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When It Comes to Neanderthals, Humans May Be the Borg
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In 1856, a group of quarrymen discovered the remnants of a strange skeleton in Germany's lush Neander Valley. They thought it was a bear. They were wrong. In fact, the quarrymen had unearthed the first scientifically recognized remains of Homo neanderthalensis, an ancient human ancestor.
Colloquially known as Neanderthals, the species quickly became synonymous with the prototypical "cavemen," you know, the grunting, apish type. Stocky, bigheaded, and wide-nosed, they fit that brutish description well. Neanderthals' simpleton status also made it intuitively clear why they died out: they were plainly inferior to humans, so when Neanderthals and Homo sapiens -- humans -- began cohabitating the same regions of Europe and the Middle East around 50,000 years ago, humans either outcompeted them or actively hunted them to extinction.
In the past few decades, however, anthropological discoveries have contradicted those stereotypical views. Neanderthals actually had slightly larger brains than modern humans! Moreover, they were accomplished big game hunters, crafted advanced tools, ritualistically buried their dead, and utilized language and symbols.
According to archaeologists Paola Villa and Wil Roebroeks, these recent discoveries counter the notion that human superiority somehow led to the demise of the Neanderthals. They state their case in the form of a systematic review of archaeological records, published in the online open-access journal PLoS ONE.
The extinction and competition hypotheses for the demise of the Neanderthals, notably suggested by interdisciplinary scientist and author Jared Diamond, hinge on the idea that humans were more advanced than Neanderthals. Commonly claimed are the following: that humans had more communicative abilities, were more efficient hunters, had superior weaponry, ate a broader diet, and had more extensive social networks.
But the archaeological record doesn't back any of those claims, the authors found.
"The results of our study imply that single-factor explanations for the disappearance of the Neanderthals are not warranted any more," the duo writes.
Villa and Roebroeks' findings raise an intriguing question: If Neanderthals weren't driven to extinction, well, then, where did they go?
According to Villa and Roebroeks, the best explanation now is familiar to anyone who's acquainted with the Borg, a ruthless collective of cybernetic beings from Star Trek. Neanderthals were assimilated... by us. That's right: Humanity is the Borg.
In 2010, scientists discovered that between one and four percent of the DNA of modern humans living outside of Africa is derived from Neanderthals, providing clear evidence that the two species were interbreeding to some extent tens of thousands of years ago. In January of this year, Benjamin Vernot and Joshua Akey of the University of Washington published a paper in Science that corroborated those results. They found that a fifth of Neanderthals' genetic code lives on within our species as a whole.
While interbreeding may be the leading explanation for the demise of the Neanderthals today, it may not be tomorrow. There are few topics in science more convoluted than human evolution. But when it comes to unearthing our past, our curiosity compels us to keep digging.
Resistance, after all, is futile.
(Images: AP, Paramount Pictures)
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Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.