Here’s an endearing new story for the Department of Unexpected Interspecies Friendship. It’s a couple years old, but no less touching for being a bit dated. Meet Suryia the Orangutan and Roscoe the Bluetick Coonhound, an improbable pair who’ve been inseparable ever since they met at The Institute of Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (TIGERS) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It’s the same endangered wildlife reserve that’s home to another Bubbles and Bella, another awesome and unlikely pair of pals.
Suryia and Roscoe first met in 2008 soon after Roscoe first appeared at the reserve and starting following TIGERS staff members as they walked home from work.
He was immediately spotted by the orangutan, who ambled over to make friends. Dr Bhagavan Antle, the reserve’s founder, said: ‘Roscoe looked really thin and a little lost so we fed him and took care of him. He followed us through the gate and ran over and found Suryia. As soon as he saw Roscoe, Suryia ran over to him and they started playing.
'Dogs are usually scared of primates, but they took to each other straight away. We made a few calls to see if he belonged to anyone and when no one came forward, Roscoe ended up staying.'
In 2011 Dr. Antle published a book of photographs which, entitled Suryia and Roscoe: The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship, shows the ape and pup enjoying each other’s company at the wildlife reserve.
Visit Dailymail.co.ukfor even more photos of this charming primate/canine duo.
On July 25, French film writer/director Luc Besson’s action thriller Lucy opens in theaters nationwide. The premise is that the title character, played by Scarlett Johansson, is exposed to a drug that unlocks her mind, giving her superhuman powers of cognition. The movie production notes [PDF] elaborate:
“…It has long been hypothesized that human beings only use a small percentage of our cerebral capacity at any given time. For centuries, speculative science has postulated what would occur if mankind could actually evolve past that limit. Indeed, what would happen to our consciousness and newfound abilities if every region of the brain was concurrently active? If each one of the 86 billion densely packed neurons in a human brain fired at once, could that person become, in fact, superhuman?”
The notion that we humans have massive reserves of gray matter just sitting there waiting to be summoned into service has obvious appeal, but there is no scientific evidence to support it. And what’s odd about Besson’s reliance on this myth is that, according to the production notes, he allegedly set out to make the storyline scientifically plausible:
“Although Besson believed that the idea of expanding one’s brain capacity made for tremendous action-thriller material, he was particularly intent on grounding—at least in part—Lucy in scientific fact.”
Apparently he missed or ignored the many scientists who would have surely informed him that the idea that we use only a small portion of our brain (10 percent, the story usually goes) is wrong. As Barry L. Beyerstein of the Brain Behavior Laboratory at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver explained in a piece forScientific American:
“…the brain, like all our other organs, has been shaped by natural selection. Brain tissue is metabolically expensive both to grow and to run, and it strains credulity to think that evolution would have permitted squandering of resources on a scale necessary to build and maintain such a massively underutilized organ. Moreover, doubts are fueled by ample evidence from clinical neurology. Losing far less than 90 percent of the brain to accident or disease has catastrophic consequences. What is more, observing the effects of head injury reveals that there does not seem to be any area of the brain that can be destroyed by strokes, head trauma, or other manner, without leaving the patient with some kind of functional deficit. Likewise, electrical stimulation of points in the brain during neurosurgery has failed so far to uncover any dormant areas where no percept, emotion or movement is elicited by applying these tiny currents….”
Neither do we regularly use only a little bit of the brain at a time, as science writer Robynne Boyd reported in a piece for Scientific American. She quoted neurologist Barry Gordon of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine:
“”It turns out though, that we use virtually every part of the brain, and that [most of] the brain is active almost all the time,” Gordon adds. “Let’s put it this way: the brain represents three percent of the body’s weight and uses 20 percent of the body’s energy.”
Yet just because we are already using our entire brain does not mean we can’t enhance its powers. Exercise and diet can boost cognitive performance. And some researchers think cognitive training can make people smarter.
As for cognitive-enhancing drugs, the few that are available, such as Ritalin and Provigil, are quite the opposite of the compound Lucy is exposed to in the film. Rather than stimulating all of the brain’s neurons to sense everything in one’s environment, these drugs work to help people zero in. The results are a mixed bag, however, as my colleague Gary Stix has observed:
“Most of today’s cognitive enhancers improve our ability to focus—but most benefits accrue to those with attention deficits. They allow the child with ADHD to learn the multiplication tables, but for those with average attention spans or better, these drugs can sometimes usher in comic mishaps.
Instead of cramming for the [Chinese Proficiency Test], as you might have intended, you are liable to get sidetracked into the most mundane of trivialities: you might get up from your textbooks for a drink of water and spend the next two days replacing the leaky plumbing in your kitchen sink. The focus of attention ‘sticks’ to whatever is in front of your face and a friend with a verbal crowbar has to pry you away.
About the Author: Kate Wong is an editor and writer at Scientific American covering paleontology, archaeology and life sciences. Follow on Twitter @katewong.
Chimp photography by Gabi Guiard. These pictures are just a few of some amazing shots taken at the Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Kenya.
Beautiful shot of a rare gold duco national by the talented carolynamandaphotography . More to come, follow her page and adventure in front and behind the camera.
One of my favorite images of the many different guitars I got to examine from expeditions with vintage-tone. This one was found in Fort Collins, CO. The older couple greeted us with cheese, fruit, bread, and other delicious snacks. And how can I forget the chocolate strawberries. Some as big as your head!
This is a National Duolian 1935 model. The finish is an extremely rare Duco Gold. I love the sound these beauties make. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to afford a real National!
I took this shot as he was avidly showing us around his guitar room. The child-like gleam in his eyes I’ll never forget.
“Microbiologists have learned that certain strains of bacteria are capable of using energy in its purest form by eating and breathing electrons. It’s a discovery that demonstrates an entirely new mode of life on Earth — and possibly beyond.”
Learn more from io9.
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Skulls with Mix of Traits Illuminate Human Evolution
Neandertals’ trademark facial features took shape as a first step in their evolution, while their other defining features came along later, and not all at once, researchers have reported. These researchers were studying a collection of skulls in a Spanish cave, where they identified both Neandertal-derived features in the skulls and features associated with more primitive humans. Having this new data has allowed scientists to better understand hominin evolution during the Middle Pleistocene, a period in which the path of hominin evolution has been controversial.
The work of Arsuaga et al. helps address hypotheses about Neandertal evolution, specifically the accretion model hypothesis, which suggests that Neandertals evolved their defining features at different times, not in a single linear sweep.
Read more about this research from the 20 June issue of Science here.
[Image © Javier Trueba / Madrid Scientific Films. Please click here for more information.]
Hobbit humans, the tiny folks who lived on the remote Indonesian island of Flores until about 12,000 years ago, had bigger brains than previously thought, according to a new paper that strengthens the theory that hobbits evolved from own own ancestor, Homo erectus.
Homo erectus, in turn, is thought to have evolved into our own species in Africa. The new study, published in the latest Proceedings of the Royal Society B, reveals how location and environment could mean the difference between an individual who looked like us, and someone who wound up a hobbit.
"They were extremely short (about 3’6"), much shorter than any healthy living humans," co-author Yousuke Kaifu told Discovery News. "Their legs were short relative to their arms and feet, (features that) some researchers think were primitive."
Kaifu, a senior researcher at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, conducted the study with lead author Daisuke Kubo and Reiko Kono.
The three used high-resolution micro-CT scanning to study the brain regions of hobbit human skulls. The scans found that the brains measured 426 cc, as opposed to earlier estimates of around 400 cc. The former is still not huge by modern standards, and was about the same size as a chimpanzee’s brain.