Tag: Columbia University

Overprescription of Antipsychotic Drugs Causing Public Health Crisis

Julie Fidler, Natural SocietySometimes with life-threatening side effects…Antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed to an ever-increasing number of adolescents and young adults, and many of them are being prescribed for off-label purposes. But these over-prescriptions are putting youngsters at risk, though we’re slow as a society to change our med-heavy ways.These powerful medications are being prescribed to young people with attention-deficit and hyperactivity [...]

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What astronomers learned when Messenger space probe crashed into Mercury



Excerpt from statecolumn.com


On April 30, NASA concluded an historic voyage known as the Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging mission. The mission came to an end when the spacecraft carrying analytical instruments, Messenger, crashed into the planet’s surface after consuming all of its fuel.
The mission was far from a waste, however, as NASA rarely expects to see the majority of the spacecraft they launch ever again. According to Discovery, The probe sent back a spectacular photo of the surface of Mercury, using the craft’s Narrow Angle Camera in tandem with the Mercury Dual Imaging System. The photo shows a mile-wide view of the nearby planet’s surface in 2.1 meters per pixel resolution.
Right after the probe delivered the photo to NASA’s Deep Space Network, which is a collection of global radio antennae that tracks data on the agency’s robotic missions around the solar system, the signal was lost in what scientists assume was the craft’s final contact with the closest planet to the sun.
The four-year mission came to an end when the craft could no longer maintain its orbit around the solar system’s innermost planet due to lack of fuel. Mercury is just 36 miles from the sun, compared to Earth, which is 93 million miles away from the center of the solar system. Mercury is a peculiar world, with both frigid and extremely hot temperatures. Messenger also revealed that Mercury has a magnetic field similar to that of Earth’s, created by the motion of metallic fluids within the planet’s core.
The main challenge the Messenger mission faced was getting the space probe into orbit around Mercury. Due to the planet’s proximity to the sun, it was extremely difficult for flight engineers to avoid its gravitational pull. In addition to the challenge of catching Mercury’s comparatively weak gravitational force, high temperatures also made things tricky. Messenger was equipped with a sunshield designed to protect the spaceship cool on the side that faced the sun. NASA engineers also attempted to chart a long, elliptical orbit around Mercury, giving Messenger time to cool off as it rounded the backside of the planet.
Messenger made over 4,000 orbits around Mercury between 2011 and 2015, many more than the originally planned one-year mission would allow.
With the close-up shots of Mercury’s surface provided by Messenger, NASA scientists were able to detect trace signals of magnetic activity in Mercury’s crust. Using clues from the number of impact craters on the surface, scientists figured that Mercury’s magnetized regions could be as old as 3.7 billion years. Astronomers count the craters on a planet in order to estimate its age – the logic being that younger surfaces should have fewer impact sites than older surfaces.
The data sent back by Messenger has caused astronomers to reconsider their understanding of Mercury’s magnetic history. They now date the beginning of magnetism on Mercury to about 700 million years after the planet was formed. They cannot say for sure, however, if the magnetic field has been consistently active over this timeframe.
According to Messenger guest investigator Catherine Johnson, geophysicist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, that it was possible the magnetic field has been active under constant conditions, though she suspects it might also oscillate over time, like Earth’s. Information for the time period between 4 billion years ago and present day is sparse, though Johnson added that additional research is in the pipeline.
Johnson was pleased, however, with the insight offered into Mercury’s formation provided by these new magnetic clues. Magnetism on a planetary scale typically indicates a liquid metal interior. Since Mercury is so tiny, scientists originally believed that its center would be solid, due to the rate of cooling. The presence of liquid in the planet’s center suggests other materials’ presence, which would lower the freezing point. This suggests that a totally solid core would be unlikely.
Mercury’s magnetic field offers valuable insight into the formation of the planet, the solar system, and even the universe. Magnetism on Mercury indicates that it has a liquid iron core, according to Messenger lead scientist Sean Solomon of Columbia University.

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Mysterious Glow Detected At Center Of Milky Way Galaxy

In this image, the magenta color indicates the mysterious glow detected by NASA's NuSTAR space telescope.Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com A mysterious glow has been observed at the center of the Milky Way, and scientists are struggling to figure o...

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Is a trip to the moon in the making?





Excerpt from bostonglobe.com

Decades after that first small step, space thinkers are finally getting serious about our nearest neighbor By Kevin Hartnett

This week, the European Space Agency made headlines with the first successful landing of a spacecraft on a comet, 317 million miles from Earth. It was an upbeat moment after two American crashes: the unmanned private rocket that exploded on its way to resupply the International Space Station, and the Virgin Galactic spaceplane that crashed in the Mojave Desert, killing a pilot and raising questions about whether individual businesses are up to the task of operating in space.  During this same period, there was one other piece of space news, one far less widely reported in the United States: On Nov. 1, China successfully returned a moon probe to Earth. That mission follows China’s landing of the Yutu moon rover late last year, and its announcement that it will conduct a sample-return mission to the moon in 2017.  With NASA and the Europeans focused on robot exploration of distant targets, a moon landing might not seem like a big deal: We’ve been there, and other countries are just catching up. But in recent years, interest in the moon has begun to percolate again, both in the United States and abroad—and it’s catalyzing a surprisingly diverse set of plans for how our nearby satellite will contribute to our space future.  China, India, and Japan have all completed lunar missions in the last decade, and have more in mind. Both China and Japan want to build unmanned bases in the early part of the next decade as a prelude to returning a human to the moon. In the United States, meanwhile, entrepreneurs are hatching plans for lunar commerce; one company even promises to ferry freight for paying customers to the moon as early as next year. Scientists are hatching more far-out ideas to mine hydrogen from the poles and build colonies deep in sky-lit lunar caves.  This rush of activity has been spurred in part by the Google Lunar X Prize, a $20 million award, expiring in 2015, for the first private team to land a working rover on the moon and prove it by sending back video. It is also driven by a certain understanding: If we really want to launch expeditions deeper into space, our first goal should be to travel safely to the moon—and maybe even figure out how to live there.
Entrepreneurial visions of opening the moon to commerce can seem fanciful, especially in light of the Virgin Galactic and Orbital Sciences crashes, which remind us how far we are from having a truly functional space economy. They also face an uncertain legal environment—in a sense, space belongs to everyone and to no one—whose boundaries will be tested as soon as missions start to succeed. Still, as these plans take shape, they’re a reminder that leaping blindly is sometimes a necessary step in opening any new frontier.
“All I can say is if lunar commerce is foolish,” said Columbia University astrophysicist Arlin Crotts in an e-mail, “there are a lot of industrious and dedicated fools out there!”

At its height, the Apollo program accounted for more than 4 percent of the federal budget. Today, with a mothballed shuttle and a downscaled space station, it can seem almost imaginary that humans actually walked on the moon and came back—and that we did it in the age of adding machines and rotary phones.

“In five years, we jumped into the middle of the 21st century,” says Roger Handberg, a political scientist who studies space policy at the University of Central Florida, speaking of the Apollo program. “No one thought that 40 years later we’d be in a situation where the International Space Station is the height of our ambition.”

An image of Earth and the moon created from photos by Mariner 10, launched in 1973.
NASA/JPL/Northwestern University
An image of Earth and the moon created from photos by Mariner 10, launched in 1973.
Without a clear goal and a geopolitical rivalry to drive it, the space program had to compete with a lot of other national priorities. The dramatic moon shot became an outlier in the longer, slower story of building scientific achievements.

Now, as those achievements accumulate, the moon is coming back into the picture. For a variety of reasons, it’s pretty much guaranteed to play a central role in any meaningful excursions we take into space. It’s the nearest planetary body to our own—238,900 miles away, which the Apollo voyages covered in three days. It has low gravity, which makes it relatively easy to get onto and off of the lunar surface, and it has no atmosphere, which allows telescopes a clearer view into deep space.
The moon itself also still holds some scientific mysteries. A 2007 report on the future of lunar exploration from the National Academies called the moon a place of “profound scientific value,” pointing out that it’s a unique place to study how planets formed, including ours. The surface of the moon is incredibly stable—no tectonic plates, no active volcanoes, no wind, no rain—which means that the loose rock, or regolith, on the moon’s surface looks the way the surface of the earth might have looked billions of years ago.

NASA still launches regular orbital missions to the moon, but its focus is on more distant points. (In a 2010 speech, President Obama brushed off the moon, saying, “We’ve been there before.”) For emerging space powers, though, the moon is still the trophy destination that it was for the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s. In 2008 an Indian probe relayed the best evidence yet that there’s water on the moon, locked in ice deep in craters at the lunar poles. China landed a rover on the surface of the moon in December 2013, though it soon malfunctioned. Despite that setback, China plans a sample-return mission in 2017, which would be the first since a Soviet capsule brought back 6 ounces of lunar soil in 1976.

The moon has also drawn the attention of space-minded entrepreneurs. One of the most obvious opportunities is to deliver scientific instruments for government agencies and universities. This is an attractive, ready clientele in theory, explains Paul Spudis, a scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston, though there’s a hitch: “The basic problem with that as a market,” he says, “is scientists never have money of their own.”

One company aspiring to the delivery role is Astrobotic, a startup of young Carnegie Mellon engineers based in Pittsburgh, which is currently positioning itself to be “FedEx to the moon,” says John Thornton, the company’s CEO. Astrobotic has signed a contract with SpaceX, the commercial space firm founded by Elon Musk, to use a Falcon 9 for an inaugural delivery trip in 2015, just in time to claim the Google Lunar X Prize. Thornton says most of the technology is in place for the mission, and that the biggest remaining hurdle is figuring out how to engineer a soft, automated moon landing.

Astrobotic is charging $1.2 million per kilogram—you can, in fact, place an order on its website—and Thornton says the company has five customers so far. They include the entities you might expect, like NASA, but also less obvious ones, like a company that wants to deliver human ashes for permanent internment and a Japanese soft drink manufacturer that wants to place its signature beverage, Pocari Sweat, on the moon as a publicity stunt. Astrobotic is joined in this small sci-fi economy by Moon Express out of Mountain View, Calif., another company competing for the Google Lunar X Prize.
Plans like these are the low-hanging fruit of the lunar economy, the easiest ideas to imagine and execute. Longer-scale thinkers are envisioning ways that the moon will play a larger role in human affairs—and that, says Crotts, is where “serious resource exploitation” comes in.
If this triggers fears of a mined-out moon, be reassured: “Apollo went there and found nothing we wanted. Had we found anything we really wanted, we would have gone back and there would have been a new gold rush,” says Roger Launius, the former chief historian of NASA and now a curator at the National Air and Space Museum.

There is one possible exception: helium-3, an isotope used in nuclear fusion research. It is rare on Earth but thought to be abundant on the surface of the moon, which could make the moon an important energy source if we ever figure out how to harness fusion energy. More immediately intriguing is the billion tons of water ice the scientific community increasingly believes is stored at the poles. If it’s there, that opens the possibility of sustained lunar settlement—the water could be consumed as a liquid, or split into oxygen for breathing and hydrogen for fuel.

The presence of water could also open a potentially ripe market providing services to the multibillion dollar geosynchronous satellite industry. “We lose billions of dollars a year of geosynchronous satellites because they drift out of orbit,” says Crotts. In a new book, “The New Moon: Water, Exploration, and Future Habitation,” he outlines plans for what he calls a “cislunar tug”: a space tugboat of sorts that would commute between the moon and orbiting satellites, resupplying them with propellant, derived from the hydrogen in water, and nudging them back into the correct orbital position.

In the long term, the truly irreplaceable value of the moon may lie elsewhere, as a staging area for expeditions deeper into space. The most expensive and dangerous part of space travel is lifting cargo out of and back into the Earth’s atmosphere, and some people imagine cutting out those steps by establishing a permanent base on the moon. In this scenario, we’d build lunar colonies deep in natural caves in order to escape the micrometeorites and toxic doses of solar radiation that bombard the moon, all the while preparing for trips to more distant points.
gical hurdles is long, and there’s also a legal one, at least where commerce is concerned. The moon falls under the purview of the Outer Space Treaty, which the United States signed in 1967, and which prohibits countries from claiming any territory on the moon—or anywhere else in space—as their own.
“It is totally unclear whether a private sector entity can extract resources from the moon and gain title or property rights to it,” says Joanne Gabrynowicz, an expert on space law and currently a visiting professor at Beijing Institute of Technology School of Law. She adds that a later document, the 1979 Moon Treaty, which the United States has not signed, anticipates mining on the moon, but leaves open the question of how property rights would be determined.

There are lots of reasons the moon may never realize its potential to mint the world’s first trillionaires, as some space enthusiasts have predicted. But to the most dedicated space entrepreneurs, the economic and legal arguments reflect short-sighted thinking. They point out that when European explorers set sail in the 15th and 16th centuries, they assumed they’d find a fortune in gold waiting for them on the other side of the Atlantic. The real prizes ended up being very different—and slow to materialize.
“When we settled the New World, we didn’t bring a whole lot back to Europe [at first],” Thornton says. “You have to create infrastructure to enable that kind of transfer of goods.” He believes that in the case of the moon, we’ll figure out how to do that eventually.
Roger Handberg is as clear-eyed as anyone about the reasons why the moon may never become more than an object of wonder, but he also understands why we can’t turn away from it completely. That challenge, in the end, may finally be what lures us back.

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The World is Not Enough: A New Theory of Parallel Universes is Proposed



Excerpt from universetoday.com

by Tim Reyes



Do we exist in a space and time shared by many worlds? And are all these infinite worlds interacting? A new theory of everything is making the case.

Imagine if you were told that the world is simple and exactly as it seems, but that there is an infinite number of worlds just like ours.

They share the same space and time, and interact with each other.
These worlds behave as Newton first envisioned, except that the slightest interactions of the infinite number create nuances and deviations from the Newtonian mechanics. What could be deterministic is swayed by many worlds to become the unpredictable.

This is the new theory about parallel universes explained by Australian and American theorists in a paper published in the journal Physics Review X. Called  the “Many Interacting Worlds” theory (MIW), the paper explains that rather than standing apart, an infinite number of universes share the same space and time as ours.

They show that their theory can explain quantum mechanical effects while leaving open the choice of theory to explain the universe at large scales. This is a fascinating new variant of Multiverse Theory that, in a sense, creates not just a doppelganger of everyone but an infinite number of them all overlaying each other in the same space and time.


Rather than island universes as proposed by other theories, Many Interacting Worlds (MIW) proposes many all lying within one space and time. (Photo Credit: Public Domain)
Rather than island universes as proposed by other multiverse theories, Many Interacting Worlds (MIW) proposes many all lying within one space and time.

Cosmology is a study in which practitioners must transcend their five senses. Einstein referred to thought experiments, and Dr. Stephen Hawking — surviving and persevering despite having ALS — has spent decades wondering about the Universe and developing new theories, all within his mind.

The “Many Interacting Worlds” theory, presented by Michael Hall and Howard Wiseman from Griffith University in Australia, and Dirk-André Deckert from the University of California, Davis, differs from previous multiverse theories in that the worlds — as they refer to universes — coincide with each other, and are not just parallel. 

The theorists explain that while the interactions are subtle, the interaction of an infinite number of worlds can explain quantum phenomena such as barrier tunneling in solid state electronics, can be used to calculate quantum ground states, and, as they state, “at least qualitatively” reproduce the results of the double-slit experiment.

Schrödinger, in explaining his wave function and the interaction of two particles (EPR paradox) coined the term “entanglement”. In effect, the MIW theory is an entanglement of an infinite number of worlds but not in terms of a wave function. The theorists state that they were compelled to develop MIW theory to eliminate the need for a wave function to explain the Universe. It is quite likely that Einstein would have seen MIW as very appealing considering his unwillingness to accept the principles laid down by the Copenhagen interpretation of Quantum Theory.

While MIW theory can reproduce some of the most distinctive quantum phenomena, the theorists emphasize that MIW is in an early phase of development. They state that the theory is not yet as mature as long-standing unification theories. In their paper, they use Newtonian physics to keep their proofs simple. Presenting this new “many worlds” theory indicates they had achieved a level of confidence in its integrity such that other theorists can use it as a starter kit – peer review but also expand upon it to explain more worldly phenomena.



Two of the perpetrators of the century long problem of unifying General Relativity Theory and Quantum Physics, A. Einstein, E. Schroedinger.
Two of the perpetrators of the century-long problem of unifying General Relativity Theory and Quantum Physics – Albert Einstein, Erwin Schroedinger.

The theorists continue by expounding that MIW could lead to new predictions. If correct, then new predictions would challenge experimentalists and observers to recreate or search for the effects.
Such was the case for Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. For example, the bending of the path of light by gravity and astronomer Eddington’s observing starlight bending around Sun during a total Solar Eclipse. Such new predictions and confirmation would begin to stand MIW theory apart from the many other theories of everything.

Multiverse theories have gained notoriety in recent years through the books and media presentations of Dr. Michio Kaku of the City College of New York and Dr. Brian Greene of Columbia University, New York City. Dr. Green presented a series of episodes delving into the nature of the Universe on PBS called “The Fabric of the Universe” and “The Elegant Universe”. The presentations were based on his books such as “The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.”

Hugh Everett’s reinterpretation of Dr. Richard Feynman’s cosmological theory, that the world is a weighted sum of alternative histories, states that when particles interact, reality bifurcates into a set of parallel streams, each being a different possible outcome. In contrast to Feynmann’s theory and Everett’s interpretation, the parallel worlds of MIW do not bifurcate but simply exist in the same space and time.  MIW’s parallel worlds are not a consequence of “quantum behavior” but are rather the drivers of it.


Professor Howard Wiseman, Director of Griffith University's Centre for Quantum Dynamics and coauthor of the paper on the "Many Interacting World" theory. (Photo Credit: Griffith University)
Professor Howard Wiseman, Director of Griffith University’s Centre for Quantum Dynamics and coauthor of the paper on the “Many Interacting World” theory. (Photo Credit: Griffith University)

Hall states in the paper that simple Newtonian Physics can explain how all these worlds evolve. This, they explain, can be used effectively as a first approximation in testing and expanding on their theory, MIW. Certainly, Einstein’s Special and General Theories of Relativity completes the Newtonian equations and are not dismissed by MIW. However, the paper begins with the simpler model using Newtonian physics and even explains that some fundamental behavior of quantum mechanics unfolds from a universe comprised of just two interacting worlds.

So what is next for the Many Interacting Worlds theory? Time will tell. Theorists and experimentalists shall begin to evaluate its assertions and its solutions to explain known behavior in our Universe. With new predictions, the new challenger to Unified Field Theory (the theory of everything) will be harder to ignore or file away with the wide array of theories of the last 100 years. Einstein’s theories began to reveal that our world exudes behavior that defies our sensibility but he could not accept the assertions of Quantum Theory. Einstein’s retort to Bohr was “God does not throw dice.” The MIW theory of Hall, Deckert, and Wiseman might be what Einstein was seeking until the end of his life. In titling this review of their theory as “The World is not Enough,” I would also add that their many interacting worlds is like a martini shaken but not stirred.
References: Quantum Phenomena Modeled by Interactions between Many Classical Worlds

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Researchers show Earth’s magnetic reversal occurs faster than previously thought



Excerpt from dailycal.org
By Suhauna Hussain | Staff

A study by researchers from UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Italy and France shows that the most recent reversal of Earth’s magnetic field occurred in fewer than 100 years, which is much more rapidly than previously believed.

A magnetic field reversal is when the Earth’s magnetic poles are switched – a phenomenon that has occurred many times in history. Magnetic fields usually remain at a certain intensity but weaken significantly before reversing.

Previously, researchers believed reversals occurred over thousands of years. The discovery that reversals can happen in such a short time is significant because it can help scientists further understand how magnetic reversals behave.

In the most recent magnetic reversal, the Earth’s field reversed a few times over several thousand years before it finally “snapped,” making its final reversal into its current orientation in fewer than 100 years, Renne said.

Researchers don’t have clear-enough records of other reversals to know whether this behavior is normal, he added.

Bruce Buffett, campus earth and planetary sciences chair and professor, unaffiliated with the project, questioned the study’s definition of a reversal, arguing that a complete magnetic reversal takes much longer.

According to Buffett, it’s true that the field can switch direction within 100 years, but when that rapid switch occurs, the field is still relatively weak. It actually takes thousands of years for the field to regain its normal intensity in its reversed direction, he said.
“I can tell you that a reversal can’t (take) place in a 100 years, but something that goes from very weak to very weak in another direction can take place in that amount of time,” Buffett said.

Yet the study was “remarkable” for obtaining such a detailed and accurate record, he said.

Moving forward, the researchers will continue the study and further analyze sediment samples.

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How can there be ice on Scorching Mercury? NASA Report

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washingtonnasa.govMESSENGER Finds New Evidence for Water Ice at Mercury's Poles Mercury's North Polar Region Acquired By The Arecibo Observatory A Mosaic of MESSEN...

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Mysteries of the Early Human Ancestors #1 ~ Why did we grow large brains?

Human brains are about three times as large as those of our early australopithecines ancestors that lived 4 million to 2 million years ago, and for years, scientists have wondered how our brains got so big. A new study suggests social competition could be behind the increase in brain size. Credit NIH, NADA

livescience.com

There are many ways to try to explain why human brains today are so big compared to those of early humans, but the major cause may be social competition, new research suggests. 

But with several competing ideas, the issue remains a matter of debate. 

Compared to almost all other animals, human brains are larger as a percentage of body weight. And since the emergence of the first species in our Homo genus (Homo habilis) about 2 million years ago, the human brain has doubled in size. And when compared to earlier ancestors, such as australopithecines that lived 4 million to 2 million years ago, our brains are three times as large. For years, scientists have wondered what could account for this increase.

The three major hypotheses have focused on climate change, the demands of ecology, and social competition. A new statistical analysis of data on 175 fossil skulls supports the latter hypothesis. 

Behind the hypotheses

The climate idea proposes that dealing with unpredictable weather and major climate shifts may have increased the ability of our ancestors to think ahead and prepare for these environmental changes, which in turn led to a larger, more cognitively adept brain.
The ecology hypothesis states that, as our ancestors migrated away from the equator, they encountered environmental changes, such as less food and other resources. "So you have to be a little bit more clever to figure it out," said David Geary, a professor from the University of Missouri. Also, less parasite exposure could have played a role in the makings of a bigger brain. When your body combats parasites, it cranks up its immune system, which uses up calories that could have gone to boost brain development. Since there are fewer parasites farther away from the equator, migrating north or south could have meant that our predecessors had more opportunity to grow a larger brain because their bodies were not fighting off as many pathogens.


Finally, other researchers think that social competition for scarce resources influenced brain size. As populations grow, more people are contesting for the same number of resources, the thinking goes. Those with a higher social status, who are "a little bit smarter than other folks" will have more access to food and other goods, and their offspring will have a higher chance of survival, Geary said.


Those who are not as socially adept will die off, pushing up the average social "fitness" of the group. "It's that type of process, that competition within a species, for status, for control of resources, that cycles over and over again through multiple generations, that is a process that could easily explain a very, very rapid increase in brain size," Geary said.

Weighing the options

To examine which hypothesis is more likely, Geary and graduate student Drew Bailey analyzed data from 175 skull fossils — from humans and our ancestors — that date back to sometime between 10,000 ago and 2 million years ago.


The team looked at multiple factors, including how old the fossils were, where they were found, what the temperature was and how much the temperature varied at the time the Homo species lived, and the level of parasites in the area. They also looked at the population density of the region in order to measure social competition, "assuming that the more fossils you find in a particular area at a particular time, the more likely the population was larger," Geary said.


They then used a statistical analysis to test all of the variables at once to see how well they predicted brain size. "By far the best predictor was population density," Geary said. "And in fact, it seemed that there was very little change in brain size across our sample of fossil skulls until we hit a certain population size. Once that population density was hit, there was a very quick increase in brain size," he said.


Looking at all the variables together allowed the researchers to "separate out which variables are really important and which variables may be correlated for other reasons," added Geary. While the climate variables were still significant, their importance was much lower than that of population density, he said. The results were published in the March 2009 issue of the journal Human Nature.


Questions linger

The social competition hypothesis "sounds good," said Ralph Holloway, an anthropologist at Columbia University, who studies human brain evolution. But, he adds: "How would you ever go about really testing that with hard data?" 

He points out that the sparse cranium data "doesn’t tell you anything about the differences in populations for Homo erectus, or the differences in populations of Neanderthals." For example, the number of Homo erectus crania that have been found in Africa, Asia, Indonesia and parts of Europe is fewer than 25, and represent the population over hundreds of thousands of years, he said. 

"You can't even know the variation within a group let alone be certain of differences between groups," Holloway said. Larger skulls would be considered successful, but "how would you be able to show that these were in competition?" 

However, Holloway is supportive of the research. "I think these are great ideas that really should be pursued a little bit more," he said. 

Alternative hypotheses

Holloway has another hypothesis for how our brains got so big. He thinks that perhaps increased gestation time in the womb or increased dependency time of children on adults could have a played role. The longer gestation or dependency time "would have required more social cooperation and cognitive sophistication on the part of the parents," he said. Males and females would have needed to differentiate their social roles in a complementary way to help nurture the child. The higher level of cognition needed to perform these tasks could have led to an increase in brain size.


Still other hypotheses look at diet as a factor. Some researchers think that diets high in fish and shellfish could have provided our ancestors with the proper nutrients they needed to grow a big brain.
And another idea is that a decreased rate of cell death may have allowed more brain neurons to be synthesized, leading to bigger noggins. 

Ultimately, no theory can be absolutely proven, and the scant fossil record makes it hard to test hypotheses. "If you calculate a generation as, let's say, 20 years, and you know that any group has to have a minimal breeding size, then the number of fossils that we have that demonstrates hominid evolution is something like 0.000001 percent," Holloway said. "So frankly, I mean, all hypotheses look good."

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Congress may force TSA to test body scanners for radiation

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by Alexander Frantzis

(NaturalNews) Ever since Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff made a fortune selling his naked body scanners to the federal government in 2010, health and privacy concerns over these devices have been bo...

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John F. Kennedy vs The Federal Reserve

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John P. Curran

On June 4, 1963, a virtually unknown Presidential decree, Executive Order 11110, was signed with the authority to basically strip the Bank of its power to loan money to the United States Federal Government at ...

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Male hormone production occurs in the bones, study finds

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by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The bones in men's bodies serve a much greater purpose than simply the "mere assembly of inert calcified tubes," says a new study out of Columbia University. Published ...

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Cell phones as bad as x-rays

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Would you allow 1600 chest x-rays for yourself or your child?

Some scientists say that’s what 24 hours of cell phone use amounts to. Here’s visual proof.

Slide one (top left) shows a normal healthy cell under ...

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China devalues US buying power by 30%, Protects US Treasury Holdings

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Jan. 19, 2011, 5:10 PM

By Jack H. Barnes

Jack H. Barnes is a former trader and hedge fund manager who blogs at jackhbarnes.com

The trade imbalance between the US and China, a hot button between the nations for the last dec...

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