Tag Archives | Humans

Armed With ‘Advanced Killing Technology,’ Humans Act as Planet’s ‘Super-Predators’

Brown bear eating salmon at Katmai National Park.   (Photo: Christoph Strässler/flickr/cc)

Brown bear eating salmon at Katmai National Park. (Photo: Christoph Strässler/flickr/cc)

This post originally appeared on Common Dreams. See more of Andrea Germanos’ articles here.

Humans are exceeding the bounds of natural systems and acting as “super-predators,” a new report finds.

The analysis by researchers from the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, University of Victoria (UVic), and the Hakai Institute, and published in the journal Science, looked at over 300 studies that compared human hunter predation and that of non-humans. Whereas other predators are largely able to hunt at sustainable rates, humans, equipped with “with advanced killing technology and fossil fuel subsidy,” are killing adult prey at a much higher—and unsustainable—rate.

“Our wickedly efficient killing technology, global economic systems, and resource management that prioritizes short-term benefits to humanity have given rise to the era of the human super predator,” stated Dr. Chris Darimont, science director for Raincoast and Hakai-Raincoast professor at the UVic.… Read the rest

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‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage Revealed in Ancient Skulls

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

Picture: Rawansari (CC)

Nobody wants third-hand teeth…

A key first step in Neanderthal evolution may have been the development of front teeth that could act like a “third hand,” researchers now say.

These new findings are based on 17 hominin skulls showing a mix of traits from Neanderthals and more primitive human lineages, dating back some 430,000 years. The specimens likely belonged to a hominin group within the Neanderthal lineage but perhaps not direct Neanderthal ancestors. (Hominins include modern humans and extinct ancestors and close relatives of the human lineage.)

The mix of traits suggests the defining features of the Neanderthal body may have evolved separately in stages instead of evolving together gradually, scientists added.

via Ancient Skulls Reveal ‘Mixed’ Neanderthal-Like Lineage.

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Bill Nye, Brian Greene, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Lawrence Krauss on the Limitations of Mathematics

Math lovers and aficionados will find the following discourse both entertaining and informative.

Below you will find the video and partial transcript of Arizona State University’s Origins Project’s Q&A segment from their ‘The Storytelling of Science’ panel discussion, featuring “well-known science educator Bill Nye, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, theoretical physicist Brian Greene, Science Friday’s Ira Flatow, popular science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, executive director of the World Science Festival Tracy Day, and Origins Project director Lawrence Krauss.”

The first question asked of the panel was:

Q: “If you could give us all a one word piece of advice for our own science storytelling, what would it be?”

Bill Nye was the first to reply with, “Algebra, learn algebra.” Neil deGrasse Tyson follows with, ‘Ambition’. Lawrence Krauss with, ‘Passion’. Neal Stephenson with, ‘Empathize’. Richard Dawkins states that since empathize has already been taken, he will choose ‘Poetry’.

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Humans Are Destroying Themselves: Noam Chomsky


Picture: John Soares (www.johnsoares.com) (CC)

Jana El Hassan writes at the Daily Star:

“Human beings are destroying themselves,” said luminary Noam Chomsky, warning that unrest in Syria could turn into a Sunni-Shiite conflict that would spread to the whole region and eventually lead to a global war.

“I aspire for a world in which my grandchildren can live in peace and I do not see that happening anytime soon. I think that if someone is watching us from Mars right now, he would be thinking that human beings are destroying themselves just like Syria is destroying itself,” Chomsky, a world-renowned linguist and anti-war activist, told The Daily Star.

Although he admitted that the demands of the Syrian people for a better life at the beginning of their uprising in March 2011 were “justified,” Chomsky said that the war-torn country is now heading towards “suicide.”

“The protests were entirely justified, the people could not have predicted that there will be this brutal response, and once the brutal response took place it was almost inevitable to help turning it into a militarized uprising, he said.

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Dozens of Genetically Modified Babies Already Born – How Will They Alter Human Species?

By Dr. Mercola:

When I first read that genetically modified humans have already been born, I could hardly believe it. However, further research into this story featured in the UK’s Daily Mail proved it to be true. They’ve really done it… they’ve created humans that nature could never allow for, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen next.

Even more shocking was the discovery that this is actually old news!

The Daily Mail article was not dated, and upon investigation, the experiments cited actually took place over a decade ago; the study announcing their successful birth was published in 2001.

While I typically comment on recent findings and health related news, in this case I will make an exception, because I think many of you may be as surprised by this information as I was. I do not propose to have any answers here as this is out of my scope of expertise.

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On the Trail of Human Origins

Xerto (CC)

We don’t really know that much about how we became what we are, modern humans. John Noble Wilford talks to Chris Stringer, who is hot on the trail, for the New York Times:

Who are we, and where did we come from? Scientists studying the origin of modern humans, Homo sapiens, keep reaching deeper in time to answer those questions — toward the last common ancestor of great apes and humans, then forward to the emergence of people more and more like us in body and behavior.

Their research is advancing on three fronts. Fossils of skulls and bones expose anatomical changes. Genetics reveals the timing and place of the Eve of modern humans.

And archaeology turns up ancient artifacts reflecting abstract and creative thought, and a growing self-awareness. Just last month, researchers made the startling announcement that Stone Age paintings in Spanish caves were much older than previously thought, from a time when Neanderthals were still alive.

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Has Human Evolution Stopped?

possan (CC)

possan (CC)

We’re screwing with our own nature as well as that of many other species and the Earth itself, with unpredictable consequences. Matt Ridley offers his opinion on what that might mean in the Wall Street Journal:

If you write about genetics and evolution, one of the commonest questions you are likely to be asked at public events is whether human evolution has stopped. It is a surprisingly hard question to answer.

I’m tempted to give a flippant response, borrowed from the biologist Richard Dawkins: Since any human trait that increases the number of babies is likely to gain ground through natural selection, we can say with some confidence that incompetence in the use of contraceptives is probably on the rise (though only if those unintended babies themselves thrive enough to breed in turn).

More seriously, infertility treatment is almost certainly leading to an increase in some kinds of infertility.

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Oldest Known “Beds” Had Insect Repellent

No MosquitosInsects have bugged human beings for a long time. Via Discover:

In a South African cave, researchers have uncovered traces of the oldest known human bedding, 77,000-year-old mats made of grasses, leaves, and other plant material. While it’s not especially surprising that early humans would have found a way to improve the cold, generally unpleasant experience of sleeping on a cave floor, archaeologists know little about our ancestors’ sleeping habits and habitats.

Using scanning electron microscopy, the researchers identified several species of local rushes and grasses that made up the bulk of the mattress, as well as leaves of the Cryptocarya woodii tree. These leaves contain chemical compounds that repel mosquitoes, lice, and other insects, suggesting that the cave’s ancient residents protected their bedding with natural insecticide.

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Evolution of Narcissism: Why We’re Overconfident and Why It Works

David Vs Goliath

David and Goliath, Osmar Schindler (c. 1888)

Christine Dell’Amore writes in National Geographic:

For years, psychologists have observed that people routinely overestimate their abilities, said study leader Dominic Johnson, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Some experts have suggested that overconfidence can be a good thing, perhaps by boosting ambition, resolve, and other traits, creating self-fulfilling prophecies.

But positive self-delusion can also lead to faulty assessments, unrealistic expectations, and hazardous decisions, according to the study — making it a mystery why overconfidence remains a key human trait despite thousands of years of natural selection, which typically weeds out harmful traits over generations.

Now, new computer simulations show that a false sense of optimism, whether when deciding to go to war or investing in a new stock, can often improve your chances of winning.

“There hasn’t been a good explanation for why we are overconfident, and this new model offers a kind of evolutionary logic for that,” Johnson said.

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