MI weekly selection #32
New study of foragers undermines claim that war has deep evolutionary roots
One of the most insidious modern memes holds that war is innate, an adaptation bred into our ancestors by natural selection. This hypothesis—let’s call it the “Deep Roots Theory of War”–has been promoted by some intellectual heavyweights. A study published today in Science ” provides more counter-evidence to the Deep Roots Theory. The study’s authors, anthropologists Douglas Fry and Patrik Soderberg of Abo Akademi University in Finland, say their findings “contradict recent assertions that [mobile foragers] regularly engage in coalitionary war against other groups.”
7 small molecules enough to reprogram stem cells
A team of scientists was able to reprogram stem cells without altering the number of genes or risking dangerous mutations. Research published in the journal Science involved mixing seven small-molecule chemical compounds including DZNep, an inhibitor that reactivates developmental genes, to reprogram somatic cells to a pluripotent state. The researchers were able to create fully reprogrammed stem cells, which they called CiPS cells, and produce 0.2% of cells comparable to conventional techniques for producing induced pluripotent stem cells.
Fertilizer was probably first used in Europe 8,000 years ago
Scientists say plant remains from 13 sites around Europe proves that farmers used animal dung as fertilizer 8,000 years ago. It was previously believed that fertilization began some 3,000 years in the Near East, but a British-led team found high levels of nitrogen-15 in the remains of wheat, barley, peas and lentils in the European sites — an indication that fertilizer had been used.
Sound waves to levitate and move objects
Engineers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are using sound waves to levitate and move objects like water droplets and coffee grounds. Researchers built platforms the size of a pinkie nail using piezoelectric crystals that stretch or shrink depending on the voltage applied. The research can be used in drug screening or to safely test hazardous materials.
Genome of largest viruses yet discovered hints at ‘fourth domain’ of life
Each of two new viruses found is around 1 micrometre long and 0.5 micrometres across, and their respective genomes top out at 1.9 million and 2.5 million bases — making the viruses larger than many bacteria and even some eukaryotic cells. But these viruses, described in Science, are more than mere record-breakers — they also hint at unknown parts of the tree of life. Just 7% of their genes match those in existing databases.