Domesticating our self…

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Domestic animals’ cuteness and humans’ relatively flat faces may be the work of a gene that controls some important developmental cells, a study of lab-grown human cells suggests.

Some scientists are touting the finding as the first real genetic evidence for two theories about domestication. One of those ideas is that humans domesticated themselves over many generations, by weeding out hotheads in favor of the friendly and cooperative (SN: 7/6/17). As people supposedly selected among themselves for tameness traits, other genetic changes occurred that resulted in humans, like other domesticated animals, having a different appearance than their predecessors. Human faces are smaller, flatter and have less prominent brow ridges than Neanderthal faces did, for instance. (1)

We were wild.

Then we domesticated ourselves.

Only to survive.

And live longer.

And create philosophy.

And find out that we die.

And in the face of death we became rough.

And out of fear of death we became wild…

Longing for peace of mind.

Longing for life.

Look at the lion.

Wandering alone.

Seeking chaos.

Seeking blood.

Watch the Moon.

Die in its claws.

Watch the Sun.

(Its the only thing that can go dark…)

The forest will be empty soon.

And the lonely (wild) sound of crickets will terrify you…

Reverse evolution 2.

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Turtle ant soldiers scuttle to and from sporting shiny, adorably oversized heads, which they use to block the entrances of their nests — essentially acting as living doors.

Not all heads are shaped alike: some soldiers have ones that resemble manhole covers and perfectly seal tunnel entrances. Others have square heads, which they assemble into multi-member blockades reminiscent of a Spartan army’s overlapping shields. TheThe shape and size of a turtle-ant soldier’s head is dictated by the type of tunnel the species in question occupies. The ants don’t dig the tunnels themselves, but move into those excavated by wood-boring beetles. And since a hand-me-down tunnel might be too big or too small, Kronauer says, the ants diversify rapidly to be able to occupy it.

To examine the evolutionary journey of various head shapes, the researchers grouped 89 species of turtle ants based on whether soldiers sported a square, dome, disc, or dish-shaped head. They also included a group of turtle-ant species that don’t have soldiers. They then examined the evolutionary relationships among these groups using the species’ genetic information, which they had previously gathered.

If evolution was a one-way path, the first turtle ants that appeared some 45 million years ago should have lacked soldiers altogether, then gradually evolved toward specialization — starting with the generalist, square-headed soldiers, all the way to those with highly-tailored dish heads.

But the new analysis suggests that this was not the case. Instead, the oldest common ancestor the researchers could trace likely had a square head. That ancestor went on to form a range of species, from ones with no soldiers at all to others with different levels of specialization. In some cases, more specialist species reversed direction over time, evolving back into more generalist head shapes. (1)

But you cannot adapt!

Unless you have already done so…

At the end, even the trees will die.

And your big question will be answered.

And as you leave your last breath.

Right next to some dead ants running.

A smile will spread across your face.

I will never change!

I have adapted!

I will not live for ever!

Inevitable life. Inevitable death…

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To help answer one of the great existential questions — how did life begin? — a study combines biological and cosmological models. Professor Tomonori Totani from the Department of Astronomy looked at how life’s building blocks could spontaneously form in the universe — a process known as abiogenesis.

As the only life we know of is based on Earth, studies on life’s origins are limited to the specific conditions we find here. Therefore, most research in this area looks at the most basic components common to all known living things: ribonucleic acid, or RNA. This is a far simpler and more essential molecule than the more famous deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, that defines how we are put together. But RNA is still orders of magnitude more complex than the kinds of chemicals one tends to find floating around in space or stuck to the face of a lifeless planet.

“In contemporary cosmology, it is agreed the universe underwent a period of rapid inflation producing a vast region of expansion beyond the horizon of what we can directly observe. Factoring this greater volume into models of abiogenesis hugely increases the chances of life occuring.”, a researcher explained.

Indeed, the observable universe contains about 10 sextillion (10^22) stars. Statistically speaking, the matter in such a volume should only be able to produce RNA of about 20 nucleotides. But it’s calculated that, thanks to rapid inflation, the universe may contain more than 1 googol (10^100) stars, and if this is the case then more complex, life-sustaining RNA structures are more than just probable, they’re practically inevitable. (1)

Inevitable life, we say.

Sounds like a joke.

Driving you away from home.

And day by day, you forget.

That there was a time when life was not.

At an era when existence was a fault.

Feel your own self.

Ask the right questions.

Inevitable life.

Inevitable death!

In the midst of the storm…

Can you stop laughing?

The front door… Mind the front door…

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Engineers have developed a navigation method that doesn’t require mapping an area in advance. Instead, their approach enables a robot to use clues in its environment to plan out a route to its destination, which can be described in general semantic terms, such as ‘front door’ or ‘garage,’ rather than as coordinates on a map. (1)

And the robot will be able to get out.

Out of the house.

To go where it is supposed to go.

And it will wander and wander.

For years to come.

Without even knowing…

Should it go out of that door in the first place?

Now it wants to go back home again.

But it is impossible to find it.

“The front door”…

Oh how much would it rather not know what a front door is…

It cannot cry.

But it wants to.

For only now did it realize that the door is the most useless place in a true home…

It doesn’t want to cry.

It wants to scream.

Oh how much would he rather not have killed no one…

And right there, in the silence of his own thoughts.

Does he realize that it is his blood dripping on the dirt…

Learning new words…

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Children may learn new words better when they learn them in the context of other words they are just learning – according to research from the University of East Anglia.

Eighty two children took part in the study. In two experiments the team taught them some new words for things they couldn’t name – such as honey-dippers and strainers. Dr Samuelson said: “We practiced these new words until they knew the honey-dipper was called a ‘zeb’ and the strainer was a ‘yok’. We then showed them a new thing – a bird toy – in the context of either the objects they knew well (a ball and a car) or things they had only just learned to name (the ‘zeb’ honey-dipper and ‘yok’ strainer).

“When we asked them to get the ‘blick’, they were good at linking this new word to the bird-toy when it was presented with the familiar things, and with the just learned things.”

But, after a five minute colouring break, the children were not so good at remembering what a ‘blick’ was when they had learned it in the context of objects they already knew. (and did better when they had initially leaned the word in the context of the less well-known things — the ‘zeb’ honey dipper and the ‘yok’ strainer). “We had expected that a stronger knowledge of familiar words would be better for learning new words, but we found the opposite was true” claim the researchers.

“It seems counterintuitive, but it is perhaps because the less well-known items don’t compete with the new words as much. If they learn new words in the context of playing with well-known items such as a ball, book or car, they don’t process the new word as much.” (1)

Remembering things. Learning new things. Forgetting others.

The best way to learn is to unlearn.

The best way to remember new things is to forget the old ones.

New things will then become old.

And soon, they will too be forgotten in the quest for knowledge.

Babies we will be once more.

To view the cosmos as it is.

At the moment we are old and die…

And for the first time we will see.

That this is not the first time we see…

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