Category: Human animals
From the NYT–most of the cells that comprise you do not contain your DNA:
I can tell you the exact date that I began to think of myself in the first-person plural — as a superorganism, that is, rather than a plain old individual human being. It happened on March 7. That’s when I opened my e-mail to find a huge, processor-choking file of charts and raw data from a laboratory located at the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado, Boulder. As part of a new citizen-science initiative called the American Gut project, the lab sequenced my microbiome — that is, the genes not of “me,” exactly, but of the several hundred microbial species with whom I share this body. These bacteria, which number around 100 trillion, are living (and dying) right now on the surface of my skin, on my tongue and deep in the coils of my intestines, where the largest contingent of them will be found, a pound or two of microbes together forming a vast, largely uncharted interior wilderness that scientists are just beginning to map.
Humans are not the only animals capable of meta-cognition: the ability to think about their thinking. A recent article in Science Daily demonstrates that chimpanzees are capable of meta-cognition:
[C]himpanzees named items immediately and directly when they knew what was there, but they sought out more information before naming when they did not already know.
The research team said, “This pattern of behavior reflects a controlled information-seeking capacity that serves to support intelligent responding, and it strongly suggests that our closest living relative has metacognitive abilities closely related to those of humans.”
This is an incredible story. Scientists have identified a 30,000-40,000 year old hominid ancestor whose DNA indicates that it is part Human, part Neanderthal.
If further analysis proves the theory correct, the remains belonged to the first known such hybrid, providing direct evidence that humans and Neanderthals interbred. Prior genetic research determined the DNA of people with European and Asian ancestry is 1 to 4 percent Neanderthal.
Those were amazing times in Europe, where humans and Neanderthals co-existed. One wonders whether this co-existence was at all peaceful. Regardless, apparently I (along with many people of European and Asian ancestry) carry some Neanderthal genetic coding.
When I am asked about my “race,” I have sometimes (when I would not receive any sort of benefit or privilege for doing so) indicate “African.” I’ve previously argued that we’d all be better off declaring that we are African, because the categories or “race” are as scientifically deficient as they are culturally divisive. But now, thanks to this new finding, I have the option of indicating that my “race” is Part-human, part Neanderthal, out of Africa via Europe, currently living in the U.S. Or something like that.
It lived 66 million years ago, and it might be your ancestor:
Humankind’s common ancestor with other mammals may have been a roughly rat-size animal that weighed no more than a half a pound, had a long furry tail and lived on insects. In a comprehensive six-year study of the mammalian family tree, scientists have identified and reconstructed what they say is the most likely common ancestor of the many species on the most abundant and diverse branch of that tree — the branch of creatures that nourish their young in utero through a placenta. The work appears to support the view that in the global extinctions some 66 million years ago, all non-avian dinosaurs had to die for mammals to flourish.
It may surprise people who know me that I am not completely anti-gun. It seems like something I might be. I don’t like loud noises and I don’t like violence, and killing hurts me. I have to avert my eyes form a lot of TV and movies. But the gun thing is no longer simple for me. The last time I was stridently anti-gun was while lecturing my father about the dangers of guns. He happened to be holding off a midnight intruder with a hammer and wanted me to go get his gun. I was a senior in high school and I knew everything and I refused . . .
Goose Bumps. What are they? Radiolab informs us:
1. It traps heat! The air your body heats up gets trapped more effectively when all those hairs are erect, so you’ve got yourself a nice warm layer of air to prevent against the advancing cold. Mmmm. Cozy town.
2. It makes you look bigger to predators. Poof. I’m giant. I swear. Rowr.
But there’s more to the story. Why would an emotional passage in a piece of music cause goose-bumps? Maybe (Radiolab suggests) because the awesomeness of the passage makes us feel small, maybe a little too small, which gets us feeling a big defensive and helpless, making us bring out the goose bumps for reasons #2 above.
In this article at Big Think, Paul Ekman discusses micro-expressions, subtle cues that could tell others what we are really feeling, if only those other people were trained to spot those micro-expressions.
George Lakoff writes about the actual Republican war on women and the supposed “war on religion”
A recent Gallup Poll has shown that, in the US, 82 per cent of Catholics think that birth control is “morally acceptable.” 90 per cent of non-Catholics believe the same. Overall, 89 per cent of Americans agree on this. In the May 2012 poll, Gallup tested beliefs about the moral acceptability of 18 issues total, including divorce, gambling, stem cell research, the death penalty, gay relationships, and so on. Contraception had by far the greatest approval rating. Divorce, the next on the list, had only 67 per cent approval compared to 89 per cent for contraception.
How discriminating are you? With regard to pitch, that is. I have performed music much of my life, and I ended up doing quite well on this 3 minute test (better than 99.4% of those who take it). But I felt like I was guessing on quite a few of these micro intervals.
If you think you have a discriminating ear, you might find this test interesting.