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See Inside July 2009

In Brief, July 2009

HUMANITY'S GROUND ZERO

A massive new genetic study may have zeroed in on humanity's starting point. By analyzing genetic sequences from 121 populations in Africa, 60 non-African populations and four African-American populations, researchers traced Africans back to 14 ancestral clusters originating at 12.5 degrees east latitude and 17.5 degrees south longitude, near the border of modern-day Angola and Namibia. Besides offering a far more specific understanding of human migrations, the study, in the May 22 Science, also promotes a better understanding of health and disease in many of these populations. —Katherine Harmon

WHAT IS WATSON?

This software program will beat people on the game show Jeopardy! At least, that is what IBM hopes will happen with a supercomputer running a powerful semantics-crunching program dubbed Watson, which will have access to a knowledge database but no Internet connection. In following up on its human-beating chess computer Deep Blue, IBM says it has been refining Watson for almost two years and hopes to stage a series of sparring matches before a final showdown in 2010. —John Matson

This article was originally published with the title "In Brief."

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