ed-yong   14

What's Wrong With Growing Blobs of Brain Tissue? - The Atlantic
These increasingly complex organoids aren't conscious—but we might not know when they cross that line.

I don't know why you would even *want* to do this tbh... What's the application?
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april 2018 by nhaliday
How sweet it is! | West Hunter
This has probably been going on for a long, long, time. It may well go back before anatomically modern humans. I say that because of the greater honeyguide, which guides people to beehives in Africa. After we take the honey, the honeyguide eats the grubs and wax. A guiding bird attracts your attention with wavering, chattering ‘tya’ notes compounded with peeps and pipes. It flies towards an occupied hive and then stops and calls again. It has only been seen to guide humans.

I would not be surprised to find that this symbiotic relationship is far older than the the domestication of dogs. But it is not domestication: we certainly don’t control their reproduction. I wouldn’t count on it, but if you could determine the genetic basis of this signaling behavior, you might be able to get an idea of how old it is.

Honeyguides may be mankind’s oldest buds, but they’re nasty little creatures: brood parasites, like cuckoos.
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december 2017 by nhaliday
Octopuses Do Something Really Strange to Their Genes - The Atlantic
But to what end? RNA editing is still mysterious, and its purpose unclear. Technically, an animal could use it to change the nature of its proteins without altering the underlying DNA instructions. But in practice, this kind of recoding is extremely rare. Only about 3 percent of human genes are ever edited in this way, and the changes are usually restricted to the parts of RNA that are cut out and discarded. To the extent that it happens, it doesn’t seem to be adaptive.

In cephalopods, it’s a different story. Back in 2015, Rosenthal and Eisenberg discovered that RNA editing has gone wild in the longfin inshore squid—a foot-long animal that’s commonly used in neuroscience research. While a typical mammal edits its RNA at just a few hundred sites, the squid was making some 57,000 such edits. These changes weren’t happening in discarded sections of RNA, but in the ones that actually go towards building proteins—the so-called coding regions. They were ten times more common in the squid’s neurons than in its other tissues, and they disproportionately affected proteins involved in its nervous system.
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april 2017 by nhaliday
How Old Are Fairy Tales? - The Atlantic
Many folklorists disagreed. Some have claimed that many classic fairy tales are recent inventions that followed the advent of mass-printed literature. Others noted that human stories, unlike human genes, aren't just passed down vertically through generations, but horizontally within generations. “They’re passed across societies through trade, exchange, migration, and conquest,” says Tehrani. “The consensus was that these processes would have destroyed any deep signatures of descent from ancient ancestral populations.”

Not so. Tehrani and da Silva found that although neighboring cultures can easily exchange stories, they also often reject the tales of their neighbors. Several stories were less likely to appear in one population if they were told within an adjacent one.

Meanwhile, a quarter of the Tales of Magic showed clear signatures of shared descent from ancient ancestors. “Most people would assume that folktales are rapidly changing and easily exchanged between social groups,” says Simon Greenhill from the Australian National University. “But this shows that many tales are actually surprisingly stable over time and seem to track population history well.” Similarly, a recent study found that flood “myths” among Aboriginal Australians can be traced back to real sea level rises 7,000 years ago.

Many of the Tales of Magic were similarly ancient, as the Grimms suggested. Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin were first written down in the 17th and 18th centuries respectively, but they are actually between 2,500 and 6,000 years old—not quite tales as old as time, but perhaps as old as wheels and writing.

The Smith and the Devil is probably 6,000 years old, too. In this story, a crafty blacksmith sells his soul to an evil supernatural entity in exchange for awesome smithing powers, which he then uses to leash the entity to an immovable object. The basic tale has been adapted in everything from Faust to blues lore, but the most ancient version, involving the blacksmith, comes from the Bronze Age! It predates the last common ancestor of all Indo-European languages. “It's constantly being updated and recycled, but it's older than Christianity,” says Tehrani.

This result might help to settle a debate about the origins of Indo-European languages. It rules out the idea that these tongues originated among Neolithic farmers, who lived 9,000 years ago in what is now modern Turkey. After all, how could these people, who hadn’t invented metallurgy, have concocted a story where the hero is a blacksmith? A rival hypothesis becomes far more likely: Indo-European languages emerged 5,000 to 6,000 years ago among pastoralists from the Russian steppes, who knew how to work metal.

The Smith and the Devil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Smith_and_the_Devil
The Smith and the Devil is a European fairy tale. The story is of a smith who makes a pact with a malevolent being—commonly the Devil (in later times), Death or a genie—selling his soul for some power, then tricks the devil out of his prize. In one version, the smith gains the power to weld any materials, then uses this power to stick the devil to an immovable object, allowing the smith to renege on the bargain.[1]


According to George Monbiot, the blacksmith is a motif of folklore throughout (and beyond) Europe associated with malevolence (the medieval vision of Hell may draw upon the image the smith at his forge), and several variant tales tell of smiths entering into a pact with the devil to obtain fire and the means of smelting metal.[6]

According to research applying phylogenetic techniques to linguistics by folklorist Sara Graça da Silva and anthropologist Jamie Tehrani,[7] "The Smith and the Devil" may be one of the oldest European folk tales, with the basic plot stable throughout the Indo-European speaking world from India to Scandinavia, possibly being first told in Indo-European 6,000 years ago in the Bronze Age.[1][8][9] Folklorist John Lindow, however, notes that a word for "smith" may not have existed in Indo-European, and if so the tale may not be that old.[9]

Revealed: how Indigenous Australian storytelling accurately records sea level rises 7,000 years ago: http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/sep/16/indigenous-australian-storytelling-records-sea-level-rises-over-millenia


I wonder how long oral history lasts. What’s the oldest legend that has some clear fragment of truth in it?

The Black Sea deluge hypothesis, being the origin of the different deluge myths around the Middle East?
People have lived in river valleys for a long time now, and they flood. I mean, deluge myths could also go back to the end of the Ice Age, when many lands went underwater as sea level rose. But how can you tell? Now if there was a one-time thing that had a special identifying trait, say purple rain, that might be convincing.

RE: untangling actual historical events and personages from myth and legend,

Obviously, it’s pretty damn tough. In most cases (THE ILIAD, the Pentateuch, etc), we simply lack the proper controls (literary sources written down at a time reasonably close to the events in question). Hence, we have to rely on a combination of archaeology plus intuition.Was a city sacked at roughly the proper time? Does a given individual appear to be based on a real person?

I’m partial to the notion that the “forbidden fruit” was wheat, making the Garden of Eden a story about the dawn of agriculture, and the story of Cain and Abel the first conflict between settled farmer and semi-nomadic pastoralist. That would make it perhaps 6 millennia old when first written down.
The story of Cain and Abel is indeed the conflict between the agricultural and pastoral ways of life

same conclusion as me: https://pinboard.in/u:nhaliday/b:9130f5f3c17b

great blog: https://biblicalsausage.wordpress.com/

Euhemerus (also spelled Euemeros or Evemerus; Ancient Greek: Εὐήμερος Euhēmeros, "happy; prosperous"; late fourth century BC), was a Greek mythographer at the court of Cassander, the king of Macedon. Euhemerus' birthplace is disputed, with Messina in Sicily as the most probable location, while others suggest Chios or Tegea.[citation needed]

The philosophy attributed to and named for Euhemerus, euhemerism, holds that many mythological tales can be attributed to historical persons and events, the accounts of which have become altered and exaggerated over time.

Euhemerus's work combined elements of fiction and political utopianism. In the ancient world he was considered an atheist. Early Christian writers, such as Lactantius, used Euhemerus's belief that the ancient gods were originally human to confirm their inferiority regarding the Christian God.

In the ancient skeptic philosophical tradition of Theodorus of Cyrene and the Cyrenaics, Euhemerus forged a new method of interpretation for the contemporary religious beliefs. Though his work is lost, the reputation of Euhemerus was that he believed that much of Greek mythology could be interpreted as natural or historical events subsequently given supernatural characteristics through retelling. Subsequently Euhemerus was considered to be an atheist by his opponents, most notably Callimachus.[7]


Euhemerus' views were rooted in the deification of men, usually kings, into gods through apotheosis. In numerous cultures, kings were exalted or venerated into the status of divine beings and worshipped after their death, or sometimes even while they ruled. Dion, the tyrant ruler of Syracuse, was deified while he was alive and modern scholars consider his apotheosis to have influenced Euhemerus' views on the origin of all gods.[8] Euhemerus was also living during the contemporaneous deification of the Seleucids and "pharaoization" of the Ptolemies in a fusion of Hellenic and Egyptian traditions.


Hostile to paganism, the early Christians, such as the Church Fathers, embraced euhemerism in attempt to undermine the validity of pagan gods.[13] The usefulness of euhemerist views to early Christian apologists may be summed up in Clement of Alexandria's triumphant cry in Cohortatio ad gentes: "Those to whom you bow were once men like yourselves."[14]

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january 2016 by nhaliday

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