Human-ities · Social/Politics · Vital-Edible-Health

Long Lives Made Humans Human

The fundamental structure of human populations has changed exactly twice in evolutionary history. The second time was in the past 150 years, when the average lifespan doubled in most parts of the world. The first time was in the Paleolithic, probably around 30,000 years ago. That’s when old people were basically invented.

Throughout hominid history, it was exceedingly rare for individuals to live more than 30 years. Paleoanthropologists can examine teeth to estimate how old a hominid was when it died, based on which teeth are erupted, how worn down they are, and the amount of a tissue called dentin. Anthropologist Rachel Caspari of Central Michigan University used teeth to identify the ratio of old to young people in Australopithecenes from 3 million to 1.5 million years ago, early Homo species from 2 million to 500,000 years ago, and Neanderthals from 130,000 years ago. Old people—old here means older than 30 (sorry)—were a vanishingly small part of the population. When she looked at modern humans from the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, though, she found the ratio reversed—there were twice as many adults who died after age 30 as those who died young.

Excerpt from an article written by Laura Helmuth at Slate. Continue THERE

Bio · Design · Digital Media · Education · Games/Play · Science · Technology

Played By Humans, Scored By Nature. EteRNA, an online game, helps build a new RNA warehouse

According to EteRNA: By playing EteRNA, you will participate in creating the first large-scale library of synthetic RNA designs. Your efforts will help reveal new principles for designing RNA-based switches and nanomachines — new systems for seeking and eventually controlling living cells and disease-causing viruses. By interacting with thousands of players and learning from real experimental feedback, you will be pioneering a completely new way to do science. Join the global laboratory!

EteRNA is starting with simple shapes like “the finger” and “the cross” to make sure you can nail the fundamentals. And then we’ll be moving on to elaborate shapes like trees. And then molecules that switch folds when they sense a specific other piece of RNA. This might take a few weeks, or it might take a year — we want to make sure we can ace these exercises.
After that, we will embark on one of a few epic projects – perhaps we’ll make the first RNA random-access memory for a computer. Or switches that enables cells to fluoresce if they start expressing cancer genes. Or how about a nanomotor? Or a nanoLED display? There are lots of options, and we’ll let you propose your own and choose.

Finally, you’ll start seeing a few other kinds of puzzles popping up in later stages: The ability to play with RNAs in three dimensions. The ability to see natural RNAs from bacteria, viruses, and humans; and challenges to predict their properties. Stay tuned.

Play EteRNA

Animalia · Bio · Book-Text-Read-Zines · Human-ities · Social/Politics

A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution.

Why do humans, uniquely among animals, cooperate in large numbers to advance projects for the common good? Contrary to the conventional wisdom in biology and economics, this generous and civic-minded behavior is widespread and cannot be explained simply by far-sighted self-interest or a desire to help close genealogical kin.

In A Cooperative Species, Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis–pioneers in the new experimental and evolutionary science of human behavior–show that the central issue is not why selfish people act generously, but instead how genetic and cultural evolution has produced a species in which substantial numbers make sacrifices to uphold ethical norms and to help even total strangers.

The authors describe how, for thousands of generations, cooperation with fellow group members has been essential to survival. Groups that created institutions to protect the civic-minded from exploitation by the selfish flourished and prevailed in conflicts with less cooperative groups. Key to this process was the evolution of social emotions such as shame and guilt, and our capacity to internalize social norms so that acting ethically became a personal goal rather than simply a prudent way to avoid punishment.

Using experimental, archaeological, genetic, and ethnographic data to calibrate models of the co-evolution of genes and culture as well as prehistoric warfare and other forms of group competition, A Cooperative Species provides a compelling and novel account of how humans came to be moral and cooperative.

Samuel Bowles heads the Behavioral Sciences Program at the Santa Fe Institute and teaches economics at the University of Siena. Herbert Gintis holds faculty positions at the Santa Fe Institute, Central European University, and the University of Siena. The authors’ recent research has appeared in Science, Nature, American Economic Review, Journal of Theoretical Biology, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Current Anthropology.

A Cooperative Species: Human Reciprocity and Its Evolution. By Samuel Bowles & Herbert Gintis. Princeton University Press 2011. ISBN: 0691151253; 9780691151250

Text via IdeoBook

Animalia · Art/Aesthetics · Human-ities · Performativity

Women, Destruction, and the Avant-Garde: A Paradigm for Animal Liberation

This interdisciplinary study fuses analysis of feminist literature and manifestos, radical political theory, critical vanguard studies, women’s performance art, and popular culture to argue for the animal liberation movement as successor to the liberationist visions of the early twentieth-century avant-gardes, most especially the Surrealists. These vanguard groups are judiciously critiqued for their refusal to confront their own misogyny, a quandary that continues to plague animal activists, thereby disallowing for cohesion and full recognition of women’s value within a culturally marginalized cause.

This volume is of interest to anyone who is concerned about the continued—indeed, escalating—violence against nonhumans. More broadly, it will interest those seeking new pathways to challenge the dominant power constructions through which oppression of humans, nonhumans, and the environment thrives. Women, Destruction, and the Avant-Garde ultimately poses the animal liberation movement as having serious political and cultural implications for radical social change, destruction of hierarchy and for a world without shackles and cages, much as the Surrealists envisioned.

Women, Destruction, and the Avant-Garde: A Paradigm for Animal Liberation

By: Kim Socha
Amsterdam/New York, NY, 2012, XIV, 258 pp.
Pb: 978-90-420-3423-5
€ 54 / US$ 81

Kim Socha is an animal activist and sits on the board of the Animal Rights Coalition in Minneapolis, MN. Holding a Ph.D. in English Literature and Criticism, she works as a composition and literature instructor with publications in the areas of surrealism, Latino literature and pedagogy.

Text via Rodopi