There’s a deceptively still body of water in Tanzania with a deadly secret—it turns any animal it touches to stone. The rare phenomenon is caused by the chemical makeup of the lake, but the petrified creatures it leaves behind are straight out of a horror film.
Photographed by Nick Brandt in his new book, Across the Ravaged Land, petrified creatures pepper the area around the lake due to its constant pH of 9 to 10.5—an extremely basic alkalinity that preserves these creatures for eternity. According to Brandt:
I unexpectedly found the creatures - all manner of birds and bats - washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. No-one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake. The water has an extremely high soda and salt content, so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds. The soda and salt causes the creatures to calcify, perfectly preserved, as they dry.
I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life’, as it were. Reanimated, alive again in death.
There’s a neurobiological basis for that
“Before conducting the research we might have expected to find a link between lonely people and the part of the brain related to emotions and anxiety, but instead we found a link between loneliness and the amount of grey matter in the part of the brain involved in basic social perception. (…) The left posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) plays a really important role in social perception, as it’s the initial step of understanding other people,” said Dr Kanai. “Therefore the fact that lonely people have less grey matter in their pSTS is likely to be the reason why they have poorer perception skills.” - Dr. Ryota Kanai, UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience [via]
New study explores connection between physical fights, cognitive decline
A new Florida State University study has found that adolescent boys who are hurt in just two physical fights suffer a loss in IQ that is roughly equivalent to missing an entire year of school. Girls experience a similar loss of IQ after only a single fighting-related injury.
The findings are significant because decreases in IQ are associated with lower educational achievement and occupational performance, mental disorders, behavioral problems and even longevity, the researchers said.
“It’s no surprise that being severely physically injured results in negative repercussions, but the extent to which such injuries affect intelligence was quite surprising,” said Joseph A. Schwartz, a doctoral student who conducted the study with Professor Kevin Beaver in FSU’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Their findings are outlined in the paper, “Serious Fighting-Related Injuries Produce a Significant Reduction in Intelligence,” which was published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study is among the first to look at the long-term effects of fighting during adolescence, a critical period of neurological development.
About 4 percent of high school students are injured as a result of a physical fight each year, the researchers said.
Schwartz and Beaver used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health collected between 1994 and 2002 to examine whether serious fighting-related injuries resulted in significant decreases in IQ over a 5- to 6-year time span. The longitudinal study began with a nationally representative sample of 20,000 middle and high school students who were tracked into adulthood through subsequent waves of data collection. At each wave of data collection, respondents were asked about a wide variety of topics, including personality traits, social relationships and the frequency of specific behaviors.
Perhaps not surprisingly, boys experienced a higher number of injuries from fighting than girls; however, the consequences for girls were more severe, a fact the researchers attributed to physiological differences that give males an increased ability to withstand physical trauma.
The researchers found that each fighting-related injury resulted in a loss of 1.62 IQ points for boys, while girls lost an average of 3.02 IQ points, even after controlling for changes in socio-economic status, age and race for both genders. Previous studies have indicated that missing a single year of school is associated with a loss of 2 to 4 IQ points.
The impact on IQ may be even greater when considering only head injuries, the researchers said. The data they studied took into account all fighting-related physical injuries.
The findings highlight the importance of schools and communities developing policies aimed at limiting injuries suffered during adolescence whether through fighting, bullying or contact sports, Schwartz said.
“We tend to focus on factors that may result in increases in intelligence over time, but examining the factors that result in decreases may be just as important,” he said. “The first step in correcting a problem is understanding its underlying causes. By knowing that fighting-related injuries result in a significant decrease in intelligence, we can begin to develop programs and protocols aimed at effective intervention.”
Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.
Researchers at St Andrews say species broadcast locations to other dolphins they meet at sea using unique whistles
Bottlenose dolphins have distinct “names” that they use to identify individuals in their social group, according to a study by scientists who followed groups of the animals off the east coast of Scotland. The names are composed of whistles – signature high-pitched sounds that are created by individual dolphins as they grow – which they then use throughout their lives to broadcast their locations to other dolphins they meet at sea…
Human brain recognizes and reacts to race, UTSC researchers discover
The human brain fires differently when dealing with people outside of one’s own race, according to new research out of the University of Toronto Scarborough.
This research, conducted by social neuroscientists at U of T Scarborough, explored the sensitivity of the “mirror-neuron-system” to race and ethnicity. The researchers had study participants view a series of videos while hooked up to electroencephalogram (EEG) machines. The participants – all white – watched simple videos in which men of different races picked up a glass and took a sip of water. They watched white, black, South Asian and East Asian men perform the task.
Typically, when people observe others perform a simple task, their motor cortex region fires similarly to when they are performing the task themselves. However, the UofT research team, led by PhD student Jennifer Gutsell and Assistant Professor Dr. Michael Inzlicht, found that participants’ motor cortex was significantly less likely to fire when they watched the visible minority men perform the simple task. In some cases when participants watched the non-white men performing the task, their brains actually registered as little activity as when they watched a blank screen.
“Previous research shows people are less likely to feel connected to people outside their own ethnic groups, and we wanted to know why,” says Gutsell. “What we found is that there is a basic difference in the way peoples’ brains react to those from other ethnic backgrounds. Observing someone of a different race produced significantly less motor-cortex activity than observing a person of one’s own race. In other words, people were less likely to mentally simulate the actions of other-race than same-race people”
The trend was even more pronounced for participants who scored high on a test measuring subtle racism, says Gutsell.
“The so-called mirror-neuron-system is thought to be an important building block for empathy by allowing people to ‘mirror’ other people’s actions and emotions; our research indicates that this basic building block is less reactive to people who belong to a different race than you,” says Inzlicht.
However, the team says cognitive perspective taking exercises, for example, can increase empathy and understanding, thereby offering hope to reduce prejudice. Gutsell and Inzlicht are now investigating if this form of perspective-taking can have measurable effects in the brain.
The team’s findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
Daniel C. Dennett favours the theory (first suggested by Richard Dawkins) that our social learning has given us a second information highway (in addition to the genetic highway) where the transmission of variant cultural information (memes) takes place via differential replication. Software viruses, for example, can be understood as memes, and as memes evolve in complexity, so does human cognition: “The mind is the effect, not the cause.” (…)
Daniel Dennett: “Natural selection is not gene centrist and nor is biology all about genes, our comprehending minds are a result of our fast evolving culture. Words are memes that can be spoken and words are the best example of memes. Words have a genealogy and it’s easier to trace the evolution of a single word than the evolution of a language.”
See also: ☞ Daniel C. Dennett on an attempt to understand the mind; autonomic neurons, culture and computational architecture, Lapidarium notes (via amiquote)
A HISTORY OF EXISTING LIFE - JENNIFER BERLINGER
This high quality, giclée print is filled with the broad spectrum of life on earth. Bacteria, fungi, insects, mammals and more are rendered in watercolor with startling detail. The limbs of an ancient tree help guide the eyes through the related families, helping observers of all ages visually explore the connections and differences between each. A timeline along the side illustrates how long ago each new branch appeared. The illustration is thoroughly researched, and based on the most up-to-date scientific understanding, but truly reveals the exquisite beauty that grows throughout the diversity of life.
RSA Animate - Language as a Window into Human Nature: Steven Pinker
Includes Alan Fiske’s theory of the three major human relationship types: dominance, commonality, reciprocity