Tag Archives | Humanity

After the First Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours a Night

Between SleepStephanie Hegarty reports in BBC News:

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 …

Continue Reading

Upper Classes ‘More Likely to Lie and Cheat’

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 …

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Third World Canada

The Canadian media’s furor and spin on the following story is demonstrable proof that any and all attempts to de-legitimise Indigenous self-government and exploit Aboriginal territories for resources is not only allowed, it is welcomed. These policies are based on historical paternalistic colonialism, which is explicitly intended to systematically disenfranchise Native peoples.

Note as per this story , Canada spends MORE than two times per capita on non-natives for social infrastructure (housing, education, healthcare) than it does on aboriginal people. The amount reported in the Al Jazeera story below, is the entire budget, and does not include any additional civil infrastructure (roads, transport links) funds, which is normally separate from social spending:

Continue Reading

7 Billion People and Counting: Concerns From Around the World

PopulationGreat roundup of opinion found in the Detroit Free Press:

What’s the biggest issue facing humanity as the global population reaches seven billion?

Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper asked for an answer from correspondents around the world. Here are the replies, including a link to that from the Free Press. Note the recurring theme of fresh water, not a problem here in the Great Lakes region, but a critical issue for millions of people in many regions.

Continue Reading

Rare Mutation Leaves People Without Fingerprints

No PrintsThis would be a useful trait for the aspiring supervillian. Natalie Villacorta wrote recently in Science:

In 2007, a Swiss woman in her late 20s had an unusually hard time crossing the U.S. border. Customs agents could not confirm her identity. The woman’s passport picture matched her face just fine, but when the agents scanned her hands, they discovered something shocking: she had no fingerprints.

The woman, it turns out, had an extremely rare condition known as adermatoglyphia. Peter Itin, a dermatologist at the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, has dubbed it the “immigration delay disease” because sufferers have such a hard time entering foreign countries. In addition to smooth fingertips, they also produce less hand sweat than the average person. Yet scientists know very little about what causes the condition.

Since nine members of the woman’s extended family also lacked fingerprints, Itin and his colleagues, including Eli Sprecher, a dermatologist at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, suspected that the cause might be genetic.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Chimpanzees Are Spontaneously Generous After All

Monkey TypingVia ScienceDaily:

Researchers at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center have shown chimpanzees have a significant bias for prosocial behavior. This, the study authors report, is in contrast to previous studies that positioned chimpanzees as reluctant altruists and led to the widely held belief that human altruism evolved in the last six million years only after humans split from apes.The current study findings are available in the online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

According to Yerkes researchers Victoria Horner, PhD, Frans de Waal, PhD, and their colleagues, chimpanzees may not have shown prosocial behaviors in other studies because of design issues, such as the complexity of the apparatus used to deliver rewards and the distance between the animals.

“I have always been skeptical of the previous negative findings and their over-interpretation, says Dr. de Waal. “This study confirms the prosocial nature of chimpanzees with a different test, better adapted to the species,” he continues.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Fossils Reveal A New Ancestor On The Family Tree

Photo: Lee Berger of University of Witwatersrand

Photo: University of Witwatersrand

We may have some relatives we didn’t know about. Jeffrey Kluger writes onTIME:

One August day in 2008, a pair of nine-year-old boys crossed paths at a cave in South Africa. The boys didn’t play, didn’t speak, didn’t even smile at each other. One of them was Matthew Berger, the young son of paleoanthropologist Lee Berger of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, accompanying his dad into the field for an expedition. The other boy was known only as Australopithecus sediba, a pre-human child who died 1.977 million years ago, leaving only his fossilized bones behind.

The site, 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg, had been visited before and other bones had been found, but the remains Matthew stumbled across, along with those of an adult female, are the subject of no fewer than five papers in this week’s issue of the journal Science — and with good reason.

Read the rest

Continue Reading

Sex With Neanderthals Boosted Human Immunity

Reconstruction of Neanderthal man. Hermann Schaaffhausen (1888).

So that’s how they justified it … Matt McGrath reports for BBC News:

Sexual relations between ancient humans and their evolutionary cousins are critical for our modern immune systems, researchers report in Science journal.

Mating with Neanderthals and another ancient group called Denisovans introduced genes that help us cope with viruses to this day, they conclude.

Previous research had indicated that prehistoric interbreeding led to up to 4% of the modern human genome.

The new work identifies stretches of DNA derived from our distant relatives.

In the human immune system, the HLA (human leucocyte antigen) family of genes plays an important role in defending against foreign invaders such as viruses.

The authors say that the origins of some HLA class 1 genes are proof that our ancient relatives interbred with Neanderthals and Denisovans for a period.

At least one variety of HLA gene occurs frequently in present day populations from West Asia, but is rare in Africans.

Read the rest

Continue Reading