Many of the traits of our body are there because they were useful to our distant ancestors:
There are other traits that wouldn’t make sense if we were intentionally designed; the Vagus nerve is one of them.
I can recommend Neil Shubin’s book Your Inner Fish.
I recently joked about new discoveries on humans mating with other homo species. There is more detail here, including how scientists figure this stuff out. Of interest is that we had mating with other homos both in the “failed migration” out of Africa, and again in the successful one (65 K years ago), and these conclusions are possible because of modern genome sequencing techniques.
On a more mundane (but still fun) level, here is a little video describing an evolutionary trajectory that lead to modern humans.
Science humor: a joke about curved spacetime:
Hey, you think that you’ve pushed the envelope in seeking romance? Both of us are downright shy compared to what our ancient ancestors did:
The discovery of yet another period of interbreeding between early humans and Neanderthals is adding to the growing sense that sexual encounters among different ancient human species were commonplace throughout their history.
“As more early modern humans and archaic humans are found and sequenced, we’re going to see many more instances of interbreeding,” says Sergi Castellano, a population geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. His team discovered the latest example, which they believe occurred around 100,000 years ago, by analysing traces of Homo sapiens DNA in a Neanderthal genome extracted from a toe bone found in a cave in Siberia.
“There is this joke in the population genetics community — there’s always one more interbreeding event,” Castellano says. So before researchers discover the next one, here’s a rundown of the interbreeding episodes that they have already deduced from studies of ancient DNA.
5 different episodes of inbreeding are discussed, with two different species of homo (based on DNA analysis) Surf to the article to read the rest. The conclusion:
We’re looking at a Lord of the Rings-type world — that there were many hominid populations,” one evolutionary geneticist told Nature when the findings were presented at a conference in 2013.
Kink is nothing new for us; in fact we are tamer than we used to be.
I’ll start with what I think is the underlying principle.
Here are a couple hypothetical questions:
1. You and someone else apply for a job opening. You are told that there is one opening. What stings worse:
a. The other person gets the job and you are just told “no”.
b. The other person gets the job. Then you are told: “we are sorry..but we do have this lesser position that we’d like to offer you.”
Now I know that when money is tight and one really needs a job, one might see option “b” as preferable. But what “stings” your ego more?
2. You are single (unattached) and have a romantic interest in someone..or at least are attracted to them. There is an outing/event that you are interested in. What stings worse:
a. You ask them out and they say “no”.
b. You ask them out and they say “yes, but only as “friends””, making it clear that they have no romantic interest in you.
c. They ask YOU to the event, but only as a “safe friend” because they don’t have to worry about romantic feelings getting in the way (or for some other reason, say, their first choice turned them down).
At least for me, it is pretty clear which stings less (“a”). (Remember, I am talking as a single person; as a married person I have female friends whose company I look forward to and enjoy at things like hikes, yoga classes, runs, sporting events, etc.)
Now this is illogical, in a sense. Isn’t “we want you for this” better than “we don’t want you at all”? Isn’t companionship with someone you like better than none at all?
And, in this case of a monkey, isn’t a piece of less tasty food better than no food at all?
Evidently not, at least to this monkey.
What brought on this train of thought: the joke
From time to time, I post a photo of a handsome guy for my lady friends. And once in a while, just for fun, I’ll open myself up to be “roasted” (I call it a “goat roast”, because my online persona is a ornery, dimwitted, smelly goat).
I got a few “politically correct” “awww, I’d hug you instead of the hunk” responses, which was fine. I got one “I’d hug you because you probably smarter than that moron” type of response (from a scientist)..ok, I liked that one. I admit that I’d rather hug a plainer looking but smarter, accomplished woman over someone who merely looks “hot”. But that is me, at my current age.
But ONE response …actually angered me even though it was intended to be part of the joke (I think): it was “oh, I’ll hug the guy on the right but I’d give the one on the left so much more..”
My immediate response wasn’t like it was with the others “sorry buddy, but he is hotter than you” responses. I’m too polite to reproduce some of the thoughts that I had…and that was over a frigging joke!
But I think that I had nightmares of the old “dating/friend zone” stuff all over again, so many years …wait, make that decades ago (early 80’s?)
Anyway, my reaction surprised me..and then I remembered the monkey inequality experiment.
Workout notes: lightening did not allow for me to swim during my planned “workout window” so I walked to the university indoor track and walked 8 miles (64 laps of the middle lane): 1:51:15. All miles were about 13:55 plus/minus a few seconds; no 14 minute miles but no sub 13:40 either. Very, very consistent and slow-ish.
Then I did a little bit of yoga.
The gym was empty though I did see two older guys; one I had followed at the Peoria Marathon (but couldn’t quite catch and stay ahead of) and one who ran a 4:15, which pleased him.
Issues: well, the Holidays are the price I pay for having a good year. I’ll have a chance to “get away” though (2 day). I am looking forward to it. I’ll probably also write a “Christmas/New Years Newsletter” and post it here.
Of course, I’ll just touch on highlights and keep some private stuff private. But yeah, many (most?) have stuff going on beneath the surface that few others realize.
And I am going to write about some mathematics!
I’ll close with a bit of science: not all stuff that appears in the public media is correct; this video, while mostly good, does make some errors (and not just the “buzz bombs” error either; it was plain old conventional bombing that drove them to the subways):
Frogs There is an African frog, known as the rubber frog, which evidently found a way to mimic the chemical signature of a particularly vicious type of ant. The ants don’t recognize this frog as something to attack and eat. This is called “chemical camouflage”.
Colleges and universities There have been a few articles in the news about student unrest in universities; for example. Now I linked to an article from The Nation (written by a professor) which, of course, enables this sort of behavior (e. g. students issuing “demands” to college presidents and the like).
What is going on? Jerry Coyne directs us to this Jonathan Haidt article: he claims that certain groups are conferred “victim status” even while in high school and everyone else is told to “shut up and listen” (so to speak). He comments that this happens in high school:
And Centerville High is not alone. Last summer I had a conversation with some boys who attend one of the nation’s top prep schools, in New England. They reported the same thing: as white males, they are constantly on eggshells, afraid to speak up on any remotely controversial topic lest they be sent to the “equality police” (that was their term for the multicultural center). I probed to see if their fear extended beyond the classroom. I asked them what they would do if there was a new student at their school, from, say Yemen. Would they feel free to ask the student questions about his or her country? No, they said, it’s too risky, a question could be perceived as offensive.
You might think that this is some sort of justice — white males have enjoyed positions of privilege for centuries, and now they are getting a taste of their own medicine. But these are children. And remember that most students who are in a victim group for one topic are in the “oppressor” group for another. So everyone is on eggshells sometimes; all students at Centerville High learn to engage with books, ideas, and people using the twin habits of defensive self-censorship and vindictive protectiveness.
And then… they go off to college and learn new ways to gain status by expressing collective anger at those who disagree. They curse professors and spit on visiting speakers at Yale. They shut down newspapers at Wesleyan. They torment a dean who was trying to help them at Claremont McKenna. They threaten and torment fellow students at Dartmouth. And in all cases, they demand that adults in power DO SOMETHING to punish those whose words and views offend them. Their high schools have thoroughly socialized them into what sociologists call victimhood culture, which weakens students by turning them into “moral dependents” who cannot deal with problems on their own. They must get adult authorities to validate their victim status.
So they issue ultimatums to college presidents, and, as we saw at Yale, the college presidents meet their deadlines, give them much of what they demanded, commit their schools to an ever tighter embrace of victimhood culture, and say nothing to criticize the bullying, threats, and intimidation tactics that have created a culture of intense fear for anyone who might even consider questioning the prevailing moral matrix. What do you suppose a conversation about race or gender will look like in any Yale classroom ten years from now? Who will dare to challenge the orthodox narrative imposed by victimhood culture? The “Next Yale” that activists are demanding will make today’s Centerville High look like Plato’s Academy by comparison.
There are some tough issues that deserve a fearless and complete intellectual investigation (e. g. is affirmative action a good idea?) and shouting down different points of view…well…that does no good at all. After all, are people spending lots of time, effort and money to find ways to be offended?
And speaking of higher education, I wish that columnists who write “colleges and universities should do this” actually knew what they were talking about. This person does not. Example: when he talks about faculty and summer, he should have researched the topic; he would have found out that many of us (tenured professors) have 9-10 month contracts. As far as costs: the new technology (computers, internet) is a huge cost driver. A professor writes a nice response.
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