What You Need to Win Valentine's Day, Whether Single or Coupled

The Valentine's holiday is fast approaching. There's technology to help.

In less than a week, many of us will be wondering how we ended up spending $50-$100 for a dozen long-stemmed roses. Others will be regaling in the fact that their Valentine’s Day was celebrated solo, without the encumbrance of seeking the perfect gift for their lover. Either way, the holiday is fast approaching and there is tech to help us survive it.


The origination of Valentine’s Day can be found in the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia, a pagan fertility celebration that occurred February 13 through February 15 each year. Lupercus was the Roman god of shepherds and his festival was celebrated annually in order for the city to be purified, releasing abundance and health. In 496, Pope Gelasius I renamed the festival St. Valentine’s Day and moved it to February 14th. Much later, the celebration took on its more romantic meaning, with the oldest known valentine written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans. While imprisoned in the Tower of London following the Battle of Agincourt, Charles penned the love poem to his wife

To be sure, Valentine’s Day today is a wholly commercial endeavor. Roses, greeting cards, romantic dinners, and chocolates all make their appearance. In 2015, it was estimated that Valentine’s Day spending would reach a record $19 billion, with the average celebrant shelling out about $140 USD.

And of course there is technology that can help make the day more fun. For example, consider the iPad-only app Fingle. Think of it like Twister except for your fingers. The idea is to play against someone you might have a liking for. As you move your fingers around the game, you touch each other, bump each other, and generally spend time rubbing your fingers together. As Fingle describes it, “Two players drag up to five buttons of one color onto their matching targets; their movement makes it impossible to avoid contact, creating intimate moments with intertwined hands.”

Or maybe you’re interested in avoiding your ex over the holiday. There is nothing more annoying than running into someone you never hoped to see again, especially on this most romantic of holidays. As Wired reports, the Cloak app can help. Cloak tells you where your friends are (based on their social media usage), and helps you avoid them. It works by pulling the geo-data from your friends' check-ins and then tells you where not to go. “We’ve all adapted to a culture of sharing everything on the Internet,” say the app's developers. “Cloak just piggybacks on that, and offers a little privacy in the real world. It fits in quite perfectly.”

So, this weekend, as you mull over what romantic endeavor to pursue, be assured that others are struggling with the same problem. Maybe we all should take a cue from the Duke of Orleans and simply reflect on the love we feel for others, write down what our heart tells us, and then speak those words to our partners. 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.