Posts Tagged ‘australopithecine

09
Oct
13

Why Are People Right-handed?

Twining ivy

Twining ivy

Plants are left or right-handed. Look at them. They grow toward one direction, not

necessarily due to the sun. You’re probably most familiar with plants that have tendrils, or twine their way up a post  or fence. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that they form consistent right- or left-handed helices as they climb.

Non-human primates are balanced as far as handedness goes–some left, some right–as were Australopithecines. But when our genus Homo arrived, we became more likely right-handed.

Why? Take a guess before you read the article below. Defense? Hunting? Some requirement of balance with our upright position? Maybe a relationship between the right hand and left brain?

Read on.

The Origins of Handedness – Origins

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14
Oct
09

The Brilliance of Man’s Mind

If there’s one skill man excels at–beyond every other living creature–it’s problem solving. Nothing stops us from coming up with solutions. No economic system. No political repression. No prison. No paucity of education or any other factor considered critical to thinking. Man transcends any and all mental shackles as though he can’t stop himself. Like an addiction to thinking. A passion for the cerebral. A primal need.

My theory: Man’s big brain is the result not of tool making or upright stature, but our penchant for thinking. Because, nn0302-190-F1like any muscle in the body, the more we have used our brains, the more they grow, and since the days of Homo habilis–or even Australopithecines–we have used our brains to invent tools, to plan, to communicate. Look at other mammals. When they’re not searching for food, they’re resting or sleeping. Not early man. When he finished hunting, he created tools, gathered food to feed infants and nursing mothers, planned hunts, figured out defenses from predators. All that thinking grew our brain.

Today, two million years into the genus Homo‘s arrival, we have another example of our dauntingly brilliant brain. Read on.

Nobel Prize for chemistry goes to Israeli, 2 Americans

by Dan Vergano, USA TODAY

Unraveling the machinery that generates proteins within cells, a discovery that offered new avenues to antibiotics, has earned two Americans and an Israeli the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, 57, of the United Kingdom’s MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology; Thomas Steitz, 69, of Yale; and Israel’s Ada Yonath, 70, of the Weizmann Institute of Science will share the $1.4 million prize equally. Working separately, the trio cracked the chemistry of the “ribosome” inside every cell and showed “how the DNA code is translated into life,” Gunnar Öquist of the Royal Swedish Academy said at Wednesday’s announcement.

NOBEL IN PHYSICS: 3 Americans win

“It seemed a bit like climbing Mount Everest. We knew it was doable, in theory. But we didn’t know how to get there,” Steitz said. “When we got it, it was the most exhilarating moment I’ve had in science.”

“Everyone recognized this was on the short list for the prize,” said Jeremy Berg, director of the federal National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health that funded all three winners for parts of their research. “We’re terribly pleased but not terribly surprised.”

Inside cells, thousands of ribosomes hook up with messenger RNA molecules carrying bits of genetic code. The codes tell ribosomes to spit out proteins, the building blocks of blood, bone, brain and every other tissue. How these machines work had been a mystery without knowing the structure of the ribosome itself.

In 1980, Yonath first reported X-rays of crystallized ribosomes taken from microbes that thrive at high-temperature in the Dead Sea. The images began to reveal the shape of the ribosome. She later showed that freezing crystallized ribosomes also could lead to better X-rays of their structure.

Steitz and Ramakrishnan, a U.S. citizen, tackled higher-resolution X-rays of the small and large halves of the ribosomes, respectively. All three winners produced definitive images of the ribosome’s structure in 2000.

“Proteins are workhorses of the cell. Almost no other process is so fundamental,” Berg said.

Steitz noted the ribosome work led to designs for antibiotics to combat infections such as drug-resistant staph. It also helped researchers understand the evolution of life, where at its core, the ribosome is built of RNA, not proteins, answering questions about how early life produced its own building blocks. An “RNA world” likely existed before microbes moved on to producing DNA and proteins billions of years ago, he suggested.

“Life is chemistry, and I think the award is well-deserved,” said Thomas Lane of the American Chemical Society in Washington, D.C. Yonath is the first woman to win the chemistry Nobel since 1964, he noted, although half of U.S. chemistry degrees now go to women. “I think we’ll see more.”


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21
Aug
09

Why Are People Right-handed?

Twining ivy

Twining ivy

Plants are left or right-handed. Look at them. They grow toward one direction, not

necessarily due to the sun. You’re probably most familiar with plants that have tendrils, or twine their way up a post  or fence. If you look more closely, you’ll notice that they form consistent right- or left-handed helices as they climb.

Non-human primates are balanced as far as handedness goes–some left, some right–as were Australopithecines. But when our genus Homo arrived, we became more likely right-handed.

Why? Take a guess before you read the article below. Defense? Hunting? Some requirement of balance with our upright position? Maybe a relationship between the right hand and left brain?

Read on.

The Origins of Handedness – Origins

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Discover the sizzle in science. It's not that stuff that's always for the smart kids. It's the need to know. The passion for understanding. The absolute belief that for every problem, there is a solution. The creative mind seeking truth in a world of mystery. The quest for the Holy Grail.

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Assembling California
Born On A Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant
The Forest People
Geology Underfoot in Southern California
The Land's Wild Music: Encounters with Barry Lopez, Peter Matthiessen, Terry Tempest William, and James Galvin
My Life with the Chimpanzees
Naked Earth: The New Geophysics
Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are
The Runaway Brain: The Evolution of Human Uniqueness
Sand Rivers
The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body
The Tree Where Man Was Born
The Wildlife of Southern Africa: A Field Guide to the Animal and Plants of the Region
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RSS Fact and Fiction about Early Man

  • The Old Way: A Story of the First People October 4, 2017
    author: Elizabeth Marshall Thomas name: Jacqui average rating: 4.19 book published: 2006 rating: 5 read at: 2017/10/04 date added: 2017/10/04 shelves: history, early-man review: […]
    Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  • Ki'ti's Story, 75,000 BC December 11, 2016
    author: Bonnye Matthews name: Jacqui average rating: 4.29 book published: 2012 rating: 5 read at: 2016/12/11 date added: 2016/12/11 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Bonnye Matthews
  • Meeting Prehistoric Man October 4, 2014
    author: GHR von Koenigswald name: Jacqui average rating: 4.00 book published: 1492 rating: 5 read at: 2014/10/04 date added: 2014/10/04 shelves: early-man review: Meeting Prehistoric Man by GHR Von Koenigswald is a journey throughout the world in discovery of early man as paleoanthropologists understood him during VonKoenigswald's time, circa 1950' […]
    GHR von Koenigswald
  • Letters from the Field, 1925-1975 September 13, 2014
    author: Margaret Mead name: Jacqui average rating: 4.17 book published: 1977 rating: 5 read at: 2014/09/13 date added: 2014/09/13 shelves: early-man review: If you didn't read my last week's post, you may wonder why I am so excited about Margaret Mead's eye-opening book, Letters From the Field. Even if you read me last week, you may wonder--I […]
    Margaret Mead
  • The Unfolding of Language: An Evolutionary Tour of Mankind's Greatest Invention January 12, 2014
    author: Guy Deutscher name: Jacqui average rating: 4.17 book published: 2005 rating: 3 read at: date added: 2014/01/12 shelves: early-man, research review: Dr. Deutscher has done a scholarly, thorough discussion on the roots of language, but I believe he started too late in time. I'm of the persuasion that language involves more than the spoken word. I […]
    Guy Deutscher
  • She Who remembers November 3, 2013
    author: Linda Lay Shuler name: Jacqui average rating: 4.11 book published: 1988 rating: 4 read at: date added: 2013/11/03 shelves: early-man review: […]
    Linda Lay Shuler
  • The Runaway Brain: The Evolution Of Human Uniqueness July 25, 2011
    author: Christopher Wills name: Jacqui average rating: 4.12 book published: 1993 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: science, early-man review: In my lifelong effort to understand what makes us human, I long ago arrived at the lynchpin to that discussion: our brain. Even though bipedalism preceded big brains, and we couldn't be who we are […]
    Christopher Wills
  • The Origin Of Humankind July 25, 2011
    author: Richard E. Leakey name: Jacqui average rating: 3.97 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, history review: If you're interested in man's roots, there are several authors you must read: Birute Galdikas Dian Fosse Donald Johanson GHR Von Koenigsman Glen Isaacs Jared Diamond Ian Tattersell Lev Vygots […]
    Richard E. Leakey
  • Lucy: the beginnings of humankind July 24, 2011
    author: Donald C. Johanson name: Jacqui average rating: 4.11 book published: 1981 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I read this book when I was writing a paleo-historic drama of the life of earliest man. My characters were Homo habilines, but they cohabited Africa with Australopithecines, so to understand the co-st […]
    Donald C. Johanson
  • Through a Window: My Thirty Years with the Chimpanzees of Gombe July 24, 2011
    author: Jane Goodall name: Jacqui average rating: 4.25 book published: 1990 rating: 5 read at: date added: 2011/07/24 shelves: early-man, science review: I have read every book that Jane Goodall wrote. She has an easy-going writing style that shares scientific principals easily with the layman. Probably because when she started, she was little more than a no […]
    Jane Goodall
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