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Archive for the ‘The Variety of Human Species’ Category

“Although gender differences on average are not under dispute, the idea of consistently and inflexibly gender-typed individuals is,” Bobbi J. Carothers of Washington University in St. Louis and Harry T. Reis of the University of Rochester explained in their study. “That is, there are not two distinct genders, but instead there are linear gradations of variables associated with sex, such as masculinity or intimacy, all of which are continuous.”

Analyzing 122 different characteristics from 13,301 individuals in 13 studies, the researchers concluded that differences between men and women were best seen as dimensional rather than categorical. In other words, the differences between men and women should be viewed as a matter of degree rather than a sign of consistent differences between two distinct groups.

via Study debunks notion that men and women are psychologically distinct | The Raw Story.

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A Harvard professor has hatched a plan to bring back the Neanderthals—but he needs an “adventurous” female volunteer to deliver a knuckle-dragging bundle of joy.

A longer interview with George Church, the man proposing the experiment, can be read here.

 

via Wanted: ‘Adventurous’ Woman to Birth Neanderthal – Bringing Neanderthals back could save humanity, geneticist says.

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“Now, it should be noted that the researchers aren’t trying to emulate a complete honey bee brain, but rather two specific and complex functions within it, namely vision and sense of smell.”

“By isolating and modeling these particular functions, the researchers hope to provide their flying robot with the cognitive power required to perform basic tasks — and without a set of pre-programmed instructions. It is hoped, for example, that the robotic bee will be able to detect particular odors or gasses in the same way that real bee can identify certain flowers.”

via New project aims to upload a honey bee’s brain into a flying insectobot by 2015.

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Being Cruel: It’s Not Blind Obedience; There is Enthusiasm in the Act

We’ve relied on the Milgram Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) and the Stanford Prison Experiment (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment) for explaining how and why ordinary people, like ourselves, can commit acts of extreme cruelty and harm. While they tell part of the story, it seems we may have overlooked other important pieces of human motivation inherent to committing cruel acts. 

A new study argues that “…tyranny does not result from blind conformity to rules and roles. Rather, it is a creative act of followership, resulting from identifying with authorities who represent vicious acts as virtuous. “Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe—typically under the influence of those in authority—that what they are doing is right,” Professor Haslam explained.”

via Human obedience: The myth of blind conformity.

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Drinking as little as half a pint of beer per week during pregnancy can cut a baby’s intelligence by several IQ points.

via Moderate drink during pregnancy can lower baby’s IQ – health – 15 November 2012 – New Scientist.

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Scientists have taken a step forward in helping to solve one of life’s greatest mysteries – what makes us human?
via New brain gene gives us edge over apes, study suggests.

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P
eople aren’t really stupid.

These people are not stupid. These people were well educated and intellectually groomed. Stupid isn’t the right word for these people.

These people were susceptible. Their individual and collective egos were reaching up towards an ideal which held them as superior beings.

I proffer that this type of egoic reaction is somewhat involuntary. Many are able to resist the enticement of superiority, or worship, of self-aggrandizement, but eventually all but the rarest of creatures gives way and wallows within the hope of it.

I think it is a security vulnerability in the software of the human brain. Just as we rush to prepare patches to shore up the vulnerabilities on our technological counterparts, so, too, could we rush to prepare a patch for this paradigm shifting vulnerability which has been repeatedly exploited throughout history by those who have a clear understanding of how it works.

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For many people, meat and leather are an ethical and environmental nightmare, causing misery to billions of animals and wreaking havoc on the planet’s ecosystems.

The company Modern Meadow is one of the cutting edge labs working on in-vitro meat and now have announced in-vitro leather, too.

Within the next decade, there will be no excuse other than cruelty to eat the flesh of non-human animals or to wear their skins.

Now, that’s progress!

via Modern Meadow plans on producing lab-grown leather.

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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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On the morning of May 24, 1987, sometime after 1:30 A.M., a 23-year-old Canadian named Kenneth Parks drove 14 miles to his in-laws’ home, strangled his father-in-law to the point of unconsciousness, and beat and stabbed his mother-in-law to death. A year later he was acquitted of both assault and murder. After a careful investigation, specialists reached the astonishing conclusion that Parks had been sleepwalking—and sleep driving and sleep attacking—during the incident.

Neuroscience will inform our justice system in the very near future. It is already having an impact. Does this defense qualify? or is it just another cop-out murder defense?

via Are Sleepwalking Killers Conscious?: Scientific American.

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My summary:

Decisions made in private tend toward the selfish, while decisions made under the eyes of the group tend to be more beneficial for all. An interesting note is that the larger the group, the more likely the decision would be beneficent.

I have to wonder about this, and other studies supporting the same outcomes, with regards to the virtual community, or group, we have created via our social networking sites and groups. Although it is a recent phenomena, the use of software for data collection, mining and statistical analysis shouldn’t require much time.

Abstract

Are selfish impulses less likely to be pursued when decisions are publicly observable? Is the presence of peers a potential solution to social dilemmas? In this paper we report data on the self-control decisions of children aged 6 to 11 who participated in games that require one to resist a selfish impulse for several minutes in order to benefit others. In Public Condition children make decisions in public view of the group of other participants, while in Private Condition they have the possibility to decide privately. We find that children aged 9 and higher are better able to resist selfish impulses in public environments. Younger children, however, display no such effect. Further, we find self-control substantially impacted by group size. When decisions are public, self-control is better in larger groups, while in private condition the opposite holds.

via PLoS ONE: Private and Public Decisions in Social Dilemmas: Evidence from Children’s Behavior.

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They found three things which lowered compulsive behavior in dogs: vitamin and mineral supplements, female neutering and maternal care length. Pretty interesting.

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Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a neuropsychiatric disorder observed both in humans and animals. Examples of Canine Compulsive Disorder (CD) include excessive tail chasing (TC), light/shadow chasing and flank sucking. We performed a questionnaire survey to investigate the characteristics of compulsive (TC) and its possible associations with environmental correlates and personality in a pet population of 368 dogs from four dog breeds. We observed an early onset of TC at 3–6 months of age and a large variation in TC frequency in all breeds, with an overrepresentation of milder cases. Almost half of the TC dogs showed lowered responsiveness during bouts and displayed also other types of compulsions more often than the controls. Interestingly, dogs that received dietary supplements, especially vitamins and minerals, expressed less TC compared to dogs that did not receive any supplements. Neutered females had less TC, suggesting an influence of ovarian hormones on TC. Tail chasers were shyer and had separated earlier from their mothers than the controls. Finally, our genetic study did not find an association between TC and CDH2, a locus previously associated with the canine flank sucking compulsion. In conclusion, the early-onset and the variable nature of the repetitive behaviour, which is affected by environmental factors such as micronutrients, neutering and maternal care, share several similar components between canine and human compulsions and supports canine TC as a model for human OCD.

via PLoS ONE: Environmental Effects on Compulsive Tail Chasing in Dogs.

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In this article, two philosophers provide good agruements that artificial moral enhancement is now essential if humanity is to avoid catastrophe.


Their book is available in the UK this month. It is entitled, “Unfit for the Future: The Urgent Need for Moral Enhancement”.

via Moral Enhancement | Philosophy Now.

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Blocking a specific receptor in mice eliminated pathological aggression. (!!) Humans have a corresponding receptor. This could be a game changer.

via Hulk smash? Maybe not anymore: Scientists block excess aggression in mice « Biosingularity.

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Soldiers scanning the battlefield for threats may soon get a new tool: a brain-scanning set of binoculars that can pick up on a soldier’s unconscious recognition of a potential threat and bring it to his conscious attention.

via Brain-Scanning Binoculars Harness Soldiers’ Unconscious Minds to Locate Threats | Popular Science.

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