Phys .org: Pace of prehistoric human innovation could be revealed by ‘linguistic thermometer’

Phys .org: Pace of prehistoric human innovation could be revealed by ‘linguistic thermometer’. “Multi-disciplinary researchers at The University of Manchester have helped develop a powerful physics-based tool to map the pace of language development and human innovation over thousands of years—even stretching into pre-history before records were kept.”

National University of Singapore: Darwin’s handwritten pages from On the Origin of Species go online

National University of Singapore: Darwin’s handwritten pages from On the Origin of Species go online. “An extraordinary collection of priceless manuscripts of naturalist Charles Darwin goes online today, including two rare pages from the original draft of On the Origin of Species. These documents will be added to Darwin Online, a website which contains not only the complete works of Darwin, but is possibly the most comprehensive scholarly portal on any historical individual in the world. The website is helmed by Dr John van Wyhe, an eminent historian of science. He is a Senior Lecturer at NUS Biological Sciences and Tembusu College.”

Arizona State University: Using evolution to think about the pandemic suggests SARS-CoV-2 can affect social behaviors

Arizona State University: Using evolution to think about the pandemic suggests SARS-CoV-2 can affect social behaviors. “An ensemble of scientists, with expertise in psychology, biology, neuroscience and medicine, has authored a paper that uses an evolutionary perspective to interpret and assess the COVID-19 pandemic. The novel SARS-CoV-2 virus has infected more than 40 million people and killed more than 1 million worldwide. It has also severely impacted the global economy.”

New York Times: DNA Linked to Covid-19 Was Inherited From Neanderthals, Study Finds

New York Times: DNA Linked to Covid-19 Was Inherited From Neanderthals, Study Finds. “A stretch of DNA linked to Covid-19 was passed down from Neanderthals 60,000 years ago, according to a new study. Scientists don’t yet know why this particular segment increases the risk of severe illness from the coronavirus. But the new findings, which were posted online on Friday and have not yet been published in a scientific journal, show how some clues to modern health stem from ancient history.”

The Theory of Evolution: 5 Cool Sites You Must Visit on Darwin Day (Make Use Of)

MakeUseOf: The Theory of Evolution: 5 Cool Sites You Must Visit on Darwin Day. “When we think about evolution, we mostly focus on the basics: man evolved from primates, life evolved from other life, and so on. While that’s apt, there is so much more to it. Evolution is an interesting branch of science with a million stories waiting to be explored. Plus there’s always the debate about evolution and creationism. Heck, even Google gives answers from creationism sometimes. February 12 is Darwin Day. A day to commemorate the birth of Charles Darwin, the proponent of the theory of evolution. What better reason to refresh your understanding of evolution, and perhaps learn something new?”

Wired: Pop Culture May Evolve at the Same Rate as Birds and Bugs

Wired: Pop Culture May Evolve at the Same Rate as Birds and Bugs. “We like to think modern culture moves at a dizzying pace, fueled by a relentless parade of new works of music, literature, and technological design. Change in nature, by contrast, seems to follow a slower trajectory as genetic mutations over generations give animals bigger teeth, say, or a better camouflage. But maybe the opposite is true, and human culture doesn’t move so fast and we consumers are less eager to embrace change than we realize.”

Ars Technica: State legislation could accidentally mess up science education

Ars Technica: State legislation could accidentally mess up science education. “…this year, three states have seen measures introduced that could interfere with science education, but only accidentally. In a bid to keep ‘controversial issues’ out of the classroom, the bills would call for teachers not to advocate on any topics that have appeared in the platform of a state political party. In the US, that would include evolution and climate change.”

The Harvard Gazette: Fish teeth mark periods of evolution

The Harvard Gazette: Fish teeth mark periods of evolution. “Elizabeth Sibert is rewriting the story of how the asteroid impact that killed off the dinosaurs affected fish, and she’s doing it one tooth at a time. Based on close examination of thousands of fossilized fish teeth, Sibert, a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows, found that while the impact did cause some fish species to die off, it also set the stage for two periods of rapid evolution among marine life….Going forward, Sibert said she hopes to continue to build a database of fossil teeth and is working with collections at Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology (MCZ) to connect the ancient teeth with modern fish.”

New-to-Me: A Database of Bird Coloring

New-to-me: a database of bird colors. The link is from ResearchGate, and from the link: “The plumage colour of birds is a model system in evolutionary biology. The most precise way to objectively measure bird plumage colouration is through physics based spectrophotometry. Many labs around the world have collected plumage colour data from museum specimens but generally focus on a particular family or geographic group. For the last couple of years I have been contacting like minded scientists to pool all of this data into the largest database of precise measures of bird plumage colouration. All incoming data is standardised by mentor and heavy weight of colour science Prof. John Endler. We currently have coverage of over 2500 species and will increase to cover most families across the class Aves with the addition of our 10th lab member! Details of upcoming comparative projects coming soon. Watch this space..” There’s also […]

The Atlantic: Huge DNA Databases Reveal the Recent Evolution of Humans

The Atlantic: Huge DNA Databases Reveal the Recent Evolution of Humans . “When we talk about human evolution, we usually talk about how we evolved into humans: how we lost body hair, gained brain mass, started to walk on two feet—in short, things that happened millions of years ago. But evolution did not stop when the first modern humans emerged. A new study of two massive genetic databases—one in the United Kingdom and one in California—suggests genetic mutations that shorten lifespans have been weeded out since, and are possibly still in the process of being weeded out today.”

Quartz: Researchers are using Darwin’s theories to evolve AI, so only the strongest algorithms survive

Quartz: Researchers are using Darwin’s theories to evolve AI, so only the strongest algorithms survive. “For the better part of three decades, most of AI’s brain-inspired development has surrounded “neural networks,” a term borrowed from neurobiology that describes machine thought as the movement of data through interconnected mathematical functions called neurons. But nature has other good ideas, too: Computer scientists are now revisiting an older field of study that suggests putting AI through evolutionary processes, like those that molded the human brain over millennia, could help us develop smarter, more efficient algorithms.”

Database of Quaternary Fossils from Sahul Now Available

Now available: a database of fossils from Sahul. Specifically: Quaternary, non-human, vertebrates. “This, the FosSahul database, includes 9,302 fossil records from 363 deposits, for a total of 478 species within 215 genera, of which 27 are from extinct and extant megafaunal species (2,559 records). We also provide a rating of reliability of individual absolute age based on the dating protocols and association between the dated materials and the fossil remains. Our proposed rating system identified 2,422 records with high-quality ages (i.e., a reduction of 74%). There are many applications of the database, including disentangling the confounding influences of hypothetical extinction drivers, better spatial distribution estimates of species relative to palaeo-climates, and potentially identifying new areas for fossil discovery.”