Bees are remarkable among insects. They can count, remember human faces, and communicate through dance routines performed entirely in the dark. But are they intelligent? Even creative? Bee aficionado Stephen Humphrey, along with a hive of leading bee researchers and scientists, investigates the mental lives of bees.
Tagged with “evolution” (47)
We all know the eensey-weensey spider went down the water spout. But for a lot of us, that’s about all we know about spiders. They’re around. They spin webs. They have a lot of legs and make some people shriek.
A big new exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History goes way on in to the spider story, with the fishing spider and the golden orb-web spider and the goliath bird eater spider – a spider as big as your hand. It’s got the story of spider venom and spider silk – stronger than steel! – and why we need spiders.
Is intelligent life trying to communicate with us from space? Professor Paul Davies explores the potential and limits of research into the origin and evolution of life, and the search for life beyond Earth. Has ET maybe visited our planet ages ago and left us a message? At the Australian National University, Paul Davies discussed his latest book The Eerie Silence: Are We Alone in the Universe?
Maybe you thought your body was a noble castle poised against the onslaughts and invasions of the world. Well, think again. It turns out, we are the world. Our bodies are loaded with a jungle of microbial life, inside and out, that is essential to healthy life.
New science has found ten times as many bacteria cells as human cells in and on the human body. A load of microbes that work with us from the moment of birth in all kinds of key ways. Killing them off, avoiding them, may make us sick. Make us fat.
This hour, On Point: Microbes are us. The amazing full ecology of the human body.
Edward O. Wilson has revolutionized science and inspired the public more often than any other living biologist. Now he is blending his pioneer work on ants with a new perspective on human development to propose a radical reframing of how evolution works.
First the social insects ruled, from 60 million years ago. Then a species of social mammals took over, from 10 thousand years ago. Both sets of “eusocial” animals mastered the supremely delicate art of encouraging altruism, so that individuals in the groups would act as if they value the goal of the group over their own goals. They would specialize for the group and die for the group. In recent decades the idea of “kin selection” seemed to explain how such an astonishing phenomenon could evolve. Wilson replaces kin selection with “multi-level selection,” which incorporates both individual selection (long well understood) and group selection (long considered taboo). Every human and every human society has to learn how to manage adroitly the perpetual ambiguity and conflict between individual needs and group needs. What I need is never the same as what we need.
E. O. Wilson’s current book is The Social Conquest of Earth. His previous works include The Superorganism; The Future of Life; Consilience; Biophilia; Sociobiology; and The Insect Societies.
Adrian Bejan takes the recurring patterns in nature—trees, tributaries, air passages, neural networks, and lightning bolts—and reveals how a the Constructal Law accounts for the evolution of these and all other designs in our world. Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, and Social Organization, written with J. Peder Zane, looks at how everything—from biological life to inanimate systems—generates shape and structure and evolves in a sequence of ever-improving designs in order to facilitate flow.
Juan Pérez Mercader talks to us about the origins of life and astrobiology. Juan Pérez Mercader directs the Synthetic Life project at Harvard’s Origin of Life Inititative.
I’m thinking a lot about species concepts as applied to humans, about the "Out of Africa" model, and also looking back into Africa itself. I think the idea that modern humans originated in Africa is still a sound concept. Behaviorally and physically, we began our story there, but I’ve come around to thinking that it wasn’t a simple origin. Twenty years ago, I would have argued that our species evolved in one place, maybe in East Africa or South Africa. There was a period of time in just one place where a small population of humans became modern, physically and behaviourally. Isolated and perhaps stressed by climate change, this drove a rapid and punctuational origin for our species. Now I don’t think it was that simple, either within or outside of Africa.
CHRISTOPHER STRINGER is one of the world’s foremost paleoanthropologists. He is a founder and most powerful advocate of the leading theory concerning our evolution: Recent African Origin or "Out of Africa". He has worked at The Natural History Museum, London since 1973, is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and currently leads the large and successful Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project (AHOB), His most recent book is The Origin of Our Species (titled Lone Survivors in the US).
IDEAS THAT ACCELERATE: SCIENCE MULTIPLIERS
The Dark Matter of Biology
Jonathan Eisen, Professor, University of California Davis
Compass Summit, a forum for true interaction and exchange, examines some of today’s most pressing problems through the lens of global citizenship, recognizing that human ingenuity is an unlimited resource. Guided by NPR’s Ira Flatow, an intimate group of some of the world’s best thinkers and doers convened along the rugged Palos Verdes coastline on Oct 23-26, 2011 at Terranea Resort to engage in meaningful conversation, ask questions, and challenge ideas — we invite you to join in the conversation.
Jonathan Eisen is a Professor at the University of California, Davis. His research focuses on the evolution of new functions and the genomic diversity of microbes and microbial communities. Eisen is also a vocal advocate for “open science”, the Academic Editor-in-Chief of PLoS Biology, an active and award-winning blogger (e.g., http://phylogenomics.blogspot.com), and a scientific prankster.
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