Relatively Interesting http://www.relativelyinteresting.com Fri, 23 Feb 2018 19:12:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 39163838 What makes Air Force One so special? http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/makes-air-force-one-special/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/makes-air-force-one-special/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 19:12:54 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=10163 Relatively Interesting -

Air Force One – arguably the world’s most famous plane – is as tall as a six-story building, has over 4,000 square feet of floor space, hosts 100 people.  Despite all this, it only costs American tax payers $206,337 every hour it’s in flight.  Its air conditioner was recently upgraded for a cool $24 million. Trolling […]

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Air Force One – arguably the world’s most famous plane – is as tall as a six-story building, has over 4,000 square feet of floor space, hosts 100 people.  Despite all this, it only costs American tax payers $206,337 every hour it’s in flight.  Its air conditioner was recently upgraded for a cool $24 million.

Trolling aside, Air Force One is a site to behold.

Technically, Air Force One is used to describe any Air Force aircraft carrying the President — but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the Commander-in-Chief. Today, this name refers to one of two highly customized Boeing 747-200B series aircraft.

Here’s a few features that make Air Force One so special.

The size of Air Force One
It’s huge, almost as big as the president’s hands.
The President's Suite on Air Force One
Ideal for frequent cat naps.
LOL being president is hilarious
Usually, they’re playing on their PS4, but for this photo, they chose to show the news.
Air Force One electronic countermeasures.
Flares are hidden in the wings and can be released to confuse enemy missiles. Each flare is full of confetti, so the missiles don’t know whether to celebrate or destroy the plane.
* Car sold separately.
The body of the plane can withstand a nuclear blast from the ground. Unfortunately, it cannot withstand the explosion of the sun.
Air Force One "situation room"
Not to be confused with Jersey Shore’s “The Situation”.
Air Force One retractable staircase
Just like a castle, each exit on AF1 has a retractable staircase.
Should it bother us that there’s a kink in the phone line?
Air Force One oval office
The president’s “Oval Office”, where all kinds of shenanigans take place.
It takes about 26 crew members to service Air Force One. 27 if they need a cake cutter.
The windows are armored, just like the Popemobile. The furniture is from IKEA.
4,000 square feet on board, which means it’s a heck of a dance party every Tuesday night after tacos.

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/air-force-one-features-2018-2

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The ultimate Godzilla height comparison http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/godzilla-height-comparison-size-chart/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/godzilla-height-comparison-size-chart/#respond Mon, 19 Feb 2018 00:32:45 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=10150 Relatively Interesting -

How tall is Godzilla? The latest incarnation of the Kaiju King is taken from the CG animated movie, “Godzilla:  Planet of the Monsters“, and is over 300m tall.  For comparison, the 2014 Godzilla was “only” 108m tall, and 2016’s “Shin Godzilla”, the previous record holder, was 118.5m tall.  Famed artist Noger Chen has produced a size […]

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How tall is Godzilla?

The latest incarnation of the Kaiju King is taken from the CG animated movie, “Godzilla:  Planet of the Monsters“, and is over 300m tall.  For comparison, the 2014 Godzilla was “only” 108m tall, and 2016’s “Shin Godzilla”, the previous record holder, was 118.5m tall.  Famed artist Noger Chen has produced a size comparison of all the Godzilla heights, dating back to 1954.

For comparison, the Eiffel Tower is 324 meters tall, and the Chrysler building in New York is 319 meters tall.

Godzilla height comparison and size chart
Godzilla: Height Comparison (click to see a larger version). Source: Noger Chen

At 300m in height, Godzilla clearly towers over his kaiju brethren, as depicted in the ultimate kaiju size chart.

Here’s a summary of Godzilla’s Kaiju Profile:

 

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Will a Vitamin C Megadose Protect Against the Cold Virus? http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/will-vitamin-c-megadose-protect-cold-virus/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/will-vitamin-c-megadose-protect-cold-virus/#respond Fri, 16 Feb 2018 20:05:51 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=10124 Relatively Interesting -

Will taking Vitamin C protect against a cold?  The average U.S. adult catches between two and four cold viruses each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While more than 200 viral strains can cause the common cold, the most common is the rhinovirus, which is responsible for 10 to 40 percent of […]

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Will taking Vitamin C protect against a cold? 

The average U.S. adult catches between two and four cold viruses each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While more than 200 viral strains can cause the common cold, the most common is the rhinovirus, which is responsible for 10 to 40 percent of all colds.

The good news is that cold infections — rhinovirus and other strains — typically resolve without the need for medical attention. Young children and the elderly have the highest risk of complications, but most people recover within 7 to 10 days. The bad news is that vaccination doesn’t offer immunity to cold infections. There are vaccines available to protect against the flu, but not the cold.

Vitamin C Megadose Explained

There’s some belief that taking a vitamin C megadose as a supplement can protect against the cold virus. A vitamin C megadose is defined as a dose of vitamin C that’s significantly greater than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends 45 milligrams of vitamin C daily for health adults, and 25 to 30 milligrams for children.

A vitamin C, megadose, however, may consist of several thousand milligrams daily. Linus Pauling, Nobel Peace Prize-winning chemist and pioneer of the vitamin C megadose, was said to have consumed up to 12,000 milligrams of vitamin C daily.

The Science Behind Vitamin C Megadoses

Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid and L-ascorbic acid, is a naturally occurring vitamin that’s found in a variety of foods, some of which include apples, oranges, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, tomatoes, broccoli and peas. It’s well-tolerated by the human body, with approximately 70 to 90 percent being absorbed when taken orally at normal dosage levels. When consumed as a megadose, however, about 50 percent of vitamin C is absorbed.

Vitamin C Benefits

Vitamin C offers a wide range of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, improving skin elasticity, treating lead toxicity, improving cataracts and strengthening the immune system. And because it’s touted as an immune booster, many people assume that large doses will protect against the common cold.

A Cochrane study conducted in 2007 found that vitamin C, at regular dosage, did not significantly reduce the risk of cold infections in the general population. It did, however, reduce rates of cold infections in highly active individuals, such as marathon runners, skiers and soldiers.

There are mixed findings regarding the effectiveness of vitamin C megadoses when taken to prevent and/or treat cold infections, however. A study of 800 students published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found cold symptoms were 85 percent less severe in participants who consumed a vitamin C megadose. This was a relatively small study, consisting of just 463 young adults.

A separate study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found no significant differences in either severity or duration of cold infections between participants who took a low-dose of vitamin C and a megadose. The nonprofit organization AARP also published an article in which it debunked the myth that vitamin megadoses prevent or shorten illnesses.

Risks of Adverse Side Effects

Not only is its effectiveness questionable, but vitamin C megadoses have been linked to several adverse side effects, including diarrhea, iron overload, scurvy, kidney stones and tooth decay.

While vitamin C is certainly beneficial, a megadose isn’t the miracle wonder that many people claim. Following the recommended dosage will likely provide the same immune-strengthening effects as a megadose. If you want to further reduce your risk of catching a cold, follow the tips listed below.

Tips to Protect Against Cold Infections

  • Avoid or limit exposure to individuals who are infected with the cold virus.
  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water regularly, especially after eating. This is the single most important step in protecting against colds and other infections.
  • Don’t touch your nose, mouth, eyes or face
  • Disinfect surfaces like doorknobs, counter tops, remote controls and telephones.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Get enough rest.

The basis on which the vitamin C megadose was invented is that higher doses translate into stronger effects. As several studies have found, though, a higher dose doesn’t offer improved benefits. If you decide to begin a vitamin C megadose regimen, consult with your primary care physician first.

 

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The Origin of the Meme Concept http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/origin-meme-concept/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/origin-meme-concept/#respond Thu, 15 Feb 2018 13:01:14 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=10121 Relatively Interesting -

What are memes, and where did they come from? The concept of the Meme was first coined by the British biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. In this book, he conceptualized a gene as a replicator. A replicator is something that perpetuates itself by replicating. Genes do this by jumping from […]

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What are memes, and where did they come from?

The concept of the Meme was first coined by the British biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. In this book, he conceptualized a gene as a replicator. A replicator is something that perpetuates itself by replicating. Genes do this by jumping from body to body. When an animal reproduces, it passes on its genes to the next generation, thus replicating them.

Richard Dawkins coined the term “meme”

Dawkins introduced the concept of the meme in order to show that genes aren’t the only replicators. Ideas also replicate themselves by jumping from mind to mind. In the last few years, the term “meme” has become more popular to refer to ideas that spread around the internet.

Characteristics of Successful Memes

Dawkins said that all replicators are in competition with each other, and there are 3 fundamental characteristics which determine whether one replicator will be successful over another. These are:

1. Longevity

In the case of an idea, this would be how memorable the idea is. Sometimes we may hear an idea, but instantly forget it. Such an idea has little longevity in a particular mind and therefore isn’t a good replicator.

One of the most popular memes ever: Success Baby
One of the most popular memes ever: Success Baby

2. Fidelity

This refers to how well the idea passes from mind to mind unchanged. Dawkins always said that this is the main reason that ideas aren’t nearly as efficient at replication as genes are. Genes can pass from body to body with only a couple mutations, but ideas can become completely distorted as they pass from one person to another.

You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve ever played the children’s game “telephone”, in which a word is whispered from one child to the next. On the internet, however, we have nearly perfect replication of text and video, which can lead to a high degree of fidelity.

3. Fecundity

This refers to how many copies of itself a replicator is capable of making. In biological terms, if a particular breed of cats produce 4 offspring per litter, but another breed of cats produce 8 offspring per litter, then in a few generations the breed that produces more kittens per litter will far outnumber the other breed.

You might carry this analogy to a meme. If you receive an email, and you forward it to 5 of your friends; and they each forward it to 5 of their friends; and those 25 people forward it to 5 of their friends, pretty soon you will have a meme that is out of control.

Memes:  A Possible Explanation of Cultural Evolution?

Dawkins first proposed this idea as a potential theory for how cultural evolution might work. Since 1976, he has moved away from a full endorsement of the idea as fully explaining cultural evolution. He has said that what he really wanted another example of a replicator to illustrate the principle of the gene, and that if personal computers were around at that time, he probably would have used a computer virus as an example since they have a higher degree of fidelity and are a much better analogy.

If you are interested in learning more about the concept of the meme, you might want to check out the book The Meme Machine, by Susan Blackmore. In it, she gives the meme theory its best case, and the forward is written by Dawkins himself.

 

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100 Free Useful Pieces of Software for Students http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/100-free-useful-pieces-software-students/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/100-free-useful-pieces-software-students/#respond Tue, 13 Feb 2018 18:52:47 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=10077 Relatively Interesting -

With tuition and boarding costs on the rise, students are already strapped for cash.  Who wants to shell out even more money for software? Fret not, dear students. Here is a collection of really useful free software that you can use.  Whether it be for note taking, reading, presentations, or organization tools, you’ll find an […]

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With tuition and boarding costs on the rise, students are already strapped for cash.  Who wants to shell out even more money for software?

Fret not, dear students.

Here is a collection of really useful free software that you can use.  Whether it be for note taking, reading, presentations, or organization tools, you’ll find an application that’s sure to make a student life a little bit easier.

List of free software for students.
100 free pieces of software for students.  Source:  Lapstopstudy.com

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36 Extinct Animals due to Human Activity http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/36-extinct-animals-due-human-activity/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/36-extinct-animals-due-human-activity/#respond Mon, 12 Feb 2018 14:52:40 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9982 Relatively Interesting -

Humans are responsible for some of the most dramatic changes on Earth.  Unfortunately, one of them is animal extinction.  Reasons for extinction include hunting/fishing/poaching, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.  It’s been said that we are in the midst of the 6th great extinction event, akin to a “biological annihilation“. […]

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Humans are responsible for some of the most dramatic changes on Earth.  Unfortunately, one of them is animal extinction.  Reasons for extinction include hunting/fishing/poaching, the introduction of invasive species, pollution, habitat loss, and climate change.  It’s been said that we are in the midst of the 6th great extinction event, akin to a “biological annihilation“.

Between 1900 and 2015, almost half of the 177 mammal species surveyed lost more than 80% of their population, according to a study by Professor Gerardo Ceballos at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Take, for example, lions.  In 1950, it’s estimated that 400,000 lions roamed across most of Africa, southern Europe, the Middle East, and even northwestern India.  Today, there are fewer than 25,000.

In the past 500 years, we know of approximately 1,000 species that have gone extinct, from the woodland bison of West Virginia and Arizona’s Merriam’s elk to the Rocky Mountain grasshopper, passenger pigeon, and Puerto Rico’s Culebra parrot — but this doesn’t account for thousands of species that disappeared before scientists had a chance to describe them.

Here are just 36 extinct animals lost to history due to human activity.

36 animals that have gone extinct because of humans
36 Extinct Animals Lost due to Human Activity

Infographic Source: Alan’s Factory Outlet

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Don’t freak if you can’t solve a math problem that’s gone viral http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/dont-freak-cant-solve-math-problem-thats-gone-viral/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/dont-freak-cant-solve-math-problem-thats-gone-viral/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 17:31:50 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9877 Relatively Interesting -

Kevin Knudson, University of Florida It’s been quite a year for mathematics problems on the internet. In the last few months, three questions have been online everywhere, causing consternation and head-scratching and blowing the minds of adults worldwide as examples of what kids are expected to know these days. As a mathematician, I suppose I […]

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Kevin Knudson, University of Florida

It’s been quite a year for mathematics problems on the internet. In the last few months, three questions have been online everywhere, causing consternation and head-scratching and blowing the minds of adults worldwide as examples of what kids are expected to know these days.

As a mathematician, I suppose I should subscribe to the “no such thing as bad publicity” theory, except that problems of this ilk a) usually aren’t that difficult once you get the trick, b) sometimes aren’t even math problems and c) fuel the defeatist “I’m not good at math” fire that pervades American culture. The inability to solve such a problem quickly is certainly not indicative of a person’s overall math skill, nor should it prompt a crisis of confidence about the state of American math aptitude.

When is Cheryl’s birthday?

In April, the internet erupted with shock that 10-year-olds in Singapore were asked to answer the following question on an exam.

The logic puzzle from the Singapore and Asian Math Olympiads.

Except that it wasn’t for elementary school students at all; rather it appeared on an Asian Olympiad exam designed for mathematically talented high school students. What’s more, this isn’t even a math problem, but a logic problem. It’s true that students tend to learn formal logic via mathematics (plane geometry in particular), so it is common to see problems of this type in mathematics competitions. When I was in junior high, we spent a good deal of time on these puzzles in my language arts class, and I met them again when taking the GRE prior to entering graduate school (the test contains a whole section of them).

If you’re stumped, check out a solution to the problem.

Vietnamese eight-year-olds do arithmetic

A month later, we heard about a third grade teacher in Vietnam who set the following puzzle for his students. Place the digits from 1 to 9 in this grid, using each only once (the : represents division).

A puzzle for Vietnamese children.
VN Express

This reminds me of the (probably apocraphyl) story of one of the greatest mathematicians in history, Carl Friedrich Gauss. Legend has it that when Gauss was seven or eight, his teacher, wanting to occupy his students for a while, told the class to add up the numbers from 1 to 100. Gauss thought about it for 30 seconds or so and wrote the correct answer, 5,050, on his slate and turned it in.

The puzzle above has a similar feel. It’s really a question about knowing the order of arithmetic operations (multiplication/division, addition/subtraction, in that order). Beyond that, it just takes trial and error; that is, it’s kind of just busy work. Someone who knows some algebra might be able to generate some equations to gain insight into how you might find a solution.

Another approach would be to open up a spreadsheet program and just try all the possibilities. Since there are nine choices for the first box, then eight choices for the second, and so on, there are only (9)(8)(7)(6)(5)(4)(3)(2)(1) = 362,880 possible configurations, of which only a few will give a valid equation. This can be programmed with very little effort.

Yellow or orange, students didn’t find the problem sweet.
Candy image via www.shutterstock.com

Hannah’s sweets

Just a couple of weeks ago, students in the UK vented their frustration via social media about a problem on the Edexcel GCSE (General Certificates of Secondary Education) mathematics exam. It is a probability question: Hannah has a bag containing n candies, six of which are orange and the rest of which are yellow. She takes two candies out of the bag and eats them. The probability that she ate two orange candies is 1/3. Given this, show that n² – n – 90 = 0. The students’ complaint? It’s too difficult.

I’ve taught math long enough to recognize the pitfalls of setting this problem. The students actually have the knowledge to do it, if they know basic probability, but it is unlike problems they would have practiced. A typical question would indicate the total number of candies in the bag and ask students to compute the probability of a certain outcome. This question gives the probability and asks for a condition on the number of candies. It’s just algebra. You may read the solution (and some humorous memes about the question) here.

What does his lifelong future with math look like?
Prisoner 5413, CC BY-NC

A nation at risk?

Mathematicians dread cocktail parties because we inevitably have to endure the response we receive when asked what we do: “Oh, I hated (or am terrible at) math.” No other subject in school receives such scorn, nor would we find it acceptable for an adult to admit they are terrible at reading or writing. So when these “unsolvable” problems pop up, they simply reinforce our culture’s math anxiety.

And that’s a real shame, because everyone likes math when they’re young. We all like to count. We like playing with blocks and shapes. We all use math daily whether we realize it or not – reading maps, planning routes, calculating tips. I once had a flooring installer tell me he was bad at math while I watched him lay tile. It’s a myth that all these people can’t do math. When people say they are “bad at math,” they usually mean that they had trouble with algebra, although if you corner them and ask the right questions you can usually make them realize that they use algebra all the time without noticing it. This leads to valid criticisms of how we teach math, but it doesn’t mean we’re a nation of math idiots.

The ConversationSo, the next time one of these outrageous problems comes along, instead of giving in to anxiety, why not think about it for a few minutes and try to find a solution? You might be surprised how satisfying it can be.

Kevin Knudson, Professor of Mathematics, University of Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Why does multiplying two negatives give you a positive? http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/why-does-multiplying-two-negatives-give-you-a-positive/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/why-does-multiplying-two-negatives-give-you-a-positive/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 14:27:51 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=7753 Relatively Interesting -

I found myself in a difficult situation the other day:  explaining the multiplication of two negative numbers to my 8 year old. Negative numbers are rather simple to illustrate when using temperature because there is a clearly visible “zero” Celsius and numbers on either side of it.  Living in Canada, we can see dramatic fluctuations […]

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I found myself in a difficult situation the other day:  explaining the multiplication of two negative numbers to my 8 year old.

Negative numbers are rather simple to illustrate when using temperature because there is a clearly visible “zero” Celsius and numbers on either side of it.  Living in Canada, we can see dramatic fluctuations in temperature in a single day.

But then I had to explain why temperature even needs to go below zero in the first place… why not start at a lower number?  I told her about the concept of absolute zero and the Kelvin scale and quickly got in over my head.  And I struggled to provide a very simple explanation to her initial question:  why does multiplying two negative numbers give a positive number?

So I looked to the information superhighway, where I was met with a much better analogy:  money.

Found on reddit in the ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5) subreddit, this question had many responses.  But the one voted to the top was provided by reddit user Zerotan.

Here’s the explanation that was provided:

I give you three $20 notes:  +3 * +20 = +60 for you

I give you three $20 debts:  +3 * -20 = -60 for you

I take three $20 notes from you:  -3 * +20 = -60 for you

I take three $20 debts from you:  –3 * -20 = +60 for you

The result is the gain or loss from where you started.

This response was quickly rebuked by another user, who had a good point:  the answer describes the abstraction but not the underlying roots. It’s like saying Greenland is further north than Italy because it’s higher up on the map.  It doesn’t actually explain anything.

If we reduce math to counting physical things, like say, bottle caps, then a negative number can be seen as a bottle cap debt.  So, 5 + 5 is 10, 5 – 5 is 0, this is obvious. 5 + -5 is 0, 5 – -5 is 10.

-5 means take away 5, so 5 – -5 means take away a 5 unit takeaway.

Multiplying is simply saying add a number to itself some number of times.  5 times 6 means add 5 to itself 6 times, or 0 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 + 5 = 30.

By the same token then, -5 times 6 (0 + -5 + -5 + -5 + -5 + -5 + -5) is -30.

So what about 5 times -6. What do we mean when we multiply by a negative number? Well, we subtract instead, so 0 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 5 = -30, and -5 times – 6 : 0 – -5 – -5 – -5 – -5 – -5 – -5 = 30

In short, it’s like, “How come -(-X) = X?”  It’s the same reason the opposite of “the opposite of up” is up.

Obviously.

Sources:

The Catchy Nonsense of “Two Negatives Make a Positive”

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The Evolution of Religion: Faith, Myths, and Mysticism http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/evolution-religion-faith-myths-mysticism/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/evolution-religion-faith-myths-mysticism/#respond Wed, 31 Jan 2018 15:50:00 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9817 Relatively Interesting -

Designed by Simon E. Davies from the Human Odyssey, The Evolutionary Tree of Religion provides a timeline for the origins of faith, myths, and mysticism dating as far back as 40,000 BCE to the modern day and spread all across the globe. There are roughly 4,200 known religions in the world, which often drive morality, […]

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Designed by Simon E. Davies from the Human Odyssey, The Evolutionary Tree of Religion provides a timeline for the origins of faith, myths, and mysticism dating as far back as 40,000 BCE to the modern day and spread all across the globe.

There are roughly 4,200 known religions in the world, which often drive morality, ethics, laws, and lifestyle.  Many of these religions have narratives, symbols, traditions, and histories that are intended – for better or worse – to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe.

Of course, the graphic does not contain all 4,200, but still represents some of the more historically significant faiths.

Click to see a larger, more legible version.  

The evolution of religion (family tree)

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A few of the best science fiction movies from the 80’s http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/best-science-fiction-movies-80s/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/best-science-fiction-movies-80s/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 15:41:30 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9855 Relatively Interesting -

With so many greats to choose from, narrowing down the best science fiction movies from the 80s was a challenge. Luckily, we managed to do exactly that, and below you can find some of the best science fiction movies from the 80s we thoroughly recommend watching. From Blade Runner to RoboCop or The Terminator, there […]

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With so many greats to choose from, narrowing down the best science fiction movies from the 80s was a challenge. Luckily, we managed to do exactly that, and below you can find some of the best science fiction movies from the 80s we thoroughly recommend watching. From Blade Runner to RoboCop or The Terminator, there is certainly a movie everyone can enjoy in this niche genre!

The 80s wasn’t just great for science fiction movies however, with some other popular films such as Highlander making their mark on the film industry. However, it truly was science fiction which dominated the 80s, so here, we’re taking a look at some of the very best.

Blade Runner (1982)

Directed by Ridley Scott, Blade Runner is one of the best science fiction movies from the 80s. Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauser and Sean Young the original Blade Runner was released in 1982.

This infamous Sci-Fi Thriller film featured a blade runner that’s aim was to try to terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space and returned to earth to find their creator. Today, there are seven different versions of Ridley’s American science fiction film Blade Runner, the most recent being Blade Runner 2049, which was released in 2017.

Aliens (1986)

Directed and written by James Cameron, Aliens is yet another popular science fiction movie from the 80s, and is in fact a sequel to the 1979 film Alien. The film begins with Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle being found by a deep space salvage team after floating in space for a mere 57 years, with only one survivor – Newt – on board. People have described Aliens as “one of the most thrilling films ever” and an “outstanding blend of sci-fi, action and humour”.

If that hasn’t already convinced you to watch Aliens enough, the film was presented with the ‘Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film’, as well as the ‘Las Vegas Film Critics Society Sierra Award for Best DVD’ more recently. Why not give it a watch for some science-related humour?

Predator (1987)

Written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas, Predator is about a team of commandos on a mission in a Central American Jungle. During their journey, after finding a string of deceased bodies, they find themselves being hunted by an extra-terrestrial warrior that has superhuman strength and the ability to vanish into its surroundings.

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Kevin Peter Hall, Predator won ‘Best Sound Editing – Sound Effects at the Golden Reel Awards’, as well as the ‘BMI Film Music Award’ at the BMI Film Music Awards in 1988.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Directed by the infamous Steven Spielberg, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial features a troubled child, Elliot, who builds up the courage to help a friendly alien, called “E.T.”, to escape Earth and return to his home.

Featuring Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore and Peter Coyote, the family science fiction film has gone on to win countless awards including the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Movie, BAFTA Award For Best Film Music, Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, Grammy Award for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media, and has been described as “the classic of family classics” and “one of the best films ever made and experienced”.

RoboCop (1987)

Directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier and Miner, RoboCop is an action, crime and science fiction film. The film follows a company that has established a crime-fighting robot that develops a highly dangerous glitch. The company finds a way to get the robot back in favour with the public when a policeman is killed by a street gang.

The officer’s body is reconstructed within a shell made of steel and called ‘RoboCop’, who is successful at fighting crime across the capital. Featuring stars including the likes of Nancy Allen, Peter Weller and Dan O’Herlihy, RoboCop has since been re-released in 2014. Nevertheless, the original version of the film has won plenty of awards such as the Special Achievement Academy Award in 1988. This film has been described as a “classic science fiction film full of excess, humour and satire” that features “cracking futuristic action”.

Punt hunters can even find Robocop’s own game to meet their Sci-Fi needs after binge watching the movie on replay.

The Terminator (1984)

Directed and written by James Cameron, a Canadian filmmaker and deep-sea explorer, The Terminator is certainly one of the better known best science fiction movies from the 80s about a cyborg, known as a Terminator, is sent from the future on a mission to kill Sarah Connor, who must attempt escape with Kyle Reese, her rescuer, in order to save her unborn child.

Featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn and Linda Hamilton, an American Actress, The Terminator has won countless awards over the years, including the ‘Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film’ and has been described as “the best of the best in its genre”. Moreover, The Terminator is a sequel of five films in total, including: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003), Terminator Salvation (2009) and Terminator Genisys (2015).

Back To The Future (1985)

Directed and written by Robert Zemeckis, Back to the Future features a young high school student, Marty McFly, who is accidently sent thirty years into the past in the DeLorean time machine established by Doc Brown. Starring Michael J. Fox, who plays Marty, Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd, Back To The Future has won several awards since its release in 1985 including the ‘People’s Choice Award for Favourite Movie’ and the ‘Academy Award for Best Sound Editing’ in 1986.

Since the original release of the fantasy/science fiction film, the Back to the Future franchise has expanded, and is now a three-film sequel featuring Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back To The Future III (1990). Robert Zemeckis has revealed that he will attempt to remake the original film in the future, but for now, the original Back to the Future has been described as an “absolute classic”, “pure genius” and “the best 80s film ever” – it’s certainly one for those interested in time travel!

The Running Man (1987)

Directed by Paul Michael Glaser, The Running Man is about the story of a wrongly convicted man who must attempt to survive public execution that is horrifically staged as a game show. Written by Steven E. de Souza, The Running Man stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Yaphet Kotto and Maria Conchita Alonso who plays the role of Amber Mendez. With a runtime of 101 minutes, The Running Man is certainly a film you certainly do not want to miss if you haven’t already repeatedly watched it, and has been described as “a rollercoaster of a movie” that features “cheesy 80s brilliance”.

 

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Creatures, Beings, and Beasts of World Mythology http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/creatures-beings-beasts-world-mythology/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/creatures-beings-beasts-world-mythology/#respond Mon, 22 Jan 2018 13:37:53 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9821 Relatively Interesting -

For thousands of years, humans have told stories.  The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia would be written on clay tablets some 4,000 years ago, in 2,100 BCE.  It is generally regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature. Before the modern era, and faced with unexplainable phenomena and wild imaginations, […]

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For thousands of years, humans have told stories.  The Epic of Gilgamesh, an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia would be written on clay tablets some 4,000 years ago, in 2,100 BCE.  It is generally regarded as the earliest surviving great work of literature.

Before the modern era, and faced with unexplainable phenomena and wild imaginations, we created creatures: monsters and beings to be revered or feared or simply magical.  Many mythical creatures were imbued with supernatural powers that could be used for both good or evil.  Often, their actual existence was only secondary to the moral of the story that they were featured.

The fantastical creatures were sometimes used to explain the impossible:  How could Genghis Khan be so powerful?  Surely he was imbued with the power of one of the beasts.  According to Marco Polo, Genghis Khan possessed the feather of a Roc – a mythical giant bird that was so large and powerful that it fed on elephants – but Polo’s translator suspected otherwise:  that the feature was only a palm-tree frond.  Mermaids were probably born in the minds of lonely European sailors.  Dragons were perhaps born after discovering dinosaur fossils.  The Kraken?  Perhaps a giant squid washed ashore.  Some mythical creatures were simply based on garbled accounts of traveler’s tales from their discoveries of strange lands and beasts.

Mythical creatures appear in film and literature still today – think King Kong, or Godzilla.  The resurgence of these monster movies are testament to the strength of their popularity, even though some were conceived thousands of years ago.

Created by Mr. P’s Mythopedia, this collection of creatures, beings, and beasts from world mythology provides a glimpse into the imagination of cultures across the globe over thousands of years.

Get ready to scroll…

Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Supernatural creatures, beasts, and beings from world mythology
Water Deities of World Mythology
Water Deities of World Mythology
War Deities in World Mythology
War Deities in World Mythology
Trickster Deities of World Mythology
Trickster Deities of World Mythology
Supernatural beings of ancient Egypt
Supernatural beings of ancient Egypt

 

Solar deities of world mythology
Solar deities of world mythology
Sky deities of world mythology
Sky deities of world mythology
Psychopomps in world mythology
Psychopomps in world mythology
Beasts, supernatural spirits, & cunning creatures of Norse mythology
Beasts, supernatural spirits, & cunning creatures of Norse mythology
Nature deities of world mythology
Supernatural beings of Native American mythology
Supernatural beings of Native American mythology
Love deities of world mythology
Love deities of world mythology
Mesoamerican messengers of the dead
Mesoamerican messengers of the dead
Monsters of Mesopotamian mythology
Monsters of Mesopotamian mythology
Mythological beings of the Inuit
Mythological beings of the Inuit
Nagas: Hinduism's semi-divine serpents
Nagas: Hinduism’s semi-divine serpents
Liminal deities: the gatekeepers
Liminal deities: the gatekeepers
Heroes and Heroines of world mythology
Heroes and Heroines of world mythology
Female figures of magic and sorcery in world mythology
Female figures of magic and sorcery in world mythology
Deities of wisdom, learning and intelligence
Deities of wisdom, learning and intelligence
Deities and beings of the Basque: the Euskal Pantheon
Deities and beings of the Basque: the Euskal Pantheon
Creatures, beings, and spirits of Brazilian Mythology
Creatures, beings, and spirits of Brazilian Mythology

Source: All images via www.facebook.com/MrPsMythopedia/

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A Brief History of Atomic Theory http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/brief-history-atomic-theory/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/brief-history-atomic-theory/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 21:30:42 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9808 Relatively Interesting -

All matter is made up of atoms, the basic unit of a chemical element. This is something we now take as a given, and one of the things you learn at the beginning of high school or secondary school chemistry classes. Despite this, our ideas about what an atom is are surprisingly recent: as little as one […]

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All matter is made up of atoms, the basic unit of a chemical element. This is something we now take as a given, and one of the things you learn at the beginning of high school or secondary school chemistry classes.

Despite this, our ideas about what an atom is are surprisingly recent: as little as one hundred years ago, scientists were still debating what exactly an atom looked like.

This infographic takes a look at the key models proposed for the atom and how they changed over time:  from Democritus, to Bohr, and through till the quantum mechanical models.

Source:  Futurism.com

History of Atomic Theory

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37 more atheist memes that aren’t afraid to question religion http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/37-atheist-memes-arent-afraid-question-religion/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/37-atheist-memes-arent-afraid-question-religion/#respond Mon, 15 Jan 2018 21:21:47 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9620 Relatively Interesting -

Perhaps the most striking trend in American religion in recent years has been the growing percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group. And the vast majority of these religious “nones” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before dropping their religious identity in adulthood. As part […]

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Perhaps the most striking trend in American religion in recent years has been the growing percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group. And the vast majority of these religious “nones” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before dropping their religious identity in adulthood.

As part of a survey connected in the PEW Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, PEW surveyors asked these people to explain, in their own words, why they no longer identify with a religious group. This resulted in hundreds of different responses but many of them shared one of a few common themes.

Why Some People are Unaffiliated with a Religion

Don’t Believe – Why?

  • “Learning about evolution when I went away to college.”
  • “Too many Christians doing un-Christian things.”
  • “Religion is the opiate of the people.”
  • “Rational thought makes religion go out the window.”
  • “Lack of any of sort of scientific or specific evidence of a creator.”
  • “I just realized somewhere along the line that I didn’t really believe it.”
  • “I’m doing a lot more learning studying and kind of making decisions myself rather than listening to someone else.”

Dislike Organized Religion – Why?

  • “I see organized religious groups as more divisive than uniting.”
  • “I think that more harm has been done in the name of religion than any other area.”
  • “I no longer believe in organized religion. I don’t attend services anymore. Ijust believe that religion is very personal conversation with me and my creator.”
  • “Because I think religion is nota religion anymore. It’s a business it’s all about money.”
  • “The clergy sex abuse scandal.”
  • “The church’s teachings on homosexuality.”

Religiously Unsure/Undecided – Why?

  • “I don’t have a particular religion because I am open-minded and I don’t think there is one particular religion that is right or wrong.”
  • “I feel that there is something out there, but I can’t nail down a religion.”
  • “Right now I’m kind of leaning towards spirituality, but I’m not too sure. I know l can pray to my God anywhere. I do believe in a higher power, but I don’t need a church to do that.”

Inactive Believer

  • “I just basically stopped going to church when I went to college and never picked it back up. I was never super religious.”
  • “I don’t practice any religion and I don’t go to church or participate in any of the rituals of the church.”
  • “I don’t have the time to go to church.”

On With It!  Show Me The Atheist Memes

The following are a collection of atheist related memes.  They aren’t intended to insult readers who happen to follow the particular religion that is ridiculed.  They are intended, at the very least, to provoke thought.  Many of the memes point out a specific flaw with a religion, but taken as a whole, they actually support the reasons for religious unaffiliation listed above.

Remember, ideas and thoughts don’t have feelings.  Individuals have the right to believe what they wish, but their ideas do not have rights – and so we have the right (and one could argue, the obligation) to criticize and challenge them… especially if they are dangerous.

If you like these, there’s many more here and here.  You know who didn’t like them?  The folks over at the Clear Lens Podcast.  In Episode 37, they discuss a few of our previous atheist meme posts, but seem to misunderstand the point behind the memes they’re attempting do dismantle.  We recommending listening to the episode so that you can participate in the debate.  Also, we’d be happy to discuss these memes and more on a future podcast episide.

And finally, the memes…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:  Atheist Republic, Atheist Memebase

 

 

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The Origin of “Us”: What we know so far about where humans come from http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/origin-us-know-far-humans-come/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/origin-us-know-far-humans-come/#respond Mon, 08 Jan 2018 14:28:17 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9755 Relatively Interesting -

The question of where we humans come from is one many people ask, and the answer is getting more complicated as new evidence is emerging all the time. For most of recorded history humankind has been placed on a metaphorical, and sometimes literal, pedestal. Sure, modern humans were flesh and blood like other animals. But […]

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The question of where we humans come from is one many people ask, and the answer is getting more complicated as new evidence is emerging all the time.

For most of recorded history humankind has been placed on a metaphorical, and sometimes literal, pedestal. Sure, modern humans were flesh and blood like other animals.

But they were regarded as being so special that in the Linnaean taxonomy that prevailed well into the second half of the 20th century they were given their own family, the Hominidae.

This distinguished them from the Pongidae, the separate family used for the three African great apes – the common chimpanzee, bonobo and gorilla – plus the orangutan from Southeast Asia.

We now realize that modern humans are just one of the African great apes.

So when and how did this radically changed perception come about?

Early observations

In the 19th century the only evidence available for determining the closeness of the relationship between any two living animals was how similar they were in terms of what the naked eye could tell from their bones, teeth, muscles and organs.

The first person to undertake a systematic comparative review of these differences between modern humans and the apes was English biologist Thomas Henry Huxley.

In the central section of a small book he published in 1863, called Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature, Huxley concluded that the differences between modern humans and African apes were less than those between African apes and orangutans.

This was the evidence the English naturalist Charles Darwin referred to in The Descent of Man in 1871.

He speculated that because African apes were morphologically closer to modern humans than the apes from Asia, then the ancestors of modern humans were more likely to be found in Africa than elsewhere.

A closer inspection

Developments in biochemistry and immunology during the first half of the 20th century enabled the search for evidence of the relationships between modern humans and the apes to shift from macroscopic morphology to the morphology of molecules.

The results of applying a new generation of analytical methods to proteins were reported by the Austrian-born French biologist Emile Zuckerkandl and American biologist Morris Goodman in the early 1960s.

Zuckerkandl used enzymes to break up the protein component of haemoglobin into its peptide components. He showed that the patterns of the peptides from modern humans, gorilla and chimpanzee were indistinguishable.

Goodman used a different method, immunodiffusion, to study albumin, a serum protein. He showed that the patterns produced by the albumins of modern humans and the chimpanzee were identical. He concluded that this was because the albumin molecules were, to all intents and purposes, identical.

Apes and humans: related

Proteins are made up of a string of amino acids and in many instances one amino acid can be substituted for another without changing the function of the protein.

In the late 1960s, the American anthropologist Vince Sarich and New Zealand biologist Allan Wilson exploited these minor differences in protein structure and concluded that modern humans and the African apes were very closely related.

They also provided the first molecular clock estimate of modern human-African ape divergence, dating the split to only around five million years ago. This date was less than half of contemporary estimates based on fossil evidence.

In 1975 the American human geneticist Mary-Claire King and Allan Wilson showed that 99% of the amino-acid sequences of chimpanzee and modern human blood proteins were identical.

Enter DNA

The discovery by James Watson and Francis Crick, with unwitting help from Rosalind Franklin, of the basic structure of DNA, and the subsequent discovery by Crick and others of the nature of the genetic code, meant that the relationships among organisms could be pursued at the level of the genome.

Nowadays technological advances mean that whole genomes can be sequenced. Over the past decade researchers have published good draft sequences of the nuclear genomes of the chimpanzee, orangutan, gorilla and the bonobo.

How close? A chimpanzee (top left), an orangutan (top right), a gorilla (bottom left) and a bonobo (bottom right).  Shutterstock/Sergey Uryadnikov/Petr Masek/Sergey Uryadnikov/Eric Gevaert

 

More and better data are steadily being accumulated, and in 2013 a review of ape DNA based on the genomes of 79 great apes was published.

These new ape genome sequences support the results of earlier analyses of both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA that suggested modern humans and chimpanzees are more closely related to each other than either is to the gorilla.

When DNA differences among modern humans and the great apes are calibrated using the best palaeontological evidence for the split between the apes and the old world monkeys, those differences predict that the hypothetical common ancestor of modern humans, chimpanzees and bonobos lived about 8 million years ago.

The rise of the hominins

Most researchers now recognise the modern human as hominins.

Still, the question “where do we come from” can from a scientific perspective be difficult for someone outside of the discipline to come to grips with. In part this is because the fossil record for human evolution seems to grow exponentially, with the author of each new discovery often claiming that the textbooks need to be rewritten.

The interdisciplinary nature of palaeoanthropology also means that new evidence that helps us make sense of our ancestry does not always come in the form of new fossils.

It comes from advances in a range of disciplines that include archaeology, comparative anatomy, earth sciences, evolutionary biology, genomics and primatology.

A further complicating factor is that the human fossil record does not just consist of the fossil evidence of our direct ancestors.

Many of the fossils belong to lineages that do not make it to the surface of the Tree of Life. They belong to extinct close relatives, and the task of sorting close relatives from ancestors is one with which we are only just now beginning to grapple.

There is a lineage that leads to today’s Homo sapiens, but there are also a host of side experiments that are equally important to understand. They represent some of the most interesting chapters in human evolution.

Origins of the genus Homo

Understanding the origins of our own genus Homo means establishing what fossils we recognise as being the first early humans.

Sometime before 4 million years ago we see the first evidence of the genus Australopithecus. These fossils sample the kind of creature that was most likely the ancestor to the genus Homo.

Around 2.5 million years ago we see the first fossil evidence of species in Africa that many argue belong to our own lineage. One of these, Homo habilis, almost certainly made stone tools, had a slightly larger brain than Australopithecus, stood upright and regularly walked on two legs.

Some recognise a second species, Homo rudolfensis, about which we know even less.

These possible human ancestors lived alongside close relatives that were almost certainly not our ancestors. These species are called Paranthropus or robust australopiths – they had small brains, big jaw bones, large flat faces, and huge chewing teeth.

They lasted for at least a million years, so whatever they were eating (which is still a mystery) they were successful in the sense that they lasted as long in the fossil record as the average mammal.

But some researchers think that Homo habilis and Homo rudolfensis are not different enough from the australopiths that preceded them to justify being included in the genus Homo.

They claim that the size and shape of their body and the size of their teeth and jaws was little different from that of the australopiths. This means that their locomotion and diet had not shifted far enough in the direction of pre-modern Homo species such as Homo erectus to justify inclusion in Homo.

Tool making is not enough

Also, because it is becoming evident that australopiths may have been making tools earlier than Homo habilis it means that tool-making can no longer be seen as the sole prerogative of Homo.

There is a developing consensus that the relaxation of the criteria more than 50 years ago that saw the inclusion of Homo habilis into the genus Homo needs to be reconsidered.

Species that emerge slightly later from Africa, such as Homo ergaster, fit much more clearly within what we understand by the genus Homo. That species probably left Africa around 2 million years ago and migrated ultimately as far east as China and Indonesia where it evolved, eventually, into Homo erectus.

A number of further migrations out of Africa probably occurred after the initial Homo ergaster migration, one of which, Homo heidelbergensis, is considered by many palaeoanthropologists to be the ancestor of both Neanderthals (Homo neanderthalensis) and modern humans (Homo sapiens).

As far as we know, Neanderthals evolved outside of Africa, perhaps in response to the ice ages of Europe. Our ancestors remained in Africa where perhaps as early as 300,000 years ago, as revealed from recent redating of the Moroccan site of Jebel Irhoud, were well along in the process of evolving into modern humans.

So the origins of ‘us’

Once we get to the origins of our own species Homo sapiens we have the added advantage that we are able to now use next generation sequencing methods to recover ancient DNA (aDNA).

As geneticists recover ancient genomes from different extinct hominin species, they are generating insights that are not possible from comparing the anatomy of the fossils alone.

There is now fossil evidence from teeth to suggest that Homo sapiens may have been in China by 120,000 years ago and in South East Asia by 67,000 years.

The discovery of some distinctive modern human DNA within the DNA recovered from a Neanderthal fossil suggests that modest interbreeding was occurring between Neanderthals and modern humans in Central Asia by 100,000 years ago.

Modern humans have not shared the planet with another hominin species for several tens of thousands of years. But before that, in the past 300,000 years or so, there is fossil and DNA evidence of several hominin species, including the recently reported archaic hominin Homo naledi

First and foremost there was Homo neanderthalensis, whose range overlapped with modern humans in the Near East. Neanderthals most likely became extinct as a result of direct competition with the more technologically sophisticated Homo sapiens.

The evidence from DNA shows that there was interbreeding between our species and pre-modern humans, including the Neanderthals and the other enigmatic hominin referred to as the Denisovans.

We do not yet know how and when Homo erectus became extinct. It would appear that another unexpected side experiment in hominin evolution, known from the island of Flores and called Homo floresiensis most likely became extinct sometime after 60,000 years ago.

Indeed this hominin may represent something far more significant than simply an interesting side experiment, with many leading palaeoanthropologists arguing that the Hobbit may represent a pre-ergaster migration out of Africa.

What next?

Even though thousands of hominin fossils have now been recovered and described there is still much work to be done.

Was there a hominin that successfully migrated out of Africa prior to Homo ergaster? Did most of human evolution occur in Africa? Did some important transitions occur outside of Africa?

When did Homo erectus become extinct, and was there genetic exchange between erectus, sapiens and perhaps other hominin species?

As is often the case in science, with the recovery of additional data, in this case fossils and DNA extracted from fossils, we generate more questions than answers.

The ConversationBut ultimately all of this new evidence will result in a far more sophisticated appreciation of not only our evolution, but also the evolution of our extinct fossil cousins.

Bernard Wood, George Washington University and Michael Westaway, Griffith University

Bernard Wood, University Professor of Human Origins, George Washington University and Michael Westaway, Senior Research Fellow, Australian Research Centre for Human Evolution, Griffith University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Millions, billions, trillions: How to make sense of numbers in the news http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/millions-billions-trillions-make-sense-numbers-news/ http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/millions-billions-trillions-make-sense-numbers-news/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 21:29:01 +0000 http://www.relativelyinteresting.com/?p=9700 Relatively Interesting -

Andrew D. Hwang, College of the Holy Cross National discussions of crucial importance to ordinary citizens – such as funding for scientific and medical research, bailouts of financial institutions and the current Republican tax proposals – inevitably involve dollar figures in the millions, billions and trillions. Unfortunately, math anxiety is widespread even among intelligent, highly […]

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Andrew D. Hwang, College of the Holy Cross

National discussions of crucial importance to ordinary citizens – such as funding for scientific and medical research, bailouts of financial institutions and the current Republican tax proposals – inevitably involve dollar figures in the millions, billions and trillions.

Unfortunately, math anxiety is widespread even among intelligent, highly educated people.

Complicating the issue further, citizens emotionally undeterred by billions and trillions are nonetheless likely to be ill-equipped for meaningful analysis because most people don’t correctly intuit large numbers.

Happily, anyone who can understand tens, hundreds and thousands can develop habits and skills to accurately navigate millions, billions and trillions. Stay with me, especially if you’re math-averse: I’ll show you how to use school arithmetic, common knowledge and a little imagination to train your emotional sense for the large numbers shaping our daily lives.

This is what 1,000 dots looks like. (Source:  Wait But Why)

Estimates and analogies

Unlike Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, scientists and mathematicians are not exacting mental calculators, but habitual estimators and analogy-makers. We use “back of the envelope” calculations to orient our intuition.

The bailout of AIG after the mortgage-backed securities crisis cost more than US$125 billion. The Panama Papers document upward of $20 trillion hidden in a dark labyrinth of shell companies and other tax shelters over the past 40 years. (The recently published Paradise Papers paint an even more extensive picture.) On the bright side, we recovered $165 million in bonuses from AIG executives. That’s something, right?

Let’s find out: On a scale where a million dollars is one penny, the AIG bailout cost taxpayers $1,250. The Panama Papers document at least $200,000 missing from the world economy. On the bright side, we recovered $1.65 in executive bonuses.

In an innumerate world, this is what passes for fiscal justice.

Let’s run through that again: If one penny represents a million, then one thousand pennies, or $10, represents a billion. On the same scale, one million pennies, or $10,000, represents a trillion. When assessing a trillion-dollar expenditure, debating a billion dollars is quibbling over $10 on a $10,000 purchase.

Here, we’ve scaled monetary amounts so that “1,000,000” comprises one unit, then equated that unit to a familiar – and paltry – quantity, one penny. Scaling numbers to the realm of the familiar harnesses our intuition toward understanding relative sizes.

In a sound bite, a savings of $200 million might sound comparable to a $20 trillion cost. Scaling reveals the truth: One is a $2 (200-cent) beverage, the other the $200,000 price of an American home.

If time were money

Suppose you landed a job paying $1 per second, or $3,600 per hour. (I assume your actual pay, like mine, is a tiny fraction of this. Indulge the fantasy!) For simplicity, assume you’re paid 24/7.

At this rate, it would take one million seconds to acquire $1 million. How long is that in familiar terms? In round numbers, a million seconds is 17,000 minutes. That’s 280 hours, or 11.6 days. At $1 per second, chances are you can retire comfortably at the end of a month or few.

At the same job, it takes 11,600 days, or about 31.7 years, to accumulate $1 billion: Doable, but you’d better start young.

To acquire $1 trillion takes 31,700 years. This crummy job doesn’t pay enough!

This analogy gives a taste for the absolute size of a billion, and perhaps of a trillion. It also shows the utter impossibility of an ordinary worker earning $1 billion. No job pays a round-the-clock hourly wage of $3,600.

Nice work if you can get it

Let’s examine the wealth of actual multi-billionaires. Our calculations prove that they acquired more than $1 per second over long intervals. How much more?

Testifying to the Senate Judiciary Committee on July 27, William Browder, an American-born businessman with extensive Russian dealings, estimated that Vladmir Putin controls assets of $200 billion. Let’s assume this figure is substantially correct and that Putin’s meteoric rise began 17 years ago, when he first became president of Russia. What is Putin’s average income?

Seventeen years is about 540 million seconds; $200 billion divided by this is … wow, $370 per second. $1,340,000 per hour. Yet even at this colossal rate, acquiring $1 trillion takes 85 years.

The Panama Papers document some $20 trillion – the combined fortunes of one hundred Vladimir Putins – sequestered in shell companies, untaxed and untraceable. Though the rate of leakage has surely increased over time, for simplicity let’s assume this wealth has bled steadily from the global economy, an annual loss around $500 billion.

How much is this in familiar terms? To find out, divide $500 billion by 31.6 million seconds. Conservatively speaking, the Panama Papers document an ongoing loss averaging $16,000 per second, around the clock, for 40 years.

This is what 15 trillion dollars looks like.

Fighting over scraps

American cities are now vying for a $5 billion Amazon headquarters, a windfall to transform the local economy lucky enough to win the contract. At the same time, the world economy hemorrhages that amount into a fiscal black hole every few days. Merely stemming this Niagara (not recovering the money already lost) would amount to one hundred new Amazon headquarters per year.

The ConversationThe root cause of our economic plight looms in plain sight when we know the proper scale on which to look. By overcoming math phobia, wielding simple arithmetic, refusing to be muddled by “gazillions,” we become better citizens, avoiding squabbling over pennies when tens of thousands of dollars are missing.

Andrew D. Hwang, Associate Professor of Mathematics, College of the Holy Cross

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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