BLOGS

research (14)

Mind Meld...

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Credit: Getty Images

 

Topics: Internet, Neuroscience, Research, Star Trek


We humans have evolved a rich repertoire of communication, from gesture to sophisticated languages. All of these forms of communication link otherwise separate individuals in such a way that they can share and express their singular experiences and work together collaboratively. In a new study, technology replaces language as a means of communicating by directly linking the activity of human brains. Electrical activity from the brains of a pair of human subjects was transmitted to the brain of a third individual in the form of magnetic signals, which conveyed an instruction to perform a task in a particular manner. This study opens the door to extraordinary new means of human collaboration while, at the same time, blurring fundamental notions about individual identity and autonomy in disconcerting ways.

Direct brain-to-brain communication has been a subject of intense interest for many years, driven by motives as diverse as futurist enthusiasm and military exigency. In his book Beyond Boundaries one of the leaders in the field, Miguel Nicolelis, described the merging of human brain activity as the future of humanity, the next stage in our species’ evolution. (Nicolelis serves on Scientific American’s board of advisers.) He has already conducted a study in which he linked together the brains of several rats using complex implanted electrodes known as brain-to-brain interfaces. Nicolelis and his co-authors described this achievement as the first “organic computer” with living brains tethered together as if they were so many microprocessors. The animals in this network learned to synchronize the electrical activity of their nerve cells to the same extent as those in a single brain. The networked brains were tested for things such as their ability to discriminate between two different patterns of electrical stimuli, and they routinely outperformed individual animals.

If networked rat brains are “smarter” than a single animal, imagine the capabilities of a biological supercomputer of networked human brains. Such a network could enable people to work across language barriers. It could provide those whose ability to communicate is impaired with a new means of doing so. Moreover, if the rat study is correct, networking human brains might enhance performance. Could such a network be a faster, more efficient and smarter way of working together?

 

Scientists Demonstrate Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans
Robert Martone, Scientific American

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Hologram Printer...

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The new printer uses low-power continuous wave lasers to create holograms on a highly sensitive photomaterial developed by the researchers. Credit: C Yves GENTET

 

Topics: 3D Objects, 3D Printing, Applied Physics, Holograms, Optics, Research


Researchers have developed a new printer that produces digital 3-D holograms with an unprecedented level of detail and realistic color. The new printer could be used to make high-resolution color recreations of objects or scenes for museum displays, architectural models, fine art or advertisements that do not require glasses or special viewing aids.

"Our 15-year research project aimed to build a hologram printer with all the advantages of previous technologies while eliminating known drawbacks such as expensive lasers, slow printing speed, limited field of view and unsaturated colors," said research team leader Yves Gentet from Ultimate Holography in France. "We accomplished this by creating the CHIMERA printer, which uses low-cost commercial lasers and high-speed printing to produce holograms with high-quality color that spans a large dynamic range."

 

New printer creates extremely realistic colorful holograms, The Optical Society, Phys.org

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Twisted Fridge...

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Fridge-freezer: twistocaloric cooling could be coming to a kitchen near you. (Courtesy: iStock/Allevinatis)

 

Topics: Applied Physics, Green Tech, Research, Thermodynamics


A new refrigeration technology based on the twisting and untwisting of fibers has been demonstrated by a team led by Zunfeng Liu at Nankai University in China and Ray Baughman at the University of Texas at Dallas in the US. As the demand for refrigeration expands worldwide, their work could lead to the development of new cooling systems that do not employ gases that are harmful to the environment.

The cooling system relies on the fact that some materials undergo significant changes in entropy when deformed. As far back as 1805 – when the concepts of thermodynamics were first being developed – it was known that ordinary rubber heats up when stretched and cools down when relaxed. In principle, such mechanocaloric materials could be used in place of the gases that change entropy when compressed and expanded in commercial refrigeration systems. Replacing gas-based systems is an important environmental goal because gaseous refrigerants tend to degrade the ozone layer and are powerful greenhouse gases.

In their experiments, Liu and Baughman’s team studied the cooling effects of twist and stretch changes in twisted, coiled and supercoiled fibers of natural rubber, nickel-titanium and polyethylene fishing line. In each material, they observed a surface cooling as high as 16.4 °C, 20.8 °C, and 5.1 °C respectively, which they achieved through techniques including simultaneous releases of twisting and stretching, and unraveling bundles of multiple wires.

 

Refrigerator works by twisting and untwisting fibers, Materials, Physics World

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The Lightness of Stupidity...

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Anti-evolution books on sale during the Scopes "Monkey Trial" in 1925. Credit: Getty Images

 

Topics: Biology, Civics, Climate Change, Education, Science, Research

History.com: Scopes Monkey Trial


Nearly a quarter of a million science teachers are hard at work in public schools in the United States, helping to ensure that today’s students are equipped with the theoretical knowledge and the practical know-how they will need to flourish in tomorrow’s world. Ideally, they are doing so with the support of the lawmakers in their state’s legislatures. But in 2019 a handful of legislators scattered across the country introduced more than a dozen bills that threaten the integrity of science education.

It was a mixed batch, to be sure. In Indiana, Montana and South Carolina, the bills sought to require the misrepresentation of supposedly controversial topics in the science classroom, while in North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota, their counterparts were content simply to allow it. Meanwhile, bills in Connecticut, Florida and Iowa aimed beyond the classroom, targeting supposedly controversial topics in the state science standards and (in the case of Florida) instructional materials.

Despite their variance, the bills shared a common goal: undermining the teaching of evolution or climate change. Sometimes it is clear: the one in Indiana would have allowed local school districts to require the teaching of a supposed alternative to evolution, while the Montana bill would have required the state’s public schools to present climate change denial. Sometimes it is cloaked in vague high-sounding language about objectivity and balance, requiring a careful analysis of the motives of the sponsors and supporters.

Either way, though, such bills would frustrate the purpose of public science education. Students deserve to learn about scientific topics in accordance with the understanding of the scientific community. With the level of acceptance of evolution among biomedical scientists at 99 percent, and the level of acceptance of climate change among climate scientists not far behind at 97 percent, it is a disservice to students to misrepresent these theoretically and practically important topics as scientifically controversial.
 

 

Science Education Is Under Legislative Attack, Glen Branch, Scientific American

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Decoding Sweat...

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New wearable sensors developed by scientists at UC Berkeley can provide real-time measurements of sweat rate and electrolytes and metabolites in sweat. (Credit: Bizen Maskey, Sunchon National University)

 

Topics: Biophysics, Biotechnology, Microfluidics, Nanotechnology, Research


A new scalable, high-throughput fabrication process that makes use of roll-to-roll printing and laser cutting can produce wearable sweat sensors rapidly and reliably and on a large scale. The devices, which can almost instantly detect and analyse electrolytes, metabolites and other biomolecules contained in sweat, could be employed in real-world applications and not just as laboratory prototypes.

Analyzing sweat is a non-invasive way to monitor a range of biomolecules, from small electrolytes to metabolites and hormones and larger proteins that come from deeper in the body. Indeed, sweat sensing has already been used to medically diagnose diseases like cystic fibrosis and autonomic neuropathy and to assess fluid and electrolyte balance in endurance athletes.

Traditional sweat sensors collect sweat from the body at different times and then analyse it. This means that the devices can’t be used to detect real-time changes in sweat composition – during physical activity, for example, or to monitor glucose levels in diabetic patients. Wearable sensors, which make use of flexible and hybrid electronics, overcome this problem by allowing for in-situ sweat measurements with real-time feedback. However, it is still difficult to reliably make sweat sensor components (including microfluidic chip and sensing electrodes) in large quantities and with good reproducibility.

 

Wearable patches could ‘decode’ sweat, Belle Dumé, Physics World

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5G Caveat Emptor...

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New 5G antennas (left) are smaller than 4G ones (right). Upcoming 5G networks will use higher-frequency radio spectrum, which will provide more bandwidth and enable the faster data-transfer rates that new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, smart energy grids, and internet-of-things devices, will demand. (Photos by KPhrom/Shutterstock.com.)

 

Topics: Electromagnetic Radiation, Mathematics, Stochastic Modeling, Research, Satellite, Weather


The fight is on over 5G. Telecommunication companies and the US government promote the latest mobile broadband because it will provide faster data-transfer rates than the current broadband communication standard. Faster, more reliable digital communication is needed for the newest technologies—autonomous vehicles, internet-of-things devices, and smart energy grids, among others. But meteorologists, US science agencies, and other countries worry that strong 5G signals, if not properly regulated, may interfere with satellites that are crucial to weather forecasting.
 
Today’s 4G network, nearly a decade old, moves data by bouncing radio waves between cell towers and devices such as smartphones. A 5G network would operate similarly but use a wider frequency range and more bandwidth, which would increase data-transfer rates by an order of magnitude. The higher-frequency signals proposed for 5G can’t travel through buildings like their lower-frequency 4G counterparts, but specialized antenna arrays would transmit the 5G signal across long distances. Earlier this year, two telecom companies in South Korea launched small 5G networks using busy lower-frequency bands, and Verizon deployed a 5G test in Chicago at the higher-frequency 28 GHz band.
 
Widespread 5G deployment will depend on building a new infrastructure of antennas that operate in high-frequency radio bands. Telecom companies and US regulators support 24 GHz for 5G networks because of its greater bandwidth and because the 1–6 GHz radio spectrum is already crowded with 4G, digital TV, radar, and other applications. (The 24 GHz band spans 24.25–24.45 GHz and 24.75–25.25 GHz.)

 

Fifth-generation broadband wireless threatens weather forecasting
Alex Lopatka, Physics Today

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Cyclocarbon...

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From left to right, precursor molecule C24O6, intermediates C22O4 and C20O2 and the final product cyclo [18]carbon C18 created on surface by dissociating CO masking groups using atom manipulation. The bottom row shows atomic force microscopy (AFM) data using a CO functionalized tip. Credit: IBM Research

 

Topics: Applied Physics, Atomic Force Microscopy, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Research


A team of researchers from Oxford University and IBM Research has for the first time successfully synthesized the ring-shaped multi-carbon compound cyclocarbon. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes the process they used and what they learned about the bonds that hold a cyclocarbon together.

Carbon is one of the most abundant elements, and has been found to exist in many forms, including diamonds and graphene. The researchers with this new effort note that much research has been conducted into the more familiar forms (allotropes) how they are bonded. They further note that less well-known types of carbon have not received nearly as much attention. One of these, called cyclocarbon, has even been the topic of debate. Are the two-neighbor forms bonded by the same length bonds, or are there alternating bonds of shorter and longer lengths? The answer to this question has been difficult to find due to the high reactivity of such forms. The researchers with this new effort set themselves the task of finding the answer once and for all.

The team's approach involved creating a precursor molecule and then whittling it down to the desired form. To that end, they used atomic force microscopy to create linear lines of carbon atoms atop a copper substrate that was covered with salt to prevent the carbon atoms from bonding with the subsurface. They then joined the lines of atoms to form the carbon oxide precursor C24O6, a triangle-shaped form. Next, the team applied high voltage through the AFM to shear off one of the corners of the triangle, resulting in a C22O4 form. They then did the same with the other two corners. The result was a C18 ring—an 18-atom cyclocarbon. After creating the ring, the researchers found that the bonds holding it together were the alternating long- and short-type bonds that had been previously suggested.

 

Ring-shaped multi-carbon compound cyclocarbon synthesized, Bob Yirka , Phys.org

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Dunamis Novem...

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Image source: "Dunamis Novem" link below

Topics: NIST, Quantum Mechanics, Research, STEAM


Quantum physics drives much of the research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Explaining this research is a challenge, because quantum physics—nature's rules for the smallest particles of matter and light—inspires words like weird, curious, and counter-intuitive. The quantum world is strange and invisible in the context of everyday life. And yet, quantum physics can be explained and at least partially demonstrated visually.

NIST physicist Ray Simmonds recently collaborated with MFA graduate candidate Sam Mitchell of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), to create a dance piece based on the laws of quantum physics. The piece, Dunamis Novem (Latin for "the chance happening of nine things"),* premiered at The La Jolla Playhouse Forum Theatre in January, as a part of Mitchell's thesis work.

The project has practical benefits such as education, Simmonds says.

"While quantum mechanics is a well-established theory, proven true overwhelmingly by experiments, it is still confounding to most people, even those in science," Simmonds and Mitchell noted in describing their work.

“Quantum Statistics: Affects on Human Dancers and the Observer”

Abstract

The Arts and Sciences may seem to be immiscible fields of study, even at odds with each other. In Leonardo Da Vinci’s time these two fields were not polarized, in fact, they coexisted naturally. Despite the appearance of being far distant cousins, both artists and scientists share a creative gene, a passion for their work, and a brave curiosity that pushes them past current boundaries to explore the unknown. In this lecture, we will present some recent examples of those mixing these two worlds and our own attempts to do so with Dance Theater and Quantum Physics. While quantum mechanics is a well-established theory, proven true overwhelmingly by experiments, it is still confounding to most people, even those in science. At its heart, it describes nature in terms of possible realities with probable outcomes, with almost no predictable certainty. Experts still struggle to interpret its philosophical consequences and the notion that there may be no “objective reality”. Even Albert Einstein, one of its co-creators, disapproved of its bizarre properties, saying that “God does not play dice with the universe”. In the creation of this work, “Dunamis Novem”, we have taken some of the probabilistic rules that govern quantum systems and integrated them into a creative process. The results are then born from an artistic aesthetic and an algorithmic code that produces dynamics that embody in some way randomness, concepts of “quantum entanglement”, and the effects of observation or “measurement”. Our work shows that “Science” can inspire and direct new forms of “Art”, and we hope that the liminal world of “Art” can be an effective medium to transmit the sometimes counterintuitive results of empirical “Science” to a broader audience, also generating a dialogue between the two. We will describe the scientific concepts that currently inspire us, the process by which we convert quantum principles into movements, and the challenges of distilling this into a theatrical setting.

 

What is Quantum Physics? Dancers Explain, NIST
Sam Mitchel Dance: Dunamis Novem

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Beneficent Adversaries...

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Petty Officer Third Class Robert H. Goodwin, WWII veteran


Topics: Nanofluidics, Nanotechnology, Research, STEM, Thesis


I passed my Thesis defense in Monday. I have a Masters in Nanoengineering.

After many weeks of running experiments, parsing data and writing preliminary conclusions, I had to stand before my committee: my advisor (chemist) and my nano physics professor, the department chair (mechanical engineering) and defend my research. In hindsight, it was the committee on steroids.

I bought coffee and donuts; water for the committee as is the tradition. That exposed me to 95 degree heat and North Carolina humidity. I ended up defending without my suit jacket.

There is the public defense part where you get questions from either the panel or the audience. Then the grueling begins when the audience is encouraged to leave and you are alone with your committee.

I was challenged on my understanding of the data, not in an accusatory way but to foster a better rewrite when I turn in my written product to the Graduate College. Those are due next Wednesday. I should be able to fulfill that request on review with my advisor. The committee also suggested further experiments I could do to verify what I thought I was seeing. After an intense 40 minutes of questioning, I was asked to leave as the committee conferred. For what seemed like an eternity, my advisor came out and shook my hand: "congratulations." I then went in to the committee to get their final suggestions and signatures for completing the process.

I am also moving...within Greensboro mind you, but to a house we own outright versus a rental apartment we don't.

It reminded me of my father proudly burning the last payment record as we owned our modest home - two bedrooms, one bath and less than a thousand square feet - in East Winston-Salem off Cleveland Avenue.

For the move, I had to parse through memorabilia that traveled with us from Texas to New York to North Carolina. It was time to make some decisions.

I found the program and invitation to my mother's graduation from Practical Nursing School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I imagined the trip for her and my father probably took a lot of back roads and the Green Book during that time period.

I found my parents' invitations sent for my high school graduation as well as my acceptance letter saying I had been accepted to North Carolina A&T State University for the fall semester, 1980. I found my first karate promotion certificates from Dr. Casterlow as part of the A&T Dojo.

I found a short story my father kept I had written for catharsis called "The Decision." It was when Pop left it to me to decide the fate of my dog, a Cocker Spaniel named Fala, named after FDR's dog. He was aged, tired and had stopped eating. The gist of the story was "sometimes as a man, you have to make difficult decisions." I was twelve. I didn't own a dog again until I was an adult with sons of my own. Parting with each four-legged friend has never gotten easier.

I found a lot of family photos that will go in albums and on a flash drive soon.

I also found the corroborating evidence I had read on History.com: the GI Bill like the New Deal before it was discriminatory to African Americans. My father passed a college entrance exam with only a sixth grade education formally, due to the fact he and my uncle Moses, Jr. went to work for my grandmother to help out the household. The GI Bill for white soldiers and sailors paid for a college education and loans encouraging home ownership, building a wealth gap that has persisted for generations. Many white service members went on to become professionals and professors. The GI Bill for my father and his fellow WWII veterans of color only covered vocational training, like barber school. So that's what he learned. Pop often cut my hair in the kitchen of our home  in a segregated neighborhood crafted by redlining legislation. He faced the indignities of working for a textile company - routinely getting passed over for promotions and getting called "boy" or n-word then his name. He smoked in a chair in his bedroom before he engaged with the family every evening after work. That was his way of coping. It eventually led to lung cancer, the contributing cause of his death.

I sadly had to throw away his literature books he bought for me: I read The Iliad and the Odyssey from that collection. I read snippets of Milton and I meant to read Thomas Paine. They alas were molded and mildewed; unrecoverable. I plan to replace the collection once we're settled in.

Announcing the good news on Facebook numbered in the thousands on the Kappa Alpha Psi page; hundreds on my main feed. It was good to see others, near and far, celebrate this achievement with me.

I passed my Masters Thesis defense.

I like to think I redeemed my father's dreams as well.
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Ionic Clock...

Physics World: A brief history of timekeeping


Topics: Atomic Physics, Laser, NIST, Quantum Mechanics, Research


By confining single ions of aluminum and magnesium in an electric trap, cooling them to near absolute zero and probing them with laser beams, physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Boulder, Colorado have built what is in effect the world’s most accurate clock. Having fractionally improved on the performance of another clock at NIST, the researchers have shown that their device would neither gain nor lose a second in 33 billion years (if it could run for that long). Such accurate timekeeping, they say, could boost geodesy and lead to new insights in fundamental physics.

The clocks that currently underpin atomic time rely on precisely measuring the frequency of microwaves emitted during a specific transition in cesium atoms. But such devices are limited by the relatively low frequency of that radiation. To keep time even more accurately, and eventually introduce a new definition of the second, physicists are developing clocks based on higher-frequency optical transitions.

The latest work at NIST features what is known as a quantum-logic clock. Built by Samuel Brewer and colleagues, it uses a positive ion of aluminum-27 as its timekeeper. When exposed to ultraviolet laser light at wavelength 267 nm, the ion undergoes a transition with a very narrow line width – making its frequency very well defined. What is more, that transition is largely immune to sources of external noise – such as blackbody radiation – that in other types of optical clock shift the frequency away from its true value.

A magnesium-25 ion is used to cool the aluminum down to the very low temperatures needed to minimize thermal noise. Cooling involves the absorption of photons at another specific frequency, but practical limitations mean that this cannot be done using the aluminum itself. This is because the required frequency in is too high for any practical laser. By entangling the two ions, the magnesium cools the aluminum via Coulomb interactions. This process also allows the quantum state of the aluminum ion to be read-out following exposure to the clock laser.

 

Entangled aluminum ion is world’s best timekeeper, Edwin Cartlidge, Physics World

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Sonic Tractor Beam...

Sound image: the acoustophoretic display reproduces the logo of the University of Bristol. (Courtesy: A Marzo, B Drinkwater and colleagues)

 

Topics: Acoustic Physics, Holograms, Research, Star Trek


A midair visual display that uses a single acoustically-levitated particle has been unveiled by researchers in Spain and the UK. Dubbed an “acoustophoretic display”, the image is created by using two ultrasound transducer arrays to levitate the particle and manipulate it to trace out the desired graphic at high speed.

In 2015, Asier Marzo at the Public University of Navarra and Bruce Drinkwater at the University of Bristol created a sonic tractor beam that used ultrasound to levitate, rotate and move objects. Using a single grid of 64 off-the-shelf loudspeakers controlled by a programmable array of transducers the device created 3D fields of sound – acoustic holograms – that could hold and manipulate a small polystyrene particle in mid-air.

Since then, the field has progressed and earlier this year Marzo and Drinkwater revealed an acoustic levitation device that used two grids of speakers to hold and individually manipulate up to 25 polystyrene balls at the same time. This opened up the possibility of new applications for sonic tractor beams, including visual displays created with multiple levitated particles.

According to Marzo, such acoustic generated images, which he calls acoustophoretic displays, would offer an advantage over current holograms as they would not suffer from clipping. “[With holograms] the image can only be viewed from determinate angles and the frame of the display occludes the image, it is like looking inside a window,” he explains. “With the acoustophoretic displays the images reside in the physical space and can be observed without clipping from 360°.”

Ultrasound guides particle in a midair display, Michael Allen, Physics World

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Peekaboo Parts...

A transparent human brain by Dr. Ali Ertuerk, Munich, Germany, April 23, 2019.

 

Topics: 3D Printing, Biomedicine, Research


MUNICH (Reuters) - Researchers in Germany have created transparent human organs using a new technology that could pave the way to print three-dimensional body parts such as kidneys for transplants.

Scientists led by Ali Ertuerk at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich have developed a technique that uses a solvent to make organs such as the brain and kidneys transparent.

The organ is then scanned by lasers in a microscope that allows researchers to capture the entire structure, including the blood vessels and every single cell in its specific location.

Using this blueprint, researchers print out the scaffold of the organ. They then load the 3D printer with stem cells which act as “ink” and are injected into the correct position making the organ functional.

German scientists create see-through human organs, Ayhan Uyanik, Reuters

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Good Vibes...

Sounding off: theoretical force patterns for an underwater Chladni plate at two different frequencies. The force arrows illustrate why glass beads accumulate at the plate antinodes (shown in yellow and red). (Courtesy: K Latifi, H Wijaya and Q Zhou/Physical Review Letters)

 

Topics: Acoustic Physics, Applied Physics, Research


The behaviour of some particles on the vibrating surfaces of Chladni plates is reversed underwater, a new study reveals. The discovery was made by Kourosh Latifi, Harri Wijaya, and Quan Zhou at Aalto University in Finland. They observed that glass beads on a submerged vibrating plate move towards antinodes, where the plate’s amplitude of vibration is highest. The underwater effect could be useful in a variety of medical and biological applications, including the manipulation of living cells.

In 1787 the German physicist Ernst Chladni put sand on a vibrating plate and observed that the grains settle on the nodal lines where the plate’s amplitude of vibration is zero. In contrast, he observed that finer particles move towards the plate’s antinodes where the amplitude is a local maximum.

A century later, Michael Faraday explained both behaviours. He concluded that the vibrations cause the larger grains to move laterally across the plate until they reach a node – where they no longer get lateral kicks and therefore remain in place. As for why the smaller particles did the opposite, Faraday argued that air currents just above the plates tend to push the lighter particles towards the antinodes – an effect known as acoustic streaming.

 

Vibrations guide tiny glass beads through an underwater maze
Sam Jarman, Physics World

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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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