September 1, 2014  

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First Science Café of fall 2011 Semester to Examine “Little People of Flores”

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Dr. Mac Alford

The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries' first Science Café for the fall series, "Little People of Flores" will be held Monday, August 29, from 6-7:30 p.m. in Cook Library's event room, located next to Starbucks in room 105A. These events are free and open to the public.

Dr. Mac Alford, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and curator of the university’s herbarium, will lead a discussion on a NOVA ScienceNow episode entitled "Little People of Flores." Described as the most important scientific discovery of the decade, fossils of tiny human-like creatures were unearthed in a cave on Flores island, Indonesia in 2003.

The discussion will focus on the evidence for the various perspectives and a broader background on the study of human evolution.

“Although the anthropologists first assumed they had found skeletons of children, they later contended that the fossils were actually of adult, 3-foot tall "hobbit"-like creatures--a different species of humans,” Alford said. “Dating of some fossils gave dates as young as 12,000 years ago, meaning that, if different, they overlapped with modern humans for about 30,000 years.”

The years following the discovery brought scientific excitement and intrigue. Some believe the individuals were diseased or had hormonal problems; the Indonesian government began limiting access to the area; and some of the key specimens were sequestered for three months and damaged. Others have argued that the "hobbits" may still be around.

Traces of fire and tools were also found at the site, but the pygmy humans had a brain one-third the size of modern humans, even smaller than chimpanzees.

A Science Café's casual meeting place, plain language, and inclusive conversation create a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere for people who may have little or no science background.  Each meeting is organized around an interesting scientific topic where a scientist gives a brief presentation and shows a short video clip to kick off the discussion.

For more information about this event, contact Tracy Englert at 601.266.6396 or tracy.englert@usm.edu.  Find out more about Science Cafes at http://www.sciencecafes.org.