Science & Technology


Last Supper gets 16bn pixel boost

A 16 billion pixel image of Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper has been posted on the internet, allowing art lovers close up details of the 15th Century work.

Comment: For a deeper insight into this mysterious painting, see Laura Knight-Jadczyk's article: The True Identity of Fulcanelli and The Da Vinci Code.


Human race will 'split into two different species'

The human race will one day split into two separate species, an attractive, intelligent ruling elite and an underclass of dim-witted, ugly goblin-like creatures, according to a top scientist.

Comment: This is not such a harmless joke as it may seem. Recent social changes and scientific advances certainly corroborate the old prediction that H.G. Wells had made. All over the world inequality is rising, while upward mobility is stagnating, which contributes to the physical and reproductive isolation of classes from one another. Additionally, technologies for genetic enhancement are beginning to be discussed; like plastic surgery, they will be available primarily to the upper class, further separating people.

The author of the current hypothesis, Oliver Curry, has a background in political sciences. His interest is in evolutionary explanation of social, moral and political behavior. He is a member of the interdisciplinary research group called EMPG (the Evolutionary Moral Psychology Group) that hopes to understand human morality using "recent advances in evolutionary biology,game theory, animal behaviour, evolutionary psychology and neuroscience". In other words, they say that we do good unto others because it ultimately serves ourselves or our genes.

Dr. Curry's current work aims to "deepen and extend this evolutionary account of morality by turning some of the predictions that evolutionary theory makes about human moral and political psychology into tractable experiments, and putting them to the test. This includes work on the evolution of patience, on attitudes to abortion, and on moral decision-making in psychopaths."

It is ironic that to explain altruism, Dr. Curry uses a framework that glorifies selfishness (evolutionary or otherwise). Even so, he can't help noting that the current societal trends lead to the rise of psychopathic behavior. An older BBC NEWS story on this same subject quotes him as follows:

Spoiled by gadgets designed to meet their every need, they [people] could come to resemble domesticated animals. [..] Social skills, such as communicating and interacting with others, could be lost, along with emotions such as love, sympathy, trust and respect. People would become less able to care for others, or perform in teams.

The problem with Dr. Curry's overall conclusion is that psychopaths have no concept about the long-term effect of their actions. This is precisely why they are 'amoral' in a conventional sense of the word that Dr. Curry and his colleagues are sticking to. Psychopaths view other people and their whole environment as an expendable resource. It doesn't occur to them that when they trash everything around them, they themselves will to be destroyed.

It is obvious to anyone who follows the news that we don't have 100,000 years to split into two morphologically different subspecies, nor do we have a thousand years to get to live for 120 years.

On the other hand, one can say that psychopaths do represent a distinct sub-species of Homo sapiensl. They look the same as the guy next to you, but their evolutionary survival strategy is different: instead of cooperating with others, they feed on them. This is eerily similar to how Morlocks feed on helpless Elois, while the latter are ignorant of danger even though they feel it unconsciously.

The world is burning NOW. It behooves one to descend from the ivory tower and face the grim reality.


Researchers Uncover Physics of Coiling Ropes

When a mountain climber drops a rope, it often forms a series of coils on the ground. Not only thick ropes, but also sewing thread and even cooked spaghetti behave in a similar way. Recently, scientists have carried out the first controlled laboratory experiments on the peculiar phenomenon of coiling ropes, revealing the surprising dynamics behind it.

Researchers Mehdi Habibi, Neil Ribe, and Daniel Bonn, together representing the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences in Iran, the École Normale Supérieure and the Institut de Physique du Globe in Paris, and the University of Amsterdam, have published their results on the coiling of elastic ropes in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters.
Black Cat

Psychopathy of the animal world: Humans and monkeys share Machiavellian intelligence

When it comes to their social behavior, people sometimes act like monkeys, or more specifically, like rhesus macaques, a type of monkey that shares with humans strong tendencies for nepotism and political maneuvering, according to research by Dario Maestripieri, an expert on primate behavior and an Associate Professor in Comparative Human Development and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago.

"After humans, rhesus macaques are one of the most successful primate species on our planet; our Machiavellian intelligence may be one of the reasons for our success" wrote Maestripieri in his new book Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World.

Comment: They are "successful" if by success the author mean "ruthless and soulless pathocratic existence on the path of inevitable self destruction".

Maestripieri has been studying monkeys for more than 20 years and has written extensively on their behavior. He has studied them in Europe, at a research center in Atlanta, and on an island in Puerto Rico, where researchers established a rhesus macaque colony for scientific and breeding purposes.

Comment: It could not be farther from the truth. In fact, it seems that Maestripieri's fascination with fascist society of the animal world blinds him from realizing an obvious fact - that love, nobility and compassion can't be developed in a pathological mind, be it human or animal, small or large.


Researchers posit new ideas about human migration from Asia to Americas

Questions about human migration from Asia to the Americas have perplexed anthropologists for decades, but as scenarios about the peopling of the New World come and go, the big questions have remained. Do the ancestors of Native Americans derive from only a small number of "founders" who trekked to the Americas via the Bering land bridge? How did their migration to the New World proceed? What, if anything, did the climate have to do with their migration? And what took them so long?

A team of 21 researchers, led by Ripan Malhi, a geneticist in the department of anthropology at the University of Illinois, has a new set of ideas. One is a striking hypothesis that seems to map the peopling process during the pioneering phase and well beyond, and at the same time show that there was much more genetic diversity in the founder population than was previously thought.

Cold spot could be relic of Big Bang

A cold spot in the oldest radiation in the universe could be the first sign of a cosmic glitch that might have originated shortly after the Big Bang, British and Spanish scientists said on Thursday.

©REUTERS/NASA/WMAP Science Team/Handout
An undated image of the infant universe with "warmer" spots represented by red and "cooler" spots represented by blue, produced by NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe satellite.

Storm Worm retaliates against security researchers

New features of botnets created by the infamous Storm Worm allow denial of service attacks to be launched against security defenders that attempt to interrupt its operation.

Attempts to probe command-and-control servers can result in a withering counter-attack of malicious traffic that can swamp the internet connections of security activists for days, according to Josh Korman, host-protection architect the ISS security division of IBM.

Ancient DNA reveals that some Neanderthals were redheads

Ancient DNA retrieved from the bones of two Neanderthals suggests that at least some of them had red hair and pale skin, scientists report this week in the journal Science. The international team says that Neanderthals' pigmentation may even have been as varied as that of modern humans, and that at least 1 percent of Neanderthals were likely redheads.

The scientists -- led by Holger Römpler of Harvard University and the University of Leipzig, Carles Lalueza-Fox of the University of Barcelona, and Michael Hofreiter of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig -- extracted, amplified, and sequenced a pigmentation gene called MC1R from the bones of a 43,000-year-old Neanderthal from El Sidrón, Spain, and a 50,000-year-old individual from Monti Lessini, Italy.
Better Earth

Sudden Naked-Eye Comet Shocks the Astronomy World

A distant comet that was as faint as magnitude 18 on October 20th has suddenly brightened by a millionfold, altering the naked-eye appearance of the constellation Perseus.

This startling outburst of Comet Holmes (17P) may be even stronger than the one that occurred 115 years ago, in November 1892, when the comet was first spotted by English amateur Edwin Holmes.

1955 'Origin of Life' Paper Retracted by Author

In January 1955, Homer Jacobson, a chemistry professor at Brooklyn College, published a paper called "Information, Reproduction and the Origin of Life" in American Scientist, the journal of Sigma Xi, the scientific honor society.

In it, Dr. Jacobson speculated on the chemical qualities of earth in Hadean time, billions of years ago when the planet was beginning to cool down to the point where, as Dr. Jacobson put it, "one could imagine a few hardy compounds could survive."

Nobody paid much attention to the paper at the time, he said in a telephone interview from his home in Tarrytown, N.Y. But today it is winning Dr. Jacobson acclaim that he does not want - from creationists who cite it as proof that life could not have emerged on earth without divine intervention.