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July 16 2014

Animal foraging tactics unchanged for 50m years


Animals have used the same technique to search for food that's in short supply for at least 50 million years, a study suggests.

Researchers analysed fossilised Eocene-era sea urchin trails from northern Spain and found the tracks reflect a search pattern still used by a huge range of creatures today.

But this is the first example of extinct animals using such a strategy.

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July 16 2014

8,000-year-old skull with preserved brain matter found in Norway


Archaeologists in Norway made an extremely rare discovery when they found an ancient skull believed to date back 8,000 years at a dig site in Stokke, southwest of Oslo. According to a news report in The Local, the skull was found to contain a grey, clay-like substance inside it, which is thought to be the preserved remains of the individual’s brain. If analyses confirm this to be the case, it will constitute one of the oldest brains ever found. Being able to study a preserved brain enables scientists to piece together the individual’s last hours and may also reveal any diseases or pathological conditions such as tumours and haemorrhaging.

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July 16 2014

The Plaster Skulls of Jericho Hold 9,000-Year-Old Secrets


Jericho, a Palestinian city on Israel’s disputed West Bank, is the world’s oldest continuously occupied human settlement. Thousands of years before the first proper city was founded in southern Mesopotamia, Jericho’s settlers were hunting game, raising crops, making pottery, and doing very unusual things to the skulls of their dead: covering them in plaster shaped to match the outline of their original faces, putting shells over the eyes, making them suitable for display. It was an act of love or grief or religious fervor, or some no-longer-understood mix of the three.

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July 16 2014

Skulls from Spanish cave illuminate human evolution


Researchers studying a collection of skulls in a Spanish cave identified both Neanderthal-derived features and features associated with more primitive humans in these bones. This “mosaic pattern” supports a theory of Neanderthal evolution that suggests Neanderthals developed their defining features separately, and at different times – not all at once.

Having this new data from the Spanish cave site of Sima de los Huesos has allowed scientists to better understand hominin evolution during the Middle Pleistocene, a period in which the path has been controversial.

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July 15 2014

North America's First Foragers Hunted These Elephant-like Creatures


A recent archeological dig in Mexico shows that gomphotheres — an extinct elephant-like animal believed to have disappeared from North America long before humans got there — actually roamed the continent longer than previously thought. Incredibly, the new evidence suggests these large mammals were hunted by the Clovis people.


Related: Ancient Native Americans Ate Pachyderms; Site Challenges Theory of Where New World Culture Began

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July 15 2014

The Most Popular Sport in North America 900 Years Ago


Beneath the freeways of East St. Louis in Illinois there lie the ruins of a city built nearly a millennium ago, around towering earthen pyramids. Today called Cahokia, it held as many as 40 thousand people, and their influence spread throughout the southeast U.S. — mostly due the popularity of a game called chunkey.

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July 15 2014

Vintage Bling: Ancient Celts May Have Had Shiny Dental Implants


Sparkly, gold grills aren't just for Flavor Flav; ancient Celts may have sought out flashy smiles as well. Archaeologists have unearthed a dental implant in a grave in France that dates to the third century B.C.

The implant — an iron pin that may have screwed into the gum to hold a decorative tooth in place — was found in the mouth of a skeleton in a Celtic burial site in La Chêne, France. The tooth was described in the June issue of the journal Antiquity.

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July 15 2014

Study: Hard Times Can Make People More Racist


When the going gets tough, the tough get... prejudiced

People perceive race differently during an economic downturn, a recent study suggests, and become subconsciously more prejudiced against dark-skinned people when times are tight.

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July 15 2014

Blackest is the new black: Scientists develop a material so dark that you can't see it...


Puritans, Goths, avant-garde artists, hell-raising poets and fashion icon Coco Chanel all saw something special in it. Now black, that most enigmatic of colours, has become even darker and more mysterious.

A British company has produced a "strange, alien" material so black that it absorbs all but 0.035 per cent of visual light, setting a new world record. To stare at the "super black" coating made of carbon nanotubes – each 10,000 times thinner than a human hair – is an odd experience. It is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing. Shapes and contours are lost, leaving nothing but an apparent abyss.

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July 15 2014

Rupert Sheldrake Discusses Morphic Resonance and Animal Telepathy with Scientific American


The website of Scientific American currently has an excellent feature and interview with 'maverick biologist' Rupert Sheldrake, via science writer John Horgan. Though he considers himself a 'psi skeptic', Horgan's piece is warm and open-minded (we find out that Sheldrake does a good impression of his late friend, Terence McKenna) - very pleasant to see these 'heretical' topics discussed in such a convivial manner for a change.

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July 15 2014

Your friends 'may be your fourth cousins'


People tend to choose friends that are genetically similar to themselves, so much so that a person's social circle could be made up of their fourth cousins, scientists say.

The research is based on the Framingham Heart Study in the northeastern US state of Massachusetts, which contains both extensive genetic detail - 1.5 million markers - and information about friends and connections.

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July 15 2014

Hardcore pot smoking could damage the brain's pleasure center


It probably won’t come as a surprise that smoking a joint now and then will leave you feeling … pretty good, man. But smoking a lot of marijuana over a long time might do just the opposite. Scientists have found that the brains of pot abusers react less strongly to the chemical dopamine, which is responsible for creating feelings of pleasure and reward. Their blunted dopamine responses could leave heavy marijuana users living in a fog—and not the good kind.

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July 15 2014

Scientists reveal how THC – found in cannabis – ‘could slow cancer tumour growth’


Scientists at a British university have made a major breakthrough in revealing how cannabis could be used as a treatment to prevent the growth of cancer.

Research carried out by a team from the University of East Anglia (UEA) has shed light on the still “poorly understood” theory that an ingredient in marijuana has anti-cancer properties.

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July 15 2014

How plants may be evolving to the lack of bees


Plants which used to have two types of male reproductive organs – to increase their chances for fertilisation – are reverting back to one type. And in some cases, they are becoming self-fertilising.

This "reverse evolution" could provide new hope for people worried about declining numbers of pollinators, such as bees.

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July 15 2014

Supersonic Earthquake Shook Kamchatka


One of the world's deepest earthquakes was also a rare supersonic quake, upending ideas about where these unusual earthquakes strike.

Only six supersonic (or supershear) earthquakes have ever been identified, all in the last 15 years. Until now, they all showed similar features, occurring relatively near the Earth's surface and on the same kind of fault. But last year, a remarkably super-fast and super-deep earthquake hit below Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula, breaking the pattern.

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July 15 2014

More puzzling radio bursts from deep space


Astronomers have detected very fast bursts of radio waves coming from deep in outer space and they don’t know the source.

Scientists initially detected the pulses at the Parkes Observatory in Australia, but the bursts were not confirmed by another radio telescope facility until now.

A team at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico detected the pulse on November 2, 2012.

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July 15 2014

Is Pluto really a planet? NASA probe could rekindle debate


The world will get its first good look at Pluto a little more than a year from now, possibly reigniting the debate over the object's planetary status.

In July 2015, NASA's New Horizons probe will fly by frigid and faraway Pluto, which was demoted to "dwarf planet" in 2006 by the International Astronomical Union. (Despite the ruling, many scientists still regard Pluto as a planet).

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