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Archive for September, 2012

 

via Nick Bostrom on Cognitive Enhancement – YouTube.

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In case you missed it:


Dr. David Kyle Johnson, with the hosts of the Rationally Speaking Podcast (Julia and Massimo), talk about whether it is plausible to believe that we live in a simulated world.

via Rationally Speaking | Official Podcast of New York City Skeptics – Current Episodes – RS59 – Live at NECSS: David Kyle Johnson on the Simulation Argument.

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“And tickling, Provine says, has a profound lesson to teach us. “When you look at the evolution of the development of tickle, you’re also looking at the evolution of the development of self,” he says. What’s at work in tickling, he argues, is the neurological basis for the separation of self from other. After all, as Provine noted so indelicately, you can’t tickle yourself. Your body knows that you are you; you can’t fool it. “Otherwise you’d go through life in a giant chain reaction of goosiness,” Provine says. “You’d be afraid of your own clothing if you could never distinguish between touching and being touched.”

When a baby senses a foreign hand lightly brushing his bare feet, he’s experiencing something that is recognizably other—which means that there’s something that isn’t other, too: There’s himself. Tickling is central to who we are, because it is part of how we establish that there’s a we there. (This may why too much or unwanted tickling is so viscerally frightening and overwhelming: There’s the sense that someone is invading your body and you can’t stop it.)”

via Tickling and science: How tickling a child connects parents and kids. – Slate Magazine.

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Just days after a poacher’s snare had killed one of their own, two young mountain gorillas worked together Tuesday to find and destroy traps in their Rwandan forest home, according to conservationists on the scene.

“This is absolutely the first time that we’ve seen juveniles doing that … I don’t know of any other reports in the world of juveniles destroying snares,” said Veronica Vecellio, gorilla program coordinator at the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund’s Karisoke Research Center, located in the reserve where the event took place.

“We are the largest database and observer of wild gorillas … so I would be very surprised if somebody else has seen that,” Vecellio added.

via Gorilla Youngsters Seen Dismantling Poachers’ Traps—A First.

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“Ants that are held as slaves in nests of other ant species damage their oppressors through acts of sabotage. Ant researcher Professor Dr. Susanne Foitzik of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) first observed this “slave rebellion” phenomenon in 2009. According to the latest findings, however, this behavior now appears to be a widespread characteristic that is not limited to isolated occurrences. In fact, in three different populations in the U.S. states of West Virginia, New York, and Ohio, enslaved Temnothorax longispinosus workers have been observed to neglect and kill the offspring of their Protomognathus americanus slavemakers rather than care for them. As a result, an average of only 45% of the parasite’s offspring survived. This presumably reduces the strength of the parasites in the area and thereby increases the chances of survival for the neighboring colonies populated by the slave ants’ relatives.”

via Slave rebellion is widespread in ants.

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“The beginning of a beautiful friendship? In some interspecies relationships, ants “tend” to a single caterpillar, preventing it from being attacked by predators. In return for such protection services, they are rewarded with the larva’s sugary secretions. New research has now shown that the rate of evolution in a mutualistic relationship does not depend only on the type of interactions, but also on the number of individuals involved.

The relationship between species determines how rapidly they evolve. Parasites and their hosts coevolve more rapidly, and partners in a mutualistic relationship can evolve more slowly. But this view is obviously too simplistic. The rate of evolution in a mutualistic relationship does not depend only on the type of interactions, but also on the number of individuals involved, according to a model developed by researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany. Therefore, while partners can benefit from slow evolution if only two individuals interact, a higher rate of evolution may be favoured if several individuals are involved.”

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-09-relationships-based-mutuality-individuals-involved.html#jCp

via In relationships based on mutuality, number of individuals involved can determine rate at which species evolve.

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Changing/Choosing the Type of Ant Is Easy
(by manipulating simple chemicals during egg growth)

A facebook page entitled simply “Evolution” explains it thus: 
Is the reality of Captain America still far off? Putting it simply, yes. However, manipulating genes can unleash the ‘Super Soldier’ inside Ants

.

Ants are famous for their teamwork, living in vast colonies in nests of fantastic sizes, with one colony in Australia even measuring 100km wide. The level of cooperation and organisation within colonies is incredibly complex with it often being likened to human organisation and as such is often studied as a base model to increase efficiency of human systems. 

This organisation relies on a number of key types or “castes” of ant as they are often called. Workers and soldiers continuously work to protect and feed their Queen, but some species also rely on a caste of ant known as ‘supersoldiers’. These ants protect the Queen by blocking the entrance to the colonies nest with their abnormally large heads.

Usually the caste of an ant is decided by the environment the egg grows in. Tiny changes to factors, such as temperature and nutrition, affect the individuals purpose within the colony. Dr. Abouheif and his team, from McGill University in Montreal, have discovered that the caste of an ant can be changed by altering the concentration of juvenile hormone in the egg.

This was tested in a number of species and even found that many species that didn’t naturally have the ‘supersoldier’ caste could produce this type of ant with the right amount of juvenile hormone added to an egg, at the right stage of development. The fact that species without the caste can naturally have it induced in them shows that organisms with common ancestors can be commonly affected to produce evolutionary significant changes, all through the interplay of relatively simple chemicals. 

This could mean that if similar relationships are found within other organisms, we could easily manipulate them to produce fantastic benefits for human kind such as fast growing and breeding crops in harsh conditions, which would help to end world hunger or if we could learn to reverse these relationships we may be able to reverse the rapid growth of cancerous cells potentially, curing one of the most deadly diseases known to man. JB

Abouheif, E. et al., 2012. Ancestral Developmental Potential Facilitates Parallel Evolution in Ants. Science, 335 (6064) pp. 79-82.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3561352.stm
http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/16424096

via BBC Nature – Ants turned into ‘supersoldiers’.

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