Don’t worry, it’s not one of those DNA tests.
Scientists performed a “prehistoric maternity test”, and they have “successfully sequenced the oldest known human DNA and found a stranger in the mix, suggesting that interbreeding between early human species in Ice Age Europe was more widespread than suspected, according to research made public Wednesday,” as reported in the Wall Street Journal.
The Times also covered this scientific achievement. Both articles successfully broke down a complicated process that only experienced scientists would understand, and brought it down to the readers level. Sometimes science articles can be boring, but neither one of these articles were.
The DNA was taken from a fossil thigh bone, “preserved in the cool damp at the bottom of a deep cave shaft called Sima de los Huesos-the pit of bones-in northern Spain, where remains of 28 early humans belonging to an unknown species have been discovered,” as quoted from the Journal.
Both articles reported the facts of the test and the published paper that they first appeared in. The first press article about this scientific research appeared in a journal called Nature. Scientists who performed the tests were quoted in both stories an appropriate amount; but the Times story was a lot longer than the Journal’s, almost unnecessarily so. With no great disparities between the two articles, the Times article used double the words to sa the exact same thing as the Journal’s article.
However, there is one slight disparity between the two articles: in the Journal, the piece of thigh bone is identified as being “more than 300,000 years old”, and in the Times it is “about 400,000 years, shattering the previous record of 100,000 years”. So which is it? More than 300,000 years old suggests it being around 350,000 years old but not higher.
If it was higher, then one would say that it was around 400,000 years old. The age of the bone is even used in the title of the Times article: “At 400,000 Years, Oldest Human DNA Yet Found Raises New Mysteries”.
The impact of this story may not be huge to the average reader, but to the whole scientific community it is groundbreaking. These scientists were able to perform a test that “would not have been possible even a year ago”, a paleoanthropologist said in the Times article.
Either way, it is a fascinating story, one that both newspapers tell in a different, but satisfying way.
There is no “monitoring power” or “offering voice to the voiceless” in a science article. The only voiceless ones are the skeletons that the scientists are uncovering. Rather these articles are meant to inform the public of an important scientific find, and it’s up to the reporters to make it interesting and applicable to their readers.