Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lethal Interpersonal Violence in the Middle Pleistocene

Evidence of interpersonal violence has been documented previously in Pleistocene members of the genus Homo, but only very rarely has this been posited as the possible manner of death. Here we report the earliest evidence of lethal interpersonal violence in the hominin fossil record. Cranium 17 recovered from the Sima de los Huesos Middle Pleistocene site shows two clear perimortem depression fractures on the frontal bone, interpreted as being produced by two episodes of localized blunt force trauma. The type of injuries, their location, the strong similarity of the fractures in shape and size, and the different orientations and implied trajectories of the two fractures suggest they were produced with the same object in face-to-face interpersonal conflict. Given that either of the two traumatic events was likely lethal, the presence of multiple blows implies an intention to kill. This finding shows that the lethal interpersonal violence is an ancient human behavior and has important implications for the accumulation of bodies at the site, supporting an anthropic origin. PLOS

Fig 1. Stratigraphy of the Sima de los Huesos site (modified from Arsuaga et al. [21]).
The hominin bones were recovered in Lithostratigraphic Unit 6 (LU-6) dated to c. 430ka [21]. This unit is composed of pure red clays, filtering into the conduit system from overlying soils with little or no lateral transport, and very low velocity of sedimentation (decantation by dripping water) [23]. The figure also shows a detailed image of Cr-17 during its excavation at the site. Note the pure red clay that covers the cranial bones (partially cleaned in situ to enhance visualization) and the typical in situ postmortem (fossil diagenetic) fractures of the cranial vault. Photo credit: Javier Trueba (Madrid Scientific Films).

The skull in question was found at a site in Spain called Sima de los Huesos, or the Pit of the Bones, and it contained remains of 28 individuals. Quam said their presence there was intentional. "The only explanation that we have that can not be rejected is the idea that the human bodies arrived at this place by other humans," Quam told NPR. npr

bugs for dinner- more sustainable than meat

In the last couple of years, we've detected a faint buzz about crispy crickets and crunchy mealworms. Companies pedaling scorpion lollipops and peanut butter-and-jelly protein bars made with cricket flour have thrust their wares into our hands and mailboxes.
It's truly gotten easier to snack on bugs, should you want to do so. And everyone from the earnest eco-entrepreneurs in towns like Austin and Boulder, to international luminaries like Kofi Annan to the Food and Agriculture Organization are raving about how sustainable bugs are compared to meat.
But that doesn't mean the Western world, which doesn't have much of a history of entomophagy, is biting. Much.
Ophelia Deroy, a British researcher, tells The Salt most Westerners she has surveyed in randomized studies say they've hardly ever eaten insects in their life. And in a short column published Wednesday in Nature, she explains her hunch as to why the call to eat insects for nutritional and environmental reasons isn't being widely heeded yet.
Policymakers and the media have assumed that Westerners are disgusted by bugs because we associate them with contamination and disease. So the focus has been on trying to convert the uninitiated by making an environmental case for insect cuisine, and by noting that 2 billion people in around 100 countries (like Thailand) already enjoy many different insects in a range of dishes, Deroy writes.
Instead, Deroy argues, "We should think less about combating disgust and more about appealing to taste."
Sushi entrepreneur Peter Yung makes an Insectopia Roll at the Future Food Salon in Austin, Texas, in February 2014. A British researcher writes that chefs and others must "make insect dishes appeal as food, not just a way to save the planet."

So what does that mean? Well, Deroy, who's at the Centre for the Study of the Senses at the University of London, thinks it's about making the experience of eating them more enjoyable and less scary. For her, that happened when she tried crickets sprayed with a "beautiful golden dust" on the side of a salad.
It's true that many insects may not be especially enticing at a sensory level, at least at first: They're dry, and their wings and legs may crumble strangely in your mouth.
But there are other ways around this that don't involve visual seduction with gold dust. Last summer, we attended an event called the "Pestaurant" that featured turkey burgers with ground-up and whole grasshoppers. As we reported, the burgers were juicy and full of flavor, thanks, in part, to a brilliant secret ingredient: duck fat. We watched as many skeptics gobbled the burgers, clearly happy to accept the unfamiliar addition to the succulent dish.
Entomophagists agree that bugs will need some culinary champions to really go big.
"Chefs (and their celebrity diners) will have to play a leading role in making crickets (or any other edible insects) attractive and desirable, in the same way that California chefs turned dangerous and disgusting raw fish into sushi, the dish of Hollywood elites," Robert Nathan Allen, founder of Little Herds, a group that's working to grow the market for edible bugs, tells The Salt in an email.
Deroy thinks some insects could also stand to be re-named, a la the Chilean sea bass (formerly Patagonian toothfish). And indeed, there have been efforts to rename locusts "sky prawns" to make them more appetizing.
"And we should not forget those with a sweet tooth: many insects lend themselves naturally to desserts," she writes.
Bee ice cream, maybe? There's got to be more to insect sweets than those scorpion lollipops, which are not going to be for everyone.
"Appealing to logic and morality only gets you so far," says Allen. "We need to make it desirable and affordable before we can hope to change the minds (and tastebuds) of the average American. "

NOAA's hurricane season outlook

" 'A below-normal season doesn't mean we're off the hook. As we've seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities," said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., referring to the 1992 season in which only seven named storms formed, yet the first was Andrew – a Category 5 Major Hurricane that devastated South Florida."

BTW- hurricane season starts June 1st!

Friday, May 22, 2015

DNA evidence suggests that the split between dogs and their wild ancestors occurred closer to 30,000 years ago

It looks like dogs might well have been man's (and woman's) best friend for a lot longer than once thought.
The long-held conventional wisdom is that canis lupus familiaris split from wolves 11,000 to 16,000 years ago and that the divergence was helped along by Stone Age humans who wanted a fellow hunter, a sentry and a companion.
Now, DNA evidence suggests that the split between dogs and their wild ancestors occurred closer to 30,000 years ago.
Publishing in Thursday's edition of Current Biology, the authors of a new study looked at the genome of a 35,000-year-old wolf from the Taimyr Peninsula in northern Siberia. "We find that this individual belonged to a population that diverged from the common ancestor of present-day wolves and dogs very close in time to the appearance of the domestic dog lineage," they wrote in the abstract.
The team, led by Pontus Skoglun, a research fellow at Harvard, concluded that the mutation rate for canines is "substantially slower than assumed by most previous studies, suggesting that the ancestors of dogs were separated from present-day wolves before the Last Glacial Maximum."
In other words, there may have been a faithful Fido walking with a human before the end of the last Ice Age (and before agriculture).
As The New York Times writes: "Based on the differences between the genome of the new species, called the Taimyr wolf, and the genomes of modern wolves and dogs, the researchers built a family tree that shows wolves and dogs splitting much earlier than the 11,000 to 16,000 years ago that a study in 2014 concluded."
However, a study reported in 2013 places the date of the canine split closer to the study published on Thursday. As NPR's Nell Greenfieldboyce reported then, a team headed by Robert Wayne, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, and publishing in Science, used DNA analysis to peg the date at somewhere between 18,800 to 32,100 years ago.
In the new study, an author of the report was quoted by the Times as saying the simplest explanation for the new data is that dogs were domesticated as much as 30,000 years ago, but he cautions that the study does not prove it. "We can't just look at the DNA and say whether a canid was living with modern humans," he was quoted by the newspaper as saying.
"One scenario is that wolves started following humans around and domesticated themselves," Dalen told BBC. "Another is that early humans simply caught wolf cubs and kept them as pets and this gradually led to these wild wolves being domesticated. If this model is correct then dogs were domesticated by hunter gatherers that led a fairly nomadic lifestyle." npr

Census Reveals Universe Of Marine Microbes At Bottom Of The Food Chain

What's at the bottom of the bottom of the food chain? Well, think small ... smaller than you can see.
Microbes in the ocean!
There are (and scientists have done the math) trillions of microorganisms in the ocean: plankton, bacteria, krill (they're maybe bigger than "micro," but not by much), viruses, protists and archaea (they're like bacteria, but they aren't bacteria).
The Earth as we know it wouldn't exist without the trillions of microorganisms that live in the oceans. They're food for most everything that floats or swims, and they make oxygen that we need to breathe.
Now scientists have completed a census of this Lilliputian universe. And it's more diverse than anyone imagined.
Like Charles Darwin and other naturalists of the 18th and 19th century, the modern explorers spent years sailing around the world to accomplish this feat. They called their expedition Tara, after the name of the 110-foot schooner on which they lived for three years. 

The scientists aboard found more than 35,000 different kinds of organisms — many of them previously unknown to science. Their work fills five papers in the journalScience. Journal editor Marcia McNutt says it's time the world took notice of what wecan't see in the ocean.
"How can we save the whales if we can't save the krill?" she says. "There's something about the tragedy of the commons here."
Oceans are dumping grounds for the world's garbage. Climate change is making them warmer and more acidic. The Tara expedition was designed to measure what's out there and how it might be affected by a changing ocean.
To do that, the scientists siphoned up ocean water and used DNA probes to identify the organisms in the water. That also enabled them to understand how those organisms behave: eat, reproduce, interact.
Team scientist Eric Karsenti, from the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, says he was surprised by how much these tiny organisms interact with each other, often in symbiotic relationships.
"It's not only survival of the fittest," he says, "but it's also how everybody collaborates with everybody else that makes life evolve."
They also discovered communities of organisms caught up in big eddies, like whirlpools. These eddies carry these little living eco-systems with them across the oceans. The researchers also found these microorganisms to be exquisitely sensitive to temperature changes. And in fact, the oceans already are warming due to climate change.
Steve Palumbi, a marine biologist at Stanford University, says all this is good reason to pay more attention to these microbes.
"Anything that goes on in that region of life, that bottom layer, these tiny things makes a big difference to how the planet functions," he says.
Not only are they food for so much of what lives in the ocean, but they add huge amounts of oxygen to the atmosphere. "Anywhere between 1 in 4 and 1 in 2 breaths we take comes out of the ocean," says Palumbi. And that's mostly coming from these tiny little microbes.
Palumbi says this scientific bite at the oceanic apple will take years for scientists to digest. But he notes that the Tara scientists have made the unusual gesture of giving anyone in the world access to their data — in the hope that many hands will make quick work of it. npr

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dense Breasts Are Just One Part Of The Cancer Risk Calculus

Almost half the states now require doctors to tell women if they have dense breasts because they're at higher risk of breast cancer, and those cancers are harder to find. But not all women with dense breasts have the same risks, a study says.
Those differences need to be taken into account when figuring out each woman's risk of breast cancer, the study says, and also weighed against other factors, including family history, age and ethnicity.
The researchers looked at the records of 365,426 women who had a normal mammogram, then looked to see which ones were diagnosed with breast cancer within a year — a cancer that may have been missed by the mammogram.
All told, 47 percent of the women in the study had dense breasts. But just half of those women had a higher cancer risk. The women who got cancer were more likely to be older and white, have a family history of breast cancer, and to have "heterogeneously" or "extremely" dense breasts, the top two categories of breast density.
The results were published Monday in Annals of Internal Medicinenpr

Earth's First Snake Likely Evolved On Land, Not In Water

Some scientists have speculated that snakes first evolved in water and that their long, slithery bodies were streamlined for swimming. But a new analysis suggests that the most recent common ancestor of all snakes actually lived on land.
This ancestral protosnake probably was a nocturnal hunter that slithered across the forest floor about 120 million years ago. And it likely had tiny hind limbs, left over from an even earlier ancestor, says Allison Hsiang, a researcher at Yale University.
"They probably weren't using them in locomotion in any way, but they did probably still have vestigial hind limbs stuck on the back of their bodies," Hsiang says.
The evolutionary origin of snakes has been a bit of a mystery for scientists, because the fossil record has an unfortunate dearth of snakes. "For a long time there weren't very good snake fossils," says Hsiang, who explains that researchers had not found "things that sort of told us what snakes looked like early on, or transitional fossils between snakes and their closest ancestors."
That's because snakes are mostly small, with fragile skeletons that aren't easily preserved — although there are some notable exceptions, such as Titanoboa, which lived 60 million years ago and could grow longer than 40 feet.
In the past decade, though, scientists have discovered a bunch of new snake fossils — some new species, as well as better-quality specimens of known species. "Previously, we just had, say, a few isolated vertebrae," says Hsiang, "which tells you it's a snake, but doesn't really tell you very much else."
The new fossils allowed Hsiang and some colleagues to do a rigorous, comprehensive analysis, to try to determine what the most recent common ancestor of all snakes might have been like. Besides fossils, the team studied the genes and anatomy of living snakes. "We had a total of 73 species, and I believe 15 of those were fossil species," says Hsiang.
Their analysis, described in the issue of BMC Evolutionary Biology published Tuesday, supports the idea of an early snake that slithered over the ground, and perhaps went into burrows to find food. "Snakes probably did not evolve, originally, to be in water," says Hsiang. "That's not why they developed this body plan; that's not what the earliest snakes were doing."
It looks like the ancestral snake had needle-like hooked teeth that it used to grab small, rodent-like critters, which it then swallowed whole. And it probably wouldn't have been able to eat anything much bigger than its own head. npr

How A Bigger Lunch Table At Work Can Boost Productivity

The loft-like San Francisco office of software maker Atlassian has an open central amphitheater, where all-staff gatherings and midday boot camp exercises are held.
Jay Simons, Atlassian's president, says the building was originally a book printing factory. He describes it "as a big, two-story warehouse with a lot of steel girders, a lot of natural light."
But the office's rapid expansion to 300 employees has led to gripes about conference room shortages. "We're butting up on growing out of the space," Simons says.

So, early this year, Atlassian installed heat and motion sensors to track when and how often every desk, room and table was used. The result? Desks were used only 20 percent of the workday; conference rooms an average of 40 percent, with peak utilization at mid-morning.
Simons says tracking employees' movements in an anonymous way will help guide choices to convert desk space into meeting rooms, or to stagger meetings to accommodate a growing staff.
"If we're using data to make an environment that people can be more productive in, ultimately that saves us money or helps us make more," he says.
One of Waber's clients found that software developers who ate lunch in large groups wrote 10 percent more code than those who ate solo or with fewer colleagues. Salespeople with more relationships across an organization sold measurably more. That led to larger lunch tables and more strategic placement of coffee machines.
"Where do you spend time, who talks to who and those patterns are so critical when it comes to how effective we are and how happy we are at work," he says.
Waber's company carefully tracks its own employees. Even for things like determining which free snacks tend to draw people into break rooms.
Congdon says designing the ideal workspace is well worth the effort. When Steelcase redid its own offices, she says workers ended up happier with the various options for working and meeting. And, as a bonus, the company reduced its real estate footprint by 48 percent. npr

distinctive leading cause of death by state 2001-2010

Black Rhino Is Killed By U.S. Hunter Who Won Controversial Auction

An endangered black rhino is seen in this file photo from the Etosha National Park in northern Namibia last year. An American hunter has killed one of the animals, under a special permit he bought for $350,000.

A Texas hunter who paid $350,000 for the right to hunt a rare black rhino in Namibia has killed the animal. The hunt has drawn controversy and spurred debate over the best way to manage endangered wildlife.
Corey Knowlton won an auction last January for a hunting permit that would allow him to kill a black rhino weighing around 3,000 pounds.
"There are only an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 black rhinos living in the wild," Mark wrote for the Two-Way last year. "Namibian authorities issue five kill permits per year."
The permit came from Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism; each year, it targets several older rhinos that are no longer able to breed – but still pose a deadly threat to younger males. The proceeds are meant to go toward anti-poaching and conservation efforts.
Namibia is facing a surge in poaching — last week, the country's New Era newspaper said that 60 rhinos have been poached so far in 2015, leading Namibia's environmental ministry to double its reward for information about the killings.
After winning the auction, Knowlton then had to get special permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to bring the carcass back to America. The agency, which gave its approval in March, writes:
"The removal of limited numbers of males has been shown to stimulate population growth in some areas. Removing specific individuals from a population can result in reduced male fighting, shorter calving intervals, and reduced juvenile mortality."
Black rhinos have "the highest combat mortality rates of any mammal," Namibia's Oshili 24 reports. "Approximately 50 percent of males and 30 percent of females die from combat-related injuries."
But, the news site adds, "Many in Namibia opposed the auction." Protests against the hunt came from international groups; demonstrators also picketed the auction held by the Dallas Safari Club.
As Knowlton told CNN, the rhino hunt could have ended in three possible scenarios – including one in which the wrong rhino could be killed:
"If it charges at us and we are already sure it's the right one, we are going to kill it," Knowlton said. "If we aren't sure if it's the right one, we are going to try and get out of the way. If we don't feel like we can get out of the way, we got to kill it."
Knowlton invited CNN to join him on the hunt; the network's Ed Lavandera spent several days with the hunter and a team of trackers, documenting their walk through the bush. A sample:
"The rhino is close. Knowlton's hands firmly grip his high-powered 500 Nitro Express rifle. Moments later, I see a massive flash of gray leap up over the bushes some 50 feet in front of us. It disappears and you can't tell which direction the rhino is running.
"It's jarring to see this close how quickly these massive creatures can move."
The hunting party picked up the rhino's trail near a watering hole early in the morning. When they finally got close to it, the rhino charged – and was shot several times.
"Any time you take an animal's life it's an emotional thing," Knowlton tells CNN.
"I felt like from day one it was something benefiting the black rhino," Knowlton tells Lavandera shortly after the hunt. "Being on this hunt, with the amount of criticism it brought and the amount of praise it brought from both sides, I don't think it could have brought more awareness to the black rhino."
If you're wondering how the 36-year-old Knowlton could afford the steep hunting fee, we're seeing that he's a hunting consultant based in Dallas, as well as a personality on an Outdoor Channel hunting show, Jim Shockey's The Professionals. He's also a son of Lary Knowlton, the co-founder of BASA Resources, which was characterized last year as one of "the top 20 oil producers in the state of Texas." npr

riddle of the day

there is a word. six letters it contains. 
take one away, and twelve is what remains.

answer: dozens

Thursday, May 14, 2015

sam adoquei

Are You Smarter Than A 15-Year-Old?

Here's a map of a system of roads that links the suburbs within a city. The map shows the travel time in minutes at 7:00 a.m. on each section of road.
Question: Julio lives in Silver, Maria lives in Lincoln and Don lives in Nobel. They want to meet in a suburb on the map. No one wants to travel for more than 15 minutes. Where could they meet?

NATO Diplomats Sing 'We Are The World'

you and the world have changed since you were born

Explore BBC Earth's unique interactive, personalised just to you.
Find out how, since the date of your birth, your life has progressed; including how many times your heart has beaten, and how far you have travelled through space.

Investigate how the world around you has changed since you've been alive; from the amount the sea has risen, and the tectonic plates have moved, to the number of earthquakes and volcanoes that have erupted.

Grasp the impact we've had on the planet in your lifetime; from how much fuel and food we've used to the species we've discovered and endangered.

And see how the BBC was there with you, capturing some of the most amazing wonders of the natural world. bbc

my heart has beaten 1 billion times in my lifetime. 
a fly my age would have a family of 10,544 generations by now.
on mercury i am 116.
there have been 131 major eruptions since i was born. 

swedens gay defense system

The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) is to deal with encroaching Russian submarines in Swedish waters with a device emitting anti-homophobia Morse code.
The device – officially titled The Singing Sailor Underwater Defence System, but nicknamed the “gay sailor” – is a “subsurface sonar system”, which sends out the message: “This way if you are gay” in an attempt to deter apparently homophobic Russians.
Russia has come under fire since the Putin administration introduced homophobic laws in 2013 banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, in a climate of increasing intolerance towards its LGBT population.
The design of the device features a neon, flashing sign of a dancing sailor, naked but for a cap and small white briefs, surrounded by hearts.
“Welcome to Sweden: Gay since 1944” is written in English and Russian, in a reference to the year of decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Scandinavian nation.

Sweden has cut its military budget in recent years but announced in March it would increase spending, as a result of alleged Cold War-style Russian aggression.
An operation involving helicopters, minesweepers and 200 troops was launched last October to search for a suspected rogue Russian submarine in Swedish waters.
Sweden is currently not a member of Nato. And thanks to the gay sailor defence system, it may never have to be. the guardian