scholar Marcus Terentius Varro in the first century B.C.

According to the legend, Romulus and Remus were the sons of Rhea Silvia, the daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa. Alba Longa was a mythical city located in the Alban Hills southeast of what would become Rome. Before the birth of the twins, Numitor was deposed by his younger brother Amulius, who forced Rhea to become a vestal virgin so that she would not give birth to rival claimants to his title. However, Rhea was impregnated by the war god Mars and gave birth to Romulus and Remus. Amulius ordered the infants drowned in the Tiber, but they survived and washed ashore at the foot of the Palatine hill, where they were suckled by a she-wolf until they were found by the shepherd Faustulus.

Reared by Faustulus and his wife, the twins later became leaders of a band of young shepherd warriors. After learning their true identity, they attacked Alba Longa, killed the wicked Amulius, and restored their grandfather to the throne. The twins then decided to found a town on the site where they had been saved as infants. They soon became involved in a petty quarrel, however, and Remus was slain by his brother. Romulus then became ruler of the settlement, which was named “Rome” after him.


The ‘born criminal’? Lombroso and the origins of modern criminology

Believing essentially that criminality was inherited and that criminals could be identified by physical attributes such as hawk-like noses and bloodshot eyes, Lombroso was one of the first people in history to use scientific methods to study crime.

Lombroso is the subject of a historical novel by former criminal barrister Diana Bretherick. Here, writing for History Extra, Bretherick tells you everything you need to know about him, and explains why his influence on today’s study of crime cannot be ignored…

It began in Italy in 1871 with a meeting between a criminal and a scientist. The criminal was a man named Giuseppe Villella, a notorious Calabrian thief and arsonist. The scientist was an army doctor called Cesare Lombroso, who had begun his career working in lunatic asylums and had then become interested in crime and criminals while studying Italian soldiers. Now he was trying to pinpoint the differences between lunatics, criminals and normal individuals by examining inmates in Italian prisons.

Lombroso found Villella interesting, given his extraordinary agility and cynicism as well as his tendency to boast of his escapades and abilities. After Villella’s death, Lombroso conducted a post-mortem and discovered that his subject had an indentation at the back of his skull, which resembled that found in apes. Lombroso concluded from this evidence, as well as that from other criminals he had studied, that some were born with a propensity to offend and were also savage throwbacks to early man. This discovery was the beginning of Lombroso’s work as a criminal anthropologist.

Lombroso wrote: “At the sight of that skull, I seemed to see all of a sudden, lighted up as a vast plain under a flaming sky, the problem of the nature of the criminal – an atavistic being who reproduces in his person the ferocious instincts of primitive humanity and the inferior animals.

“Thus were explained anatomically the enormous jaws, high cheek bones, prominent superciliary arches, solitary lines in the palms, extreme size of the orbits, handle shaped or sessile ears found in criminals, savages and apes, insensibility to pain, extremely acute sight, tattooing, excessive idleness, love of orgies and the irresistible craving for evil for its own sake, the desire not only to extinguish life in the victim, but to mutilate the corpse, tear its flesh, and drink its blood.”

Essentially, Lombroso believed that criminality was inherited and that criminals could be identified by physical defects that confirmed them as being atavistic or savage. A thief, for example, could be identified by his expressive face, manual dexterity, and small, wandering eyes. Habitual murderers meanwhile had cold, glassy stares, bloodshot eyes and big hawk-like noses, and rapists had ‘jug ears’. Lombroso did not, however, confine his views to male criminals – he co-wrote his first book to examine the causes of female crime, and concluded, among other things, that female criminals were far more ruthless than male tended to be lustful and immodest were shorter and more wrinkled and had darker hair and smaller skulls than ‘normal’ women. They did, however, suffer from less baldness, said Lombroso. Women who committed crimes of passion had prominent lower jaws and were more wicked than their male counterparts, he concluded.

Inspired by his discovery, Lombroso continued his work and produced the first of five editions of Criminal Man in 1876. As a result Lombroso became known as the father of modern criminology. One of the first to realise that crime and criminals could be studied scientifically, Lombroso’s theory of the born criminal dominated thinking about criminal behaviour in the late 19th and early 20th century.

For thousands of years until that point, the dominant view had been that, as crime was a sin against God, it should be punished in a fitting manner – ‘an eye for an eye’, and so forth. During the Enlightenment, thinkers such as Jeremy Bentham the and Italian Cesare Beccaria decided that, as we were all rational beings, the choice to commit an offence was taken by weighing up the costs and benefits. If the costs were made high with harsh penalties then this would put off all but the most determined of criminals.

This was an interesting philosophy, but critics noted its flaws – not everyone is rational, and some crimes, particularly violent ones, are purely emotional, they said. Lombroso and his fellow criminal anthropologists also challenged these ideas, and were the first to advocate the study of crime and criminals from a scientific perspective. In particular, Lombroso supported its use in criminal investigation and one of his assistants, Salvatore Ottolenghi, founded the first School of Scientific Policing in Rome in 1903.

Throughout his career, Lombroso not only drew on the work of other criminal anthropologists throughout Europe, but also conducted many of his own experiments in order to prove his theories. These involved using bizarre contraptions to measure various body parts, and also more abstract things like sensitivity to pain and a propensity to tell untruths. Indeed, Lombroso eventually developed a rudimentary prototype of the lie detector.

Lombroso used various pieces of equipment for different purposes. A hydrosphygmograph, for example, was used to study changes in blood pressure in his subjects, who included criminals with long records of offending, and ‘normal’ subjects. While their left arm was attached to the machine and the right to an induction coil called a Ruhmkorff, subjects would be exposed to various stimuli – both unpleasant, such as electric shocks and the sound of the firing of a pistol, and pleasant, for example music, food, money, or a picture of a nude woman.

The problem was that the recording of the results was sometimes chaotic, which made the conclusions drawn unreliable, to say the least. To make matters worse, Lombroso tended to draw on unusual evidence to add weight to his theories, such as old proverbs, and anecdotes told to him by friends and colleagues over the years. This left his work vulnerable to attack by critics across Europe. All of this, perhaps, reflects the sort of man Lombroso was: capricious, ebullient and probably maddening to work for – although, one would imagine, never dull.

A familiar face

Lombroso was a well-known personality in Italy, giving sell-out lectures and talks, and commenting on all kinds of things in the popular press. He was interested in many things, and sometimes had difficulty in focusing on one thing at a time. One of his daughters, Paola, described a typical day in his life: “…composing on the typewriter, correcting proofs, running from Bocca (his publisher) to the typesetter, from the typesetter to the library and from the library to the laboratory in a frenzy of movement… and in the evening, not tired and wanting to go to the theatre, to a peregrination of two or three of the city’s theatres, taking in the first act at one, paying a flying visit to another and finishing the evening in a third.”

Lombroso was endlessly curious about crime, criminals and their motivation for offending, as well as their culture. As a result, he collected artefacts created by and belonging to prisoners that he had encountered during his long career. He also had in his possession death masks from various criminals who had been executed, as well as many skeletons and skulls. Initially, these were housed at his home and then at the University of Turin where he worked. In 1892 Lombroso opened a museum for these artefacts. This closed in 1914, but reopened in Turin in 2010 and is well worth a visit. One of the most prominent exhibits was Lombroso’s head in a jar of preservative, which he agreed would be donated upon his death (in 1909).

An early sexologist

Lombroso’s other interests included hypnotism and the paranormal, particularly spiritualism. He has also been described as an early sexologist, given that he was one of the first to examine and catalogue sexual practices. His work Criminal Woman (1893) included sections on adultery, frigidity, lesbianism, masturbation and premarital sex, as well as a discussion on the causes and characteristics of prostitution.

According to Lombroso, his interest in the occult began when, in 1882, he was asked to examine the 14-year-old daughter of a family friend. She was thought to be suffering from hysteria and had been vomiting, sleepwalking and complaining of fatigue. Lombroso concluded this girl was able to see into the future and also to describe what others were doing when they were far away. She was apparently also able to see, read and smell with other parts of her body. Lombroso could offer no explanation for this.

Another famous example was what he described as the case of the haunted cellar. Here he was called in by a family of wine merchants who believed one of their wine cellars was under attack from invisible entities. When Lombroso visited, he went down to the cellar and waited to see what happened. Bottles began to fall and by the time he left Lombroso had witnessed 15 being broken. Again, he was unable to offer an explanation for what he had seen.

As well as breaking new ground in his work on criminals, Lombroso has also been described as a founding father of parapsychology [a pseudoscience concerned with the investigation of paranormal and psychic phenomena which includes telepathy, near-death experiences and reincarnation]. He investigated a psychic medium called Eusapia Palladino, participating in seances led by her. In one, which took place in 1892 and saw the medium tied to a camp bed, a number of spirits seem to have presented themselves. This persuaded Lombroso, among other witnesses, that the spiritual world was a reality, and he considered it a duty to establish beyond doubt (with the assistance of science) that ghosts were real.

Lombroso’s last book, published after his death, was a discussion of the biology of the spiritual world. Unsurprisingly it had a mixed reception, and his research into ghosts, poltergeists, telepathy and levitation appropriately disappeared into the ether. It did, however, add to the general discrediting of Lombroso’s ideas over the years, and for some time his work was viewed as being more of curiosity value than anything else. This was accentuated by the increasing popularity of eugenics and the use of biological theories of crime by the Nazis to justify the murder millions of people. In the postwar period other, more sociological, explanations for criminal behaviour became more popular, and thus biological theories were largely rejected.

However, in recent years bio-criminology has re-emerged, largely due to Lombroso’s legacy. He introduced the idea that criminality was not a matter of sin or free will, but could instead be a medical problem that needed to be examined by experts in that field. Lombroso also advocated examining the criminal as an individual rather than focusing on the crime alone.

In addition to his pioneering work on the female offender, Lombroso was one of the first to use scientific methods to study crime, and he inspired many others to do the same. Today, neuro-criminology draws on some of Lombroso’s theories to explore causes of criminal behaviour – examining, for example, whether or not brain injuries or genetic abnormalities can lead to criminality or whether violence can be caused by a clinical disorder. Recent studies have found that there may be a genetic origin for violent crime, and that personality traits including criminality can be deduced from facial features. The born criminal, it seems, might not be such a ridiculous idea after all.

Diana Bretherick is a lecturer in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth, and the author of The Devil’s Daughters (Orion, 2015), which features Cesare Lombroso as a character investigating a series of abductions and murders while he begins his research into criminal women. Bretherick was a criminal barrister for 10 years before becoming an academic.

This article was first published by History Extra in 2015


Scientific Evidence Against the Great Flood

While there is scientific evidence that supports the occurrence of the great flood, there is also scientific evidence that argues against it. Some believe that the great flood may have occurred during Noah's time, but that it happened over the entire Earth rather than some regional parts.

As per the Bible, the rain during the great flood lasted for 30 days, and the Earth was flooded for 150 days. Only after one year, two months, and twenty-seven days, did the Earth dry and thus Noah, his entire family, and all the animals were able to move out of the ark.

The great flood was intended to completely destroy all life on Earth. As the sedimentary rocks over all the continents do contain fossils, the great flood could represent the destruction of all living beings. Thus, the story of the global flood mentioned in the Bible might have been true.

However, the sedimentary rocks have interlayers of gypsum, evaporite rock salt, anhydrite, and magnesium and potash salts. All these are related to red beds that contain fossilized mud cracks. The red beds and mineral compounds have a measurable combined thickness on various continents.

The red color of the red beds is mainly due to the presence of hematite, an iron oxide that is formed from oxidized magnetite grains when the mud gets exposed to oxygen present in the open air. Mud cracks can only occur under severe drying conditions that result in the shrinking of mud and the formation of polygonal cracks.

The evaporite deposits are believed to occur when a marine sea that existed disappears and becomes completely dry. In such a case, the evaporites are expected to be found at the top of the flood deposits of the great flood. However, the evaporites were found in different layers and not on the top of the flood deposit. This makes certain scientists believe that the great flood never took place.

Moreover, it is written in the Bible that at some time the flood waters started receding and left the ground completely dry. There were no repeated cycles of floods of this size. According to this, it is quite logical that the red beds and evaporite deposits in different levels of the flood deposit could only be formed in local climates having desert drying conditions.

However, it is not possible this was formed at the same time the great flood covered the surface of the whole Earth. On this basis, it can be said that a massive regional flood could have occurred but not a whole-Earth flood.

The Matsya Avatar of Vishnu Uttar Pradesh, India. Matsya is an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. Often described as the first of Vishnu's ten primary avatars, Matsya is said to have rescued the first man Manu from a great deluge. The Matsya Avatar is often depicted as a giant fish. (Victoria and Albert Museum / Public domain )


What Is Borscht? Let Us Name Its Iterations

Depending on who you ask, it may or may not be borscht if it doesn’t contain beetroot.

The quintessential Ukrainian borscht is made with beetroot, potatoes and pork fat. But if you’re talking to someone from eastern Ukraine, it’s possible they may make it without beetroot, in slightly more Russian fashion. The typical “Moscow borscht” contains various meats and sausages, too.

As mentioned above, Polish adaptations helped borscht branch out into white and green varieties, and the addition of cabbage became a trademark of borscht made in the region between the Donets and Volga rivers.

You can find unripe plums and apricots adding a twinge of tartness to soups in Ukraine and Romania.

In Moldova, it’s perhaps a fermented starter made of polenta and bran water infused with sour cherry leaves.

Borscht in Georgia and Azerbaijan often has a kick of extra spice in it from fresh red chili, or hot chili flakes.

However much one’s national identity plays into their take on borscht, the soup provides an interpretive medium that is meant to be remixed according to your personal whims. All of the following are nonstandard ingredients that can constitute a borscht: dill, beans, basil, pickled apples, turnips, apricots, plums, cherries, sweet pepper, eggplant, olives, marrow, sausages, mint, tarragon — the list, as they say, goes on.


Watch the video: Uncovering the mystery of the death of Queen Dowager Cian