Time once again for weekend science fun, this time with an oddly high number of stories about our evolutionary ancestors and hominid cousins.
(Which according to the Creationists never existed.)
Regarding the post title: If you’re too young to remember Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoons and ‘Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels‘… well, go get your old auntie a drink will ya, and I’ll tell you long stories about the days when animation was total crap and we kids regularly overdosed on sugar.
Given it was the 70s and, well, Disco, it’s no wonder we all turned to the hard stuff to cope with the bleak cultural wasteland that would be our futures. It also probably explains why so many of my generation grew up to be Reagan Republican douche-nozzles. I apologize for that.
With that out of the way, on to the science news:
Meanwhile, a team of scientists in Great Britain, on the channel island of Jersey, believe they’ve found a long-lost Neanderthal camp. According to the linked story, it’s one of the last places “late-Neanderthals” have been found in northwest Europe, estimated to be between 100,000 and 47,000 years ago.
One recent find in the Republic of Georgia, hominid skulls dating back to 1.8m years ago, would seem to indicate that some of the wide degree of variation in physical characteristics among the fossils we’ve found could all actually be the same human species.
Not so fast, says another group of researchers, who think that some of what happened was a whole lot of interbreeding between the semi-modern hominid subspecies. A demarcation known as ‘Wallace’s Line’ refers to the physical barriers of islands and ocean currents that caused Australia’s and Indonesia’s mammal populations to diverge from the rest of Asia. The realization is that the Indonesian ‘Denisovan’ hominids might very well have been able to cross back into Asia — and were still close enough to the rest of the human species to interbreed.
Meanwhile, marmoset monkeys have polite conversations, taking turns to speak even when they cannot see each other.
From the “Derp!” files: Watching too much TV increases the chance of heart disease in young adults.
Google is researching immortality. Yes, you read that correctly. Actually, it’s one of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page, who started a company to look into a ‘cure for aging.’ Next up, a sneaky way to market directly to your telemeres…
Despite the recent federal government shutdown and near total furloughing of NASA, the Curiosity rover has confirmed that certain meteorites found here on Earth that were thought to have come from Mars actually did. The Argon isotope numbers are dead-on.
SpaceX does it again: For the first time after launch, they re-lit a first stage rocket booster, part of their Falcon 9 v1.1 launcher. This is part of their ongoing push to develop a fully reusable launch system — in this case, the re-light being necessary to allow for a future soft-landing of the rocket’s first stage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a perfect test, in that the second re-light resulted in too much spin. Still, it’s never been done before.
Etruscan women’s liberation. Who would’ve thunk it? A 2,600 year old tomb was found with what was thought to be an Etruscan prince, with the burned body of his wife beside him, and him holding a spear. However, when the genetic tests came back, it turned out the ‘prince’ was actually a princess, and the other body, her companion, was male.
Altruism might very well be genetic, at least in part. There’s a particular gene sequence known as 5-HTTLPR, which helps regulate serotonin production — which is the complicated way of saying some people just get a bigger jolt of brain happy juice when they’re nice to others.
Current computer hard drives only last about 10 years before the data on them is lost due to magnetic degradation. CDs and DVDs are said to last not that much longer. How about something that can store data for… oh, let’s say one billion years. That’s right — it could easily outlast the entire human race. How? An etched wafer of tungsten encapsulated by silicon nitride just might do the trick.
And with that — today’s open thread