Amazingly, Kanzi the bonobo chimp, who can speak sign language and innovate new "words", has learned to make flint tools of multiple varieties to get at food hidden inside a log. His creativity in tool making and use rivals our early hominid ancestors.
Bonobo genius makes stone tools like early humans did New Scientist
- Current Mood:amazed
There is much to be wary of in this; history is not easily reduced to numbers. Turchin does not deny oversimplifying history, but he says ultimately if the predictions hold true there's got to be something to it. He's made some falsifiable predictions for unrest in America around 2020, and if it doesn't happen by 2030, he'll admit he was wrong.
Calculated violence: Numbers that predict revolutions New Scientist
- Current Mood:amazed
This landmark study links rise in greenhouse gases to ocean warming with "virtual certainty."
It also has a list of the top ten carbon-emitting countries. The USA and China lead by a huge margin.
Human-induced ocean warming study addresses the 'dominant role' of people HuffPost
And this one shows insane ice melt this week in Greenland. Normally about 50% melts, but this week it reached a whopping 97%.
Greenland ice melt, measured by NASA satellites, reaches unprecedented levels HuffPost
Interestingly, though VENs are shared by many animals not particularly known for their social intelligence and unable to recognize themselves in a mirror (such as giraffes and hippos), animals that can do these things (such as apes, dolphins, and humans), have VENs concentrated exclusively in the smell and taste regions. Researchers suspect VENs originally evolved in mammals to serve some other purpose, and later became functional for creating consciousness.
From the article:
That work might even help us understand how these neurons evolved in the first place. Allman already has some ideas about where they came from. Our VENs reside in a region of the brain that evolved to integrate taste and smell, so he suggests that many of the traits now associated with the FI evolved from the simple act of deciding whether food is good to eat or likely to make your ill. When reaching that decision, he says, the quicker the "gut" reaction kicks in the better. And if you can detect this process in others, so much the better.
"One of the important functions that seems to reside in the FI has to do with empathy," he says. "My take on this is that empathy arose in the context of shared food - it's very important to observe if members of your social group are becoming ill as a result of eating something." The basic feeding circuity, including the rudimentary VENs, may then have been co-opted by some species to work in other situations that involve a decision, like working out if a person is trustworthy or to be avoided. "So when we have a feeling, whether it be about a foodstuff or situation or another person, I think that engages the circuitry in the fronto-insular cortex and the VENS are one of the outputs of that circuitry," says Allman.
There are also a lot of studies showing links between smell and taste and the feelings of strong emotions. Our physical reaction to something we find morally disgusting, for example, is more or less identical to our reaction to a bitter taste, suggesting they may share common brain wiring (Science, vol 323, p 1222). Other work has shown that judging a morally questionable act, such as theft, while smelling something disgusting leads to harsher moral judgements (Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, vol 34, p 1096). What's more, Allman points out that our language is loaded with analogies - we might find an experience "delicious", say, or a person "nauseating". This is no accident, he says.
Are these the brain cells that give us consciousness? New Scientist
The following article is especially good for its links to actual important studies, free as pdfs.
The yuck factor: The surprising power of disgust New Scientist
"Of the over 500 comments that appear under the story on WDBJ's Facebook page, nearly all support Rose's continued work with the rescue squad."
As I see it, it is crucial that our society learn to see sex workers as full, valued persons. The industry is never going away, especially in an age of birth control and digital media, so denigrated them is just a pointless option no matter how you look at it. Instead, we must as a society recover respect for them. If we can, we will be one step closer to reviving the sacred dimension of human sexuality.
Ex-porn star Harmony Rose, AKA Tracy Rolan, volunteers as EMT HuffPost
How global warming is driving our weather wild New Scientist
Is it blasphemous to describe science as magic? Religion Dispatches
The magic of the Higgs boson particle Religion Dispatches
Stop calling it the "God particle"! i09
Scientists still chasing the Force, getting closer Gizmodo