Findings, music, and occasional reflections by Paul Woodward

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The white men seemed like lightning from heaven but their shit smelled just like ours

  Sean Flynn writes: Long after missionaries and Europeans settled on the coast of New Guinea in the 19th century, the mountainous interior remained unexplored. As recently as the 1920s, outsiders believed the mountains, which run the length of the island from east to west, were too steep and rugged for anyone to live there. But when gold was discovered 40 miles inland, prospectors went north across the Coral Sea

The first peoples in the Americas were not from Europe

Jennifer Raff writes: Last month’s release of The Ice Bridge, an episode in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series The Nature of Things has once again revived public discussion of a controversial idea about how the Americas were peopled known as the “Solutrean hypothesis”. This idea suggests a European origin for the peoples who made the Clovis tools, the first recognized stone tool tradition in the Americas. As I was one

How to die with equanimity, without fear

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How Trump conquered Facebook — without Russian ads

Antonio García Martínez writes: It’s not every day that a former work colleague gets retweeted by the president of the United States. Last Friday, Rob Goldman, a vice president inside Facebook’s Ads team, rather ill-advisedly published a series of tweets that seemed to confirm the Trump administration’s allegations regarding the recent indictments of 13 Russian nationals by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. To wit, the tweets said that the online advertising

Allowing teachers to be armed is an asinine idea, says a veteran who’s been shot in combat

Matt Martin writes: Someone shooting at you, specifically trying to kill you, is probably the most terrifying life event a person could ever experience. Regardless of training, you don’t know how people will respond in life and death situations until the moment comes. You don’t know how people will react when they hear gunshots. You don’t know how people will react when the person next to them is shot. You

Allegations of sexual misconduct facing celebrity atheist and liberal crusader, Lawrence Krauss

BuzzFeed reports: When Melody Hensley first met Lawrence Krauss, she was a 29-year-old makeup artist at a department store, and he was one of her intellectual idols. She ran an atheist website in her spare time and had just started volunteering for the Center for Inquiry (CFI), a nonprofit group committed to promoting science and reason above faith. She was hoping to build a career in the burgeoning “skeptics” movement,

Blockchain could reshape our world — and the far right is one step ahead

Josh Hall writes: Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain reads the title of a 2017 book. From currency speculation through to verifying the provenance of food, blockchain technology is eking out space in a vast range of fields. For most people, blockchain technologies are inseparable from bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that has been particularly visible in the news recently thanks to its hyper-volatility. Crypto-entrepreneurs have made and lost millions, and many

The way humans point isn’t as universal as you might think

The universal sign for ‘Look over there!’ isn’t so common in some cultures. Helena Ohman/Shutterstock.com By Kensy Cooperrider, University of Chicago Octopuses have long arms and plenty of smarts, but they don’t point. Nor do chimps, gorillas or other apes, at least not in the wild. Humans, on the other hand, are prodigious pointers. Infants use the gesture before they can talk, often around 1 year of age. By 2,

Music: Rostam Mirlashari — ‘Laila O Laila’

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Neanderthals developed art earlier than modern humans

Carl Zimmer writes: The two new studies don’t just indicate that Neanderthals could make cave art and jewelry. They also establish that Neanderthals were making these things long before modern humans — a blow to the idea that they simply copied their cousins. The earliest known cave paintings made by modern humans are only about 40,000 years old, while Neanderthal cave art is at least 24,000 years older. The oldest

Britain left Stone Age 4,500 years ago as early Britons were replaced by metalworking migrants

BBC News reports: The ancient population of Britain was almost completely replaced by newcomers about 4,500 years ago, a study shows. The findings mean modern Britons trace just a small fraction of their ancestry to the people who built Stonehenge. The astonishing result comes from analysis of DNA extracted from 400 ancient remains across Europe. The mammoth study, published in Nature, suggests the newcomers, known as Beaker people, replaced 90%

New paper links ancient drawings and the origins of language

Peter Dizikes, Massachusetts Institute of Technology: When and where did humans develop language? To find out, look deep inside caves, suggests an MIT professor. More precisely, some specific features of cave art may provide clues about how our symbolic, multifaceted language capabilities evolved, according to a new paper co-authored by MIT linguist Shigeru Miyagawa. A key to this idea is that cave art is often located in acoustic “hot spots,”

Arctic temperatures soar 45 degrees above normal, flooded by extremely mild air on all sides

The Washington Post reports: While the Eastern United States simmers in some of its warmest February weather ever recorded, the Arctic is also stewing in temperatures more than 45 degrees above normal. This latest huge temperature spike in the Arctic is another striking indicator of its rapidly transforming climate. On Monday and Tuesday, the northernmost weather station in the world, Cape Morris Jesup at the northern tip of Greenland, experienced

New mapping shows just how much fishing impacts the world’s seas

Science News reports: Fishing has left a hefty footprint on Earth. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the planet’s surface, and industrial fishing occurred across 55 percent of that ocean area in 2016, researchers report in the Feb. 23 Science. In comparison, only 34 percent of Earth’s land area is used for agriculture or grazing. Previous efforts to quantify global fishing have relied on a hodgepodge of scant data culled

In Syria’s war economy the worst of enemies are also partners in business

Century Foundation Fellow, Aron Lund, writes: After the October 2017 fall of Raqqa to U.S.-backed Kurdish and Arab guerrillas, the extremist group known as the Islamic State is finally crumbling. But victory came a cost: Raqqa lies in ruins, and so does much of northern Syria. At least one of the tools for reconstruction is within reach. An hour and a half’s drive from Raqqa lies one of the largest

How Charles Fletcher Lummis helped create the myth of the American West

At Lapham’s Quarterly, Greg Luther writes: For a people more and more bound to the city, more confined to factory work and its bitter hours and cramped spaces, to a people suffocating from the smoke and greed of industrialism, a walk under open skies must have seemed the purest freedom. In A Tramp Across the Continent Lummis fashioned himself as a man unafraid to cast off the shackles of society