NEW YORK —
Scientists say they have finally calculated the age of the youngest known remains of Homo erectus, which is generally considered an ancestor of our species.
The fossilized skull fragments and other bones were uncovered on the Indonesian island of Java in the 1930s. Determining their age has been a scientific challenge, and a wide range has been proposed by numerous studies.
In a report released Wednesday by the journal Nature, scientists conclude the remains are between 108,000 and 117,000 years old. Researchers used five dating techniques on sediments and fossil animal bones from the area, combining 52 age estimates for the analysis. The project took 13 years to complete.
“I don’t see any way to date this site more thoroughly,” said paleoanthropologist Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa, an author of the study.
H. erectus arose in Africa about 2 million years ago and spread widely there and in Asia, and possibly into Europe. It reached Java more than 1.5 million years ago, and the new dates suggest it died out at least 35,000 years before the arrival there of our own species, Homo sapiens.
H. erectus may have been doomed on Java by climate change that turned its open woodland environment into rain forest, Ciochon said. Still, it evidently existed longer on Earth than any other species on our “Homo” branch of the evolutionary tree.
Susan Anton, a New York University anthropologist who did not participate in the work, called the dating effort “heroic.” But she said she considered the reported age range to be too narrow. She said she preferred a span of less than 550,000 years old to more than 100,000 years old.
That’s roughly what she and co-authors proposed in a paper published in 2011. The younger end of the range in that paper was as recent as 120,000 years, which she said is virtually the same as the new result.
Full moon may hinder most anticipated meteor shower of the year – DiscoverWestman.com
This weekend is the peak of Perseid’s meteor shower, one of the best-known and largest celestial events that can be seen from Earth.
Throughout the past couple of days, meteors have been visible to on-lookers and will get an even better view during the event’s peak on Friday night.
“Meteors are these tiny little pieces of space dust that crash into the earth and burn up, and when that happens we see them in the sky as a falling star or a shooting star,” says Scott Young, the Planetarium Astronomer at the Manitoba Museum. “The meteor is sort of the official name for those objects, and on any night you can probably see one or two of those if you’re lucky, but on certain nights of the year, the Earth goes through a big cloud of cosmic dust and when you get all that dust hitting the Earth all on the same night, you get lots of meteors. So we call that a meteor shower.”
Young also says that it won’t look as if thousands of stars are falling out of the sky, but rather it will be one star every minute instead of one a night.
“It always occurs every year around August 11-13, somewhere in that range because we’re going through the dust bunny left behind by a comet that crosses Earth’s orbit. Now, that doesn’t always mean that you will see all of those things hitting the Earth, and the timing might happen during the day for you. It might be cloudy, or like this year, close to the full moon. When the full moon is up, it makes it hard to see some of those fainter meteors that you would see.”
The best time to see any meteor shower is between midnight and dawn. According to Young, even with the bright light of the full moon on the same night as the peak time to see meteors, it is a strong enough shower that viewers will still be able to see shooting stars.
“The official peak occurs after midnight, Friday night, so Saturday morning around 3:00 a.m. our time. But to be honest, it’s not a single-night event. It builds up over a previous couple of weeks and each night there’ll be more and more meteor showers until the peak and then after the peak, it fades away for a couple of weeks.”
The comet that causes the meteor shower is comet Swift–Tuttle, discovered by Lewis Swift and Horace Parnell Tuttle in 1862.
“Each meteor shower over the course of the year has its own source objects, most of them are comets and we know that when we get close to the comet’s orbit in our orbit, we’ll see this meteor shower. They’re actually named after the constellations in the sky where the meteors look like they’re coming from. When we’re looking at the sky, it seems that the meteors from the Perseid meteor shower will come from the constellation Perseus, which is rising in the northeastern part of the sky at this time of year. That doesn’t mean you have to know where Perseus is, the meteors can appear all over the sky.”
To get the best view of the meteor shower peak, Young suggests viewers go to a place where there are not a lot of lights and even “put your back towards any bright lights that are like the moon or city lights.” He also suggests putting the phone away, because the bright light will cause your eyes to need time to adjust to the dark sky and some of the dimmer shooting stars may be missed.
“This is one of those things where you have to unplug, disconnect and just lay out under the stars, relax and look up. it’s a great therapeutic way to connect with the sky.”
Talk like you: Scientists discover why humans evolved to talk while other primates can’t – Euronews
Why did humans evolve to talk, while monkeys were left to hoot, squeak and grunt to communicate?
The question has long puzzled scientists, who blamed our closest primate cousins’ inability to reproduce human speech sounds on their vocal anatomy.
Until now, researchers could not quite underpin what happened exactly during our evolution to make us able to speak while apes and monkeys can’t, given our vocal structures look almost identical to other primates.
Now, a new study published on Thursday in the journal Science claims to have the answer – and it’s not what anyone expected.
Analysing the phonal apparatus – the larynx – of 43 species of primates, a team of researchers based mainly in Japan found that all non-human primates – from orangutans to chimpanzees – had an additional feature in their throat that humans do not have.
Ability to speak and develop languages
While both humans and non-human primates produce sounds by forcing air through their larynges, causing folds of tissue to vibrate, monkeys and apes have an additional feature, a thin flap of tissue known as vocal membranes, or vocal lips.
Compared to apes and monkeys, humans were found to lack this anatomical vocal membrane – a small muscle just above the vocal cords – as well as balloon-like laryngeal structures called air sacs which apes and monkeys use to produce the loud calls and screams we’re not quite capable of.
According to the researchers, humans have lost this extra vocal tissue over time, somehow simplifying and stabilising the sounds coming out of our throat, and allowing us, in time, to develop the ability to speak – and eventually develop very complex sophisticated languages.
Monkeys and apes, on the other hand, maintained these vocal lips which don’t really allow them to control the inflection and register of their voice and produce stable, clear vocal fold vibrations.
“Paradoxically, the increased complexity of human spoken language thus followed simplification of our laryngeal anatomy,” says the study.
Communication through sign language
It’s unclear when humans lost these extra tissues still present in apes and monkeys and became able to speak, as the soft tissues in the larynx are not preserved in fossils, and researchers could only study living species.
We know that it must have happened sometime after the Homo Sapiens lineage split from the other primates, some 6-7 million years ago.
The fact that apes and monkeys haven’t developed the ability to speak like humans doesn’t mean that they are not able to clearly communicate with each other.
Though their vocal anatomy doesn’t allow them to form vowel sounds and proper words, non-human primates have a complex communication system based primarily on body language rather than oral sounds.
But monkeys and apes have also proven to be able to communicate with humans.
In the not-often-happy history of the interaction between non-human primates and humans, researchers have been able to teach apes and monkeys to communicate with people.
Koko the gorilla, for example, became famous for being able to use over 1,000 hand signs in sign language, while the bonobo Kanzi was reportedly able to communicate using a keyboard.
But when it comes to having a chat, monkeys and humans might never be able to share one.
When Summer 'Supermoons' Hit Your Eye: Spectacular Photos – Forbes
When the moon takes the celestial stage during the summer, the spectacle is simply amazing: Currently topping the program is the Sturgeon Supermoon, shining in all its splendor.
In July, it was the Buck Supermoon, the biggest and shiniest of the year. That one followed the Strawberry Supermoon that delighted sky watchers in June.
They have other stage names. This Sturgeon Moon, which derives its principal name from the giant sturgeon fish season in the Great Lakes, is known also as Thunder Moon, Mead Moon and Hay Moon, among others, and is the last supermoon of the year.
July’s Buck Moon, which drew that name because the antlers of male deer — bucks — are in full-growth mode at the time, is also called Salmon Moon and Berry Moon.
The Strawberry supermoon of June gets its name from fruit harvest seasons. It’s also known as Blooming Moon, Honey Moon and the Mead Moon.
The full moon names collected by the iconic Old Farmer’s Almanac come mainly from Native American tribes, Colonial American, and European sources.
“A full moon doubles as a supermoon when it’s near perigee, or the point in the moon’s orbit that is closest to Earth,” the Almanac explains, making it larger and brighter.
August’s Sturgeon Moon is the fourth and final supermoon of the year and it happens to coincide with the Perseid meteor shower, considered by many as “the best meteor shower of the year,” according to NASA. It will peak on August 13 and will remain active through August 24.
And if you happen to notice a bright-looking “star” near the moon, you’re looking at Saturn.
Lunar lovers and star seekers have been enjoying the summer’s stunning celestial performances and here are some of the best photos taken around the globe:
July’s Buck Supermoon
June’s Strawberry Supermoon of June
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