Today's Lesson in Societal Collapse, Courtesy of the Mayans

The same issues that experts worry about for our world today -- climate change combined with environmental mismanagement -- helped end Mayan civilization, according to a recently-released article.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn


What's the Latest Development?

The 9th-century collapse of the Lowland Maya civilization in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula had much to do with both climate change and human-made environmental stressors, say the co-authors of an article published yesterday in the online early edition of Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences. Prior to the collapse, the Mayans had lived in harmony with the environment for over 2000 years, building and maintaining production and water networks that carried them through at least two dry periods. However, as time went on, large-scale deforestation exacerbated and intensified the droughts. With a shift in trade routes that drastically affected the local economy, "the decision was made to vacate the central lowlands rather than maintain the investment."

What's the Big Idea?

Social scientists B.L. Turner and Jeremy A. Sabloff write: "The Maya case lends insights for the use of paleo- and historical analogs to inform contemporary global environment change and sustainability...Complex system interactions generated the collapse and depopulation of the [Central Maya Lowlands] and fostered its long-term abandonment. This lesson -- increasingly voiced in the literature -- should be heeded in the use of analogs for sustainability science."

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Plants have awareness and intelligence, argue scientists

Research in plant neurobiology shows that plants have senses, intelligence and emotions.

Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • The field of plant neurobiology studies the complex behavior of plants.
  • Plants were found to have 15-20 senses, including many like humans.
  • Some argue that plants may have awareness and intelligence, while detractors persist.
Keep reading Show less

Vaping changes blood vessels after one use, even without nicotine

E-cigarettes may be safer than traditional cigarettes, but they come with their own risks.


John Keeble
/GETTY
Surprising Science
  • A new study used an MRI machine to examine how vaping e-cigarettes affects users' cardiovascular systems immediately after inhalation.
  • The results showed that vaping causes impaired circulation, stiffer arteries and less oxygen in their blood.
  • The new study adds to a growing body of research showing that e-cigarettes – while likely safer than traditional cigarettes – are far from harmless.
Keep reading Show less

Space is dead: A challenge to the standard model of quantum mechanics

Since the idea of locality is dead, space itself may not be an aloof vacuum: Something welds things together, even at great distances.

Videos
  • Realists believe that there is an exactly understandable way the world is — one that describes processes independent of our intervention. Anti-realists, however, believe realism is too ambitious — too hard. They believe we pragmatically describe our interactions with nature — not truths that are independent of us.
  • In nature, properties of Particle B may be depend on what we choose to measure or manipulate with Particle A, even at great distances.
  • In quantum mechanics, there is no explanation for this. "It just comes out that way," says Smolin. Realists struggle with this because it would imply certain things can travel faster than light, which still seems improbable.
Keep reading Show less