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June 09, 2006

Science Trivia

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

4/5ths of what the brash young Einsteins at GNXP discuss sails right over my head. But every now and then something comes along that even my English-major brain can latch onto. For instance: Did you know that East Asians have less b.o. -- er, fewer Apocrine sweat glands -- than people of Euro and African descent do? (It's true, says Wikipedia.) Nice of them to put up with the rest of us.

I also loved being led by a comment on this posting to this jaw-dropping article about one of the most isolated population groups in the world: the Sentinelese, a tribe of around 250 living (almost) undisturbed in Stone Age conditions on an island in the Bay of Bengal.

A fascinating passage:

It is not certain whether, outside the Andaman Islands, there still exists any community that has had as little contact with civilization as the Sentinelese. Pandit and his colleagues say there is none. Several American anthropologists I have spoken to agree with them. (But then, they had not previously heard of the Sentinelese, either.) The "Stone Age" tribes I read about in college, ten years ago, were - I now discover - already well acquainted with the outside world, and are now even more so. The Yanomami ("the fierce people," as the subtitle of one of my textbooks described them) prostitute themselves to Brazilian gold miners, while the !Kung San are chased off game reserves to make way for eco-tourism in the Kalahari Desert.



posted by Michael at June 9, 2006


One of the Sherlock Holmes stories features an Andaman Islander as the assassin companion of a vengeful sailor looking to right old wrongs. He used a blowgun, if I remember. Pretty scary!

Posted by: Robert Speirs on June 9, 2006 4:02 PM

These were the islanders whose survival was thought to be in doubt after the tsumami. The Indian government send a helicopter to reconnoiter the island at low level, and it was met by ground-to-air spear fire. They seem to have reported back that the Sentinel Islanders were doing much the same as usual. . .

Posted by: Derek Lowe on June 9, 2006 9:05 PM

More on these islanders who survived the tsunami can be found Here.

Their system is simple and unique. The tribes-people live in close harmony with nature and with the local flora and fauna. They seem to have an intense system of by which they observe their fellow-creatures. The cries of the birds, the frenzy of the smaller mammals, even the change in the swimming pattern of the marine animals � all give them clues and signals of approaching natural calamities -- like storms or tidal waves.

Its interesting to think that the ancient ways of doing things occasionally trump our modern ways.

Posted by: marvin on June 10, 2006 12:39 PM

Unfortunately the Indian government is hellbent on destroying their way of life. In its infinate socialist wisdom has enacted an official policy of trying to establish contact in order to 'integrate' them into Indian society.

The Sentinalese have survived because are very hostile to outsiders. The friendlier tribes have already been decimated through disease and handful who remain are completely dependent on Indian government welfare.

Posted by: pravin on June 11, 2006 1:47 PM

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