The insight comes from McGill University undergraduate Frank Kachanoff. He wondered if the sight of food would incite men’s defensive desires, much like a dog aggressively protecting its food bowl, he explained in a press release:
“I was inspired by research on priming and aggression, that has shown that just looking at an object which is learned to be associated with aggression, such as a gun, can make someone more likely to behave aggressively. I wanted to know if we might respond aggressively to certain stimuli in our environment not because of learned associations, but because of an innate predisposition. I wanted to know if just looking at the meat would suffice to provoke an aggressive behavior.”
The second episode of NOVA’s big evolution special “Becoming Human” premieres tomorrow night at 8 PM ET/PT on PBS. Tuesday night’s show focuses on Homo erectus, the ancestor who became “basically us” almost 2 million years ago, developing the first human societies.
Much of what we know about Homo erectus comes from “Turkana Boy,” the famous skeleton found by the Leakey team in Kenya in the early 1980’s. An important part of what we know, though, comes from the genetic study of lice. And not just head lice.
Using “paleoartists,” digital filmmaking and the work done with Turkana Boy over the past two decades, the NOVA producers are able to paint a vivid portrait of Homo erectus’s role in key innovations – like using fire and developing social bonds – that make us human.
The real action in the documentary starts about halfway through, when scientists tackle the question of how Homo erectus was able to obtain the protein necessary to support brain growth. Of course, stone tools played a huge role in making sure that the humans “went home for dinner and weren’t the meal.”
This is it. The evolution of Homo sapiens is complete, says British geneticist Steve Jones—not because we’ve reached some pinnacle of perfection, but because we’ve run ourselves into an evolutionary dead end. Jones argues that the structures of contemporary society have jammed the three main drivers of evolution: natural selection, mutations, and random change.
He spoke yesterday at the University College London, delivering a lecture entitled “Human Evolution is Over” (in case you had any doubts as to his hypothesis). Here are his three main points:
1) Fewer early deaths. If everyone lives to reproductive maturity (in the developed world, nearly 98 percent of people survive to the age of 21), natural selection can do little work.
2) Fewer elderly fathers. As a man ages, the likelihood of genetic mutations in his sperm increases dramatically. It used to be common for men to father many children with many different women well into old age, but this is less acceptable in today’s society.
With the 200th anniversary of his birthday coming up next year, Charles Darwin has had a good few days in his native Britain.
DISCOVER reported this morning that a senior member of the Church of England has apologized to Darwin for underestimating his idea; the church was one of the first to attack Darwin in the 19th century for daring to suggest that God did not create humans in their present form. Now, Nobel prize winners are coming to the defense of Darwinism after the Royal Society’s education director, a clergyman named Michael Reiss, called for science teachers to tackle creationism in British schools.
Could humans talk 500,000 years ago? Their ears say… maybe, according to Rolf Quam of the American Natural History Museum in New York.
Quam and his colleagues used fossil remains of a 500,000-year-old human—an ancestor of the Neanderthals, actually—to reconstruct how big its ear canal would have been. He found that the canal would have been surprisingly long, which is important because it would have allowed these ancient humans to hear sounds with frequencies between 2 and 4 kilohertz quite well, a range that includes human speech patterns.
The standard Viking funeral involved being burned in a pyre at sea. But luckily for scientists, a few marauding Norsemen were left behind, buried in the ground. Now their skeletons can be examined in detail, and might even show us what human DNA looked like a millennium ago.
A team of scientists led by Jørgen Dissing at the University of Copenhagen have extracted authentic Viking DNA from teeth that were still sitting in the jaws of the thousand-year-old corpses. The DNA samples came from a burial site on the Danish island of Funen which dates from A.D. 700 to 1000.