Finals season

6 minute read

This is the time of year when hapless students all over the world turn to my blog to answer their exam questions.

Of course, they don’t know they’re looking for my blog. They just turn to Google, cut and paste their exam question, and let their computers do the walking.

Google has always been a good friend of mine, and is really good about leaving a calling card when people use it to find me. So this time of year I get a lovely report listing exam questions from around the world. I thought I would share a few that have stumbled onto my doorstep this month.

Every one of these is a real question referred by Google to my site. They aren’t punctuationally correct, of course, because they were entered into a Google search box, and many are compacted in some way. But many of them are obviously cut-and-pasted from some exam or study guide. For example:

2._explain the main point concerning exponential growth and whether it is good or bad. compare exponential growth to a logistic growth curve and explain how these might a-

What kind of instructor asks a question that starts that way? “Is exponential growth good or bad?” I say it’s good for my savings account and bad for my mortgage!

african nariokotome boy homo ergaster and describe the cranial traits which arehomo erectus-like such as the crania from java and china.

I think the student here ought to tell her instructor that the Daka and OH 9 crania are much more relevant to the question.

after hundreds or even thousands of generations both alleles are still common in those of african ancestry. how would you explain this

I have a feeling this is a sickle-cell question, trolling for balancing selection. The missing first part would lay out the homozygote fitness.

comment on why trinkhaus et al. believed the skeleton to be a mixture of human and neandertal characteristics and why tattersall argues against them. make sure to give information for each researcher's case not just one of them

That’s such an interesting question, even if your professor couldn’t spell Trinkaus right. But I haven’t written about it. Sorry!

how do scientists use living animals to uncover mysteries about prehistoric animals

I think that’s why Mary Leakey kept dalmatians.

if we find a new fossil hominid and notice that there is a large diastema between the lower canine and incisors which of the following can we infer about that hominid's dentition

“Lack of honing” is not the answer…

you find a fossil primate. it's arms and legs are approximately equivalent in length. this primate most likely had the locomotor pattern of a


in lecture i explain why some anthropologists believe ardipithecus was a biped. briefly describe the anatomical evidencefor bipedality inardipithecus.

Hmm…“arms and legs the same length” is not the right answer here…

describe the important aspects of the cranium teeth hand pelvis and foot of ardipithecus

That’s comprehensive.

Here’s a puzzle:

if 3rd cousins marry are their offspring 4th cousins

Well, among other things…

Speaking of dating advice, there is this:

how long does it take a chimpanzee to have quickie

Perhaps we should redefine our terms for that one.

how do the changes in the dentition the reduction in the size of canines and the evolution of bipedalism indicate changes in di-

Beeeeep! Sorry, we didn’t get your message.

which is strong evidence that similar traits in different evolutionary lineages are the result of homology and not homoplasy

Which is strong evidence? I wonder…

the term lithic as in the word paleolithic or as used in the phrase lithic tool or lithic industry refers to:

Stone, man, stone!

Here’s a barrage of “what” questions:

what factors reveal the reduction and simplification of the human dentition
what fundamental questions of interpretation do the fossil hominids from dmanisi raise
what is buller's argument against massive modularity as is found in traditional evolutionary psychology
what is the key criterion of the recognition species concept
what morphological traits tell you that a primate was bipedal
what is so special about homo the upper paleolithic when does it first appear what characterizes it what does it tell us about early human cognitive abilities
what has been learned from the sequencing of the denisovans and neanderthals genomes
what is similar between clams and humans

Filter feeders.

what is hillary clinton's blood type

B negative?

what has 138 eyes and enough cognitive power to create a life colony on mars

I do not remotely comprehend how that search led to me.

what anatomical characteristics define modern as compared to premodern humans or non-human primates assume that you're analyzing an incomplete skeleton that may be early modern h. sapiens. which portions of the skeleton would be most in-
what does evidence from fossils archaeology and dna tell us about which one is more correct

Well, depends on the question. A good week for fossils on these questions:

what did a robust australopithecine eat
what dentition tells about diet

But maybe not this one:

who are the people that inhabited europe during the middle and late pleistocene

What a joyful question. I would love to answer this one! I could come up with a different answer for every day of the week.

who first proposed out of africa hypothesis

This one is interesting, because my answer is Reiner Protsch.

what is the most likely explanation for the extinction of the early small-brained hominins (gracile and robust) and the survival of the early homo genus

Teh stoopid.

what kind of genes are the _ majority of differences between humans and chimpanzees. give an example of how such a gene could work (it needn't be real).

What the heck? “It needn’t be real”? This seems like a professor trolling for “regulatory genes”, where the student is supposed to regurgitate the Mary-Claire King argument. Don’t do it!

Here’s a return of the first exam, I think:

7-_according to gould what is the range of years when the ape-hominid split (divergence) occurred what group of compounds did they base their hypothesis o-

What class is this? Why the heck would they be reading Gould on this? If you’re this student, drop now before it’s too late. Your professor has no clue!

why don't we see this same type of symbolic expression with earlier hominins such as homo erectus

Teh stoopid.

Lots of questions start with “compare”. Such as:

compare and contrast the organization of the y chromosome in humans and chimpanzees

That seems like a pretty advanced question, it would take me hours to make sure I had this one right. Maybe it’s a qualifying exam? At least my post would have pointed them to the right research paper.

compare the bones of forelimb and hindlimb

Uh…this seems pretty open-ended. All the bones of the forelimb are shorter than the bones of the hindlimb…

compare two different hypotheses that attempt to explain the origins of hominid bipedalism.

I’d pick the trenchcoat hypothesis.

what evidence proves that a.afarensis exists (fossils)

Um, hmm. Is that self-answering, or is there something more here?

compare kenyanthropus and ardipithecus

That question clearly should be answered in the form of a haiku:

Two fossils glued in
Matrix of Google search for
Tim White distortion

Finally, there are the questions that are tinged with sadness and desperation. I have to suspect this one was googled from the middle of somebody’s lecture:

here they will experience obisity boredom loss of purpose

Oh, my. But that’s nothing compared to the problem here:

does the student need to spend the next two weeks re-preparing protein or is there still hope for him to salvage this experiment and graduate bedfore the end f th-

Oh, my. You know, I think it’s the “bedfore” that really tugs at my heart.

what can i do with a biological anthropology degree

Oh, my. Talk about twisting the knife.

world most libidinous women

Er…well, maybe that one wasn’t an exam question, exactly?