In October researchers announced in the journal Nature what could prove to be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time--the fossil remains of a miniature species of humans. The island of Flores, already famous in paleontological circles for having been home to pygmy elephants, also seems to have encouraged the downsizing of a stray group of Homo erectus who wound up there. Small stature was selected until adults were just over three feet tall and deserved to be classified as a new species. Islands, with limited resources, promote this kind of diminution--Scientific American's offices are on the island of Manhattan, and some of us need a boost just to type uppercase letters.
You'll be able to read a full-length feature article about the not-quite-full-length people of Flores in our February issue. But I am forced to abandon my consideration of them at this point in favor of a discussion of other research. Because, at the end of September, Nature published a study in which scientists made ferrets watch the movie The Matrix. I'll wait while you read that last sentence again.
This article was originally published with the title Captive Audience.