Tag Archives | Humans

Building An Empathetic Global Civilization

In this RSA Animate, Jeremy Rifkin examines our innate capacity for empathy, one of the defining traits of the human race (though we share it with a few other species). Rifkin argues that throughout history humans have progressively expanded their “spheres of empathy”, and that our survival as a species depends on expanding empathy further, rather than retreating into tribalism. Will our empathic impulses become more globalized, along with everything else? Or do the conditions of today breed a narrow self-interest which could destroy us?

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Land For First Discovered ‘Earth-Like Replacement’ on Sale on eBay

Gliese 581Start your bidding now. Via NatGeo News:

The alien planet Gliese 581g set off a firestorm of controversy earlier this year when astronomers loudly declared it to be the first truly habitable planet found outside our solar system.

One of several planets known to orbit the red dwarf star Gliese 581, the headline-grabbing world was described by one researcher as being “just the right size and just at the right distance [from its star] to have liquid water on the surface.”

Not so fast, other astronomers cried. Are you sure this planet actually exists?

Even at a mere 20 light-years from Earth, Gliese 581g is too far away for us to see it directly. We have to infer its existence based on the planet’s gravitational tugs on its host star.

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Men Have Clitorises

Shocked Man Here’s a chapter from my Disinformation-published book titled 50 Things You’re Not Supposed To Know: Volume 2 (2004):

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It’s long been noted that all of us start in the womb as sexless little blobs. We each had the same undifferentiated external equipment (a bud of tissue), plus two sets of internal ducts.

Depending on whether an embryo has a Y sex chromosome or two X’s, during week seven it starts developing into a boy or a girl. That little mound of tissue (the genital tubercle) either opens to form two sets of labia and a clitoris, or it closes to make a penis and testicles. When viewed this way, the similarities between guys’ and dolls’ private parts is obvious and has drawn comments since ancient Greek times.

But there’s a whole lot more overlap than you might suspect. Women aren’t the only ones who have a clitoris. Men do, too.… Read the rest

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New Species Of Human Discovered

Photo: David Reich, et al./Nature

Denisovan tooth. Photo: David Reich, et al./Nature

Unraveling ancient human DNA must be like crack for anthropologists — they just can’t stop! Joe Palca reports for NPR:

DNA taken from a pinkie bone at least 30,000 years old is hinting at the existence of a previously unknown population of ancient humans. It’s just the latest example of how modern genetic techniques are transforming the world of anthropology.

The pinkie bone in question was unearthed in 2008 from what’s called the Denisova Cave.

“The Denisova Cave is in southern Siberia in the Altai Mountains in central Asia,” says David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston. “This bone is the bone of a 6- to 7-year-old girl.”

Reich and colleagues from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig were able to extract DNA from the pinkie bone and sequence all 3 billion letters of DNA that made up this girl’s genome.

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Ten Strange Consequences Of Evolution

071210_evolution_hmed2p.hmediumThe human body in itself is a powerful piece of evidence in favor of evolution — many of our physical traits make little sense other than as leftovers from back when we were fishy or four-legged. Smithsonian Magazine examines some of the oddest and most troublesome quirks:

Hiccups: The first air-breathing fish and amphibians extracted oxygen using gills when in the water and primitive lungs when on land — and to do so, they had to be able to close the glottis, or entryway to the lungs, when underwater. We descendants of these animals were left with vestiges of their history, including the hiccup. In hiccupping, we use ancient muscles to quickly close the glottis while sucking in (albeit air, not water). One of the reasons it is so difficult to stop hiccupping is that the entire process is controlled by a part of our brain that evolved long before consciousness, and so try as you might, you cannot think hiccups away.

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The Possibility of Hope

A great extra from the fantastic movie Children of Men. Modern philosophers, political scientists, and climate scientists weigh-in on the state of the Earth, global politics, militarism, mass-migration, global warming, and the future of humanity.

(For the disinfo regular, I’d recommend the watching the movie The Constant Gardener and the documentary Darwin’s Nightmare, but perhaps you already have…)

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Are Redheads Descended From Neanderthals?

Source: 120 (CC)

Source: 120 (CC)

In Entangled, Graham Hancock’s debut novel, an essential part of the story involves the so-called “Neanderthal Enigma,” a raging academic debate over what caused Homo neanderthalensis to die out some 35,000 years ago. Hancock’s Neanderthals, called the “Uglies,” play an important role in Entangled. They are depicted as gentle, sensitive, telepathic, creative: They did not make cave paintings but they did use makeup.

Shocking new scientific research suggests that Hancock’s depiction of Neanderthals may be far closer to the truth than even he may have thought. Jennifer Viegas reports for Discovery News via MSNBC:

Neanderthals are often depicted as brutish club wielders, but a new book suggests Neanderthals had a sensitive side, displaying “a deep seated sense of compassion.”

The findings, also published in the journal Time & Mind, are part of a larger study charting how empathy and other related feelings evolved in early humans.

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Lying Children Will Grow Up To Be Successful Citizens

Did we all already know this … or is it a great leap forward in our understanding? Richard Alleyne writes in the Telegraph:
Bart Simpson Loves You

Researchers have found that the ability to tell fibs at the age of two is a sign of a fast developing brain and means they are more likely to have successful lives.

They found that the more plausible the lie, the more quick witted they will be in later years and the better their abiliy to think on their feet.

It also means that they have developed “executive function” — the ability to invent a convincing lie by keeping the truth at the back of their mind.

“Parents should not be alarmed if their child tells a fib,” said Dr Kang Lee, director of the Institute of Child Study at Toronto Universit who carried out the research.

“Almost all children lie. Those who have better cognitive development lie better because they can cover up their tracks.

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Study Sheds Light on What Makes People Shy

Clark KentI’m not suggesting that “shyness” means you secretly are an alien from the planet Krypton, who has to disguise one’s true nature from everyone around you … but it can feel like that at times. Reports LiveScience:

The brains of shy or introverted individuals might actually process the world differently than their more extroverted counterparts, a new study suggests.

About 20 percent of people are born with a personality trait called sensory perception sensitivity (SPS) that can manifest itself as the tendency to be inhibited, or even neuroticism. The trait can be seen in some children who are “slow to warm up” in a situation but eventually join in, need little punishment, cry easily, ask unusual questions or have especially deep thoughts, the study researchers say.

The new results show that these highly sensitive individuals also pay more attention to detail, and have more activity in certain regions of their brains when trying to process visual information than those who are not classified as highly sensitive.

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James Lovelock: Humans Are Too Stupid to Prevent Climate Change

James Lovelock

Credit: Bruno Comby of Environmentalists for Nuclear

His words, not mine. Here’s Gaia hypothesis theorist James Lovelock’s first in-depth interview since the “Climategate” story made world news. Leo Hickman writes in the Guardian:

Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change from radically impacting on our lives over the coming decades. This is the stark conclusion of James Lovelock, the globally respected environmental thinker and independent scientist who developed the Gaia theory.

It follows a tumultuous few months in which public opinion on efforts to tackle climate change has been undermined by events such as the climate scientists’ emails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit.

“I don’t think we’re yet evolved to the point where we’re clever enough to handle a complex a situation as climate change,” said Lovelock in his first in-depth interview since the theft of the UEA emails last November.

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