Possible reason for Homo floresiensis (“Hobbit”) extinction

Remember the small species of humans Homo floresiensis (dubbed “Hobbits” by the media) discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia in 2003? This possible species existed with modern man from 93,000 to 13,000. Interestingly, the natives had legends of small people in the jungle… Dr. H.J.M. (Hanneke) Meijer has some interesting comparisons between the estimated size of the short-statured, long-armed, and large-footed cousin of ours Homo floresiensis and aviary fauna. That bird at 1.8m look like it could eat 1.0m. Never underestimate man’s capacity to kill– even if he is a Hobbit. These might have been the delicacy of Homo floresiensis or even their only food source. According to this research the island of Flores in Indonesia (despite popular misconceptions from documentaries movies by Peter Jackson, hobbits are not from New Zealand) was for a period an oasis just 4,000 years ago. There was fresh water and if there’s […]

We’re Number One: Pee Your Way to Carbon Neutrality

Remember when I sang the praises of ass-powered electrical generation?  Yeah, well, that’s just the half of the juice you’re flushing away.  Or drinking as part of a bizarre training regimen.  Gerardine Botte of Ohio University has been working on a method of pulling hydrogen out of urine for future fuel cells and Hindenburgs. Tell ’em Chemistry World: Botte says the idea came to her several years ago at a conference on fuel cells, where they were discussing how to turn clean water into clean power. ‘I wondered how we could do this better,’ she adds – so started looking at waste streams as a better source of molecules from which to produce hydrogen. Urine’s major constituent is urea, which incorporates four hydrogen atoms per molecule – importantly, less tightly bonded than the hydrogen atoms in water molecules. Botte used electrolysis to break the molecule apart, developing an inexpensive new nickel-based electrode […]

Wonderworks Presents: Konrad

Spacey Earth mother type receives someone else’s mail.  Surprisingly, mail is not a half kilo of uncut yayo but a barrel containing a dessicated lab-grown boy and a packet of nutrient gel.  Mom’s bad with instructions, the Factory gets steamed that this mistaken delivery is quirking out their prized specimen, Ned Beatty is somehow involved.  Hilarity ensues. This would be another bit of children’s programming most commonly remembered through the haze of a fever dream, the sort of thing that was always playing on PBS at 2 PM on the day you stayed home sick from school.  It bears the Wonderworks stamp, placing it in the company of other book to TV adaptations as the original Chronicles of Narnia and the Hoboken Chicken Emergency.  I’m pretty sure this is the first movie I ever snobbishly asserted was better as a book than as a movie.  Still, where else are you […]

Manners are the Weapon

Last week’s pop science debut of the remains of the early hominid species Ardipithecus ramidus was notable for a variety of reason’s, not the least of which was the secrecy and slow, careful approach of the scientists involved, so different from the half-baked, chuck out speculation for the slavering masses approach of so much of what crops up in my internet drain trap.  I particularly liked Carl Zimmer‘s summary of the findings, with this paragraph catching my eye: White and his colleagues  found so many teeth of different Ardipithecus individuals that they could compare male and female canines with some confidence. The male teeth turn out to be surprisingly blunted. This result suggests that hominids shifted away from a typical ape social structure early in our ancestry. If this was a result of males forming long-term bonds with females and helping raise young, this shift was able to occur while […]

12 Lies Every Douche in a Bar Insists Are True

There are many, many lies we all believe. Every douche at a bar will swear these 12 fictoids are true despite science– As everyone know these things to be ‘true’. Here are twelve of the most common that I have heard recently. Ostriches put their head in sand. If you have seen it, it’s called “Photoshop” as in the case of a recent Newsweek cover. We can all blame Pliny the Elder (23-79 CE) who attempted to catalog all knowledge of the Roman Empire. In Book 10, Chapter 1, he wrote “…they imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of their body is concealed.” Thanks, Pliny. In fairness animals are hard to categorize; for some time it was thought a kangaroo had two heads due to the young baby in tow. Disney is frozen Disney maintained an extremely private life leading to rumors […]

DIY Fix for Global Warming?

“Give me half a tanker of iron and I will give you an ice age.” — Russ George Russ George in the volume 18 issue of Make magazine says he has a solution for global warming. His plan sounds like a deus ex machina solution for our global warming problems: get some iron (0.5 micron hematite), drop it in the ocean, spread at the right times and places, plankton eats iron, plankton grows, and global warming and dying fish go bye-bye. He has also written a Google Knol article (yes, someone uses Google Knol) on the subject as well. His company, Plantoks Science bills themselves as a “privately held ecorestoration and ocean  biotechnology company” though this sounds like “MacGyver style fix to global warming.” Science to the rescue or psuedo-science fraud?

Apollo Landing Module, Footprints, & Experiment Gear Spotted

One of the often touted “the Moon landing was a hoax” statements is “how come the Hubble telescope can’t get a picture of the equipment?” When in reality that makes as much sense as using a microscope to take a photo of a friend. Hubble is designed to look deep into space, not on the moon or some chick’s apartment. Different lenses, different uses. Well, in honor of the 40th anniversary of when man was on the moon NASA released an image from LROC showing not only the hardware left behind from Apollo but experimental gear and even the footprints of astronauts. So there.

Jules the Robot Says Farwell

Jules is a robot designed to invoke human-like responses. The robot is not a fully fledged AI and is programmed to state certain responses such as the infamous “will I dream” speech from 2010: The Year We Make Contact. None the less the simulation is interesting: Jules is designed with a material called Frubber™ which allows human-like expression. Jules borders on the Uncanny Valley a term created by robotocist Masahiro Mori. The uncanny valley refers to how when something looks about “95% human” its often more disturbing that something that looks “30% human.” For example a cartoon figure as a robot seems unthreatening and not disturbing. Yet a human-like robot that is close to human in appearance but has just the slightest irregularities such as not blinking, lack of facial expression, etc. seems more disturbing. That last “5%” is the hardest to replicate.

New Sub Species of Monkey: Mura Saddleback Tamarin

The small gray and brown tamarin monkey which weighs 213 grams (0.47 pound) guy was named Mura’s saddleback tamarin in honor of the Mura tribe. Not an alien life form in a sewer, but much cuter. Read more on the tamarin: New long-tailed monkey discovered in Amazon, MSNBC New monkey discovered in Brazilian Amazon, Reuters Newly Discovered Monkey Threatened by Amazon Development, National Geographic