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January 29 2015

Researchers find evolutionary reasons for homosexual behavior in beetles


A small team of researchers with the University of Ulm's Institute of Experimental Ecology in Germany has found an evolutionary explanation for same-sex sexual behavior (SSB) in burying beetles. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, the team describes how they tested what is known as Reeve's acceptance threshold theory in male beetles and found that the evolutionary cost of possibly rejecting females was overridden when there were few of them to choose from.

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January 29 2015

Chimps with higher-ranking moms do better in fights


For chimpanzees, just like humans, teasing, taunting and bullying are familiar parts of playground politics. An analysis of twelve years of observations of playground fights between young chimpanzees in East Africa finds that chimps with higher-ranked moms are more likely to win.

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January 29 2015

The Intriguing New Science That Could Change Your Mind About Rats


Many people live among animals that inspire affection, even admiration: bluebirds and hawks, beavers and bobcats. The fortunate might glimpse a fox or, if they live in the country, an eagle or a bear. But I live in New York City, where the star of the show is the rat.

Rats are guides to emerging questions of evolution and cognition. Foremost among these is empathy, widely considered a defining human characteristic. Yet rats may possess it too.

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January 29 2015

Can Spiders Count?


Golden orb-web spiders (Nephila clavipes) are sit-and-wait hunters that accumulate prey larders on their webs. These larders are sometimes stolen by other spiders. If prey items are removed from their webs, golden orb-web spiders search for them. They search longer when they have lost more prey items as well as when they have lost larger prey items.

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January 29 2015

The geometry of their shells keeps turtles from getting stuck on their back.


Although the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t seem to have this particular problem, it’s commonly thought that once a turtle gets stuck on its back, it’s pretty much doomed. While it’s true that turtles, like other animals with shells, can have a hard time righting themselves when flipped over, they aren’t helpless. In fact, according to these mathematicians, the domed shell of land turtles is shaped in a nearly optimal curve to help the turtle flip back over. As Donatello would say, “Turtle Power!”.

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January 29 2015

Museum fossil find pushes snake origins back by 65 million years


According to research published Tuesday in Nature Communications, we may need to slither back the clock on snake evolution.

In fact, we may have been pretty wrong about just how snakes evolved from the common ancestors they share with modern lizards. Until now, the oldest-known snake fossils were only about 100 million years old.


Alt: Snakes crawled among Jurassic dinosaurs, new timeline says

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January 29 2015

Long-necked 'dragon' discovered in China: Dinosaur's lightweight neck spanned half its body


Paleontologists have discovered a new species of a long-necked dinosaur from a skeleton found in China. The new species belongs to a group of dinosaurs called mamenchisaurids, known for their extremely long necks sometimes measuring up to half the length of their bodies. Most sauropods, or long-necked dinosaurs, have necks only about one third the length of their bodies.

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January 29 2015

Vatican mummies are fakes: Bones inside two date back to the Middle Ages


They may look like the real thing, but at least two of the mummies in the Vatican Museums' collection have been found to be fakes.

Using CT scans, X-rays and carbon dating, experts said the resin used on one of the ‘Ancient Egyptian’ mummified bodies was actually made during the mid-19th century.

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January 29 2015

Medieval Skulls Reveal Long-Term Risk of Brain Injuries


Skull fractures can lead to an early death, even if the victims initially survived the injuries, according to a new study that looked at skulls from three Danish cemeteries with funeral plots dating from the 12th to the 17th centuries.

This is the first time that researchers have used historical skulls to estimate the risk of early death among men who survived skull fractures, experts said.


Related: The mystery of shellshock solved: Scientists identify the unique brain injury caused by war

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January 28 2015

Big-Toothed Fossil May Be Primitive New Human


The first known prehistoric human from Taiwan has been identified and may represent an entirely new species that lived as recently as 10,000 years ago, according to a new study.

The newly discovered big-toothed human, "Penghu 1," strengthens the growing body of evidence that Homo sapiens was not the only species from our genus living in Europe and Asia between 200,000 and 10,000 years ago.

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January 28 2015

At Newly Discovered Water Temple, Maya Offered Sacrifices to End Drought


Nestled in a quiet forest in Belize, a deep aquamarine pool holds ruins from a time when the ancient Maya turned to a "drought cult," archaeologists suggest, and hurried sacrifices to a water god to try to stave off the fall of their civilization.

At the Cara Blanca site in Belize, archaeologists report the discovery of a water temple complex: a small plaza holding the collapsed remnants of a lodge and two smaller structures.

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January 28 2015

Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican society's demise was more complex than just weather


A team of researchers with members from Mexico, the U.S. and Germany has found that the demise of the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican society centered around a city known as Cantona, was likely due to a combination of weather and politics.


Alt: Early Mesoamericans affected by climate change

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January 28 2015

Easter Island mystery: Why did the native culture die out?


Long before the Europeans arrived on Easter Island in 1722, the native Polynesian culture known as Rapa Nui showed signs of demographic decline. However, the catalyst has long been debated in the scientific community. Was environmental degradation the cause, or could a political revolution or an epidemic of disease be to blame? A collaborative study suggests that the island's native culture reacted to natural environmental barriers to producing sufficient crops.

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January 28 2015

Crude conspiracy theories could be right, study shows


Researchers have for the first time provided strong evidence for what conspiracy theorists have long thought - oil is often the reason for interfering in another country's war.

Throughout recent history, countries which need oil have found reasons to interfere in countries with a good supply of it and, the researchers argue, this could help explain the US interest in ISIS in northern Iraq.

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January 28 2015

Scientists discover way to unboil an egg – and the results are not as pointless as that sounds


A major study backed by the US and Australian governments has made a revolutionary breakthrough – they have managed to unboil an ordinary egg.

And while that may sound like a monumental waste of time and money, the results actually have huge implications for cancer treatments, biotechnology and a broad range of food production processes.

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January 28 2015

Desert Tawny Owl: New Species of Bird Discovered


A group of ornithologists led by Dr Manuel Schweizer from the Natural History Museum of Bern in Switzerland has described a new cryptic species of owl that inhabits the desert areas of Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman and Yemen.

The newly-discovered species, named the Desert Tawny Owl, belongs to the earless owl genus, Strix.

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January 28 2015

How Earth’s earliest life overcame a genetic paradox


On ancient Earth, the earliest life encountered a paradox. Chains of RNA—the ancestor of DNA—were floating around, haphazardly duplicating themselves. Scientists know that eventually, these RNA chains must have become longer and longer, setting the stage for the evolution of complex life forms like amoebas, worms, and eventually humans. But under all current models, shorter RNA molecules, having less material to copy, would have reproduced faster, favoring the evolution of primitive organisms over complex ones.

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