From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
Yesterday, Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and his colleagues reported finding a jaw in Ethiopia that belonged to an human relative that lived between 3.3 and 3.5 million years ago. Their article appears today in Nature.
"For nearly two centuries, biologists have been struck by a mystery of geography and biodiversity peculiar to Europe. As Edward Forbes pointed out as far back as 1846, there are a number of life forms (including the Kerry slug, a particular species of strawberry tree and the Pyrenean glass snail) that are found in two specific distant places—Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula—but few areas in between." -- How did a specific snail species from the Pyrenees end up in Ireland but nowhere else?
seaQuest: what if we could learn to live on/underneath the oceans (or in orbit)? [previously(er)] [more inside]
State of the Species: Will the unprecedented success of Homo sapiens lead to an unavoidable downfall? [Via]
Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
What species of food is 2000 years old, has evolved copious adaptive variations, and still tastes delicious as ever? [more inside]
"Then I see how they treat Ronald Reagan—he needs to get credit for saving the world from communism and for the good economy over the last twenty years because he lowered taxes."
Revisionaries: How a group of Texas conservatives is rewriting your kids’ textbooks.
The Preservation of Favoured Traces: a visualization of Charles Darwin's edits and additions to On the Origin of Species over the course of six editions. (via) [more inside]
Charles Pierce, author of the 2005 essay "Greetings from Idiot America" decrying the rise of faith-based anti-intellectualism, has expanded his rant into a full length book: Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free. (via) [more inside]
AronRa has done some really nice YouTube vids on science (previously). In this latest vlog An Archaeological Moment in Time, he take(s) a look at how different societies are advancing at different rates on the same date in the distant past.
30 years ago the BBC celebrated the anniversary of Charles Darwin with the drama series The Voyage of Charles Darwin depicting his life. The whole thing is now on Youtube. ) [more inside]
How We Evolve: "A growing number of scientists argue that human culture itself has become the foremost agent of biological change, making us — for the past 10,000 years or so — the inadvertent architects of our own future selves." [more inside]
The Victorian Web is your one-stop resource for England in the Victorian era (1837-1901). The site is much too extensive to give but a flavor. It is divided into 20 categories, including Technology, Gender Matters, Economic Contexts, Authors, Political History, Theater and Popular Entertainment, Science and Genre and Technique. Here are a few examples of the articles inside: Inventions in Alice in Wonderland, The Role of the Victorian Army, Earth Yenneps: Victorian Back Slang (and a glossary of same), Algernon Charles Swinburne and the Philosophy of Androgyny, Hermaphrodeity, and Victorian Sexual Mores, Evolution, progress and natural laws and, of course, Queen Victoria.
Dinner With Darwin. Scientists from various disciplines weigh in on what kind of dinner conversation they envision themselves having with Charles Darwin. Via.
Answers Research Journal is a new "professional peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research from the perspective of the recent Creation and the global Flood within a biblical framework." Current Volume. Call for Papers.
'Race' graphically illustrated - "most Europeans" vs. Ashkenazim (previously; see also IQ & Gladwell, viz. ;) [more inside]
Darwin wrote to 2000 people during his life; 14,500 of these letters still survive. The Darwin Correspondence Project is putting annotated transcriptions of these online, and they've covered about 5,000 so far, including a letter written when he was 12 after he had got into trouble with his sister for not washing regularly while at school. There's an intro here. See also Darwin Online, discussed here. And the prolific network theorist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi has co-authored a paper on statistical similarities between Darwin's and Einstein's correspondence (#51 on the list).
Writing has been around for a long time, but that doesn't mean we've mastered it yet. Want to make fiction? Perhaps it makes itself, perhaps it makes you... Self reference breeding infinite hyperrealities. Which world will you choose?
Evolution timeline (Embedded .swf). This animated story of life since about 13,700,000,000 shows everything from the big bang to the formation of the earth and the development of bacteria and other organisms to the ascent of man and humans effect on the earth. Other work discussed one year ago yesterday, what an evolution! (The animation is pretty large, you may have to scroll your screen, or just open the .swf directly)
First there was the evolution in schools thing. Now, people are complaining about history books (in Texas no less), with such problems as "Margie Raborn said she wants all U.S. government books to describe the United States as a republic based on biblical beliefs."
'If you want to know what Utopia is like, just look around - this is it,' the article asks is human evolution over? Two interesting "facts?" "points?" 1) the blending of our genes which will soon produce a uniformly brown-skinned population. Apart from that, there will be little change in the species. 2) Just consider Aids, and then look at chimpanzees,' says Jones. 'You find they all carry a version of HIV but are unaffected by it. Something very similar could soon happen to humans. In a thousand years... Link via www.cursor.org.
Great, yet unsettling, CGI reconstruction of a Neaderthal child's head. (via robotwisdom)