Ask mr Brain..all will be explained

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 28 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 July, 1999, 12:00am

When was the watch invented? It is generally believed that the first watches were invented around 1500 and made in Nuremburg, Germany in the first half of the 16th century. However, there is now evidence that they might have appeared in Italy at an earlier date.

The first portable mechanical time-keeper was made possible by the invention of spring propulsion. Master locksmith Peter Henlein (1479-1542) invented the coiled propulsion mainspring. The watch was far from accurate but it was pretty and was more used as jewellery rather than for time-keeping.

The technical breakthrough came with the invention of the balance spiral spring by Dutch astronomer Christiaan Hugens in 1657. The first watch using this innovation was made by Isaac Thuret in Paris in 1675. The electric watch was introduced by the Hamilton Watch Company in 1957.

Apes were the ancestors of humans, but why did they not evolve into humans? ELLIOT Yuen Long Merchants Association Secondary School While many people think that, according to the theory of evolution, man evolved from apes, this is not strictly true. Anthropologists - people who study humans and their culture - believe that millions of years ago apes and man shared a common ancestor. Some descendants of this creature eventually evolved into modern man. Others evolved into modern day apes and others evolved into creatures which are now extinct.

The study of genetics has allowed scientists to discover how animals and plants are related to each other. All living things - from plants to humans - share some genes in common. Species which share a lot of genes in common are more closely related than those which do not. By comparing the shared genes, it is possible to determine which species evolved from which.

While humans share a lot of genes with mammals, we share even more with chimpanzees. This means that chimpanzees and humans had a common ancestor more recently - about seven million years ago - than, for example, humans and bears. Out of the primate family, humans share more genes in common with apes than with lemurs. The primate most closely related to homo sapiens is the pygmy chimpanzee, with which we share 98.4 per cent of our genes. In his book The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee, Jared Diamond suggests that humans are genetically so close to chimpanzees that they should be classified as the third chimpanzee.

The chances that the right combination of small genetic changes and useful adaptations would occur again in another species of primate to result in a creature similar to modern man are very small. Even if such changes did occur, it would be millions of years before this new primate emerged.

Given the widespread destruction of their habitat by man, apes will be lucky to survive as apes, never mind surviving through millions of years of evolutionary change to emerge as rivals to man.