BLOGS

biology (4)

Relics of Entropy...

 

Topics: Biology, Entropy, Existentialism, Futurism


I've passed all my courses and now have the task of putting my Thesis together. I'm anticipating a successful completion from a good start.

My granddaughter is as well, with a good family (I'm biased) surrounded by a support system of extended friends and close relatives.

I'm understandably concerned by headlines like these:

Up to one million plant and animal species face extinction, many within decades, because of human activities, says the most comprehensive report yet on the state of global ecosystems.

Without drastic action to conserve habitats, the rate of species extinction — already tens to hundreds of times higher than the average across the past ten million years — will only increase, says the analysis. The findings come from a United Nations-backed panel called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

According to the report, agricultural activities have had the largest impact on ecosystems that people depend on for food, clean water and a stable climate. The loss of species and habitats poses as much a danger to life on Earth as climate change does, says a summary of the work, released on 6 May. [1]

 

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Capitalism has generated massive wealth for some, but it’s devastated the planet and has failed to improve human well-being at scale.

Species are going extinct at a rate 1,000 times faster than that of the natural rate over the previous 65 million years (see Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School).

Since 2000, 6 million hectares of primary forest have been lost each year. That’s 14,826,322 acres, or just less than the entire state of West Virginia (see the 2010 assessment by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN).

Even in the U.S., 15% of the population lives below the poverty line. For children under the age of 18, that number increases to 20% (see U.S. Census).

 • The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050 (see United Nations' projections).

By 2050, my granddaughter will be 31, and I likely a memory to her.

I came of age during the sixties when our Civil Rights leaders became Civil Rights icons and martyrs. I came of age when "duck and cover" drills were the order of the day. I came of age when post Civil Rights, we tried at least to act...civil. Forced busing gave way to De Facto desegregation in the public square in education - until the end of forced busing and re-segregation; malls, sports arenas (especially there) where some modicum of the old "control of black bodies" could be exercised with less bull whip and more paychecks and professional sports contracts.

The seventies would be the last time production kept pace with pay: we've been in a hamster wheel since then, and the gulf between the super rich and everyone else has become an un-crossable chasm. We're more oligarchy than democracy, and the owners would sooner than later transform us into a full dystopian fascistic hell scape than help solve the problems they've created.

The point is, despite all the challenges, I came of age. I lived. I loved. I laughed. I cried. I learned to drive. I married. I had children and they are starting to have children.

It would be lovely for my granddaughter to have a planet on which to have a tea.

Lovelier still for her parents (my children) to become grandparents in my absence on a planet still able to support life and a civilization that could support such an endeavor with minimal environmental impact.

Or...she and I could be relics of entropy, where our ashes will not be discernible from scientist to citizen, layman to philosopher, capitalist to socialist; black to white and prince to pauper. In a blink of an eye on the scale of cosmic time...we would all become irrelevant to an unfeeling universe.

I am again biased. I think my granddaughter (and yours), deserves a little more than that.

 

1. Humans are driving one million species to extinction, Jeff Tollefson, Nature
2. Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050, Drew Hansen, Forbes

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Distant Cousins...

Callao Cave, Luzon Island, The Philippines

Image credits:
Callao Cave Archaeology Project

 

Topics: Biology, DNA, Evolution, History, Research


(Inside Science) -- In a jungle cave in the Philippines, scientists have discovered fossils of what may be a new human species they call Homo luzonensis. The newfound teeth and bones combine primitive and modern traits in a way never previously seen together in one species, and suggest much remains to be discovered about human evolution outside Africa.
 
Image Source: Homo luzonensis

Although modern humans, Homo sapiens, are now the only surviving branch of the genus Homo, other species of humans once roamed across Earth. For example, previous research suggested Homo erectus, the most likely ancestor of modern humans, made its way out of Africa by at least 1.8 million years ago. In contrast, modern humans may have only begun dispersing from Africa roughly 200,000 years ago.

Fifteen years ago, scientists revealed an unusual extinct human species from the Indonesian island of Flores -- Homo floresiensis, often called "the hobbit" due to its diminutive size, which lived on Earth during the same time as modern humans. This finding hinted that other hominins -- any relatives of modern humans dating from after our ancestors split from those of chimpanzees -- might await discovery in Southeast Asia.
 

Researchers Find a New Ancient Human Species in the Philippines
Charles Q. Choi, Live Science

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Ethics of Genesis...

MS. TECH; EVOLUTION: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

 

Topics: Biology, Ethics, Genetics, Science Fiction


Note: The article "went there" before I could.

"Beware the beast man, for he is the devil's pawn. Alone among God's primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother's land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home, and yours. Shun him... for he is the harbinger of death." Internet Movie Database, Planet of the Apes (1968) Synopsis

 

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Human intelligence is one of evolution’s most consequential inventions. It is the result of a sprint that started millions of years ago, leading to ever bigger brains and new abilities. Eventually, humans stood upright, took up the plow, and created civilization, while our primate cousins stayed in the trees.

Now scientists in southern China report that they've tried to narrow the evolutionary gap, creating several transgenic macaque monkeys with extra copies of a human gene suspected of playing a role in shaping human intelligence.

“This was the first attempt to understand the evolution of human cognition using a transgenic monkey model,” says Bing Su, the geneticist at the Kunming Institute of Zoology who led the effort.

According to their findings, the modified monkeys did better on a memory test involving colors and block pictures, and their brains also took longer to develop—as those of human children do. There wasn’t a difference in brain size.

Su’s monkeys raise some unusual questions about animal rights. In 2010, Sikela and three colleagues wrote a paper called “The ethics of using transgenic non-human primates to study what makes us human,” in which they concluded that human brain genes should never be added to apes, such as chimpanzees, because they are too similar to us.

“You just go to the Planet of the Apes immediately in the popular imagination,” says Jacqueline Glover, a University of Colorado bioethicist who was one of the authors. “To humanize them is to cause harm. Where would they live and what would they do? Do not create a being that can’t have a meaningful life in any context.”

 

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Not to go all Cassandra on you, but...

At the story's heart is Caesar (Andy Serkis), a chimpanzee who gains human-like intelligence and emotions from an experimental drug. Raised like a child by the drug's creator, Will Rodman (James Franco) and a primatologist Caroline Aranha (Freida Pinto), Caesar ultimately finds himself taken from the humans he loves and imprisoned in an ape sanctuary in San Bruno. Seeking justice for his fellow inmates, Caesar gives the fellow apes the same drug that he inherited. He then assembles a simian army and escapes the sanctuary - putting man and ape on a collision course that could change the planet forever. Internet Movie Database, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) Storyline

 

Chinese scientists have put human brain genes in monkeys—and yes, they may be smarter
Antonio Regalado, MIT Technology Review

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Antithesis of Wisdom...

 

Topics: Biology, Civics, Climate Change, Existentialism, Entropy, Mars, Politics


Chimpanzees look up to those they consider to be more prestigious, echoing the way that young people admire celebrities such as David Beckham and Cheryl Cole, according to a new study. Researchers found that apes copy the actions of those they consider to have high status within their group.

Professor Whiten commented, “Teenagers look to pop stars as social models, copying their clothing, mannerisms and speech. Adults are inspired by prominent members of their society, such as successful professionals. Our study shows that chimpanzees are similarly selective in their choice of trend setters.” [1]

 

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Abstract

Humans follow the example of prestigious, high-status individuals much more readily than that of others, such as when we copy the behavior of village elders, community leaders, or celebrities. This tendency has been declared uniquely human, yet remains untested in other species. Experimental studies of animal learning have typically focused on the learning mechanism rather than on social issues, such as who learns from whom. The latter, however, is essential to understanding how habits spread. Here we report that when given opportunities to watch alternative solutions to a foraging problem performed by two different models of their own species, chimpanzees preferentially copy the method shown by the older, higher-ranking individual with a prior track-record of success. Since both solutions were equally difficult, shown an equal number of times by each model and resulted in equal rewards, we interpret this outcome as evidence that the preferred model in each of the two groups tested enjoyed a significant degree of prestige in terms of whose example other chimpanzees chose to follow. Such prestige-based cultural transmission is a phenomenon shared with our own species. If similar biases operate in wild animal populations, the adoption of culturally transmitted innovations may be significantly shaped by the characteristics of performers. [2]

 

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Thwaites glacier in West Antarctica is often referred to as the "Doomsday glacier" because of its sheer size and position as "'backstop' for four other glaciers which holds an additional 10-13 feet of sea level rise." [3] Add the two feet of sea level Thwaites holds and Florida may have a little more to fear than the denials of their republican senators on the impact of climate change.

I've used the term fascism before, not because it's powerful but because it's stupid. The basis of its appeal is fear: fear of the "other," fear of the future, fear particularly of a supposed loss of birth numbers, therefore future voters and numerical power. So-called "white" supremacy has always been a math game of bad algebra and pure ignorance.

But it does not benefit the crowd proudly without Melanin, intellect and possessing MAGA hats: the celebrity chimps with all the bananas above them they worship use the faux demarcation points of politically constructed cultural differences to rob blind the very people that become their shock troops. Rigging elections is not beneath the 1% simians, as they've motivated their rubes that their "white" team won, despite the lack of sharing of spoils after said rigging, Russian interference or not. Socialism is thrown up as demon while demons rob rubes. They ask for "trick-down" bananas" and get feces. Smoking causing cancer must be denied. Humans causing climate impact MUST be denied until the last drop of oil; the last fracking of methane. Then, the royal chimpanzees will wall themselves up as sea levels rise, soundproof beyond "weeping and gnashing of teeth." They'll have extra bananas to live on as the rest of the planet starves. Eventually, their impressive supplies will run out. Perhaps they'll resort to the cannibalism as the Jamestown colonists did in desperation, eating their own children first. Eventually they will see their last sunrise in splendid, decaying mansions atop a canopy of the forest they razed. Currently, their high potentate Orange Orangutan cannot discriminate "orange" and "origin"; that his own father was born in the Bronx and not the Germany and thinks windmills causes cancer.

Homo sapiens, (Latin: “wise man”) the species to which all modern human beings belong. Homo sapiens is one of several species grouped into the genus Homo, but it is the only one that is not extinct. [YET] See also human evolution. Source: Britannica

Entropy - the measure of a system's thermal energy per unit temperature that is unavailable for doing useful work. Because work is obtained from ordered molecular motion, the amount of entropy is also a measure of the molecular disorder, or randomness, of a system. Encyclopedia Britannica

Having stupid citizens also serves a more ‘noble’ purpose. Although most of us want to be treated as intelligent beings, it is also in the interest of ruling parties – be they political or religious – to have an overall stupid population, dumb enough to make them controllable. Education and knowledge are being pushed aside in favour of technical training. Governments are more interested in a highly-skilled labour force than in critical and intelligent citizens. The media feed the population with ready-made entertainment and information, thus forming people’s minds according to what is preferable for the overall functioning of society. Zoereei, Homo stultus

Mars may have been a living world once. We still study it. We wish to terraform it. Mars as a world still takes 687 days to complete its year. It will take 365.25 days for Earth to complete its year...whether we're here, or not.
 

Homo Stultus - foolish man, stupid man: the chimps are exonerated.

1. Chimpanzee trend-setters: New study shows that chimps 'ape' the prestigious, University of St. Andrews, 2010, Phys.org
2. Prestige Affects Cultural Learning in Chimpanzees, Victoria Horner, Darby Proctor, Kristin E. Bonnie, Andrew Whiten, Frans B. M. de Waal, PLOS Journal
3. A glacier the size of Florida is on track to change the course of human civilization. Pakalolo, Daily Kos

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