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  2. Ultimately, people believe all kinds of funny things for all kinds of funny reasons. A third of Americans believe humans and animals were created in their present form just a few thousand years ago, in spite of the overwhelming evidence for evolution. That some people believe in absurd theories like young earth creationism doesn’t change the facts, nor does it stop curious scientists from using the scientific method to learn the truth and develop technologies on the back of these insights. Similarly, climate change denialism does not change the facts of climate change.
     

  3. Meet the real Paleo diet.

    The benefits of eating bugs

     

  4. To be social, or to be stinky — that is the question. Just as you’d never bring a knife to a gunfight, animals use the right tools for the right job. 

    Matt Soniak investigates why some animals have spikes, while others have armor.

     

  5. "Cattiness", "bitchiness", and gossiping may be an instinctual defense mechanism.  That doesn’t mean society doesn’t reinforce it.

    The evolutionary roots of Mean Girls

     

  6. There’s no escape, mouse! How snakes use GPS to find their prey.

     

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  8. Your cat is a killer. According to biologists, when they’re not curling up in your lap, cats are off killing other animals — billions of ‘em. Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that each year, apparently bloodthirsty felines are preying on billions of birds and small mammals like indigenous chipmunks, shrews, and meadow voles. “When we ran the model, we didn’t know what to expect,” researcher Dr. Peter Marra told theNew York Times. “We were absolutely stunned by the results.”

    4 to 18 — Birds killed by a typical house cat every year
    8 to 21 — Small mammals killed by a typical house cat every year
    1.4 billion to 3.7 billion — Total birds killed by America’s cats every year

    More numbers

     


  9. A committee from the National Institutes of Health recently recommended that scientists retire a majority of the chimpanzees currently being used for federally-funded medical research in the United States. It’s worth taking a look back at some of the things we’ve learned by studying chimps, monkeys, and other non-human primates over the years. The methodology of some research is unsettling — but the conclusions do lead to a better understanding of who we are.

    • Stress early in life can lead to drinking later in life
      This is, perhaps, not a huge surprise, but at least now you know you can blame your childhood for your drinking habits. Researchers compared the alcohol consumption of two different groups ofrhesus monkeys, one raised without adult contact and comfort, and another raised with their mothers. When the monkeys were roughly 4 years old, they were given access to alcohol, and the monkeys raised away from their mothers drank more alcohol more often than the mother-reared monkeys. Of course, even those of us with the most stable childhoods can be driven to drink. When the mother-reared monkeys were placed in stressful situations, they increased their alcohol consumption, too.

    • We’re not the only primates capable of selfless acts
      Can non-human primates experience empathy? Can they understand and share in another’s feelings? Research suggests it’s very possible. In one 1964 study, a group of six rhesus monkeys were taught to pull a chain to receive a helping of food. At one point, a seventh monkey was introduced to the group, and each time the first six pulled the lever for food, the new guy would get a painful electric shock. In response, the monkeys did one of two things: Some pulled a separate chain that administered less food, but didn’t shock their companion. Others stopped eating entirely. One monkey went 12 days without eating to ensure it did not shock the others.

    More…

     

  10. Your bathroom scale isn’t lying: You really are gaining winter weight. Consider it an unmistakable reminder that long before we were regularly bombarded by ads featuring the immaculate abs of celebrities and multi-day cleanses that taste like grass clippings, our ancestors needed those extra couple of pounds to protect them against the season’s inclement weather. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s why that extra helping of pasta, that greasy slice of pizza, or even that stale, sprinkled donut all appear extra tempting when the temperature drops a few degrees. 

    Explained: Why we get so fat during the winter

     

  11. "I would wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues." 

    Gerald Crabtree, a developmental scientist at Stanford University, counterintuitively argues that our ancient ancestors were much smarter than we are. According to his theory, advances in technology and medicine have masked an “underlying decline in brain power” that, in the future, will continue to contribute to the “dumbing down” of our species.

    Are the comforts of modern life making humans dumber? 

    Photo: Thinkstock/iStockphoto

    (Source: theweek.com)

     

  12. Men have been vainly searching for a way to cure baldness for at least 3,500 years, says Rob Dunn in New Scientist, pointing to an ancient Egyptian papyrus outlining an anti-baldness recipe that blends iron oxide, lead, alabaster, onions, honey, and fat from a snake, crocodile, hippopotamus, and lion. But those hair-challenged Egyptians, and today’s bald men, should just be happy to be alive.

    Given that since the dawn of man, a full head of hair has helped “protect us from the noonday sun, maintain body heat when it is cold, and even attract a mate,” chrome-domed men should be at an evolutionary disadvantage.

    "Why, in other words, haven’t bald men gone extinct?"

     

  13. Dinosaurs ate all the giant bugs. 

    That’s the word from researchers at UC Santa Cruz, who noticed that the griffinfly (a dragonfly-like insect with a wingspan of about 28 inches) stopped growing bigger right around the time the first birds began to take flight in the Jurassic period. Insects like the griffinfly began to shrink, evolving features that made them harder to catch.

    The study’s author claims that if not for birds, the largest bugs would likely be three times bigger today. Which is why birds are our new favorite animals.

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