Advertisements

Domestic Dogs Originate from Southern China, say Chinese Scientists

tumblr_o66gsnoR1B1som6aeo1_1280
New research conducted by Chinese scientists suggests that domestic dogs originate from southern China, Xinhua reported on Sunday.

The theory was put forward in a report by scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), published in the US-based scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) recently.

Previous research has generally attributed the domestication of dog to areas including East Asia, Central Asia, Europe and Middle East. But according to Wang Guodong, researcher at the CAS’s Kunming Institute of Zoology and lead author of the report, their study on domestic dogs in southern China suggests the dogs in in this part of the world have the “smallest linkage disequilibrium distance” between their genes, which indicates that they come from a time when the domestic dog population was possibly at its smallest and gave rise to all the different types of domestic dogs that exist today. Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Mass Grave Reveals Prehistoric Warfare in Ancient European Farming Community

skull-guardian

Shattered skulls and shin bones of 7000-year-old skeletons may point to torture and mutilation not previously observed in early Neolithic Linear Pottery culture.

The chance discovery of a mass grave crammed with the battered skeletons of ancient Europeans has shed light on the lethal violence that tore through one of the continent’s earliest farming communities.

“This is a classic case where we find the ‘hardware’: the skeletal remains, the artefacts, everything that is durable we can find in the graves. But the ‘software’: what people were thinking, why they were doing things, what their mindset was at this time, of course was not preserved.”

In 2006, archaeologists were called in after road builders in Germany uncovered a narrow ditch filled with human bones as they worked at a site in Schöneck-Kilianstädten, 20km north-east of Frankfurt.

They have now identified the remains as belonging to a 7000-year-old group of early farmers who were part of the Linear Pottery culture, which gained its name from the group’s distinctive style of ceramic decoration.

In the seven metre-long, V-shaped pit, researchers found the skeletons of 26 adults and children, who were killed by devastating strikes to the head or arrow wounds. The skull fractures are classic signs of blunt force injuries caused by basic stone age weapons.

A fractured adult shin bone from the mass grave, which could indicate torture or posthumous mutilation. Photograph: Christian Meyer

A fractured adult shin bone from the mass grave, which could indicate torture or posthumous mutilation. Photograph: Christian Meyer

Along with close-quarter fighting, attackers used bows and arrows to ambush their neighbours. Two arrowheads made of animal bone were found in the soil stuck to the skeletons. They are thought to have been inside the bodies when they were placed in the pit.

More than half of the individuals had their legs broken in acts of apparent torture or posthumous mutilation. The smashed-in shin bones could represent a new form of violent torture not seen before in the group.

[Read the full text here, at The Guardian]

In the Linear Pottery culture, each person was given their own grave within a cemetery, the body carefully arranged and often buried with grave goods such as pottery and other possessions. By contrast, in the mass grave the bodies lay scattered.

Christian Meyer, an archaeologist who led the study at the University of Mainz, believes the attackers meant to terrorise others and demonstrate that they could annihilate an entire village. The site of the mass grave, which dates back to about 5000BC, is located near an ancient border between different communities, where conflict was likely. Read the rest of this entry »


Robots Could Steal the Election

google-steal

 writes: Imagine an election—A close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a  study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome.

OS X 10.10.3 Google 2-step

In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”

computer-lady

Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.

One group saw positive articles about one candidate first; the other saw positive articles about the other candidate. (A control group saw a random assortment.) The result: Whichever side people saw the positive results for, they were more likely to vote for—by more than 48 percent. The team calls that number the “vote manipulation power,” or VMP. The effect held—strengthened, even—when the researchers swapped in a single negative story into the number-four and number-three spots. Apparently it made the results seem even more neutral and therefore more trustworthy.

[Read the full text here, at WIRED]

But of course that was all artificial—in the lab. So the researchers packed up and went to India in advance of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a national campaign with 800 million eligible voters. (Eventually 430 million people voted over the weeks of the actual election.) “I thought this time we’d be lucky if we got 2 or 3 percent, and my gut said we’re gonna get nothing,” Epstein says, “because this is an intense, intense election environment.” Voters get exposed, heavily, to lots of other information besides a mock search engine result. Read the rest of this entry »


Global Panic Time Out: West Coast Warming Linked to Naturally Occurring Changes

For the LA TimesTony Barboza writes: Naturally occurring changes in winds, not human-caused climate change, are responsible for most of the warming on land and in the sea along the West Coast of North America over the last century, a study has found.panic-man

“Changing winds appear to explain a very large fraction of the warming from year to year, decade to decade and the long-term.”

The analysis challenges assumptions that the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been a significant driver of the increase in temperatures observed over many decades in the ocean and along the coastline from Alaska to California.

Changes in ocean circulation as a result of weaker winds were the main cause of about 1 degree Fahrenheit of warming in the northeast Pacific Ocean and nearby coastal land between 1900 and 2012, according to the Shocked woman on telephoneanalysis of ocean and air temperatures over that time.

— Kevin Trenberth, National Center for Atmospheric Research

The study, conducted by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Washington, was published Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Read the rest of this entry »