Life on Earth may have developed below rather than above ground, reveal scientists“Scientists have now discovered microbes living and reproducing as deep as 5km (3.1 miles) below ground and studies have shown that they are likely to have survived in complete isolation from the surface biosphere for millions and perhaps even billions of years. One of the latest studies into the deep biosphere has found that these microbes form a distinct subsurface community of genetically similar individuals despite living on opposite sides of the world. This global similarity of such an isolated life-form suggests that they may have evolved directly from a common ancestor that lived as long ago at the period when life on earth originated, some 3.5 billion years ago.”

First ever animals were made of jelly, not sponge

Scientists discover double meaning in genetic code“[G]enomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.”duons. – see also Exonic Transcription Factor Binding Directs Codon Choice and Affects Protein Evolution.

Environment drives genetic changes in Evolution Canyon“[R]esearchers with the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech studying fruit flies that live on opposite slopes of a unique natural environment known as ‘Evolution Canyon’ show that even with migration, cross-breeding, and sometimes the obliteration of the populations, the driving force in the gene pool is largely the environment.” – see also Genome differentiation of Drosophila melanogaster from a microclimate contrast in Evolution Canyon, Israel.

Big brains are all in the genes“Scientists have moved a step closer to understanding genetic changes that permitted humans and other mammals to develop such big brains…. Dr Humberto Gutierrez, from the School of Life Sciences, University of Lincoln, UK, led research which examined the genomes of 39 species of mammals with the aim of better understanding how brains became larger and more complex in mammals…. The researchers found a clear link between increased brain size and the expansion of gene families related to certain biological functions.”

Not all species deteriorate with age“Researchers claim that some buck trend in mortality and fertility, challenging evolutionary theory.” – see also Diversity of ageing across the tree of life – h/t anatoly! – see also Aging from greg cochran.

there was a kerfluffle over the selfish gene concept this past week or two: Die, selfish gene, die by david dobbs. – see also Adversarial Journalism and The Selfish Gene by richard dawkins – see also David Dobbs mucks up evolution, part I and David Dobbs mucks up evolution, part II by jerry coyne – see also There is no revolution in genetics and Evolutionary orthodoxy may be boring, but it is probably true by razib – see also Science vs. Ideology in Genetics, in which Richard Dawkins and Professor Ceiling Cat Admonish David Dobbs by helian.

Western scrub-jays allocate longer observation time to more valuable information“When humans mentally reconstruct past events and imagine future scenarios, their subjective experience of mentally time travelling is accompanied by the awareness of doing so. Despite recent popularity of studying episodic memory in animals, such phenomenological consciousness has been extremely difficult to demonstrate…. Thus, the jays can collect information to solve a future problem. Moreover, they can differentiate sources of information according to their potential value and modify behaviour to efficiently collect important, usable information. This is the first evidence of metacognition in a species that passes the behavioural criteria for both retrospective and prospective mental time travel.”

Like humans, dogs have general intelligence – @dr. james thompson’s blog.

H. Heidelbergensis Preferred Island Life“[B]etween 500,000 and 200,000 years ago, Homo heidelbergensis preferred to live on islands in the flood plains of major rivers, where they would have had access to big herbivores that grazed on the rich grasses, water birds and plants with edible roots, and leafy vegetables. The island itself offered protection from other hungry predators, and raw materials such as wood and stone for fashioning tools would have been abundant.”

No evidence for selection since admixture in sample of 29,141 African Americans – @dienekes’.

Older Dads: Possible Links to Autism, Schizophrenia in Offspring – inherited epigenetic effects? – “Maria Milekic, PhD, reported today, at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in Hollywood, Florida, that old mice have an epigenetic change ‒ a loss of DNA methylation at the locations where the genetic code starts being transcribed. DNA methylation is a biochemical process that plays an important regulatory role in development and disease. The work was done by a research team in the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University. Offspring of old fathers showed the same deficit in DNA methylation, and they differed in their behavior from the offspring of the young fathers.”

Inherited memories – greg cochran on inherited epigenetics (note: re. a different mouse epigenetics study from the one above).

Genetics accounts for more than half of variation in exam results @the guardian – “[T]he authors point out that genetics emerges as such a strong influence on exam scores because the schooling system aims to give all children the same education. The more school and other factors are made equal, the more genetic differences come to the fore in children’s performance. The same situation would happen if everyone had a healthy diet: differences in bodyweight would be more down to genetic variation, instead of being dominated by lifestyle.” – see also Nature more than nurture determines exam success @newscientist – “Overall, across the three core subjects of English, mathematics and science, achievement was 58 per cent determined by genetics. Individually, achievement was 52 per cent down to genetics for English, 55 per cent for maths and 58 per cent for science. The figure for humanities was lower at 42 per cent. This was a surprise to Plomin because, traditionally, excellence in humanities subjects such as art or music is considered to be ‘handed down’ from parents, whereas science is considered a product of the teaching environment.” – see also The genetics route could spell a new direction for education @the independent – “[I]t may be that the innate differences in children’s abilities because of their genes could argue the case for a more tailor-made individual curriculum to offset the disadvantages of birth.” – no sh*t! – see also New twin study by Plomin, Shakeshaft et al from steve sailer – see also Strong Genetic Influence on a UK Nationwide Test of Educational Achievement at the End of Compulsory Education at Age 16.

Genetic influence on family socioeconomic status and children’s intelligence“[U]sing a new technique applied to DNA from 3000 unrelated children, we show significant genetic influence on family SES, and on its association with children’s IQ at ages 7 and 12. In addition to demonstrating the ability to investigate genetic influence on between-family environmental measures, our results emphasize the need to consider genetics in research and policy on family SES and its association with children’s IQ.” – can somebody just give plomin a nobel already? or at least a hearty pat on the back? (^_^)

Climatic Variability, Group Selection and Dysgenics: Testing a Multi-Level Selection Model – from woodley, fernandes, and figueredo. @dr. james thompson’s blog.

ISIR – What do intelligence researchers really think about intelligence?“Asked: ‘Is there sufficient evidence to arrive at a reasonable estimate of the heritability of intelligence in populations of developed countries?’ 73% said Yes.” – from dr. james thompson. also ISIR – Genetics.

‘Poverty impedes cognitive function’ shown to be BS – from mr. mangan, esq.

Survey of psychometricians finds iSteve one of 3 best journalistic outlets in the world for intelligence coverage – and anatoly karlin! (^_^)

Human brain hard-wired for rural tranquillity“Humans may be hard-wired to feel at peace in the countryside and confused in cities – even if they were born and raised in an urban area…. Dr Ian Frampton, an Exeter University psychologist, stressed the researchers still had more work to do, but said they may have hit upon something significant…. Professor Michael Depledge of Exeter University, a former Environment Agency chief scientist, said urban dwellers could be suffering in the same way as animals kept in captivity. He said the move to the cities had been accompanied by an ‘incredible rise in depression and behavioural abnormalities’.” – h/t ed west!

Diet rapidly and reproducibly alters the human gut microbiome“[S]hort-term consumption of diets composed entirely of animal or plant products alters microbial community structure and overwhelms inter-individual differences in microbial gene expression. The animal-based diet increased the abundance of bile-tolerant microorganisms (Alistipes, Bilophila and Bacteroides) and decreased the levels of Firmicutes that metabolize dietary plant polysaccharides (Roseburia, Eubacterium rectale and Ruminococcus bromii). Microbial activity mirrored differences between herbivorous and carnivorous mammals, reflecting trade-offs between carbohydrate and protein fermentation. Foodborne microbes from both diets transiently colonized the gut, including bacteria, fungi and even viruses. Finally, increases in the abundance and activity of Bilophila wadsworthia on the animal-based diet support a link between dietary fat, bile acids and the outgrowth of microorganisms capable of triggering inflammatory bowel disease. In concert, these results demonstrate that the gut microbiome can rapidly respond to altered diet, potentially facilitating the diversity of human dietary lifestyles.”

Wheat Threatens All Humans, New Research Shows“New research reveals that proteins in wheat may be detrimental to all humans.” – h/t ray sawhill!

The origins of Northwest European guilt culture and Origins of Northwest European guilt culture. Part II – from peter frost. and my response to part i (in case you missed it – shame on you if you did! you should feel soooo guilty. (~_^) ).

The EU is corrupt because southern Europe is corrupt“Nigeria is riddled with corruption and theft because enough people are corrupt (and it doesn’t have to be that many) that it makes no sense to be an honest person. For societies to avert this situation free-riders need to be punished (shamed, ostracised, prosecuted) by other individuals acting with the support of the rest of society, and almost as importantly, for those punishers not to be punished in turn, as happens in clannish societies where people care more about their family than the well-being of the wider society. Destroying the power of the clans can take a very, very long time; around the North Sea it began a good millennium ago.” – from ed west.

Why a Good Story Must Be Archetypal and Why Modern Storytellers Must Lie About It – from staffan.

White flight from the white robe? – from the awesome epigone. – h/t jayman!

‘Boy/ girl differences are genetically programmed’“Twinwag: As research shows the brains of men and women are wired differently, mother of two Anna White says she saw it in her own twins, Agatha and Benjamin, from as young as 14 months old.” – h/t holtz!

Holding a guitar case increases the odds women will give a man their phone number – (~_^)

Your Genes Tell You How to Vote – in mother jones! – see also The Difference Between Republican and Democratic Brains – h/t avi tuschman! – see also Study on twins suggests our political beliefs may be hard-wired @pew.

Did Brain Scans Just Save a Convicted Murderer From the Death Penalty? – see also How Brain Scans Can Lighten Sentences In Murder Cases“An increasing trend of defendants using neuroscience to argue for lesser sentences.” – h/t neuroskeptic!

We Really Have no Idea Why Political Attitudes Change (or Not). A Guest Blog by Bernard Winograd – *cough*herding*cough* – @peter turchin’s social evolution forum. h/t t.greer!

How much do we really know about sleep?“We spend a third of our lives doing it, and yet we still don’t fully understand the reasons why we sleep.”

Eastern and Western Europe divided over gay marriage, homosexuality“92% of Dutch & 25% of Russians say gay people should be free to live lives as they wish (via European Social Survey).” – from pew.

Late Stone Age settlement unearthed on Cyprus“Excavations at Ayia Varvara-Asprokremnos (AVA) by archaeologists from the University of Toronto, Cornell University and the University of Cyprus have uncovered, among other objects, the earliest complete human figurine on the island. The site has been carbon-dated to between 8800-8600 BC, near the beginning of the Neolithic Period – also known as the Late Stone Age – when the transition from hunting to farming economies was occurring throughout the Middle East.”

What Happened On Easter Island — A New (Even Scarier) Scenario – h/t razib!

Terracotta Warriors Inspired by Ancient Greek Art“Nickel’s evidence includes newly translated ancient records that tell a fantastic tale of giant statues that ‘appeared’ in the far west, inspiring the first emperor of China to duplicate them in front of his palace. This story offers evidence of early contact between China and the West, contacts that Nickel says inspired the First Emperor (which is what Qin Shi Huangdi called himself) to not only duplicate the 12 giant statues but to build the massive Terracotta Army along with other life-size sculptures.” – see also The First Emperor and sculpture in China.

Phallic objects an ancient PNG status symbol?“The cache of elaborately crafted tools was discovered at a construction site on New Britain Island, north-eastern PNG, in late 2010. Between 6000 and 3000 years old, the tools are made of a type of volcanic glass called obsidian and, remarkably, several of them are shaped as phalluses.”

Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals“Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send papers to Nature, Cell and Science as they distort scientific process.” – h/t hbd bibliography!

Can you guess which states swear the most, least?

bonus: There’s a Reason They Call Them ‘Crazy Ants’ << read this!

bonus bonus: How widespread is Islamic fundamentalism in Western Europe? – h/t michael story!

bonus bonus bonus: Google Adds to Its Menagerie of Robots – google buys boston dynamics. google really IS going to take over the world! =/

bonus bonus bonus bonus: You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet“I don’t think most people yet realize just how fast the arc of technological innovation is bending skyward right now, and what that’s really going to mean. I hang around with the people who are making this stuff happen, and *they* don’t know what it’s going to mean. *Nobody* does.” – from malcolm pollack. (google really IS going to take over the world! =/ )

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Freakishly realistic telemarketing robots are denying they’re robots – the future (i.e tomorrow) is either going to be terrifying or really, really irritating. – h/t mike anissimov (wearer of track suits (~_^) )!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: First water plume seen firing from Jupiter moon Europa

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