Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it. It all depends how you think it.
Professors' global model forecasts civil unrest against governments - With protests spreading in the Middle East (now Yemen - not on the list) I thought this article and blog on a forecast model predicting "which countries will likely experience an escalation in domestic political violence [within the next five years]" was rather interesting. [more inside]
One year after the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which, overturning over 100 years of precedent, opened a floodgate of corporate money into election campaigns, Virginia Lyons (D-VT), has introduced legislation (full text of bill not yet available, articles here and here) in the Vermont State Senate to amend the United States Constitution to explicitly state that corporations are not persons. This would overturn the controversial notion of corporate personhood which was established in the 1800s. Controversial not only for the unequal distribution of rights and responsibilities among humans and corporations, some, like Thom Hartmann (previously), have claimed that the notion of corporate personhood was established as an intentional misinterpretation of the decision as recorded by court reporter J.C. Bancroft Davis, former president of the Newburgh & New York Railway Co. [more inside]
Invasive amniocentesis and chorionic villi sampling (CVS) tests are commonly used to determine the chromosomal, structural and genetic abnormalities in fetuses. But could they eventually become obsolete? A Chinese study has found that a complete copy of the fetal genome exists in the mother's blood, suggesting many prenatal diagnoses could potentially be performed noninvasively. [more inside]
"It is only fitting that the story of the brain should be a visual one, for the visuals had the ancients fooled for millenniums. The brain was so ugly that they assumed the mind must lie elsewhere. Now those same skeletal silhouettes glow plump and brightly colored, courtesy of a variety of inserted genes encoding fluorescent molecules. A glossy new art book, “Portraits of the Mind,” hopes to draw the general reader into neuroscience with the sheer beauty of its images." Slide Shows: The Beautiful Mind and Portraits of the Mind [more inside]
How to Analyze People on Sight, The Five Human Types, 1921. And other volumes of interest at Project Gutenberg.
Using a 3-D petri dish, Researchers at Brown University and Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island have built a completely functional artificial human ovary that will allow doctors to harvest immature human egg cells (oocytes) and grow them into mature, ready-to-be-fertilized human eggs outside the body. (In vitro) The advance could eventually help preserve fertility for women facing chemotherapy or other medical treatments that may be destructive to ovarian folliculogenesis. Press Release. Article link. (paywall) [more inside]
Over the course of three years, designer Christien Meindertsma tracked the products that had been made from the remains of a single pig. In doing so, she discovered that the skin, bones, meat, organs, blood, fat, brains, hoofs, hair and tail of a single pig might be used in more than 180 very diverse products, from shampoo, medicine, tattoo ink, munitions, cardiac valves, matches, desserts and bubblegum, beer and lemonade, car paint and brake discs to pills and bread. TED Talk. TED Bio. Vimeo video: Reading through the pages of Pig 05049. Exhibition (in Dutch). Design Observer: Pig 05049. Amazon: Pig 05049 [more inside]
Stop-motion PAC-MAN is the 5th video performance of the GAME OVER Project from the French-Swiss artist Guillaume Reymond. This giant game was played by 111 human pixels who moved from seat to seat over the span of 4 hours. (Previously)
I didn’t put much stock in the possibility that a Dominican spiritualist working out of a basement in Union City, New Jersey, would have much to say about a lampshade that might have been made from human skin in a Nazi concentration camp. But there I was.... (via)
Three newly approved 'in vitro' toxicity tests using artificial human skin are reducing the need for animal testing of cosmetics and chemicals. [more inside]
Shared social responsibility - When customers could pay what they wanted in the knowledge that half of that would go to charity, sales and profits went through the roof ... Gneezy describes the combination of charitable donations and paying what you like as 'shared social responsibility', where businesses and customers work together for the public good. (via mr) [also see 1,2,3]
The experimental method: Testing solutions with randomized trials -- In trying to help explicate the complexity of society Clark Medal-winner Esther Duflo is raising the productivity of social policies by increasing our knowledge of what works and doesn't work through repeated social experiments of randomised controlled trials. She has a large surplus labour pool, a veritable industrial reserve army, to worth with. [more inside]
"So I called my dad over and about five metres away he started swearing, and I was like 'what did I do wrong?' and he's like, 'nothing, nothing - you found a hominid'."The remarkable remains of two ancient human-like creatures (hominids) have been found in South Africa. Some researchers dispute that the fossils are of an unknown human species, but others say they may help fill a key gap in the fossil record of human evolution. [more inside]
Are we looking at end of Cancer? Human trials of nanobot treatment for cancer have proven the concept: [more inside]
"People are going to be what we say 'gobsmacked' by this news," said Terry Brown. New human ancestor.
In January, Google Australia agreed to take down links to the Encyclopedia Dramatica. The Australian Human Rights Commission has now written to the owner of the ED threatening legal action. [more inside]
We may soon be able to clone Neanderthals. But should we? An essay from Archaeology Magazine examines the ethical, scientific and legal ramifications. (Via Heather Pringle's Time Machine blog, where essay author Zach Zorich posted a reply and elicited a response.) [more inside]
Cheng Chui Ping came to the US like many others from the Fujian province in China. Through hard work and determination, she rose in the ranks of New York City's Chinatown business community. But, "Sister Ping" was not one to follow laws if it didn't suit her. Among the snakeheads who engaged in human trafficking, none were better than her. [more inside]
"Good, big ideas about evolution are rare." Simon Ings of the Independent reviews "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human" by Richard Wrangham. (via)
The first human settlements... before the bronze age, before the iron age and even probably before the stone age, didn’t happen because people liked each other’s company. "As the old saying goes, there's safety in numbers... and fortifications. "If you have any doubt about how wood, stone and later even steel walls helped shape human civilization, all you need to do is take a close look at most of our cities, especially the older ones."
An Artist's Guide to Human Types "If I needed to draw someone from [a] specific part of the world, what would I need to know about his or her physical characteristics?" The author, a well-traveled Lebanese artist, also has a graphic novel online.
Why is the penis shaped like that? [T]he human penis is actually an impressive “tool” in the truest sense of the word, one manufactured by nature over hundreds of thousands of years of human evolution. You may be surprised to discover just how highly specialized a tool it is. Furthermore, you’d be amazed at what its appearance can tell us about the nature of our sexuality.
Paula Loyd, a 36 year old anthropologist and US Army reservist, is the third social scientist to be killed within the last 8 months while working for the US Army's controversial Human Terrain System project in Afghanistan. [more inside]
J. Tithonus Pednaud herein presents for your edification and enlightenment a curious collection of human marvels. You may call them oddities, freaks or monstrosities—whatever you will—but I call them incredible, persevering, resourceful and marvelous human beings. I chronicle their inspirational stories of triumph over nature, fate and the judgment of man. [Previously seen here. See also.]
Don't like scooping cat litter? Toilet train your cat.
Sixty years ago on December 10, fifty eight nations created the UN Declaration of Human Rights. [more inside]
Cockatoos are much better dancers than macaws. Well that was my clear conclusion after watching the first two vid clips linked to why animals dance in this Guardian feature. And since this is from a serious researcher I don't think they are faked. For those with much more time, this site has an interesting podcast on the topic of music and the brain.
Get your learn on. 180+ ways of investigating the human brain = hours of fun for the whole family. Thanks to an innocuous question by a 5 year old, my entire evening is now being spent investigating and discussing the structure and workings of the human brain. This flash site lets you explore the workings of the brain according to 12 subject areas (each with subtopics which are not included in the "180" count), within each of which are 5 levels of organization from social to molecular, within each of which are three levels of explanation (beginner, intermediate, and advanced.) discovered via Wikipedia.
Fascinating 3D renderings of different processes inside of a human body. Yes, the style is quite similar to The Inner Life of The Cell, but this one is different. Dissolving of the pills was definitely entertaining. It would be great if a doctor could comment on the other processes that are displayed.
The Solar Bra really doesn't make sense if your undergarments are going to stay under. Adrienne So examines the kinetic angle. Or, maybe this is as simple as breathing.
Some of the most insane journeys in recent time include Harry Lee 'The Hawk' McGinnis' walk around the world, Helen Thayer's 4,000-mile trek across the Sahara, Andrew Thompson's speedwalk across the Appalachian Trail (2000 miles), and others. [more inside]
You know you want one. It's closer to being a reality than ever before. But how close exactly is that? Maybe closer than we think. [more inside]
William Finnegan reports on rescuing the victims of the global sex trade. You can also listen to Finnegan talking about the research for the article. (New Yorker)
Any admixture would have to be driven by male Neanderthals. Two years ago we discussed morphological evidence of nontrivial interbreeding. Since then Neanderthal DNA has been examined for genetic support for this model of human evolution, largely contradicting the belief in Neanderthal contribution to modern humanity. Indeed any contribution from the Neanderthal gene pool to the evolution of modern humans might be very rare and indeed it appears that the best candidate gene thus (MC1R) far likely was a result of convergent evolution. [more inside]
A Nation Apologizes. (Sydney Morning Herald.) Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's apology to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children. Here the history told from an Aboriginal perspective in Archie Roach's great song "Took The Children Away." (Youtube) (song lyrics).
Human artist or ape artist? Six paintings, six chances to show your expertise or just guess correctly. (Previously) Hint inside. [more inside]