Nightfall in the Hobbit Cave

“This is what Homo floresiensis must have felt like,” a paleoanthropologist mused through the darkness. It is almost 8pm on a Thursday and I am sitting on the floor of the cave known as Liang Bua. Other researchers stand only a meter from me, but I cannot see them, my eyes have yet to adjust…

Seeing as a Child Sees: Science, Wonder, and Excitement

“We have a healthy spacecraft,” Alice Bowman announced on the evening of July 14, 2015. Bowman, the operations manager for the New Horizons mission, was commenting on the incredible flyby of Pluto, a flyby that gave humans a closer view of the planet than we had ever seen before. In an interview following the historic flyby,…

What Difference Does a Damaged Skull Make, Anyhow?

Readers of this blog are familiar with my fascination of the fossils of human ancestors. I’ve written about fossils’ beauty, their strange stories, and the ways they make us question our ideas. Despite these points, critics often ask: do the discoveries of these bits of bone actually make any difference? In other words, why is paleoanthropology important;…

A Day at Liang Bua

In 2004, the discovery of a tiny hominin catapulted the limestone cave of Liang Bua into the scientific spotlight. Few people realize, however, that Liang Bua’s scientific history extends both long before the hobbit’s discovery and continues unfolding to the present day. On a recent trip to the cave, where I was hoping to learn more…