by Michael GoldmanYou know about desks and noses,
proteins, mortgages, orchestras,
you have our ruins and records,
but they won’t tell you
what we were like.
We were distinguished
by our interest in scenery;
we could look at things for hours
Asian Ancestors May Have Mated With Mysterious Human Cousins
by Stephanie Pappas
Neanderthals weren’t the only ancient cousins that humans frequently mated with, according to a new study that finds that East Asian populations share genes with a mysterious archaic hominin species that lived in Siberia 40,000 years ago.
This group, the Denisovans, is known only by a few bone fragments: A finger bone, a tooth and possibly a toe bone, which is still undergoing analysis. The Denisovans likely split off from the Neanderthal branch of the hominin family tree about 300,000 years ago, but little else is known about their appearance, behavior or dress. But just as researchers have learned that ancient humans and Neanderthals mated, they’ve also found genetic echoes of the Denisovans in modern residents of Pacific islands, including New Guinea and the Philippines…
(read more: Live Science) (photo: David Reich et al., Nature.)
Magic Mushrooms May Permanently Alter Personality
by Stephanie Pappas
Just one strong dose of hallucinogenic mushrooms can alter a person’s personality for more than a year and perhaps permanently, a new study finds.
People given psilocybin, the compound in “magic mushrooms” that causes hallucinations and feelings of transcendence, demonstrated a more “open” personality after their experience, an effect that persisted for at least 14 months. Openness is a psychological term referring to an appreciation for new experiences. People who are more open tend to have broad imaginations and value emotion, art and curiosity.
This personality warp is unusual, said study researcher Katherine MacLean, because personality rarely changes much after the age of 25 or 30. (In fact, one recent study found that by first grade our personalities are set pretty much for life.)…
(read more: Live Science) (photo: user Cactu via Wikipedia)
for those of you who like to read and who happen to understand German:
Calculating the Language of Babel
by Sara Reardon
To an extraterrestrial, human language would be nonsensical. For starters, there are thousands of languages, many of which sound nothing like each other, and each language has thousands of words that appear to have no rhyme or reason. By creating “alien languages” and teaching them to volunteers, researchers are trying to better understand what about a language makes it learnable and how languages might have evolved.
Words don’t necessarily sound like or look like the object they connote. For example, the word “microorganism” is long, although the creatures themselves are tiny, whereas the huge whale has to make do with a very short moniker. Despite this, many languages do have what Padraic Monaghan of Lancaster University in the United Kingdom, calls “pockets of systematicity.” Many English words beginning with “sn,” for instance, tend to have something to do with the nose: sneeze, snort, snot. In many languages, vowels made with the back of the tongue, such as “o” and “ah,” tend to appear in words that describe something big (boulder), whereas vowels made at the front of the mouth, such as “ee,” often denote something smaller (flea). It’s unclear why these “pockets” exist: whether they’re accidents or are somehow tied to language learning. “Maybe they get people going” when they’re learning a new language, Monaghan speculates…
(read more: Science NOW)
(image: The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder - 1563)
for those of you who like to read