It's the time of year when people take stock of the past 12 months, and make resolutions for the New Year.

That's kind of what Svante Paabo is doing — but the Swedish archeological geneticist is looking over a time span of 30,000 years.

He's almost finished mapping the DNA of neanderthal man, a distant cousin of modern humans. Paabo has found that many people today carry within their DNA about 3 to 5 per cent in common with neanderthals.

Paabo says it's important to learn more about our caveman cousins' DNA to reveal the differences between us and them, differences that have seen modern humans surive and thrive over the millennia, while neanderthals have become extinct.

"I really hope that over the next 10 years we will understand much more of those things that set us apart. Which changes in our genome made human culture and technology possible? And allowed us to expand and become 7, 8, 9 billion people and spread all over the world?," he asked at a recent genetic conference in Ottawa.

The room was packed with people from across North America who wanted to hear Paabo speak. He's recognized as the inspiration for Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.

'He is a rock star'

Pierre Meulin, president of Genome Canada, describes Paabo this way. "He is a rock star," he says, with a laugh.

And he's not surprised Paabo's work captures the public's imagination.

"I think people want to understand where they come from. And now people are very interested in what their identity is, and the genetic makeup of an individual is the absolutely ultimate identity card for any individual. So people are very interested in that," Meulin added.

Those genetic differences, Meulin said, can help pinpoint various diseases, and perhaps lead to a cure. But Meulin believes that one day DNA mapping will have a much more common use.

"With the social networking we see these days, when we all have our gene profiles on our iphone we'll be self selecting who we would like to be with. 'Oh, are you like me? Because I have this or this gene profile, etc. etc.' It'll happen."

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • "I have flown twice over Mount St. Helens out on our West Coast. I'm not a scientist and I don't know the figures, but I have a suspicion that that one little mountain has probably released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of automobile driving or things of that kind that people are so concerned about." - President Ronald Reagan, 1980 Not quite. Cars emit about 81,000 tons of sulfur dioxide per day, while Mount St. Helens emitted only about 2,000 tons.

  • "The internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck. It's a series of tubes." -Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), 2006 The "series of tubes" phrase subsequently became a pop cultural catchphrase--it even has its own <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Series_of_tubes" target="_hplink">Wikipedia page</a> and mentioned in the <a href="http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=a series of tubes" target="_hplink">Urban Dictionary</a>.

  • "And sometimes these dollars go to projects that have little or nothing to do with the public good, things like fruit fly research in Paris, France. I kid you not." - former Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska), 2008 The common fruit fly is one of the most commonly used organisms in genetic research. Discoveries such as sex-linked inheritance and techniques such as gene mapping are a result of such research.

  • "Information is moving--you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it's also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets." - President George W. Bush, 2007 The former president went on to use the word "Internets" two more times in public.

  • "Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?" -Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), when asked whether the U.S. climate policy should focus on reducing carbon emissions. Rainforests actually absorb far more carbon dioxide than they emit.

  • "Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human-induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus." - Rep. Paul Broun (R-Georgia), 2009, at a debate over the Clean Energy and Security Act. Many researchers point to a decline in Arctic sea ice, an increase in droughts, and changing rain and snow patterns as signs of climate change.

  • "What the science says is that temperatures peaked out globally in 1998. So we've gone for 10-plus years where the temperatures have gone down." - Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), 2009 in an interview with conservative radio show host Jay Weber. The mean global temperature has in fact been increasing since 1998.

  • "Mars is essentially in the same orbit [as Earth]....Mars is somewhat the same distance from the sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe." - Dan Quayle, former vice president, commenting on President George H.W. Bush's Space Exploration Initiative as quoted in <em>This New Ocean</em> by William E. Burrows. Actually, Mars completes an orbital revolution around the sun about every 1.88 Earth years, according to NASA.

  • "If it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." - Rep. Todd Akin (R-Missouri), 2012 In fact, women can become pregnant from rape.

  • "All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the big bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell." -Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) 2012 Broun, a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, is a doctor, and would have been taught many of the generally accepted principles of evolution and embryology in medical school.