03 June 2010

Daily Digest, 02.06.2010

This started off looking like a slow day, but...

Neanderthal flakes on the M25; our remote ancestors fail to clean up catfish bones after eating; PNAS offers *free* articles on human evolution; bonobo mother shakes head "no"; judge says "no" to fMRI lie detection; false memories; the BP oil spill covers Scotland (or could); dolphins use iPads; ein Blick auf die Lokomotionsform rezenter Menschenaffen; Charlie Parker; and swimming giraffes.

A press release on Science Daily reports new evidence (flint waste flakes from the M25/A2 junction in Dartford) that Neanderthals were in Britain 40,000 years earlier than previously thought.

And speaking of early, Science summarizes a study (just published online at PNAS) describing a newly found 1.95-million-year-old site near Koobi Fora in Kenya that contains "several thousand" stone tools and "hundreds" of bones of terrestrial and aquatic animals that those tools were used to butcher. Species represented include (and this is the take-home point) catfish—a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, useful for the burgeoning brains of our remote ancestors—as well as crocodiles, turtles, antelopes, hippos, and rhinoceros.

The article itself is (you knew this was coming) behind a paywall, but at least the conditions are marginally less insulting than some I've been reporting lately: this one can be had for 2 entire days from a single computer for a mere $10.

However, PNAS has also made freely available a series of 15 papers from the Colloquium "In the light of evolution IV: The human condition." Contributors include Steven Pinker, Terrence Deacon, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby, Peter Richerson, Robert Boyd, Nina Jablonski, and many others. Go download them now, before they change their minds. I'm going to do it right now.  They look fascinating, and I hope to report on them here.

Do bonobo mothers shake their heads "no"?  It sure looks like it on this video at BBC Earth News, and researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig think they just might mean it. No parent will be surprised, though, that the baby bonobo isn't paying any attention. 

The article describing the research has just been published online in the journal Primates.  Unfortunately....oh hell, you know what's coming, don't you?  It's behind a paywall: $34, at Springer Link.

The indispensable 80beats at Discover reports that a federal judge in a Tennessee case has rejected the use of fMRI brain scans as evidence of a witness's veracity.  What's especially impressive is that the judge made his decision partly on the basis of a good understanding of the science: namely, that the science is not (to put it mildly) there yet to support fMRIs as "lie detectors."

Vaughan at Mind Hacks points toward an 8-part series in Slate on memory and the ease with which it can be manipulated, focusing especially on the work of Elizabeth Loftus, one of the prime debunkers of the notion of "recovered memory." I haven't had time to look at this series yet, but it sounds well worth reading.

"BP oil plume is big enough to cover most of Scotland," as this graphic (via io9) vividly demonstrates.

Even dolphins are using the iPad (from Orange Crate Art, by way of Boing Boing).

Eric at Affe provides yet another opportunity for me to learn German vocabulary for the fields of physical anthropology and paleoanthropology, in "Nur so ein Gedanke: Die mögliche Rolle der oberen Extremität bei der Evolution des aufrechten Gangs." I particularly like "arborikol," which I hadn't seen before.

A rediscovered film of Charlie Parker playing with Coleman Hawkins, Hank Jones (who just died two weeks ago), Ray Brown, and the ever frenetic Buddy Rich. According to the poster at YouTube, the musicians were filmed playing against pre-recorded tracks. But it's still well worth watching, as it is one of only two known sound films of Parker playing. (Hat tip to Michael Lorenz for pointing me to this clip.)

Today's best blog-post title: "Testing the flotation dynamics and swimming abilities of giraffes by way of computational analysis," over at Tetrapod Zoology.  And that's really what it's about.
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