Thursday, May 07, 2009

In a hole near Java there lived a hobbit.

But I fear it may well have been a nasty, dirty, wet hole.

Study of Homo floriensis's foot indicates that it is indeed a distinct species which split off well before Homo erectus. Comparison with the brains of dwarf hippos also suggests that the "hobbit" brain's being 1/3 that of a modern brain is consistent with "insular dwarfism" and need not be attributed to some genetic disorder.

No explananation why that's true of brain size, but I would guess that with an isolated environment and, presumably, no serious enemies, floriensis didn't need much brain. Gray matter is metabolically expensive, and if it didn't have much selection value, then there was little need for it.

... Speaking of hobbits, Jim alerts us to the latest effort to publish everything Tolkien ever wrote, this time a verse reconstruction of the missing core of the Völsung saga. The TLS review is horribly pedantic, written by Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar who bends over backwards to remind us what a really smart, literary guy JRRT was. Strangely, Shippey omits to mention that Tolkien's later reworking of the tale formed a part of The Silmarillion.

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