06.08.2022
Evolution theory shattered as bombshell study finds that human brains ‘did not shrink’

Last year, a study found that around 3000 years ago, the size of human brains had decreased. This period was referred to as the Early to Middle Bronze Age, characterized by the early empires in the Ancient Near East, which included civilizations like Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. The researchers believed that as humans transitioned to modern urban societies, our ancestors’ ability to store information externally in social groups decreased our need to maintain large brains.

Now, a new study led by researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) has refuted this hypothesis.

In the previous study, the researchers explored decades-old ideas on the evolutionary reduction of modern human brain size, based on a comparison to evolutionary patterns seen in ant colonies.

In a new paper published last week in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, the UNLV-led team studied the dataset that the used by the research group from last year’s study and dismissed their findings.

Anthropologist Brian Villmoare said: “We were struck by the implications of a substantial reduction in modern human brain size at roughly 3,000 years ago, during an era of many important innovations and historical events—the appearance of Egypt’s New Kingdom, the development of Chinese script, the Trojan War, and the emergence of the Olmec civilization, among many others.

“We re-examined the dataset from DeSilva et al. and found that human brain size has not changed in 30,000 years, and probably not in 300,000 years.

“In fact, based on this dataset, we can identify no reduction in brain size in modern humans over any time period since the origins of our species.”

The UNLV researchers challenged a number of different hypotheses DeSilva et. al had proposed, based on a dataset of nearly 1,000 early human fossil and museum specimens.

They noted that since the rise of agriculture and complex societies occurred at different times around the globe, there should have been a variation in timing of skull changes seen in different populations.

However, Prof DeSilva’s dataset sampled only 23 crania from the timeframe critical to the brain shrinkage hypothesis and lumped together specimens from locations including England, China, Mali, and Algeria.

The UNLV researchers noted that the dataset was heavily skewed as over half of the 987 skulls studied came from the last 100 years of the 9.8 million-year timespan that they were investigating.

Because of the unbalanced range, the team believes that the previous research did not offer a clear idea of how much cranial size has changed over time.

Multiple hypotheses on causes of reduction in modern human brain size need to be reassessed if human brains haven’t actually changed in size since the arrival of our species.

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  • 5 часов, 11 минут назад 19.08.2022Science
    Energy breakthrough: Floating artificial leaves make fuel from sunlight and water

    Taking their inspiration from natural photosynthetic leaves, the ultra-thin, flexible devices are the brainchild of chemist Dr Virgil Andrei and his colleagues. The researchers tested their prototypes on the River Cam, close to such iconic Cambridge locations as the Bridge of Sighs, the Wren Library and the King’s College Chapel. They demonstrated that the devices can convert sunlight into fuel just as efficiently as plant leaves do in nature.

    This, the team said, is the first time that clean fuel has been generated on water.

    They envisage the low-cost, autonomous devices operating en masse out at sea, in ports, or even on polluted waterways.

    In this way, the artificial leaves could produce a sustainable petrol alternative without taking up space on land.

    The devices could even help to reduce the global shipping industry’s reliance on fossil fuels.

    At present, around 80 percent of global trade is transported in cargo vessels powered by fossil fuels — but the sector has attracted little focus in discussions on the climate crisis.

    Part of the problem is that developing renewable energy technologies like wind and solar power do not port well to industries like shipping, for which decarbonisation is more difficult.

    For several years, the Cambridge-based research group had been trying to tackle this problem by developing sustainable fuels produced using methods based on the principles of photosynthesis.

    Back in 2019, the team succeeded in developing and artificial leaf capable of making so-called syngas — a key intermediate in the production of many different chemicals and pharmaceuticals — using just carbon dioxide, sunlight and water as ingredients.

    This early concept generated fuel by combining two light absorbers with catalysts — but was let down by its thick glass substrates and moisture protective coatings, leaving it rather bulky.

    Dr Andrei said: “Artificial leaves could substantially lower the cost of sustainable fuel production,

    “But since they’re both heavy and fragile, they’re difficult to produce at scale and transport.”

    His colleague, Professor Erwin Reisner added: “We wanted to see how far we can trim down the materials these devices use, while not affecting their performance.

    “If we can trim the materials down far enough that they’re light enough to float, then it opens up whole new ways that these artificial leaves could be used.”

    For the new, lightweight, floating design, the team took inspiration from the miniaturisation techniques used by the electronics industry to produce such slender tech as smartphones and flexible displays.

    To deposit light absorbers onto lightweight substrates, the team used thin-film metal oxides and materials called perovskites which can be coated onto flexible plastic and metal foils.

    They next protected the leaves against water infiltration by covering them in micrometre-thin layers of carbon.

    Dr Andrei said: “This study demonstrates that artificial leaves are compatible with modern fabrication techniques, representing an early step towards the automation and up-scaling of solar fuel production.

    “These leaves combine the advantages of most solar fuel technologies, as they achieve the low weight of powder suspensions and the high performance of wired systems.”

    According to the researchers, refinements will be needed before their artificial leaves can be produced for commercial applications — but the latest prototype is already opening up new avenues in their work.

    Dr Andrei said: “Solar farms have become popular for electricity production; we envision similar farms for fuel synthesis.

    “These could supply coastal settlements, remote islands, cover industrial ponds, or avoid water evaporation from irrigation canals.”

    Prof. Reisner concluded: “Many renewable energy technologies, including solar fuel technologies, can take up large amounts of space on land, so moving production to open water would mean that clean energy and land use aren’t competing with one another.

    “In theory, you could roll up these devices and put them almost anywhere, in almost any country, which would also help with energy security.”

    The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature.

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  • 5 часов, 22 минуты назад 19.08.2022Science
    Medieval friars twice as likely to be riddled with intestinal parasites as townspeople

    Medieval friars were nearly twice as likely as townspeople to be infected by intestinal parasites, new analysis of remains found in Cambridge shows.

    This is despite most Augustinian monasteries of the period having latrine blocks and hand-washing facilities, unlike the houses of ordinary working people.

    Experts said the difference in parasitic infection may be down to monks manuring crops in friary gardens with their own faeces, or purchasing fertiliser containing human or pig excrement.

    The study, carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge, is the first to compare parasite prevalence in people from the same medieval community who were living different lifestyles, and so might have differed in their infection risk.

    The population of medieval Cambridge was made up of residents of monasteries, friaries and nunneries of various major Christian orders, along with merchants, traders, craftsmen, labourers, farmers, and staff and students at the early university.

    Cambridge archaeologists investigated samples of soil taken from around the pelvises of adult remains from the former cemetery of All Saints by the Castle parish church, as well as from the grounds where the city’s Augustinian Friary once stood.

    Most of the parish church burials date from the 12-14th century, and those interred within were primarily of a lower socio-economic status, mainly agricultural workers.

    The Augustinian friary in Cambridge was an international study house, known as a studium generale, where clergy from across Britain and Europe would come to read manuscripts.

    It was founded in the 1280s and lasted until 1538 before suffering the fate of most English monasteries — closed or destroyed as part of Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Church.

    Researchers tested 19 monks from the friary grounds and 25 locals from All Saints cemetery.

    They found that 11 of the friars (58 per cent) were infected with worms, compared with just eight of the general townspeople (32 per cent).

    They say these rates are likely the minimum, and that actual numbers of infections would have been higher, but some traces of worm eggs in the pelvic sediment would have been destroyed over time by fungi and insects.

    The 32 per cent prevalence of parasites among townspeople matches studies of medieval burials in other European countries, suggesting this is not particularly low — but rather the infection rates in the monastery were remarkably high.

    ‘The friars of medieval Cambridge appear to have been riddled with parasites,’ said study lead author Dr Piers Mitchell from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology.

    ‘This is the first time anyone has attempted to work out how common parasites were in people following different lifestyles in the same medieval town.’

    Cambridge researcher Tianyi Wang, who did the microscopy to spot the parasite eggs, said: ‘Roundworm was the most common infection, but we found evidence for whipworm infection as well.

    ‘These are both spread by poor sanitation.’

    Standard sanitation in medieval towns relied on the cesspit toilet — holes in the ground used for faeces and household waste.

    In monasteries, however, running water systems were a common feature – including to rinse out the latrine – although that has yet to be confirmed at the Cambridge site, which is only partly excavated.

    Not all people buried in Augustinian friaries were actually clergy, as wealthy people from the town could pay to be interred there. However, the team could tell which graves belonged to friars from the remains of their clothing.

    ‘The friars were buried wearing the belts they wore as standard clothing of the order, and we could see the metal buckles at excavation,’ said co-author Craig Cessford of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit.

    As roundworm and whipworm are spread by poor sanitation, researchers argue that the difference in infection rates between the friars and the general population must have been due to how each group dealt with their human waste.

    ‘One possibility is that the friars manured their vegetable gardens with human faeces, not unusual in the medieval period, and this may have led to repeated infection with the worms,’ said Dr Mitchell.

    Medieval records reveal how Cambridge residents may have understood parasites such as roundworm and whipworm.

    John Stockton, a medical practitioner in Cambridge who died in 1361, left a manuscript to Peterhouse college that included a section on De Lumbricis (‘on worms’).

    It notes that intestinal worms are generated by excess of various kinds of phlegm: ‘Long round worms form from an excess of salt phlegm, short round worms from sour phlegm, while short and broad worms came from natural or sweet phlegm.’

    The text prescribes ‘bitter medicinal plants’ such as aloe and wormwood, but recommends they are disguised with ‘honey or other sweet things’ to help the medicine go down.

    Another text – Tabula medicine – found favour with leading Cambridge doctors of the 15th century. It suggests remedies as recommended by individual Franciscan monks, such as Symon Welles, who advocated mixing a powder made from moles into a curative drink.

    Overall, those buried in medieval England’s monasteries had lived longer than those in parish cemeteries, according to previous research, perhaps due to a more nourishing diet, a luxury of wealth.

    The new study has been published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

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  • 7 часов, 11 минут назад 19.08.2022Science
    Ukraine horror: Soil pollution from artillery may have long-lasting impact on crops

    This is the warning of a new study which found evidence of heavy metal pollution from shelling in France during World War 1 — more than a century ago. Soils sampled from craters along the Western front were found to contain elevated levels of both lead and copper, which can inhibit plant growth. Researchers refer to the long-term effects on soil of explosive munitions as “bombturbation”.

    According to paper author and soil scientist Dr Naomi Rintoul-Hynes of Kent’s Canterbury Christ Church University, the findings in France hint at long-term ramifications stemming from the present-day conflict in Ukraine.

    “As well as the short-term impacts to agriculture through crop supply chain issues, these fields may be dangerously contaminated by munitions in the long term.

    “Possibly for 100 years or more.

    “This could impact food security not only in Ukraine, but potentially on a global scale.”

    In 2021, Ukraine produced around 80 million metric tons of wheat, corn and barley — accounting for a whopping six percent of all the calories traded in the international food market — but this year the country is expected to harvest less than half of that amount.

    Dr Rintoul-Hynes continued: “In Europe, the First World War has left a legacy on the environment due to the extensive and intense use of artillery during this period.

    “In a process named ‘bombturbation’, significant physical changes have occurred to the landscape subject to artillery fire, resulting in a divergent soil development in craters.

    “Soil heavy metal concentrations did not differ within craters compared to the flat landscape.

    “However, lead and copper enrichment was observed above the baseline values for the region.”

    In their investigation, the researchers focussed on a small, wooded area in the Pas-de-Calais department which was the scene of significant battles during World War 1 — but was by no means the area subjected to the most intense fire.

    The study site is located within Sheffield Memorial Park, near the village of Puisieux, which was part of the British front line back in 1916.

    By the end of 1918, when the cannons finally fell silent, nothing remained in the area, the researchers explained — not a single church, house or tree.

    The French historian Professor Xavier Boniface described the Pas-de-Calais as a “microcosm of the world at war”.

    The study site, the researchers said, has neither been decontaminated or re-landscaped.

    They samples 22 cores from the centre of eleven bomb craters and compared the soil collected with that taken from 50 cores extracted from flat, relatively undisturbed ground.

    The researchers found that the lead levels in the disturbed soil were above the safe legal limits as defined by both the UK and the European Union.

    This, Dr Rintoul-Hynes said, is likely to have had “ecotoxicological and human health effects.

    “Although copper was below the threshold for UK and EU soils, some samples had lead concentrations above these limits.

    “Therefore, this must be taken into account when considering a change in land use — that is, to agriculture.”

    She added: “Environmental damage has been a by-product, and sometimes a deliberate strategy, of war since the ancient world.

    However, Dr Rintoul-Hynes continued: “The scale of warfare increased to an industrial level in the 20th Century.”

    Fighting along the Western Front, the soil expert said, resulted in an “unparalleled concentration” of weapons, with an estimated 1.45 billion shells fired.

    An estimated 30 percent of these munitions did not explode — with France’s bomb disposal teams reported to destroy an average of 467 tonnes of unexploded ordnance each year.

    The full findings of the study were published in the European Journal of Soil Science.

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  • 9 часов, 11 минут назад 18.08.2022Science
    Space news: Skyrora’s second stage rocket static fire test brings UK launch closer

    The integrated stage test — the largest to be held in the UK since the 1970s — was undertaken at Discover Space UK at RAF Machrihanish, in Scotland. The procedure was intended to demonstrate the Skryrora XL’s operational capability for its intended payload, alongside confirming that its performance met all design requirements. The rocket’s 70kN liquid engine was allowed to burn for 20 seconds, the firm said, during which it operated within all expected design margins and achieved the expected thrust.

    With the test completed, Skyrora now has its eyes set on an inaugural orbital launch next year, to lift off from the Saxa Vord Space Centre in northern Scotland.

    The firm’s chief operating officer, Colonel (USAF, Ret) Lee Rosen said: “The static fire test looks, sounds and feels a lot like a rocket launch — but without lifting off!

    “This hugely successful test was a definitive demonstration of our mobility and flexibility.

    “Our Skyrora team went from clean tarmac to a full static fire test in just two-and-a-half days, bringing all the necessary equipment from our factory in Cumbernauld and test site near Gorebridge.”

    Skyrora founder and CEO Volodymyr Levykin said: “With the UK striving to capture a 10 percent share of the global space market by 2030, the successful Skyrora XL second stage static fire test is the latest milestone reached to put Skyrora on track to become […] the first British company to conduct a vertical launch from UK soil.”

    “Skyrora now has purpose-built rocket manufacturing and testing facilities in the UK — as well as the largest 3D printer of its kind, which we are using to produce rocket engine components.

    “We recognise the value that a strong domestic space industry will bring to the UK.

    “We will continue to spearhead these efforts to make the UK a player to be reckoned with globally.”

    The second stage rocket — part of the three-stage launch vehicle — was assembled at Skyrora’s recently-unveiled manufacturing facility in Cumbernauld.

    When the Skyrora XL launches for real, the second stage engines will kick in at an altitude of around 39 miles high, before the third stage is fired at 118 miles up to achieve an orbital velocity of around 17,398 miles per hour.

    Skyrora already tested the XL launch vehicle’s third stage back in December 2020.

    The first stage, meanwhile, is presently under construction and is expected to be tested in mid-2023.

    The UK Space Agency’s director of commercial spaceflight, Matt Archer, said: “It’s exciting to see Skyrora complete these static fire engine tests, building on the successful opening of its new production facility in Cumbernauld.

    “As we soar towards the UK’s first commercial space launches, these achievements showcase our rapidly growing capabilities.”

    The new milestone, he added, also highlights “the increasing range of expertise that can make the UK a highly attractive destination for launch activities in Europe.

    “We’ll continue to support the development of new launch infrastructure and technology. and look forward to following the next steps of Skyrora’s journey to orbit.”

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  • 9 часов, 22 минуты назад 18.08.2022Science
    Don’t play Janet Jackson’s 1989 song Rhythm Nation on your laptop because it will crash some models

    Janet Jackson’s 1989 hit Rhythm Nation has a funky beat that makes listeners want to dance, but the tune contains a unique frequency that crashes some older laptops.

    The issue was revealed by Microsoft’s principal software engineer Raymond Chen on his blog The Old New Thing, which he states the song’s frequency matched the frequency given off by the laptop’s hard drive, which is called a resonate frequency, which is the natural frequency of an object.

    The crashing laptop is similar to how a glass shatters when exposed to certain sounds – sound released from a source carries the invisible vibration through the air and onto the glass.

    The unique frequency in Jackson’s song was discovered by an unnamed ‘major computer manufacturer’ that also found laptops nearby the computer playing also crash.

    Microsoft declared Rhythm Nation a security vulnerability labeled CVE-2022-38392.

    Scroll down for videos

    ‘A colleague of mine shared a story from Windows XP product support A major computer manufacturer discovered that playing the music video for Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’ would crash certain models of laptops,’ Chen describes in the blog posted Wednesday.

    ‘I would not have wanted to be in the laboratory that they must have set up to investigate this problem. Not an artistic judgement.’

    However, the unmanned manufacture found Jackson’s song also crashed laptops made by its competitors, BleepingComputer reports.

    ‘Playing the music video on one laptop caused a laptop sitting nearby to crash, even though that other laptop wasn’t playing the video,’ according to the posting.

    ‘It turns out that the song contained one of the natural resonant frequencies for the model of 5400 rpm laptop hard drives that they and other manufacturers used.’

    The issue was resolved after manufacturers added a ‘custom filter in the audio pipeline that detected and removed the offending frequencies during audio playback.’

    ‘And I’m sure they put a digital version of a ‘Do not remove’ sticker on that audio filter (Though I’m worried that in the many years since the workaround was added, nobody remembers why it’s there,’ Chen shared in the blog.

    ‘Hopefully, their laptops are not still carrying this audio filter to protect against damage to a model of hard drive they are no longer using.)’

    Not only has frequencies known to break glasses, just last year it shook a giant 980-foot-tall skyscraper in China last year.

    On May 18, the SEC Plaza in China’s Shenzhen’s Futian district started swaying, forcing occupants to quickly evacuate.

    Officials were baffled by the event, as no earthquakes were detected.

    Lu Jianxin, a chief engineer at China Construction Science and Industry Corp, suggested that the rare phenomenon was caused by mechanical resonance, which occurs when a structure’s natural oscillations time up with an external force.

    He told the Shenzhen Special Zone Daily: ‘If there was no earthquake today, it would be unusual for SEG Plaza to have such a situation.

    ‘Judging from the currently available information, this could be an accidental frequency coincidence, that is, resonance.’

    The local weather report showed a wind speed of 27mph at the time which should not have caused such an issue for the building.

    ‘After checking and analyzing the data of various earthquake monitoring stations across the city, there was no earthquake in Shenzhen today,’ the statement said.

    ‘The cause of the shaking is being verified by various departments.’

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  • 11 часов, 11 минут назад 18.08.2022Science
    UK rain warning: Two-fifths of London businesses at risk of flash flooding

    Parts of London are already experiencing flash flooding following this week’s thunderstorms — including Kings Cross and Kentish town — with more rain forecast over the coming days and weeks. Research from insurance provider Zurich UK has revealed flooding from torrential rain has the potential to reach 42 percent of the capital’s 301,000 commercial buildings. At the same time, nearly half of London’s 33,200 basements that are in commercial use are at risk of being inundated.

    Zurich UK’s Paul Redington said: “Flooding now poses a serious threat to the capital’s homes and businesses, especially after the severe heatwave we have experienced in recent weeks.

    “More frequent and severe rainstorms could be the new normal in coming years.

    “Businesses will need to adapt.

    “Firms should assess their risks and have plans in place to respond if they are affected.”

    According to the research, the London borough with the highest percentage of commercial buildings at risk of flash flooding is Kensington and Chelsea (at 63 percent).

    This was followed by Hammersmith and Fulham (56 percent), Merton (54 percent), Southwark (also 54 percent) and Wandswotth (53 percent).

    Zurich said: “As the climate crisis brings more frequent and extreme weather, Zurich now provides a free surface water flood warning system to its public sector customers.

    “The solution – designed to boost resilience in the public sector – provides warnings for insured properties at risk of imminent flooding, as well as providing local authorities with a new district flood warning service for roads and parks.”

    Zurich has also offered five pieces of advice for business owners on how to protect against flooding episodes in the future — many of which are also applicable to householders — starting with checking their flood risk.

    They said: “Whether you’ve operated from the same location for years, or recently moved in, assess the long-term flood risk in your area and sign up for flood warnings.”

    Next, they said, it’s important to take action to make one’s business more resilient to flooding.

    This, the experts explained, could start with simple measures like moving expensive equipment up to higher floors and regularly backing up data.

    More elaborate preparations might include repositioning power sockets to higher locations and investing in so-called non-return valves to stop sewers from backing up.

    On a similar note, Zurich’s next recommendation is for those in flood-prone areas to create a flood plan, containing such key information as the location of the electricity cut off and a list of actions to take if a flood is imminent — such as moving stock or computer servers.

    Business owners should also factor in climate shocks like floods into their business continuity plan.

    Zurich said: “Having a plan in place can help you prepare for the unexpected and keep your business running if disaster strikes.”

    Similarly, their final piece of advice is for businesses to carry out a risk assessment to determine how future climate change might impact business operations.

    Zurich said: “The more you know about the risk, the better you can prepare.”

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Science Evolution theory shattered as bombshell study finds that human brains 'did not shrink'