August 1, 2013
Re "Is racial prejudice hard-wired?," Opinion, July 28 Neuroscientist Robert M. Sapolsky hits the nail on the head. Racial prejudice is rooted in behavioral characteristics and neural wiring that are the product of natural selection. Quickly sensing potential danger in one's environment, with other humans forming the major part of that environment, had survival value for our ancestors. We also quickly create categories of things and people and assign values to them. Humans are "groupists" by nature: Our ancestors formed group associations to survive.
July 19, 2013 |
On Thursday, members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences handed out the first Emmy nomination to a television series that wasn't delivered over the airwaves or cable. In fact, three such series - two dramas and a comedy, all delivered by Netflix over the Internet - garnered a total of 14 nominations. With that, the academy acknowledged the latest step in the evolution of TV: the expansion of high-quality original programming from broadcasting and cable to broadband. That's not necessarily welcome news for traditional TV networks and pay-TV operators, but it's an encouraging sign for everyone else.
July 18, 2013 |
Say you could hop into a DeLorean and travel back to when life on Earth began. Would fish migrate from water to land? Would the dinosaurs go extinct? At the end of our trip, would we still encounter life as we now know it? Some scientists don't think so. They argue that any number of chance events - storms and earthquakes, for example - would steer evolution down another course, making it impossible to predict. But a study published Tuesday in Science has found that if we know the ecology of an area, we can predict the traits a species will evolve millions of years from now, despite all the chance events that could influence the outcome.
July 16, 2013
Re "Miracle or coincidence?," Postscript, July 13 Lawrence R. Krauss says that a major problem with miracles is that they condition you to believe in faith over science. I couldn't agree more. Moreover, I can speak to the hostility of religion toward science. I teach a philosophy course at a local community college. We discuss metaphysics, free will, the arguments for the existence of God, the scientific method, evolution, epistemology and various ethical theories. Many of my students are downright hostile toward evolution.
June 28, 2013 |
What do human evolution and baseball have in common? Pretty much everything, according to a new Harvard study. While anybody who's ever watched a chimpanzee fling poop at the local zoo can confirm that our primate cousins will sometimes nail an unlucky target, it's also quite obvious that their throwing style will not land them any major league pitching contracts. According to a study published recently in Nature, the evolutionary and...
June 21, 2013 |
Spider webs combine a strength and elasticity unmatched by anything we humans can make. They don't trigger much of an immune response in us and are "insoluble in water, two facts that the classical Greeks exploited when they used cobwebs to patch bleeding wounds," notes science writer Adam Rutherford. These days, spider silk has inspired another innovative use. Utah State University researchers have spliced DNA from the golden orb-weaver spider into the genome of a goat named Freckles, adjacent to her own coded base pairs for prompting the production of milk.
June 20, 2013 |
Hundreds of start-up tech developers and others converged in Santa Monica this week for Silicon Beach Fest, seeking to raise money from investors, build industry contacts and gain exposure for their companies. The four-day tech and entertainment festival, which runs through Saturday, is intended to promote the fast-growing entrepreneurial community in the greater Los Angeles area. Local tech leaders have cheered the event, now in its second year. It includes start-up showcases, parties and panels on topics including app creation and development, crowd-funding, mobile advertising and legal and public relations help for start-ups.
June 13, 2013 |
WHITMORE VILLAGE, Hawaii - Sure, Edward Snowden just used a simple thumb drive to smuggle classified information out of the National Security Agency. But one look at the sprawling NSA compound where he is believed to have worked in the mountains of central Oahu - with its chain-link fences and barbed wire, massive entrance gates and "Keep out" signs - raises the question of how even a trusted employee with a high-level security clearance could sneak out even an innocuous piece of equipment.
June 10, 2013 |
Astronomers have discovered a strangely tiny galaxy in the Milky Way's neighborhood -- one with less than 1,000 stars held together by the smallest dark matter halo ever observed. The galaxy known as Segue 2, described in the Astrophysical Journal, might hold the key to a long-standing mystery about the evolution of the universe. "These little clumps are almost certainly the first things to form in the universe," said study coauthor James Bullock, an astronomer at UC Irvine. Segue 2, discovered by an extension of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey in 2009, is putting out about as much light as 900 suns, Bullock said.
June 6, 2013 |
Most birds lost their penises somewhere along the trail of evolution. Scientists want to know where they went. A biological program that triggers cell death is to blame, and it may offer clues about both evolution and the molecular biology behind birth defects, say researchers from the University of Florida, who published their work in Current Biology this week. “One of the most puzzling events in evolution is the reduction and loss of the phallus in birds,” said Martin Cohn, A University of Florida biologist who studies the evolution of appendages.