Diverse data upend history of language’s evolution

Credit: adriensifre/Flickr) Posted by Karen Nikos-UC Davis New research could revise the history of how we think humans acquired language. Scientists have held up a gene that may affect speech and language, FOXP2, as a “textbook” example of positive selection on a human-specific trait. In a new paper in the journal Cell, however, researchers challenge this finding. In their analysis of genetic data from a diverse sample of modern people and Neanderthals, researchers saw no evidence for recent, human-specific selection of FOXP2. “We’re interested in figuring out, on a genetic level, what makes us human…” A paper from 2002 claimed there was a selective sweep … Continue reading Diverse data upend history of language’s evolution

Loneliness in Time: Physicist Freeman Dyson on Immigration and How Severing Our Connection to the Past Shallows Our Present and Hollows Our History

Freeman Dyson, late 1940s (Photograph by Verena Huber-Dyson courtesy of George Dyson) An antidote to today’s perilous self-expatriation from history. BY MARIA POPOVA What a disorienting feeling to wake up one hot early-August morning and realize that exactly fifteen early-August mornings earlier, I had awakened to face my first day on American soil, having arrived alone as a teenage immigrant from Eastern Europe with $800 my parents had cobbled together to last me a year. I thought about how my life might have turned out if immigration policies and attitudes were then what they are now, and about the generations … Continue reading Loneliness in Time: Physicist Freeman Dyson on Immigration and How Severing Our Connection to the Past Shallows Our Present and Hollows Our History

I Don’t Believe in Aliens Anymore

COLIN BRALEY / REUTERS Humanity must learn to find meaning without relying on gods or extraterrestrials. by MICHAEL W. CLUNE Ever since the Renaissance, the sciences have dealt human beings a steady stream of humiliations. The Copernican revolution dismantled the idea that humanity stood at the center of the universe. A cascade of discoveries from the late-18th to the early-20th century showed that humanity was a lot less significant than some had imagined. The revelation of the geological timescale stacked millions and billions of years atop our little cultural narratives, crumbling all of human history to dust. The revelation that … Continue reading I Don’t Believe in Aliens Anymore

The Snowflake Diaries: How the Women in Your Life Learned About Aunt Flo

Museum of Menstruation and Women’s Health by Bill Black Historian of American religion & culture / teaches at Western Kentucky University Mary had her first period in 1966, and she had no idea what was going on. Her mom had always been “too busy” and “embarrassed” to talk to her about it, and her classmates would only say vague things about “the curse” and the need for “sanitary protection,” whatever the hell that meant. So when the blood first came, she was unprepared and mortified. Her friend Doris, however, had a different experience. Rather than listen to her classmates or expect to … Continue reading The Snowflake Diaries: How the Women in Your Life Learned About Aunt Flo

Corporate crime: Five biggest financial scams of all time

image edited by Fernando Kaskais Cast member Norbert Leo Butz, depicting former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling, performs during a dress rehearsal of the play “Enron” in New York © Lucas Jackson / Reuters When it comes to big money there’s a whole lot of room for screw-ups, cover-ups and everything in between. The business world is no stranger to scandal with many wheeler dealers ready to gain at other people’s expense. Money managers, chief executives, lawyers… some are dead or in jail, others doing just fine, after masterminding white collar crimes amounting to billions of dollars. Let’s have a look … Continue reading Corporate crime: Five biggest financial scams of all time

Prince’s Identity Has Been Stripped From Paisley Park

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY THE DAILY BEAST Wandering the cold halls of his home/office/recording studio, you wonder why his estate handlers seem bent on erasing every trace of his lubricous—yet often spiritual—presence. by SHANNON CARRIER When texting emerged as an acceptable means of communication, before abbreviated language and the numericals-for-words swap became everyday, not just for license plates, my response to the first HiQTPie text I received was, “Why does everything come through like a Prince song?” “When 2 R in Love,” “Nothing Compares 2 U,” “Sexy M.F.” Those of us old enough to remember Prince’s earliest Top 40 flirtations lifted his abbreviated communiques and signed yearbooks … Continue reading Prince’s Identity Has Been Stripped From Paisley Park

How evil happens

SS officers and staff relax at Solahütte, a resort for camp personnel 19 miles from Auschwitz-Birkenau. The photo is from an album taken by Karl-Friedrich Höcker, adjutant to the Auschwitz Kommandant, Richard Baer. Photo courtesy the USHMM Why some people choose to do evil remains a puzzle, but are we starting to understand how this behaviour is triggered? by Noga Arikha is a historian of ideas, particularly interested in the relation between mind and body, and in tracing the genealogy of the concepts that pertain to it. She has taught at Bard College, was on the advisory board for Prospect Magazine, and was … Continue reading How evil happens