Let's begin this post with two quotes. The first is one of my favourites, from Darwin's The Descent of Man:
It is a more significant fact that a female zebra would not admit the addresses of a male ass until he was painted so as to resemble a zebra, and then, as John Hunter remarks, "she received him very readily." In this curious fact, we have instinct excited by mere colour, which had so strong an effect as to get the better of everything else. But the male did not require this, the female being an animal somewhat similar to himself, was sufficient to rouse him.
So I like this clip. When I think about
I often use this type of sweeping imagery and it really does help you
comprehend the mind-boggling timescales involved. Just think of it. All
those generations of stupid apes, sitting around not doing very much
(think, eating and fucking). Maybe we were better off when we couldn't
even string a sentence together.
And what came of it all? We sit around and bash our keyboards and trot
out our self-important bollocks. Fuck the world. Fuck humanity. I think
I'm just about ready to take my vow of silence, and never utter a single
word again. If it was okay for my
ancestors, then grunting and snarling is just dandy by me.
My recent post on optimism was inspired by yet another very interesting science book that I read recently. Catastrophes: the Science of Mass Extinction by Vince Courtillot, is a fascinating romp through the evidence that catastrophic events have been an important influence in the development of life on Earth. The author not only examines the death and destruction inflicted when large space faring rocks fly out of the sky, but also discusses at some length the effects of huge plumes of magma, moving up through the Earth, and culminating in the eruption of devastating volcanic traps. All pretty terrifying (and yet compelling) stuff, and it's well worth a read.
Another skip to the end moment, with an extract from the conclusion:
In a recent article celebrating the 21st anniversary of the theory of punctuated equilibrium, the theorys primary authors, Gould and Eldredge, remark that in the natural sciences all great …
It's certainly been a while since I posted any words. Unfortunately I'm
still not quite in the mood for anything too deep and
existential, but I did want to share these two video clips. The first is from a
National Geographic documentary
on human evolution and shows what happens when
chimpanzees are threatened by artificial leopards (it made me laugh!). And the
second is from the brilliant 13 part documentary 'The Ascent of
which reminded me a lot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos, and is well worth a watch.
There may be more to follow...but don't hold your breath...
Quite a while ago now, I asked the question 'Is Paris Hilton Inevitable?'
Pinker covers a similar topic in his book, 'How The Mind Works'
when he discusses the possibility that
intelligence elsewhere in the
a SETI fan might ask, isn't it true that animals become more complex
over time? And wouldn't intelligence be the culmination? In many
lineages, of course, animals have become more complex. Life began
simple, so the complexity of the most complex creature alive on
earth at any time has to increase over the eons. But in many
lineages they have not. The organisms reach an optimum and stay put,
often for hundreds of millions of years. And those that do become
more complex don't always become smarter. They become bigger, or
faster, or more poisonous, or more fecund, or more sensitive to
smells and sounds, or able to fly higher …
I caught a story over at
about a prize winning essay which puts forward a new theory as to why
our species became less hairy:
Harris' paper describes Stone Age societies in which the mother of a
newborn had to decide whether she had the resources to nurture her
baby. The newborn's appearance probably influenced whether the
mother kept or abandoned it. An attractive baby was more likely to
be kept and reared.
Harris' theory is that this kind of parental selection may have been
an important force in evolution. If Stone Age people believed that
hairless babies were more attractive than hairy ones, this could
explain why humans are the only apes lacking a coat of fur. Harris
suggests that Neanderthals must have been furry in order to survive
the Ice Age. Our species would have seen them as "animals" and
potential prey. Harris' hypothesis continues that Neanderthals …