Thursday, June 08, 2006

A hitchhiker's guide to my brain...

Lobes of the Brain, Color-Coded
(Borrowed from Wikipedia)

... could be of use to me since my thoughts would then be less pedestrian.

Speaking of hitchhiker's guides for lost-in-the-funhouse-of-earth types like me, I've Googled and found that Douglas Adams's original volume in his great five-part trilogy is online and complete in every detail aside from the missing apostrophe in "Hitchhikers" (borrowed by a greengrocer, I'm guessing): Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

I was reminded of this work because yesterday's International Herald Tribune carried a story by Nicholas Wade announcing that an American professor of accounting, Thomas Robinson, is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan:

"Mild-mannered accountant, or Mongol warrior?"

The first American to be able to claim descent from Genghis Khan has been discovered. He is Thomas Robinson, an associate professor of accounting at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.


Robinson was researching his family tree and had established that his great-great-grandfather, John Robinson, had emigrated from Cumbria in England to Illinois. Reaching a dead end, in 2003 he submitted a scraping of cells from the inside of his cheek to Oxford Ancestors.


Recently, Bryan Sykes, the geneticist who founded Oxford Ancestors, decided to look through his database of about 50,000 people to see if there were any anomalous matches with Genghis Khan's Y chromosome.


Among his non-Asian customers was one hit -- Robinson. "Someone rang him up and I think it came as a nice surprise," Sykes said.


How did Genghis Khan's Y chromosome get into a family that has lived for many generations in the Lake District of northern England? Genghis Khan's empire stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Caspian Sea. One possibility, Sykes said, was that the Vikings might have transferred slaves from the Caspian region to the Orkney and Shetland Islands, which they controlled in the 13th century, although their power on the British mainland was waning. Viking boats reached the Caspian by sailing on the rivers of Russia and being hauled overland.

One of the slaves, or his descendants, might have ended up in Cumbria and assumed the surname Robinson. Surnames were not used in England until around the13th century, Sykes said.

That must also explain this passage from Hitchhiker's guide:
Mr. L. Prosser was, as they say, only human. In other words he was a carbon-based life form descended from an ape. More specifically he was forty, fat and shabby and worked for the local council. Curiously enough, though he didn't know it, he was also a direct male-line descendant of Genghis Khan, though intervening generations and racial mixing had so juggled his genes that he had no discernible Mongoloid characteristics, and the only vestiges left in Mr. L. Prosser of his mighty ancestry were a pronounced stoutness about the tum and a predilection for little fur hats.

He was by no means a great warrior: in fact he was a nervous worried man. Today he was particularly nervous and worried because something had gone seriously wrong with his job -- which was to see that Arthur Dent's house got cleared out of the way before the day was out.
If only Prosser had gotten his chromosomes checked by Oxford Ancestors, he might have learned of his "mighty ancestry" and thereby have come to understand his deep-seated need to destroy, destroy, destroy Arthur Dent's home.



At 2:41 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Love the title and the concept. Don't forget your towel.

At 3:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Oops ... forgot the towel. That's one thought that should have been more pedestrian.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:00 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Actually, there are about 10 million men who
carry the same Y-chromosome.

At 4:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JJ Mollo, I had read somewhere that the number was 16 million, mostly in the parts of Asia where the Mongols ruled.

I suspect that this suggests a steep depopulation of the conquered areas during the conquest, which allowed the Khan's genes to dominate in succeeding generations.

Jeffery Hodges

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