The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly today to upgrade the Palestinian Authority government to “nonmember observer state.” Applause broke out as the vote was announced. The U.S. and Israel were among those in opposition. Britain, Germany and the Netherlands abstained.
Photo: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, center, celebrates with members of his delegation and other supporters after today’s vote. Credit: Jason DeCrow / Associated Press
Eating a raw food diet is a recipe for disaster if you’re trying to boost your species’ brainpower. That’s because humans would have to spend more than 9 hours a day eating to get enough energy from unprocessed raw food alone to support our large brains, according to a new study that calculates the energetic costs of growing a bigger brain or body in primates. But our ancestors managed to get enough energy to grow brains that have three times as many neurons as those in apes such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. How did they do it? They got cooking, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“If you eat only raw food, there are not enough hours in the day to get enough calories to build such a large brain,” says Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil who is co-author of the report. “We can afford more neurons, thanks to cooking.”
Humans have more brain neurons than any other primate — about 86 billion, on average, compared with about 33 billion neurons in gorillas and 28 billion in chimpanzees. While these extra neurons endow us with many benefits, they come at a price — our brains consume 20 percent of our body’s energy when resting, compared with 9 percent in other primates. So a long-standing riddle has been where did our ancestors get that extra energy to expand their minds as they evolved from animals with brains and bodies the size of chimpanzees?
One answer came in the late 1990s when Harvard University primatologist Richard Wrangham proposed that the brain began to expand rapidly 1.6 million to 1.8 million years ago in our ancestor, Homo erectus, because this early human learned how to roast meat and tuberous root vegetables over a fire. Cooking, Wrangham argued, effectively predigested the food, making it easier and more efficient for our guts to absorb calories more rapidly. Since then, he and his colleagues have shown in lab studies of rodents and pythons that these animals grow up bigger and faster when they eat cooked meat instead of raw meat — and that it takes less energy to digest cooked meat than raw meat.
In a new test of this cooking hypothesis, Herculano-Houzel and her graduate student, Karina Fonseca-Azevedo, now a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Translational Neuroscience in São Paulo, Brazil, decided to see if a diet of raw food inherently put limits on how large a primate’s brain or body could grow. First, they counted the number of neurons in the brains of 13 species of primates (and more than 30 species of mammals). The researchers found two things: one, that brain size is directly linked to the number of neurons in a brain; and two, that that the number of neurons is directly correlated to the amount of energy (or calories) needed to feed a brain.
After adjusting for body mass, they calculated how many hours per day it would take for various primates to eat enough calories of raw food to fuel their brains. They found that it would take 8.8 hours for gorillas; 7.8 hours for orangutans; 7.3 hours for chimps; and 9.3 hours for our species, H. sapiens.
These numbers show that there is an upper limit on how much energy primates can get from an unprocessed raw diet, Herculano-Houzel says. An ape’s diet in the wild differs from a modern “raw food diet,” in which humans get sufficient calories from processing raw food in blenders and adding protein and other nutrients. In the wild, other apes can’t evolve bigger brains unless they reduce their body sizes because they can’t get past the limit of how many calories they can consume in 7 hours to 8 hours of feeding per day. But humans, she says, got around that limit by cooking. “The reason we have more neurons than any other animal alive is that cooking allowed this qualitative change — this step increase in brain size,” she says. “By cooking, we managed to circumvent the limitation of how much we can eat in a day.”
This study shows “that an ape could not achieve a brain as big as in recent humans while maintaining a typical ape diet,” Wrangham says.
It’s Veterans Day, and we’re saluting the 22 million brave men and women who’ve represented the U.S. in uniform.
Quantum physics is the science of the very small. But physicists are making it bigger, setting records for the size and energies of objects they can get to exhibit quantum effects.
Image: Here, a false-color image of a laser beam showing a superposition of entangled photons spinning in opposite directions. Copyright: Robert Fickler/University of Vienna
Now physicists at the University of Vienna in Austria have “virtually intertwined” or entangled two particles spinning faster than ever in opposite directions. Entanglement occurs when two particles remain connected so that actions performed on one affect the other, despite the distance between them.
In the new study, Anton Fickler and his colleagues entangled two photons that had a high orbital angular momentum, a property that measures the twisting of a wave of light. In quantum physics, particles such as photons can behave as particles and waves.
“It’s a stepping stone on the development of new technologies,” said Anton Zeilinger, director of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information and a co-author of the study, which is detailed in the Nov. 5 issue of the journal Science.
Such entanglement experiments have been carried out for decades. In this case, though, the researchers did something a bit different. They created entangled photons and gave them lots of angular momentum, more than in any experiment before.
Usually the energy contained in a photon is very small: its quantum number is low. At higher energies, this changes. Quantum physics and “normal” or classical physics start to look similar when quantum numbers get high; this is called the correspondence principle, and it applies to many areas of physics.
To create entangled photons, Fickler and his team sent a laser through a beam splitter, dividing the laser beam into two. Two photons were sent down separate optical fibers and their waves were twisted, and twisted, and twisted some more, ramping up their angular momentum — imagine a wave shaped like a spiral, spinning faster and faster.
Eventually, there was enough angular momentum in the photons that their quantum numbers — the units their momentum is measured in — differed by a factor of 600, a higher value than any seen previously. The photons spinning rapidly in opposite directions, meanwhile, were still entangled.
They knew this because when particles are entangled, measuring the quantum state (in this case the angular momentum and orientation) of one particle immediately tells you the quantum state of the other, no matter where it is. Since they had the ability to measure both the researchers could confirm entanglement.
(Though this transfer of information between the particles is instantaneous, entanglement can’t be used for faster-than-light communication because it is impossible to set the quantum state beforehand, as you would in a message).
This shows that entanglement effects can be seen at high energies, meaning closer to the macroscopic world we all know and interact with. “It means we have to take the correspondence principle with a large grain of salt,” Zeilinger said.
Just as importantly, the experiment shows that the only barrier to applying certain kinds of quantum effects is technical — there is no physical reason that one shouldn’t be able to see quantum phenomena at high enough energies that they would bleed into the visible world, though that will take some time to do.
In a remarkable new post-trial motion, Samsung has laid out its strategy to get the $1.05 billion verdict against it kicked out. The boldest tactic? A straightforward attack on the patent-owning jury foreman.
The Korean company hinted at this tack an earlier, redacted brief, but now it’s been laid out in full, with more than a dozen exhibits attached showcasing Hogan’s allegedly offending public statements. The company’s lawyers have clearly had time now to comb through the multiple interviews foreman Velvin Hogan has offered since the trial, and find the juiciest tidbits.
His legal misstatements have been picked apart by Samsung lawyers, who noted he said design patents are based on “look and feel,” and that prior art must be “interchangeable” in order to invalidate a patent. “These incorrect and extraneous legal standards had no place in the jury room,” wrote Samsung in its brief.
More significantly, the brief notes that Hogan disclosed being involved in only one lawsuit—failing to mention that he was sued by his former employer Seagate Technology, a company owned in part by Samsung. That lawsuit, which demanded Hogan pay back certain house payments that Seagate had assisted him with, ultimately caused Hogan and his wife to file for bankruptcy. “Mr. Hogan’s failure to disclose the Seagate suit raises issues of bias that Samsung should have been allowed to explore in questioning and that would have triggered a motion to strike for cause or a peremptory strike,” write Samsung lawyers.
Samsung also suggests that Hogan didn’t disclose how pro-patent he was when asked in court whether he had “strong feelings” about the U.S. patent system. The new motion argues that Hogan’s silence didn’t sync up with his later statements to The Verge that “except for my family, it [jury service] was the high point of my career… you might even say my life,” and that he wanted to be satisfied “that this trial was fair, and protected copyrights and intellectual property rights, no matter who they belonged to.”
The company actually suggests that Hogan come back for an additional hearing with all the other jurors, because his “conduct during voir dire [jury selection] and jury deliberations must be fully examined.” The only solution is a new trial, Samsung argues…
The headline conclusion of Pew’s latest monster survey of the media landscape was the demise of TV news. “There are now signs that television news is increasingly vulnerable,” the authors wrote, “as it may be losing its hold on the next generation of news consumers.”
But the larger story is the rise of the Web, which has surpassed newspapers and radio to become the second most popular source of news for Americans, after TV.
Read more. [Image: Pew]
An estimated 16,290 people were killed in traffic accidents in the first half of 2012 (9% more than the previous year).
Though no one seems to know why, the Department of Transportation has mounted a crusade in the last few years to discourage text messaging and cellphone use behind the wheel.
Every winter, like clockwork, the sea ice that covers the Arctic thickens and grows. And then every summer, the Earth tilts its Northern Pole toward the sun and some of that ice melts away.
But not all of it. Even in the summer months, many of the northern channels and passages that connect the Atlantic to the Pacific are blocked off by ice. For centuries European explorers searched for a passage unsuccessfully, until 1906 when an expedition led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen made it across. Since then, better boat and navigation technology have enabled more regular crossings, but the most northern routes have remained off-limits for all but the strongest, diesel-powered, extra-fortified, ice-breaking boats.
Until this year, when three men made the complete Northwest crossing through the M’Clure strait (the northernmost of the direct routes) in the Belzebub II — a sailboat with no fortification. Previously, the only boats that had made it through M’Clure were ice-breakers, and none had been able to complete the pass through Viscount Melville Sound after shooting through M’Clure. Usually only either the sound or the straight are open to boats, but not both at once.
Read more. [Image: Belzebub II]
Meme 1, Newsweek 0
Tina Brown’s latest Newsweek cover does what a Tina Brown cover does best: combine provocative imagery with an inflammatory title that gets people talking about the magazine.
In this case, “MUSLIM RAGE” screams the headline with two intense men wailing in protest underneath.
The cover itself is meta, playing on the “Why do they hate us?” meme that runs through the American press. Glenn Greenwald, writing in The Guardian, captures the absurdity of the premise:
One prominent strain shaping American reaction to the protests in the Muslim world is bafflement, and even anger, that those Muslims are not more grateful to the US. After all, goes this thinking, the US bestowed them with the gifts of freedom and democracy – the very rights they are now exercising – so how could they possibly be anything other than thankful? Under this worldview, it is especially confounding that the US, their savior and freedom-provider, would be the target of their rage…
…On Thursday night, NBC News published a nine-minute report on Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” program featuring its foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, reporting on the demonstrations in Cairo, which sounded exactly the same theme. Standing in front of protesting Egyptians in Tahrir Square, Engel informed viewers that this was all so very baffling because it was taking place “in Cairo, where the US turned its back on its old friend Hosni Mubarak”, and then added:
“It is somewhat ironic with American diplomats inside the embassy who helped to give these demonstrators, these protesters, a voice, and allowed them to actually carry out these anti-American clashes that we’re seeing right now.”
That it was the US who freed Egyptians and “allowed them” the right to protest would undoubtedly come as a great surprise to many Egyptians. That is the case even beyond the decades of arming, funding and general support from the US for their hated dictator.
So, Newsweek is playing the ahistorical questions running through traditional media channels and while doing so, asks readers to chime in on Twitter with their thoughts using the #MuslimRage hashtag.
And that’s when, the Internet being the Internet, things got fun and users wrestled back the narrative:
- “Lost your kid Jihad at the airport. Can’t yell for him. #MuslimRage” — @LSal92.
- “I’m having such a good hair day. No one even knows. #MuslimRage” — @LibertyLibya.
- “So you’re telling me that in this entire sporting goods store you don’t have a single ski turban? #muslimrage” — @TomGara.
- “Ramadan in Iceland when days are 23 hours long. #muslimrage” — @iron_emu.
Coincidently, Michael Wolff recently wrote about Tina Brown and the challenges she faces with Newsweek from his new column at USA Today:
The most famous magazine editor of her generation is engaged in a desperate and operatic struggle, which almost no one anywhere believes has any chance of success, to reinvent Newsweek as a sustainable business proposition. In this, she is arguably no different from anybody else with a venerable media brand, except that Newsweek is in more dire extremis and her notoriety personalizes the fight…
…The issue was starkly simple: Could a traditional brand be reinvented in what is called a “digital first” context — and soon migrate entirely to digital — and, even more challenging, could it be reinvented by a traditional editor?
This week’s answer to that question is a clumsy MUSLIM RAGE cover with two stand-ins representing a billion-plus people. It’s analog link bait, a purposeful troll.
Yet, in a digital world where people can talk back and wrestle premises away from brands and organizations, the audience is mocking it. — Michael.
Image: Muslim Rave, via @max_read.
A new digital archive of every single minute of American news networks for the last three years. Clips are uploaded 24 hours after they air. Amazing tool for teachers, political bloggers, librarians, the possibilities are endless.
If the Mars rover finds water, it could be H2 … uh oh!: If Curiosity locates H2O, a simmering NASA controversy will boil over. The rover’s drill bits may be tainted with Earth microbes that could survive upon touching water.
They decided to open the box and mount one bit in the drill as a hedge to ensure success of one of the most promising scientific tools aboard Curiosity. The drill is to bore into rocks looking for clues that life could have existed on the planet. Even if a damaged mechanism couldn’t load a drill bit, at least the rover would have one ready to go.
Under the agency’s procedures, the box should not have been opened without knowledge of a NASA scientist who is responsible for guarding Mars against contamination from Earth. But Planetary Protection Officer Catharine Conley wasn’t consulted.
Photo: This handout photo provided by NASA/JPL-Caltech shows the surroundings of the location where Mars rover Curiosity arrived on Sept. 4. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
New numbers show that U.S. household debt is down $53 billion since the first quarter — a sign that struggling Americans are getting their financial obligations under control.
On March 16, 2003, pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie died while protesting against the Israeli government, which was attempting to tear down a settlement in the Gaza Strip. Corrie literally stood between a settlement and a military bulldozer. The bulldozer crushed her. Now an Israeli court says there’s no way the bulldozer driver could have seen her, and that she put herself in danger by staying put, considering that the U.S. warned Americans to stay away. Her parents don’t see it that way. “I believe this was a bad day, not only for our family, but for human rights, humanity, the rule of law and also for the country of Israel,” said Rachel’s mother, Cindy. She and her husband, Craig, sued for $1, in a symbolic gesture. They lost.
Image: An artist conception of a newly formed star surrounded by a swirling protoplanetary disk of dust and gas, where debris coalesces to create rocky ‘planetesimals’ that collide and grow to eventually form planets. A new study suggests small rocky planet may actually be widespread in our Milky Way galaxy. Credit: University of Copenhagen, Lars A. Buchhave
Planets may not be able to form without a heaping helping of heavy elements such as silicon, titanium and magnesium, a new study suggests.
Stars that host planets have higher concentrations of such “metals” — astronomer-speak for elements heavier than hydrogen and helium — compared to iron than do planetless stars, the study found.
“To form planets, one needs heavy elements,” said lead author Vardan Adibekyan, of the Centre for Astrophysics of the University of Porto in Portugal.
Connected at birth
Planets coalesce from the disk of dust and gas left over after the birth of their parent star. According to the leading theory of planet formation, the core accretion model, small particles clump together, growing larger and larger until they produce protoplanets.
Scientists have long suspected that stars with higher metallicities are more likely to have planets orbiting them. Iron has long been a primary indicator.
“Usually, in stellar physics, people use the iron content as a proxy of overall metallicity,”
Maria Alekhina, left, Yekaterina Samutsevich, top right, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right, members of feminist punk group Pussy Riot seen behind bars at a court room in Moscow, Russia, Russia, Monday, July 30, 2012. Three members of the band are facing trial for performing a “punk prayer” against Vladimir Putin from a pulpit of Moscow’s main cathedral before Russia’s presidential election in March, in which he won a third term. AP