Lightning forced human ancestors to become bipedal, Kansas researchers say

Intense lightning could have burned us out of the trees.

Photo credit: YE AUNG THU / AFP / Getty Images
  • A new paper proposes that a couple of supernovae led to the loss of our tree habit, forcing us down to the savannah.
  • The telltale clues are iron-60 isotopes and lots of unexplained charcoal and soot in the geologic record.
  • The theory is an intriguing combination of astronomy, physics, geology, and anthropology.
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Surprising Science
Image source: 80's Child / ArtFamily / Shutterstock / Big Think
  • A panel of eight experts in the evolution of the human face have collaborated on a new summary of how we've changed.
  • Their paper promotes the importance of social interaction as a factor in the structure of our visages.
  • We can visually express more than 20 categories of emotion. Early humans not so much.
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Surprising Science

New theories reveal the ferocious T-Rex as… adorable?

The American Museum of Natural History presents the new, more accurate T. rex.

  • Hatchling, four-year-old, and adult models show us new sides of the famous predator.
  • They're part of the T. rex: The Ultimate Predator exhibit running from March 2019 to August 2020.
  • Attention time travelers: You may want to pet the feathered hatchling. Don't.
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Surprising Science

Oldest animal ever discovered by scientists

Chinese scientists find a 600-million-year-old creature.

Mnemiopsis leidyi. (Image: National Institutes of Health)
  • Researchers in China find fossils of a creature that lived 600 million years ago.
  • This creature resembles a modern-day comb jelly.
  • If confirmed, these would be the oldest animal fossils discovered.
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Surprising Science

Dinosaurs are alive! Here’s how we know, and why it matters

Feathery dinosaurs are the perfect case study of how scientific revolutions happen.

  • For most of the 20th century, figuring out the origin of birds was a great challenge of evolutionary biology — they didn't seem to fit anywhere. Then, in the late 20th century, a group of scientists discovered that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs, which were large, bipedal meat-eaters like the Velociraptor or the T-Rex.
  • The bird-from-dinosaur theory was considered to be a crackpot idea but after three decades of research, the evidence became irrefutable. Finally, the discovery of feathers on a theropod ended the fiery 30-year debate. "[Birds] didn't just come from dinosaurs, they are dinosaurs living amongst us — 10,000 species found on all continents around the world," says Richard Prum.
  • This piece of science history is a perfect case study of how scientific revolutions happen. The scientific method is a self-repairing system that improves under scrutiny — good science, done with an open mind and not a foregone conclusion, leads to greater knowledge.
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