Tag Archives: Adventure

Thar be Dragons

Ancient map, old map

In medieval times cartographers often placed dragons and sea serpents in uncharted areas of their maps. While they may not have literally believed these regions to be populated by monsters, they understood them to be dangerous. Explorers went anyway.

I was reminded of those old maps by two wonderfully complementary essays from National Geographic that caught my eye this week. The first, Restless Genes, tries to explain this penchant for exploration.

“No other mammal moves around like we do,” says Svante Pääbo, a director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where he uses genetics to study human origins. “We jump borders. We push into new territory even when we have resources where we are. Other animals don’t do this. Other humans either. Neanderthals were around hundreds of thousands of years, but they never spread around the world. In just 50,000 years we covered everything. There’s a kind of madness to it. Sailing out into the ocean, you have no idea what’s on the other side. And now we go to Mars. We never stop. Why?”

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