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The Brain You Use, and How It Uses You

Neuroscientists continue to find out amazing things about the human brain.  In some ways we are responsible to use our brains, but in other ways the brain does things to us.  If nobody has figured out where the dividing line is for thousands of years, it’s unlikely we will today; but the following findings can […]

Is Your Bod Flawed by God?

Are your body’s imperfections reasons for you to reject intelligent design and embrace evolution?  Professor John Avise (UC Irvine) thinks so.  His new book Inside the Human Genome was given good press by PhysOrg: “Distinguished Professor of ecology & evolutionary biology at UC Irvine, Avise also makes the case that overwhelming scientific evidence of genomic […]

Barefoot Is Better

Who do we wear shoes?  It seems obvious; we expect that they help us avoid injuries and provide comfort.  Maybe we should think of the injuries we are getting by wearing them.     The image of the barefoot person is usually of someone poor, deprived, lower-class, hick, unclean, redneck or something else unattractive.  Shoes […]

To Advance Technology, Make Like Nature

Scientists and engineers continue to find the most elegant solutions to practical problems by looking at plants and animals.  Here are a few of the recent examples. Wet computing:  Cells and brains do a superior job of complex processing, so why are our current computers singing how dry I am?  Not for much longer.  Science […]

It Takes More than Eyes to See

We think of eyes as objects that see, but vision requires a whole system of parts.  One of the most important is the brain.  Without your thalamus, vision would be a hopeless jumble of jerky signals, reported scientists from the National Eye Institute.     Writing in PNAS,1 Ostendorf, Liebermann and Ploner found that the […]

In Brains, Size Is Not All that Matters

Two recent science articles indicate that scientists should be careful before inferring intelligence from brain size (picture).  PhysOrg reported on work to uncover the genetic basis of microcephaly – reduced brain size in humans.  “The cerebral cortex in particular has undergone a dramatic increase in surface area during the course of primate evolution,” the article […]

Debunker Busters

Often in science reports, new findings debunk previously held beliefs.  But then, a thoughtful reader might ask, didn’t the previously held belief debunk a belief prior to that?  Sometimes it gets difficult to believe the current belief has any credibility, when the debunkers turn on each other. A dilemma about dilemmas:  Psychologists and philosophers have […]

What’s Natural for Humans?

Should humans do what comes naturally?  What comes naturally?  And what do we mean by natural?     Nicholas Wade in the New York Times said, “We May Be Born With an Urge to Help.”  He began with the same question: “What is the essence of human nature?”  Then he discussed evidence that infants have […]

Seeing Sound and Hearing Light

Synesthesia, the syndrome in which people’s senses become confused, may not be so off the wall.  Research at the University of British Columbia “flips the traditional view of how we perceive the world on its head.” Experiments show that our brains perceive the world by synthesizing multiple inputs.  The latest evidence of this is that […]

In Brains, It’s Quality, Not Quantity, that Counts

Most anthropologists are obsessed with brain size.  How many cc’s (cubic centimeters) of brain could fit in the skull of this or that hominid?  PhysOrg reminds us that “Bigger not necessarily better, when it comes to brains.”  Here’s a shocker from scientists at Queen Mary University: “Tiny insects could be as intelligent as much bigger […]

What Is Man?

Science often makes pronouncements about the human species.  We should be mindful of the worldview behind them.     Live Science published an article with the confident-sounding title, “Human Evolution: Where We Came From,” accompanied by the iconic sketch of Ardi (see 10/02/2009) and an obligatory reference to Darwin.  Even though reporter Charles Q. Choi, […]

Human Evolution Celebration Exposed

The evolutionary story of human origins is often told like a cultural myth that is intuitively obvious.  Humans emerged in Africa after their ancestors came down from the trees and walked upright.  They began to hunt with stone tools and used fire.  They migrated north out of Africa and populated Europe, overtaking the Neanderthals who […]

Your Eye Sees Trouble Before You Do

In slapstick comedy, the fall guy gets the pie in the face when the clown in front of him ducks.  It’s funny because most of us instinctively duck when we see something coming.  But two recent experimental studies are revealing new automated capabilities built into the eye and brain that are quicker and more automatic […]

Mutation: Not a Bug, a Feature

Evolutionary biologists are sometimes risque with the way they discuss mutations.  They treat them almost like magic wands, able to produce wondrous new organs and functions by accident. Health to them, death to you:  One article on Science Daily discussed a mutation that causes congenital heart disease in humans, but may have been a stepping […]

Your Throat Has Tasteful Antennae

Our airways are lined with cells that have beating oars called motile cilia.  Like galley slaves on a Roman ship, they beat in coordinated waves, setting up currents that propel dust and foreign matter out toward the mouth.  Scientists just found out another amazing capability of these motile cilia: they can “taste” toxic chemicals and […]
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