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‘Personhood Amendment’ Fails To Make Montana’s Ballot

‘Personhood Amendment’ Fails To Make Montana’s Ballot | Humanism | Scoop.it
Anti-choice advocates failed to gather enough signatures to get a so-called personhood measure onto the Montana ballot.
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Greenland and Antarctica Are Losing Ice at a Stunning Rate According to New Study

Greenland and Antarctica Are Losing Ice at a Stunning Rate According to New Study | Humanism | Scoop.it
This is not good news. A new international study—done by 47 experts using data from multiple satellites and aircraft—shows that the Earth is losing ice at an ever-increasing rate from both poles.
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Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change - slime molds redefine intelligence

Single-celled amoebae can remember, make decisions and anticipate change - slime molds redefine intelligence | Humanism | Scoop.it

Gardeners sometimes encounter them in their backyards—spongy yellow masses squatting in the dirt or slowly swallowing wood chips. Hikers often spot them clinging to the sides of rotting logs like spilled bowls of extra cheesy macaroni. In Mexico some people reportedly scrape their tender bodies from trees and rocks and scramble them like eggs. They are slime molds: gelatinous amoebae that have little to do with the kinds of fungal mold that ruin sourdough and pumpernickel. Biologists currently classify slime molds as protists, a taxonomic group reserved for "everything we don't really understand," says Chris Reid of the University of Sydney.

 

Something scientists have come to understand is that slime molds are much smarter than they look. One species in particular, the SpongeBob SquarePants–yellow Physarum polycephalum, can solve mazes, mimic the layout of man-made transportation networks and choose the healthiest food from a diverse menu—and all this without a brain or nervous system. "Slime molds are redefining what you need to have to qualify as intelligent," Reid says.

 

In the wild, P. polycephalum rummages through leaf litter and oozes along logs searching for the bacteria, fungal spores and other microbes that it envelops and digests à la the amorphous alien in the 1958 horror film The Blob. Although P. polycephalum often acts like a colony of cooperative individuals foraging together, it in fact spends most of its life as a single cell containing millions of nuclei, small sacs of DNA, enzymes and proteins. This one cell is a master shape-shifter. P. polycephalum takes on different appearances depending on where and how it is growing: In the forest it might fatten itself into giant yellow globs or remain as unassuming as a smear of mustard on the underside of a leaf; in the lab, confined to a petri dish, it usually spreads itself thin across the agar, branching like coral. Biologists first brought the slime mold into the lab more than three decades ago to study the way it moves—which has a lot in common with they way muscles work on the molecular level—and to examine the way it reattaches itself when split. "In the earliest research, no one thought it could make choices or behave in seemingly intelligent ways," Reid explains. That thinking has completely changed.

 

Navigating a maze is a pretty impressive feat for a slime mold, but the protist is in fact capable of solving more complex spatial problems: Inside laboratories slime molds have effectively re-created Tokyo's railway network in miniature as well as the highways of Canada, the U.K. and Spain. When researchers placed oat flakes or other bits of food in the same positions as big cities and urban areas, slime molds first engulfed the entirety of the edible maps. Within a matter of days, however, the protists thinned themselves away, leaving behind interconnected branches of slime that linked the pieces of food in almost exactly the same way that man-made roads and rail lines connect major hubs in Tokyo, Europe and Canada. In other words, a single-celled brainless amoebae did not grow living branches between pieces of food in a random manner; rather, they behaved like a team of human engineers, growing the most efficient networks possible. Just as engineers design railways to get people from one city to another as quickly as possible, given the terrain—only laying down the building materials that are needed—the slime molds hit upon the most economical routes from one morsel to another, conserving energy. Andrew Adamatzky of the University of the West of England Bristol and other researchers were so impressed with the protists' behaviors that they have proposed using slime molds to help plan future roadway construction, either with a living protist or a computer program that adopts its decision-making process. Researchers have also simulated real-world geographic constraints like volcanoes and bodies of water by confronting the slime mold with deterrents that it must circumvent, such as bits of salt or beams of light.

 

Compared with most organisms, slime molds have been on the planet for a very long time—they first evolved at least 600 million years ago and perhaps as long as one billion years ago. At the time, no organisms had yet evolved brains or even simple nervous systems. Yet slime molds do not blindly ooze from one place to another—they carefully explore their environments, seeking the most efficient routes between resources. They do not accept whatever circumstances they find themselves in, but rather choose conditions most amenable to their survival. They remember, anticipate and decide. By doing so much with so little, slime molds represent a successful and admirable alternative to convoluted brain-based intelligence. You might say that they break the mold.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Newly evolved gene may have changed humans' brains

Newly evolved gene may have changed humans' brains | Humanism | Scoop.it
Not the only gene that separates us from other apes, but an interesting one.

Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Ten Commitments: Guiding Principles for Teaching Values in America’s Public Schools

Ten Commitments: Guiding Principles for Teaching Values in America’s Public Schools | Humanism | Scoop.it
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The-Observable-Universe.jpg (3850x1925 pixels)

The-Observable-Universe.jpg (3850x1925 pixels) | Humanism | Scoop.it

A large poster of this sequence should be displayed on a wall in every science classroom in the US.


Via Religulous
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Social Network Size Linked to Brain Size

Social Network Size Linked to Brain Size | Humanism | Scoop.it

Our brains are not as large as they are in order to provide each of us with the raw computational power to think our way out of a sticky situation, instead our brain size helps each of us to deal with the large and complex network of relationships we rely on to thrive.


Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Scientists find new human species

Scientists find new human species | Humanism | Scoop.it
Fossils from Northern Kenya show that a new species of human lived two million years ago, researchers say.

Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Social Banking

Social Banking | Humanism | Scoop.it

The time and energy we can invest in others socially – in terms of building and maintaining friendships – is a lot like money; we cannot spend it in two places at once. Given that we have a limited budget with which to build and maintain relationships, it’s of vital importance for some cognitive system to assess the probability of social returns from its investment; likewise, individuals have a vested interest in manipulating that assessment in others in order to further their goals.


Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Mariana Soffer's comment, July 19, 2012 3:08 AM
Thanks for this Sakis
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500 Million-Year-Old 'Mistake' Led to Humans : Discovery News

500 Million-Year-Old 'Mistake' Led to Humans : Discovery News | Humanism | Scoop.it
Over 500 million years ago a spineless creature experienced two doublings in DNA, triggering the evolution of humans and other animals.

Via Ben C. O. Grimm
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Survey finds 19% without religious affiliation

Survey finds 19% without religious affiliation | Humanism | Scoop.it
People who check "None" for their religious affiliation are now nearly one in five Americans.
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Evolution: It's a Thing - Crash Course Biology #20

Hank gets real with us in a discussion of evolution - it's a thing, not a debate. Gene distribution changes over time, across successive generations, to give...
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The Humanist, a magazine of critical inquiry and social concern

The Humanist, a magazine of critical inquiry and social concern | Humanism | Scoop.it

An interview with Richard Leakey, world famous paleoanthropologist, in The Humanist provides an in-depth look at a fascinating man.

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NCSE | National Center for Science Education - Defending the Teaching of Evolution & Climate Science

NCSE | National Center for Science Education - Defending the Teaching of Evolution & Climate Science | Humanism | Scoop.it
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Mind-Controlled Artificial Limbs Fusing Man and Machine Coming Next Year

Mind-Controlled Artificial Limbs Fusing Man and Machine Coming Next Year | Humanism | Scoop.it
A postdoctoral student has developed a technique for implanting thought-controlled robotic arms and their electrodes directly to the bones and nerves of amputees, a move which he is calling "the future of artificial limbs." The first volunteers...

Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality?

Can a Jellyfish Unlock the Secret of Immortality? | Humanism | Scoop.it
The little creature of the sea that appears to debunk the most fundamental law of the natural world: you are born, and then you die.

Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Evolution Resources from the National Academies

Evolution Resources from the National Academies | Humanism | Scoop.it
Evolution Resources from the National Academies.
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Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science | Humanism | Scoop.it
It is time to leave superstition behind and embrace the beauty and challenges of the world without supernatural beings.
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[VIDEO] Michio Kaku: The Universe in a Nutshell

What if we could find one single equation that explains every force in the universe? Dr. Michio Kaku explores how physicists may shrink the science of the Big Bang into an equation as small as Einstein's "e=mc^2." Thanks to advances in string theory, physics may allow us to escape the heat death of the universe, explore the multiverse, and unlock the secrets of existence. While firing up our imaginations about the future, Kaku also presents a succinct history of physics and makes a compelling case for why physics is the key to pretty much everything.


Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Division of labor offers insight into the evolution cells

Division of labor offers insight into the evolution cells | Humanism | Scoop.it
Dividing tasks among different individuals is a more efficient way to get things done, whether you are an ant, a honeybee or a human.

Via Sakis Koukouvis
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Two separate extinctions brought end to dinosaur era

Two separate extinctions brought end to dinosaur era | Humanism | Scoop.it

The mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was almost unprecedented in its size. There may be a simple reason why three-quarters of Earth's species disappeared during the event – there were actually two extinctions at the end of the Cretaceous, each devastating species in distinct environments. Famously, the dinosaurs met their end when a massive meteorite crashed into Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula around 65 million years ago. The extinction paved the way for the rapid evolutionary diversification of mammals.

 

Tom Tobin from the University of Washington in Seattle found two layers in the rocks, which formed in a shallow sea, where several species of shelled animals went extinct. One of the layers dates to the time of the impact, but the other layer is 40 metres below. Dating showed that the lower extinction occurred some 150,000 years before the meteorite hit – at the peak of the Indian eruptions. Tobin's team looked at isotopic ratios in the rock to work out the temperatures at the time: the first extinction followed a 7 °C rise in polar ocean temperatures – probably a result of global warming triggered by the Indian volcanism. Comparable numbers of species in the region went extinct in each event. Surprisingly, though, the types of animals affected differed strikingly.

 

The case for multiple factors contributing to the extinction is adding up, says David Archibald, a vertebrate palaeontologist recently retired from San Diego State University, California, who was not involved in either study. "I'm not suggesting the [meteorite] impact didn't have tremendous effects, and it probably was necessary for the extinctions, but there were other things leading up to it," he says.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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How Many Species Are There, Where Are They, How Fast Are They Going Extinct And What Can We Do?

Lecturer: Stuart Pimm, Duke University, USA "Taxonomy, Biodiversity & Beyond: Global Change Science & Society", A scientific meeting that was held at the Tel Aviv University


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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How to suck at your religion - The Oatmeal

How to suck at your religion - The Oatmeal | Humanism | Scoop.it

A very funny primer on the utter strangeness of religious belief.

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‘Personhood Amendment’ Fails To Make Montana’s Ballot

‘Personhood Amendment’ Fails To Make Montana’s Ballot | Humanism | Scoop.it
Anti-choice advocates failed to gather enough signatures to get a so-called personhood measure onto the Montana ballot.
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What Do Obama and Romney Know about Science? And Why It Matters | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network

What Do Obama and Romney Know about Science? And Why It Matters | Observations, Scientific American Blog Network | Humanism | Scoop.it
Scientific American is partnering with the folks at ScienceDebate.org and more than a dozen leading science and engineering organizations to try to inject more discussion about ...
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American Humanist Association

American Humanist Association | Humanism | Scoop.it
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