More on MIT artist in residence Trevor Paglen’s previously discussed Last Pictures project, which involves sending a satellite into permanent “graveyard orbit” whose cargo is a “nano-etched silicon disc” which will not deteriorate for billions of years. The disc will contain a hundred images to be seen by beings of the distant future, offering a window into the existence of humanity and planet Earth. Via Wired, the images selected for immortality are rather macabre, including:
Tag Archives | Humanity
The ancestors of humans, apes and monkeys evolved first in Asia before moving on to Africa, suggests a new fossil find from Myanmar. Remains of a newly found primate, Afrasia djijidae, show this monkey-like animal lived 37 million years ago and was a likely ancestor of anthropoids — the group including humans, apes and monkeys. "Many people have heard about the 'Out of Africa' story of human origins and human evolution," said Christopher Beard, a Carnegie Museum of Natural History vertebrate paleontologist who co-authored a study about the fossil find in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "Our paper is the logical precursor to that, because we are showing how the anthropoid ancestors of humans made their way 'Into Africa' in the first place."...
“The similarities offer a look at just how ever-growing human societies could collapse,” as Jennifer Viegas writes in Discovery News:
The human population is growing at such a staggering rate that we are organizing ourselves more like ant supercolonies, with new research finding that we have more in common now with some ants than we do with our closest living animal kingdom relatives.
The new study, published in the journal Behavioral Ecology, points out that both humans and ants (termites, too) live in societies that may consist of up to a million plus members.
“As a result, modern humans have more in common with some ants than we do with our closest relatives the chimpanzees,” Mark Moffett, author of the study, told Discovery News. “With a maximum size of about 100, no chimpanzee group has to deal with issues of public health, infrastructure, distribution of goods and services, market economies, mass transit problems, assembly lines and complex teamwork, agriculture and animal domestication, warfare and slavery.”…
Read More: Discovery News
Ann Gibbons writes on Science:
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When human ancestors began scavenging for meat regularly on the open plains of Africa about 2.5 million years ago, they apparently took more than their fair share of flesh. Within a million years, most of the large carnivores in the region—from saber-toothed cats to bear-size otters—had gone extinct, leaving just a few “hypercarnivores” alive, according to a study presented here last week at a workshop on climate change and human evolution at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Humans have driven thousands of species extinct over the millennia, ranging from moas—giant, flightless birds that lived in New Zealand—to most lemurs in Madagascar. But just when we began to have such a major impact is less clear. Researchers have long known that many African carnivores died out by 1.5 million years ago, and they blamed our ancestor, Homo erectus, for overhunting with its new stone tools.
On the Last Word On Nothing, a debate on whether or not war is an innate part of the human makeup. Scientist John Horgan says no:
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There is no evidence of hominid or human group violence (as opposed to isolated acts of violence) dating back millions or even tens of thousands of years. The oldest evidence of deadly group violence by humans — a mass grave in the Nile Valley — is about 13,000 years old, and the vast bulk of evidence dates from 10,000 years ago or less, leading scholars such as Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Doug Fry, and Erik Trinhaus to conclude that war is a relatively recent cultural phenomenon, associated often with agriculture and permanent settlements.
In response, some skeptics say, Well, we don’t have good evidence of any human behaviors more than 10,000 years ago. Actually, we have evidence of many complex cultural behaviors — tool-making, hunting, cooking, art, music, religion — emerging far back in the Paleolithic era, but not war.
Lawrence M. Krauss writes in the LA Times:
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The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.
The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water, carbon and hydrogen, it isn’t surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere. And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.
As a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the origin and evolution of the universe, I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound.
We often worry about lying awake in the middle of the night - but it could be good for you. A growing body of evidence from both science and history suggests that the eight-hour sleep may be unnatural. In the early 1990s, psychiatrist Thomas Wehr conducted an experiment in which a group of people were plunged into darkness for 14 hours every day for a month. It took some time for their sleep to regulate but by the fourth week the subjects had settled into a very distinct sleeping pattern. They slept first for four hours, then woke for one or two hours before falling into a second four-hour sleep. Though sleep scientists were impressed by the study, among the general public the idea that we must sleep for eight consecutive hours persists ...
John Bingham writes in the Telegraph:
Members of the upper classes are more likely to lie, cheat and even break the law than people from less privileged backgrounds, a study has found. In contrast, members of the “lower” classes appeared more likely to display the traditional attributes of a gentleman.
It suggests that the traditional notion of the upper class “cad” or “bounder” could have a scientific basis. But psychologists at the University of California in Berkeley, who carried out the study, also suggested that the findings could help explain the origins of the banking crisis – with self-confident, wealthy bankers more likely to indulge in reckless behaviour.
The team lead by Dr Paul Piff, asked several groups of people from different social backgrounds to perform a series of tasks designed to identify different traits such as honesty and consideration for others …