Dr. Spencer Wells on the Power of Genographic Data

Topic: Dr. Spencer Wells on the Power of Genographic Data

Spencer Wells: Why is it powerful to individuals? I think particularly in a society like the one we have in the United States, we are a nation of immigrants and, you know, I was talking to some school kids this morning, giving a talk to high school kids who had migrated here, you know, their parents had come here from all over the world, we had kids from Sri Lanka, we had kids from Korea, we had kids from Hong Kong, you know, all over the planet, Puerto Rico and everybody has kind of a vague notion that they’re a hyphenated American, I’m African American, I’m Irish American, whatever it might be and beyond that they don’t know that much about their ancestry and so I think there’s a real desire particularly in places like the US, nations of immigrants to connect with the past, to connect with the ancestral homeland. And so I think that’s why individuals at least in part are interested in testing their DNA because it allows you to go back beyond traditional genealogy and get into the kind of deep aspects of your ancestry, where you’re really deeply connected to around the globe. Scientifically, you know, this is an effort to answer a key philosophical question, I mean it’s something philosophers and people who study religions and, you know, thinkers in general have been pondering for years, for a millennia, you know, where do we all come from, how do we relate to each other, why do we speak different languages, all of these basic things and, you know, now we have the tools of science that actually start to chip away at that and answer some of these questions.



Recorded on: Mar 15 2008




What does it mean to retrace the steps of a nation of immigrants?

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less