Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mitochondrial Eve - Greg Egan


Number of words : 8900
Percent of complex words : 15.0
Average syllables per word : 1.6
Average words per sentence : 17.0


Fog : 12.8
Flesch : 50.9
Flesch-Kincaid : 10.4



A physicist and Lena's boyfriend.


A communications engineer.

Francis Bacon

A writer.

Cousin Andre

One of the Children of Eve, who tests Paul's ancestry.

William Sachs

The Children's West Pacific Research Director.

High Priest Church of the Sacred UFO

Thinks everyone is from the other inner planets, instead.


Ancestor Wars

Dispute between the Children of Eve and Sons of Adam and others over humanity's lines of descent.

Great Tree

Children of Eve description of the overall family history of humanity.

Mitochondrial Eve

Our hypothetical ten-thousand-times-great grandmother.


There's DNA in the mitochondria, inherited from the mother alone. So it's easier to use mitochondrial DNA to trace your ancestry. Mitochondrial DNA came, not in paired chromosomes, but in tiny loops called plasmids. There were hundreds of plasmids in every cell, but they were all identical, and they all derived from the ovum alone. Mutations aside -- one every 4,000 years or so -- your mitochondrial DNA was exactly the same as that of your mother, your maternal grandmother, great-grandmother, and so on.


Study of the ancient human genome.

Out of Africa hypothesis

Theory of human migration, modern Homo sapiens had evolved from the earlier Homo erectus in one place only, and had then migrated throughout the world, out-competing and replacing the local Homo erectus everywhere they went.

Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen correlation

The entanglement of two microscopic particles into a single quantum system.

Y-chromosome Adam

In the cell divisions leading up to sperm production, most of the DNA of the Y chromosome underwent recombination with the X chromosome -- but part of it remained aloof, unscrambled, passed down the purely paternal line with the same fidelity as mitochondrial DNA passed from mother to daughter. In fact, with more fidelity: mutations in nuclear DNA were much less frequent, which made it a much less useful molecular clock.


Children of Eve

Believers in one mother for humanity, and setting aside differences. Put a lot of effort into researching and promoting this concept.

UNSW physics department

Where Paul works on his research.


A clothing company.


Surfing gear company.

World Palaeogenetics Forum

Tenth one is held at Cambridge.

Hammer Horror

Producer of horror movies.



Capital of NSW.


City in India.


City in Samoa.

Arnhem Land

Part of the Northern Territory.


Part of Indonesia.


Nigerian city.


Capital of England.


University town in England.



A tech magazine.


The Children of Eve organisation wants to prove and convince people that modern humanity is descended from one African mother. Lena is a believer, and when her boyfriend Paul talks about his work they have the idea of using quantum physics to research the genetic bonds. They can get the Children to sponsor this long term project.

However, in opposition the Sons of Adam and others have begun working on the same thing as the Children of Eve previously, but via the history of the Y-chromosome.

Paul is forced to up the ante and takes his research further, interrelating a chunk of human genetic history. When he holds a press conference at an actual Conference on the topic, he announces his findings. They are all wrong, and humans could not be descended from any single person that recently. The Out of Africa theory is not borne out by the research. Only if you go as far back as Australopithecus, perhaps.

4 out of 5

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