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Our Evolution

  1. -Key Link in Human Evolution? (
      "Evolution skeptics like to trot out the argument that if Darwin had been right, scientists would have discovered transitional fossils by now — creatures with a mix of features from earlier and later species. Since they haven't, the deniers say, evolution must not be true."

      "The truth is that paleontologists have found transitional species by the score, from many different time periods. But none have materialized from as crucial a point in our evolutionary past as a pair of skeletons whose discovery was announced today by the journal Science"

      "The fossils, which have been determined to be a new species, Australopithecus sediba, were initially found by Matthew Berger, the 9-year-old son of paleontologist Lee Berger of South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand (the elder Berger tried in vain to get the editors of Science to list Matthew as a co-author on the paper). The bones belong to a pre-teenage boy and a woman estimated to be in her late 20s or early 30s; the individuals died at about the same time, and before their remains had fully decomposed, they were entombed in an avalanche of sediment and nearly perfectly preserved deep in the Malapa cave north of Johannesburg, South Africa." 04-10

  2. -Studies: Two Disagreeing Explanations on Monogamy (
      "According to one [study], primates are monogamous so that nonrelated males don’t kill their babies. According to the other, that’s hooey; animals are monogamous because it was the only way they could guard their mates and thus their breeding rights."

      "Both studies suggest that the third theory often advanced for the development of monogamy — in which males can assist in raising of the young — is much less likely. Rather than a cause of monogamy, such paternal assistance is probably a consequence of the mate-for-life scenario." 07-13

  3. Are We Evolving Fast? (CNN News)
      "Although science has overwhelmingly accepted Charles Darwin's 19th-century theory of genetic evolution by natural selection, the concept still has its doubters. In fact, when CNN Light Years opened up the floor to reader comments on the topic of evolution, there were more than 3,500 responses, with a broad mixture of opinions, and clearly some people have strong views about whether religious beliefs can mesh with evolution. But the scientific community treats evolution as an established fact."

      "By the way, just for fun, we had to ask: What about super powers? Any chance that ongoing evolution will be creating any winged superheroes any time soon?" 10-11

  4. Genes of 4,000-Year-Old Man Decoded (New York Times)
      "The genome of a man who lived on the western coast of Greenland some 4,000 years ago has been decoded, thanks to the surprisingly good preservation of DNA in a swatch of his hair so thick it was originally thought to be from a bear."

      "This is the first time the whole genome of an ancient human has been analyzed, and it joins the list of just eight whole genomes of living people that have been decoded so far." 05-09

  5. Genetic and Fossil Records Tell Different Stories on Origins of Humans (New York Times)
      "After decades of digging, paleoanthropologists looking for fossilized human bones have established a reasonably clear picture: Modern humans arose in Africa some 200,000 years ago and all archaic species of humans then disappeared, surviving only outside Africa, as did the Neanderthals in Europe. Geneticists studying DNA now say that, to the contrary, a previously unknown archaic species of human, a cousin of the Neanderthals, may have lingered in Africa until perhaps 25,000 years ago, coexisting with the modern humans and on occasion interbreeding with them." 07-12

  6. How to Create a Mind (
      "Kurzweil discusses how the brain functions, how the mind emerges from the brain, and the implications of vastly increasing the powers of our intelligence in addressing the world’s problems. He thoughtfully examines emotional and moral intelligence and the origins of consciousness and envisions the radical possibilities of our merging with the intelligent technology we are creating."

      "Certain to be one of the most widely discussed and debated science books of the year, How to Create a Mind is sure to take its place alongside Kurzweil’s previous classics which include Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever and The Age of Spiritual Machines." 12-12

  7. Important Transitional Fossil Found (
      "The fossil is so perfectly preserved because Ida probably died quickly and nonviolently; her resting place was an abandoned quarry called the Messel Pit, near Frankfurt."

      "The second reason the discovery is so important is its age. Ida — her scientific name is Darwinius masillae — dates to about 47 million years ago, when temperatures were warmer than they are today and when mammals underwent a burst of evolutionary diversification. In particular, that's when primates began splitting off into two branches. One became anthropoids, whose descendants are monkeys, apes and humans. The other turned into prosimians — lemurs and their kin."

      "Ida is intriguing because she has some characteristics of both branches, which suggests that she could be a transitional animal that gave rise to the anthropoids and, ultimately, to us." 05-09

  8. Mammalian Ancestors of Humans Found (
      "Mammals have been around for hundreds of millions of years, but placentals for only tens of millions. Now a new paper just published in Science purports to pinpoint their, or rather, our, origins with impressive specificity. The great-great grandfather of us all, argue the authors, was a small, scurrying, insect-nibbling creature that arose a mere 200,000 to 400,000 years after the cataclysmic extinction event 65 million years ago that wiped out the dinosaurs (or, more precisely, the non-avian dinosaurs, since birds are now considered the one branch of the dinosaur family that survived)."

      "This may seem like just a number to you and me but for paleontologists and evolutionary biologists, it’s something of a bombshell." 02-13

  9. Tibetans Underwent the Fastest Evolution (
      "Life at high altitudes forced ancient Tibetans to undergo the fastest evolution ever seen in humans, according to a new study." 07-10

  10. What Will Human Look Like in the Future? (
      "A speculative look at how advanced genetic engineering technology might reshape people's faces over time." 02-14

  11. Where Humans Are Headed Genetically (U.S. News)
      "Hawks is among a growing number of scientists who are using whole-genome sequencing and other modern technologies to zero in on just how we've changed. Their research is helping illuminate not only how humans became what we are but also where we might be headed." 07-08

  12. Where Humans Are Headed: Mind and Technology (
      "Ray Kurzweil is an American technologist and futurist who is on a mission to make us all immortal, starting with himself, thanks to what he calls 'the law of accelerating returns'. The rate of change is getting faster to the extent that 'within 10 or 15 years we will be able to overcome cancer and heart disease, and stop and reverse ageing'. Thanks to the 'exponential progression' of technology, Kurzweil says, we are heading for 'profound changes', an event horizon where artificial intelligence spirals beyond our control, or even our understanding."

      "It is a cliché to fear the relentless rise of machine power and intelligence. But it doesn't frighten Kurzweil. In his books The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity Is Near he has argued that artificial intelligence will augment human intelligence, not replace it. There is appetite for his boldly optimistic way of thinking: both books were bestsellers." 12-12


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