JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

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Homo Sapiens — made for surviving extreme environments

Of all the homo subtypes only humans survived. We began to colonize the entire planet sometime between 300,000 and 60,000 years ago.

Scientists Have a Bold New Hypothesis For Why We’re The Only Humans Left on Earth

Depending on who you ask, we’ve shared the Homo genus with six other species across the millennia. And those are just the ones we know about. One by one they’ve all vanished. Around 30,000 years ago, the last of the Neanderthals disappeared…– Science Alert

Homo erectus spread from Spain to Indonesia, but stuck to forest and grassland. Neanderthals specialized in cold northern realms and survived hundreds of thousands of years of ghastly ice ages. They coped better than we do with cold but we are the ones still living in Siberia. Tell the world: we’re adaptable!

Maybe it’s time to stop trying to adapt the planet to us, and get back to adapting us to the planet instead?

Some of the ecological challenges faced by Pleistocene H. sapiens. a. The Thar Desert of northwest India at the site of Katoati. Credit: James Blinkhorn. b. The highlands of Lesotho at the site of Sehonghong. Credit: Brian A. Stewart. c. The Siberian steppe of Russia. Credit: [...]

Mysterious thing called Populism affecting wildlife

If only there was no populism:

ScienceDaily.   Researchers at Colorado State University and The Ohio State University have found that a cultural backlash stemming from the rise of populism may limit opportunities for state fish and wildlife agencies to adapt to changing social values in the United States. The team reached this conclusion by analyzing more than 12,000 surveys from 19 states and studying ballot initiatives related to hunting.

Unwind your way through that maze. Academics have spent thousands of dollars to discover that some people have different values to academics. Some people who don’t like new laws are protesting, and that may stop “unlimited” changes. Isn’t that democracy?

In the case of human-wildlife conflict, traditionalists would be more likely to support lethal wildlife control methods while mutualists would be more supportive of restrictions on humans.

After two million years of meat-eating, I’d say homo traditionalist had already been “affecting the wildlife”. Even before the rise of populismisticness.

But if populism is pop-u-lar, what kind of “changing social values” do fish and wildlife agencies really need to adapt to anyway? If the changes are less popular, who says we need to change?

The problem is “Trust [...]

Two million years of climate change made us what we are

Bradshaw Art, Kimberley, Australia. This distinctive style of painting disappeared 7,000 years ago.  |  Photo TimJN1

Two million years of climate change has made us human — in a ying meets yang contradiction, while climate change destroyed cultures and groups,  without it, we would not be who we are. The brutal forces of Nature tested our ancestors with droughts, storms, floods and tidal surges, but if the climate had stayed the same, would we have had Bach, Leonardo, and Newton?

At the end of the day, we have a civilization that allows millions of people to pursue happiness without fear that they will die of dysentery, be murdered by marauding barbarians, or lose their children to slave traders.

We are the lucky bastards at the end of a long line of poor sods who struggled and suffered to stay one step ahead of the reaper.

Here are two stories of studies that suggest dramatic effects of climate change on long lost peoples. The second, below, may finally explain the disappearance of the mysterious well developed aboriginal artform known as the “Bradshaw” style.

Rapid changes occurred 2 million years ago

Some swings occurred so fast they happened in “hundreds of [...]

On misanthropology

misanthropology (from Urban Dictionary): the scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of hatred in humans misanthropology-the opposite of optimistology.

Lost word, sighted on the Neologism thread at (Diggingintheclay) that inspired The Doomsians are Panixilated post.

For what it’s worth, I  think misanthropology is often just a veneer, it’s not a real hatred at all, but just the semblance of it. It’s much more small minded. It’s not about “hating humans” so much as it is about impressing the chick (or boy) next door. A kind of competition to get to snob-land first:  ‘I look down on humans more than you do.” (Which translates loosely as: I, the exalted one, speaks from a greater height, fellow misanthropist….)

It’s about status, eh. Like everything.

Rewriting the dawn of civilization

If National Geographic had more stories like this one, I’d be inclined to subscribe. This is fascinating stuff.

Seven thousand years before Stonehenge was Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, where you’ll find ring upon ring of T-shaped stone towers arranged  in a circle. Around 11,600 B.C. hundreds of people gathered on this mound, year after year, possibly for centuries.

There are plenty of mysteries on this hill.  Some of the rocks weigh 16 tons, but archaeologists can find no homes, no hearths, no water source, and no sign of a town or village to support the hundreds of workers who built the rings of towers. The people apparently, unthinkably really, were nomadic, as far as we know, they had no wheels, and no beasts of burden. True hunter gatherers, whose first heavy building project was not a home to fend off the elements, but a religious sacred site.

Perhaps we should not be so surprised, after all, we know the pyramids, the largest and oldest surviving buildings didn’t house people or grain either –  the only humans they keep warm were dead ones. In a sense, the theme repeats. It takes extraordinary expertise and effort to move tons of rock, especially [...]