Science 4

Kindness in a Cruel World                               Nigel Barber
The Complete Book of Human Evolution        Chris Stringer & Peter Andrews              Aug 2006
The End of Nature                                            Bill McKibben                                         Aug 2006
The View from the Center of the Universe       Joel R. Primack & Nancy Ellen Abrams   Sept 2006
Before the Dawn                                               Nicholas Wade                                        Sept 2006
Physics of the Impossible                                  Michio Kaku                                            Mar 2009
How to Build a Dinosaur                                  Jack Horner & James Gorman                 May 2009



Kindness in a Cruel World    The Evolution of Altruism     Nigel Barber
            
Introduction  Kindness - Altruism, what are they?  Barber is interested in actions not philosophies.  Altruism: actions that help another individual at some cost to oneself.  He uses a biological definition to study altruism across all species.  Altruism is most commonly found with regard to offspring and mates and becomes much rarer as it extends beyond the nuclear family.  Altruism is only found in groups of social animals.  One of the most disturbing aspects of the book is that in-group altruism can easily be turned into out-group aggression.  Altruism must be studied in concert with competition and aggression.  Failures of altruism fairly often occurs in conjunction with mental illness or failure.  Altruism also thrives when it is given training.

PART 1  ALTRUISM IN MAN AND BEAST
C1  Altruism:  Birds Do It, Bees Do It, People Do It
 Altruism was a problem for evolutionary until 1960 when it was discovered that altruism can increase the survival rates among close relatives and offspring.  Description of causes of altruistic behavior in many species.  Variance in family altruism between societies and adopted children.

C2  Evolution and Ethics  Reciprocal altruism, kin altruism as a cost/benefit ratio.  For men, what is the probability that your spouse bore your child, avunculate altruism:  males support their sisters children more than their own.  Common in societies with a high degree of extramarital sex.  Reciprocal altruism in bats and primates.  Group selection in social insects.  Guilt and shame, the results of not living up to the altruistic expectations of a group.  Embarrassment with blushing and stammering as positive indicators implying that you are trustworthy and cannot lie.  Organ and blood donors.

C3  Sterile Casts of Priests and Nuns  90% of preindustrial societies had some sort of recognized celibacy.  Christian celibacy did not strongly surface until Ignatious (b. 100 a.d.), Justin Martyr (b. 150 a.d.), Athennagorus (b. 180).  Augustine (b. 344) held that the only permissible sex was for reproduction.  Jerome (b. 340) and Pope Gregory (b 540) followed Augustine.  Married priests were acceptable and until large sums of money were being willed to priest's children which caused the church much economic strain.  In 1139 the Lateran Council nullified all priestly marriages and restricted the priesthood to single men.  The Second Vatican Council in 1962-65 and the Synod of Bishops in 1971 reaffirmed this stand.  Other religions with celibacy include Buddhists, Hindus, Jains, American Indians, Incas, Babylonians, and Shakers.  Between 400 a.d. and 1000 a.d. six popes were sons of popes and 9 more were sons of bishops and other priests.  Many examples of sexual behavior of clergy.  Convents as depositories for excess women.

PART 2  GROWING UP TO BE GOOD
C4  Why Do People Grow Up to Be Altruists?
 Moral capabilities emerge in young children in a natural sequence that mirrors their brain development.  In the same way that children who are not given enough food do not thrive physically, those who are not given moral training and examples do not thrive morally.  Self awareness seems to be a critical factor in moral behavior in higher apes although some species (dogs, wolves) seem to develop moral or altruistic behavior without self-awareness.  Self-awareness (the ability to recognize oneself in a mirror) has only been demonstrated in humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans and possibly in gorillas.

Examples of moral behavior (altruism) in cleaner fish, bats, rats, dogs, wolves.

Human empathy (altruistic precursor) develops slowly.  By 1 year infants will point to interesting things.  By the age of 2 they become self-aware and show signs of embarrassment and pride.  By 3 reciprocal altruism occurs, they are more likely to share toys with children who have shared toys with them than with children who have hoarded toys.  Sharing toys is one thing but sharing food is much harder.  Children were given odd numbers of nuts to share, who would get the extra nut?  At age 5, 2/3 kept the odd nut, by 7, 2/3 gave the odd nut to a friend.  By 4 or 5 most children will play games with informal rules and by 7 to 10 they will play games with formal rules.  4 to 6 year olds were given a dull, uninteresting job to earn toys for others.  Only 5% would perform the task for an unnamed child but 55% would "work" for their friends.

Studies of cheating have found little consistency in terms of how and where children cheat.  Some will cheat on tests but not in the playground, others the reverse.  There is some evidence that antisocial behavior is inherited but there is a lot of heredity-environment problems.  It has been found that antisocial personalties are less responsive to punishment.  Recent experiments with brain chemicals, dopamine, epinepherin, seratonin, etc. has shown that many criminals respond much different than "normal" people.  There is some evidence that early experiences with mothers affects brain function.

Physical rewards (reinforcers) like candy, money, and toys will immediately engender socially acceptable behavior but when the rewards cease, the behavior tends to revert and get worse.  When children are given social rewards the behavior change may not be as rapid but it its much more long lasting.  The best techniques are parental examples and what one researcher calls induction.  In this the parent explains in a non-threatening way how socially offensive behavior hurts the other person and how specific actions could solve the issue.

Different societies raise children to be far more altruistic than others.  Non-industrial societies in which children are responsible for many tasks, like childcare, farm work, subsistence activities, etc. tend to score much higher on altruistic measures than in industrial societies where children spend most of their time with non-relatives or strangers.  In America children who help around the house and who live in families where both parents do housework are more altruistic than homes where only one parent (mainly the mother) does housework.

C5  Altruism Among Thieves  The two ingredients for a crime are a criminal (a person who lacks empathy towards the victim) and a criminal opportunity (an environment where the benefits of crime are perceived to exceed its costs).

The Prisoner's Dilemma and other Game Theory approaches to criminal and moral behavior.  The previous chapter was more about social, psychological, and physiological creation of criminals vs morals, this chapter is about environments in which crime does or does not thrive.  Techniques for reducing crime:  small closed societies (like Pitcairn Island), defensible spaces, (video) survelance, small towns, reduced poverty, being raised in an uncompetitive environment, and the likelihood of being found out.

PART 3  THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF KINDNESS
C6  Kindness and Health
 A capacity for altruism is part of the genetic endowment of humans.  However, in order for it to develop it must be supported during childhood.  The genetic background:  Voles (field mice) are broken into two almost identical species, prairie vs. mountain.  Mountain voles come together only to mate and females abandon their young after 2 weeks.  Prairie voles are monogamous and stay together during the breeding season and jointly care for their young, they have "family values".  Oxytocin (females) and vasopressin (males) are hormones released by the hypothalmus and pituitary gland.  They are received by receptors in the hypothalmus and amygdala which control social and sexual behavior.  Mountain voles have fewer receptors for oxycotin than prairie voles.  When voles brains were modified to form additional oxytocin receptors they pair bonded without copulating.  Oxytotin is also found in humans and seems to be behave in a similar manner.  Its production is stimulated by both sexual and non-sexual social contacts.

Touch (massage) has been found to increase weight gain in premature infants.  Parental touch (cuddling) seems to be related to more peaceful children and the adults they grow into.  Lack of touch seems to produce more aggression and violent behavior.  Physical contact seems to be required to develop a trusting relationship in a child.  Being raised by a single parent seems to increase the likelihood of many problems in childhood.

Men seem to be less socially connected than women.  Social contact is important to health, when men are socially isolated their health is impacted negatively.

C7  Kindness Among Strangers  Perceived fairness in many cases is more important than physical or monetary gain for humans and monkeys.  Studies of people rescuing Jews from the Holocaust show that rescuers were more likely to have had social activists for parents.  Parents of adoptive children spend less for food and support for them than they do for biological children.

C8  Conformity as Altruism  It seems to be genetically based that humans (other apes?) easily join groups and act as a dedicated member of the group.  All it takes is some way to recognize other members; for small groups this can be individual recognition, for larger groups a badge, a cap, a T-shirt logo, or a uniform.  Groups almost always entail a cost, at minimum, social conformity, perhaps some sort of initiation ritual, up to hunting societies where successful hunters donate their entire kill to the group.  Conformation to group ideals can be very strong, in extreme cases extending to torturing and possibly killing others on demand.  Obedience to authority is one useful adoption for group living.  Another is the division of labor.  Division of labor is found in many species including man.  The first and most basic division is along sexual lines, in many cases there is a biological basis for this.  Much of this seems to be based on very early nutrition and hormonal differences, for example ants and bees and a human condition called adrenogenital syndrome where females are subjected to too much sex hormone before birth which masculinizes them reducing their ability to nurture children.  Men typically are able to more accurately hit targets with projectiles and have faster reaction times than women.

C9  When Altruism Fails
 People often do not behave as altruistically as we would like.  Entire philosophies are based on the concept of original sin.  Barber finds this like arguing that the internal combustion engine does not exist because your car does not start.  He examines some of these failures.
PART 4  KINDNESS AND POLITICS
C10  Tapping Human Altruism
 Unpleasant human actions, like warfare, are a problem for students of altruism.  Not that they don't understand it, external group aggression is a common outgrowth of internal group altruism.  The problem is how to use the values of altruism to prevent or suppress external aggression.  Rousseau's "noble savage" is a myth.  Almost all hunter-gatherer societies are much more violent than current civilizations.  The amount of violence in the world, counting only the obvious, murder or death by violence, has been steadily, albeit jerkily, down for all of recorded and archaeological history.  A major factor in this is civilization; as societies get larger and bigger public works projects are built, the sanctions against in-group violence become greater.  The larger the group the less opportunity there is for external group violence.

The benefits and costs of religion.  In most cases religion attempts to and does increase in-group altruism.  Many people associate with religious organizations because of the benefits they provide, food, friendship, shelter, etc.  In many cases being a part of a religious organization acts to increase one's health.  Unfortunately religion has often been used to exacerbate external group aggression.

Many look at money and economic behavior as a formalization of reciprocal altruism.

C11  Saving the World  How can the evolved altruistic tendencies in us be tapped to address the problems of the world?  Barber brings in several concepts; global pollution, the prisoners dilemma, the tragedy of the commons, and indigenous populations damaging their environments in an effort to explain some of the problems facing humanity.  I think that he should have dropped the entire chapter.  He makes statements of opinion where facts would have been more appropriate.  He makes comments on environmental and economic problems with no prior support in the book, which is not what I would call a conclusion, and I don't agree with many of his conclusions in this chapter.

C12  Where Have All the Villains Gone?  "Original sin has much in common with cutthroat selfishness among competitors."  Why was Cain bad when he killed his brother but Abraham saintly when he was willing to kill his own son?  The simplistic explanation of motivation may have sufficed for the Old Testament writers but it wouldn't be accepted in a court of law today.  Why are murderers, rapists, gangsters, etc. considered extreme criminals who rob, kill, etc. to satisfy their own desires when inside traders, tax evaders, and white-collar thieves, etc. who take far more money from citizens each year than all organized and private crime each year are often not prosecuted and are usually given much lighter sentences if they are prosecuted and convicted.  Often individual criminal acts are associated with mental disease and the individual may not be considered a criminal.

Again, often an act, which would be seen as a crime against in-group members, is seen as a virtue towards those not in the group.  More discussion of the pitfalls of capitalistic societies and differences in ethical behavior in small groups as opposed to larger, more civilized groups.

An interesting book, especially the first three parts.  Part 4, which presumably was supposed to be a conclusion was forced.  There really wasn't a conclusion, no call-to-arms, just a repeat of earlier discussions.  It's not bad in scientific writing not to have a final conclusion.  Sometimes more research and study needs to be done.  A simple summation of the book would have been preferred to almost sermonizing of the last three chapters.

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The Complete Book of Human Evolution        Chris Stringer & Peter Andrews      Aug 2006

This is sort of a cross between a science book and a coffee table book.  Too many pictures to be a "real" science book but not enough full color spreads to be a coffee table book.  They cover many different topics but only briefly.  Just enough to give the flavor of a topic and then on to the next.

C1  In Search of Our Ancestors  This chapter covers a lot of subjects, living apes, human variation, paeloanthropology, and a brief description of several major excavation sites.

  Interesting little table, Percentage of Difference in DNA between several ape species:
                      Human    Chimp    Gorilla
Chimp               1.2
Gorilla               1.4        1.2
Orang utan        2.4        1.8            2.4

C2  The Fossil Evidence  The largest section of the book describes in more detail the evidence collected in the sites referred to above.  The authors start off with the earliest known primates around 55-50 mya.  Anthropoids separated from other primate species around 40-30 mya and hominid apes diverged from monkeys around 20 mya.  The most well known is probably Proconsul who lived from 20 mya to 16 mya.  Early primates were distributed world wide but with global cooling and harsher climates there is little evidence of hither apes outside of Africa and by 7.5 mya they were extinct elsewhere.  Our ancestors of the genus Homo arose in Africa some 2.5 mya and as our ancestors ability to survive in harsh climates improved they were able to colonize areas outside of Africa by 1.9 mya.  Evidence of man - Homo sapiens - first appears around 1.5 mya in Africa.

C3  Interpreting The Evidence  They look at the issues from several viewpoints; locomotion, geographical spread, behavior, and art.  

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The End of Nature                         Bill McKibben            Aug 2006

Science?  Politics?  Perhaps science with a message.  A somewhat old book, first published in 1989 and then published with a new introduction in 1999.  The message is still pretty much the same but the science is a bit dated.

PART I  THE PRESENT
C1  A New Atmosphere
 The chapter is a survey of the evidence (as of the 1980's) of the case for global warming and some of the political infighting relating to this.  It ends with a brief description of CFC's and the problem of ozone degradation.

C2  The End of Nature  McKibben lives in the Adirondack mountains of New York state and he enjoys walking in the woods surrounding his home.  He describes the experience in almost mystical terms, the trees, the water, the isolated little spots of beauty.  Then something jars his sensibilities, a chainsaw, a truck on a nearby road, an airplane traveling across the sky.  It is not that the trees, water, and spots of beauty are gone, human activities are interfering with his ability to loose himself in the contemplation and appreciation of unspoiled nature.  The problem is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a spot in "nature" that does not display the influence of man.  He would like areas where man has left no footprint.

PART II  THE NEAR FUTURE
C3  A Promise Broken
 What are the effects of global warming?  He lists a number of the possible scenarios possible as seen from the late 1980's.  Some seem to be right on, some are now a little far fetched, and several didn't occur to anyone at that time.  Perhaps the main thing to be gained from this is that even though the readily measurable data points will probably not show much difference (temperature up a few degrees, a little more rain here, a little less there).  It will be the secondary effects that will cause the most human suffering.  A few degree rise in ocean temperature in the Gulf of Mexico will cause much more powerful hurricanes, a few more frost free days in the spring and fall will allow harmful insects to breed and expand much further north destroying more crops and conveying diseases that will kill and sicken more people.

C4  The Defiant Reflex  What have we done and what are we trying to do to counteract some of these problems.  The hindsight of 17 years helps, where he saw promise we have failed (he, along with most others failed to predict the effects of the religious conservative takeover of the US government), and where he was discouraged we are making good progress (ozone).  The main point is that some efforts are being taken, some reasonable, some foolish, but hopefully we can find some ways that will prove useful.

C5  A Path of More Resistance  This is a very personal chapter.  More about his adventures, observations, discussions, and feelings than the rest of the book.  McKibben discusses the difficulties of moving towards a more nature-oriented culture.  Some of it is quite dated, in one place he mentions that the price of oil as he was writing the passage was $18 per barrel.  I guess my problem is that I don't want/need to hear more about our problems - I want to hear more about solutions.  

The book ends with a short appendix and a short index.

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The View from the Center of the Universe       Joel R. Primack & Nancy Ellen Abrams   Sept 2006

Primack is the originator and developer of the Theory of Cold Dark Matter

Introduction  Ever since before recorded history human cultures have had a cosmology, a view of the universe that placed humanity in the universe, matched their observations of the universe and man, and could be used as a guide to living.  Different cultures had different views and they changed over time but there was always some unifying set of beliefs that seemed to work.  Then came Copernicus, Galileo, and all those other guys and we were left alone.  We were reduced to a small mob of rather puny primates living on a second rate planet circling a third rate star in the outskirts of a perfectly average if slightly undersized galaxy.  Every time some astronomer pointed a telescope at the sky the "out there" got bigger and emptier and we seemed to shrink in importance.  Now two people come along and try to tell us that we are right in the middle of everything, and they seem to know what they are talking about.  

PART 1  COSMOLOGICAL REVOLUTION
C1  Wrapping your Mind Around the Universe
 "Science is both a consumer and creator of metaphors and is meaningless without thousands of them."  "Cosmology is undergoing a scientific revolution, producing the first theory of the universe that might actually be true." The key words, cosmology, scientific revolution, theory, universe, and true - have meanings beyond those used in ordinary speech.

Scientific Cosmology: Anthropologists - the cultures "big picture", how everything was created and how it fits together;  Astronomers & physicists - a branch of astrophysics concerning the origin and nature of the universe.  Both modern day astrophysics and ancient religious philosophers had/have faith in their ability to discern the relationship between the cosmos and humans. The authors hypothesize that one of our problems is that over the last 400 years there has been a disconnect between the scientific view of the universe and our cultural need to be connected.  They are attempting to provide a view of the universe that is emotionally satisfying and is capable of being expanded as scientific knowledge expands.  Theories: scientific theories are not just guesses.  There are well evaluated bodies of thought that scientists stake there reputation and livelihood on.  Successful theories are typically not overthrown but are often shown to be special cases of more general theories, Newtonian physics is now seen as a subset of Relativity, Relativity and Quantum Mechanics overlap in part and many physicists believe that they will be subsumed by a more encompassing theory, perhaps superstring theory.  Although theories can be proven wrong there is no way to finally prove them right until humans know Everything, that is until they become God.

Scientists and mathematicians often seek beauty and elegance in a theory, this is a false goal.  Common sense and intuition are earthbound and restricted to observations made by us under the forces most important to our lifestyle.  We need to develop myths (and metaphors) that can help us understand the current and future scientific understanding of the universe, all the way from the large (expanding galaxies) to the small (particle physics), and our human relationship to the universe.

C2  From the Flat Earth to the Heavenly Spheres  A cosmology is a lens through which people see an image of the universe.  These lenses are partially blocked by filters.  The universe of the ancient Egyptians was greatly influenced by the desert.  However ice and snow were never a part of it as they were blocked by the filter of where they lived.  The reverse was true for the Norse creation stories.  To communicate you need common understandings but it must be realized that any viewpoint restricts your view in some way.

The authors briefly discuss the cosmology of Ancient Egypt, the Jews at the time of the Old Testament, the Ancient Greeks, and the beliefs following the time of Alexander the Great.  Very briefly the Egyptians believed in many gods, a flat earth over which the sun, moon, and stars shown down.  Most things good arose in the south and flowed down the country to the south (the Nile).  The Jews (Hebrews) pretty much believed the same thing except they only had one God and no major river.  Their God just created the world in 6 days and that was pretty much it.  Many of the details, Adam and Eve and the six days were probably picked up from the Egyptians or Babylonians.  They weren't particularly interested in astronomy.  The Babylonians were very good astronomers and mathematicians but the practitioners had the unfortunate habit of shading their findings for money and political gain and gave the whole industry a bad name.  One of the advantages the Hebrews had is that they would borrow good ideas from others.  Praises to Baal, written in Ugaritic tablets, are almost word for word as praises for God in the Bible.  Many of their most successful ideas were discoveries about human nature.

The Ancient Greeks were the first to really advance the theory that the earth was round and the sun, moon, and stars rotated around it.  They were also the first to study knowledge as being divorced from theology.  The Gods of course did control many things but men could study those things that the Gods did not control on a day to day basis.  Alexander was one of the most well educated man of the time, Aristotle was his tutor.  He founded the city of Alexandria and built the greatest library, school, and research institute to that time.  Some of the more notable names were Eratosthenes (measured the circumference of the earth),  Archimedes (mathematician and physicist), Euclid (Geometry), and Ptolemy (a geometrical theory of the rotation of planetary motion that would last for more than 1,500 years).  Unfortunately at about this time Rome was beginning to unravel and there was no more progress made in scientific thought until the end of the Middle Ages.  The cosmology of Ptolemy permeated the culture from Persia to North Africa and Scandinavia.  It was also incorporated into the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions.

C3  From the Center of the Universe to No Place Special  In late Medieval times there was widespread belief that God had placed everyone and everything just exactly where He wanted them placed.  Our task was to determine this exact place and perform our proper duties.  Kings were supposed to rule the people, Bishops to rule the church, paupers to serve as examples, etc.  This was shattered, at least for Europeans, by a series of events starting in the 1100's.  The Crusades introduced a new culture and the works of the Greeks, in the 1400's new art brought perspective and the beauty of the human body, the printing press and then Martin Luther in the 1500's challenged the Church.  Then in 1543 Copernicus changed earth from the center of the universe to a satellite of the sun.  Numerous people, Brahe, Kepler, and Galileo added weight to his argument.  Then in 1642 the man who would hammer the final stake into the heart of the geocentric universe theory was born.  Unfortunately the theories of the 1600's and 1700's only explained the behavior of the solar system.  Not enough was known of the rest of the universe to connect this to humans.  From the human perspective we were alone in a vast nothingness - not a very satisfying concept.  We need a cosmology that unifies scientific knowledge with human understanding.  To start we need to explore what the current scientific knowledge of the universe says.

PART 2  THE NEW SCIENTIFIC PICTURE OF THE UNIVERSE
C4  What is the Universe Made Of?
 The Cosmic Density Pyramid  "Human beings are made of the rarest material in the universe: stardust."  We are composed of about 10% hydrogen from the Big Bang and about 90% atoms created in the centers of massive stars.  To confuse the issue, and the authors go into a lot of detail here, of all the matter and energy in the universe about 0.5% is hydrogen and helium - primarily in the visible stars, only about 0.01% of the visible matter is other atoms - all the planets, dust, etc., about 4% is invisible atoms - free floating atoms between stars and galaxies, 25% is cold dark matter and 70% is dark energy.  These last two were first suggested in 1933 but dismissed as bizarre.  Hints started showing up in the 1970's that the theory might have something worth considering and by the 1980's every other explanation had failed.  It wasn't until 1998 that the first real evidence for the "Double Dark" (as the authors call it)  theory was presented.  They present a graphic describing their concept.  It is a pyramid resembling the Great Seal of the United States.  They call it the Cosmic Density Pyramid and it serves four purposes.  1. It gives an understandable graphic of the latest scientific data on the relative proportions of the universe and displays where humans can be found.  2.  It emphasizes the distinction in reality between the visible and the invisible.  3.  It is a symbol that potentially shows the composition of the universe but also how it changes over time.  4.  It reveals that we are living in what might be called "the midpoint of time."  For the past 400 years we have lost our place in the universe.  With this new concept we have rediscovered our place in the new concept of the universe.

C5  What is the Center of the Universe?
 The Cosmic Spheres of Time  "When we look out into space, we look back in time."  It is not that the universe is expanding, it is more that space is expanding and the universe is being drug along.  The speed of the light that strikes the earth after being emitted during the Big Bang, and all later events, is always constant, but the wavelength reflects the amount of expansion that space has undergone since the light originated.  Thus the Red Shift.  The Ancient Egyptians (and many others) regarded time as cyclical.  The Hebrews broke with this tradition with the Bible reporting only one creation and measuring time from this date.  By this reckoning the earth is just over 6000 years old.  In about 1800 geologists started guessing that it was 100's of millions years old.  Darwin found new evidence in evolution for a similar age.  The discovery of radioactive decay has pushed this figure back to around 4.5 billion years.  Since it is estimated that it will be about 6 billion years until the sun expands enough to engulf the earth, we are living at about the midpoint of the lifespan of the earth.  The current estimate is that the universe is about 14 billion years old.

The authors have created two symbols to illustrate the relationship between space and time.  The first, their Cosmic Spheres of Time can be viewed as an onion, with us at the center.  Each succeeding shell represents an earlier age of the universe.  Their second symbol is called the Lightcone of Past and Future.  It resembles two (or more) funnels (cones) touching at their tips with time a vector moving upward from the bottom.  It illustrates how light (information) from objects at a distance from us in time and space can be received on earth.  They end the chapter with a description of the events that happened following the Big Bang.  They describe the events at numerous times between a millionth of a second after the Big Bank until the current time.

C6  What Size Is the Universe?
 The Cosmic Uroboros  "The size of a human being is at the center of all possible sizes in the universe."  They use as a basic unit of length the centimeter, just a little less than half an inch.  To express size range they use exponential notation, for example humans are in the size range of 102 cm.  That is between 100 and 999 cm which in the American system would be between 3 ft and 30 ft., at the lower end of the range definitely within it.  Mountains would be in the 105 range and body cells in the 10-3 range.  Ranges are usually spoken of as differing by an order of magnitude when the exponent of the value differs by a single value, therefore 10² differs from 10³ by one order of magnitude, 10² differs from 105 by 3 orders of magnitude.  In mathematics the exponents can become either infinitely large or infinitely small but in physical reality the minimum size is called the Plank length which is about 10-33 cm.  The largest size we can measure (see in a telescope) is about 1028 cm., which is about 60 orders of magnitude difference.  1060 is extremely large but not too large to comprehend.

The authors present another symbol, that of the serpent eating its tail - the Uroboros, to represent the different sizes possible in the universe.  They mark it of in divisions of 5 orders of magnitude and include pictures representing the structures found at each level.  They go on to describe the types of relationships that are important at the various levels.  They point out why one has to be very careful with models,  an example of the problems one finds is to imagine what would happen if we were to drop three animals from a great height, a mouse, a human, and an elephant.  The mouse would land lightly and run off, the human would break many of his bones but possibly might survive, the elephant would splash.  Gravity is the same for all three but air resistance would slow the mouse greatly, the human (especially a small one) somewhat, but very little for the elephant.

There are two "Mental Muddles" that we are prone to fall into.  The first is scale confusion.  The properties we observe at one size scale may not even be observable at a scale several orders of magnitude different.  As they say, "Complexity itself generates new kinds of behavior every few powers of ten, all around the Cosmic Uroborus."  The second is scale chauvinism.  This is the assumption that the observations that we make at our level of scale (10² cm) are valid for other levels of scale.  This is commonly found among physicists, they have a history of trying to apply their theories and methods to other sciences because they have been so successful in theirs.  This works to a limited extent for chemistry, very little in biology and not at all in medicine of the social sciences.  New processes emerge as one progresses up the scale ladder.  One of the problems with the philosophies of the previous 400 years is that mankind was seen as insignificant in the greater universe.  "Everything in the universe is significant on some scales, insignificant on others."

C7  Where Do We Come From?  The Cosmic Las Vegas  This is easily the most confusing (irrelevant?) chapter in the book.  They discuss events that may have occurred in the first 10-32 of a second with temperatures of 1030°C, beyond the bounds of scientific knowledge but possible according to the "Double Dark" theory, and how these may have accounted for some of the features we can see in the universe.  They speculate how multiple universes may occur and the relationship of this to aspects to the Kabbalah.  

C8  Are We Alone?  The Possibility of Alien Wisdom  Why is Earth an unusually suitable planet for life?
  1. Many suns have very large planets that circle very close, so called "hot Jupiters".  Our sun does not.
  2. Our sun has a massive planet that orbits at a large distance (Jupiter) and it protects the inner planets from being hit by comets.  Jupiter's orbit is very circular and it has forced the rest of the planets to be circular also.
  3. Earth's orbital distance from the sun is in the "habital zone", to cold for water to completely evaporate but not so cold that it remains perpetually frozen.  It has remained in this zone for 4.5 billion years.
  4. Earth's crust is thin enough and contains enough water that plate tectonics are possible.
  5. Earth's moon stabilizes Earth's rotation and climate, it is unusually large compared to the size of the other planet/moon pairs in the solar system.
  6. Our sun is located in the "Galactic Habitable Zone", far enough from the galactic center so that supernovas have not destroyed life with radiation but not so far out that there is not enough heavy elements to create rocky planets.
The go on to describe the chemical and biological steps involved in the creation of complex living organisms.  The complexity required to maintain a living organism requires that it be of at least a minimum size.  This minimum size increases greatly if the organism is to actively influence its environment.  Intelligence requires even larger sizes.  However if nerve cells are to signal information from one part of an organism to another, the organism cannot be too large as the nervous system could not work efficiently.  The larger whales and dinosaurs push this limit.  They discuss the possibilities of extraterrestrial life and SETI.

PART 3  THE MEANINGFUL UNIVERSE
C9  Think Cosmically, Act Globally
They discuss the probable future of the Milky Way Galaxy, ours, over the next 100 billion or so years.  Will humanity be around to share this future?  People today are using the concepts of a Newtonian universe or in many cases a medieval earth-centered universe while exploiting technologies based on relativity, quantum mechanics, etc.  "The major threats to human survival today - world environmental degradation, extinction of species, climate destabilization, nuclear war, terrorists with weapons of mass destruction - result from unrestrained use of such new technologies without a cosmology that makes sense of the nature and scale of their power.  They have an interesting graphic, it is entitled, "American on average consume their weight in resources every day."  It shows a woman standing with bands across her body.  The lower band from her feet to her lower hips is composed of sand and gravel, she has a wide belt low on her hips that represents cement and clay,  a narrow top of the belt that represents iron ore, from her waist to just below her shoulders is coal and oil, her shoulders and face represent the weight of food, her forehead represents lumber and paper, and the very top of her head represents inorganic chemicals for a total weight of 160 pounds per day.

The authors suggest that many people don't take the threats to humans survival seriously is because their cosmology doesn't prepare them to consider anything outside of their normal scale of perception, they are not use to thinking outside of narrow time frames (the next raise, the next quarterly bottom line, the next election) or narrow geographical areas.  When our numbers and power are increasing exponentially this is no longer acceptable.  They make their point by discussing the reaction to the supernova which appeared in 1054.  Western writers didn't mention it because it did not fit with their cosmology which was based on eternally unchanging crystal spheres.  Chinese and other astronomers documented it because they were working under a different cosmology.

Humans think in metaphors, affection is warmth, time is money, etc.  We need new metaphors that reflect a new cosmology.  They suggest a few, gravity is like wealth; if it spins out too far no one has enough, if it spins out the right amount then people have enough to invest and live well, if it doesn't spin out enough then it all goes into a black hole and disappears from human use.  Another example is scale and politics.  Small groups of people do well in certain situations for example 5 to 15 seem to work well in many cases - sports teams, juries, a government cabinet or nuclear families.  There seems to be another limit at about 150 where all people have personal relationships or an extended family.  This can be a good working group for a tribe or a small company, a small semi-independent group of military.  Larger organizations like huge corporations, states, nations, armies work nothing like families.  We need to find metaphors that relate to different size groups.  The authors don't have any definitive answers but they propose some possible routes to find answers and questions that need to be asked.  They quote Deuteronomy 30:19-20; "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life , so that you and your descendants may live . . ."  We make choices that will allow our descendants can continue to live on earth for thousands and millions of years in the future in a manner that be acceptable.

C10  Taking Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos  We can all say, "I am what the expanding universe is doing here and now."  We need a new cosmology that will help us realize that we are central to the universe.  The statement,"I am only human" is basically a self depreciating statement that absolves us from responsibility.  I am not in charge so blame it on somebody else.  We need a statement of power that allows/forces us to take responsibility.  They present seven reasons why humans are the whole point of the universe.
  1. We are made of the rarest material in the universe: stardust.
  2. We live at the center of our Cosmic Spheres of Time.
  3. We live at the midpoint of time which is the best time to observe the universe.
  4. We live at the middle of all possible sizes.
  5. We live in a universe that may be a unique bubble of spacetime in the eternal meta-universe.
  6. We live at more or less the midpoint in the life of our planet.
  7. We live at a turning point for our species, we can prepare for an almost infinite future or we can destroy it.
The authors explicitly reject the basis of existentialism, they believe that we (and all life) are important to the universe. We can either accept that and go on to greater things or reject it and quite possibly end intelligent life on earth in the near future.  One of our problems is that ancient peoples always had a spot in their cosmologies for the gods.  They lived in the sky, on a mountain top, more recently the realm of the spiritual was above and surrounding the final crystal sphere.  With a Newtonian universe there was no place for the spiritual and many religious believers could not accept this so they rejected science.  The authors see the spiritual as the understanding of the relationships between the various levels in the Cosmic Uroborus.  

Until we find our symbolic place in the universe we will always feel that we are outside and looking at a universe in which we have no part.  We must understand that our physical ancestry stretches back 14 billion years, our biological ancestry stretches back 2 to 3 billion years, our ancestry as humans stretches back 6 million years, and that cultural ancestry stretches back 150 thousand years.  Saint Augustine enunciated the Christian doctrine:  "The deliberate sin of the first man is the cause of original sin."  Whether you believe that or not, failing to protect our species and destroying the promise of the only intelligent life that may exist would surely be a final sin.  We need, collectively, to become the kind of people capable of using science to uphold a globally inclusive, long lived civilization.

They present four simple elements that can promote the human species' success:
  1. Accept the new universe.
  2. Commit to a meaningful, not an existential, view of the universe.
  3. Open your mind and heart to a long time-horizon both behind us and before us.
  4. Make choices that support the long-term future now.
They conclude with 72 pages of detailed notes and an index of 11 pages of very fine print.  This is the most impressive book that I have read in quite a while.

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Before the Dawn                            Nicholas Wade                   Sept 2006

C1  Genetics & Genesis  The historical evidence for human history is quite rich for a few hundred years but it rapidly diminishes the farther back we go.  Now with the discoveries about the human genome we are able to apply a vast new body of evidence to this study.  As an example of how these discoveries can add to our knowledge of the past is a genetic study of the human louse.  A researcher received a note that one of his children's classmates had lice.  The note included the fact that the human louse cannot be separated from a person for more than 24 hours before it dies.  There are two varieties of lice, head lice hold onto human hair and body lice that hold onto clothes.  By examining the genetic distance between these two varieties one can get an estimate of when they diverged and thus determine when humans first started wearing clothes.  Using samples of lice from all over the world it turns out that humans started wearing clothes about 72kya ± 2000-4000 years.  There are several themes by which DNA information has add to the knowledge about human history:
  1. There is a clear continuity between the ape world of 5 mya and the human world that emerged from it.
  2. A principal force in the shaping of human evolution has been the nature of human society.
  3. The human physical form was attained first, followed by continued evolution of human behavior.
  4. Most of human prehistory occurred in, and was shaped by, the last ice age.
  5. The adaptations for three principal social institutions, warfare, religion and trade, had evolved by 50kya.
  6. The ancestral people had a major limitation to overcome: they were too aggressive to live in settled communities.
  7. Human evolution did not halt in the distant past but has continued to the present day.
  8. People probably once spoke a single language from which all contemporary languages are derived.
  9. The human genome contains excellent records of the recent past, providing a parallel history to the written record.
C2  Metamorphosis  About 50kya the human population of Africa had shrunk to perhaps about 5000 people.  A small group of perhaps 150 who had been living in the NE corner of Africa crossed over to the southern tip of Saudi Arabia.  This was dangerous as there was an existing population of Homo neanderthalensis living in Europe and the Near East and a population of Homo erectus living in East Asia.  During an earlier warm period from 125kya to 90kya a group of modern humans seems to have emigrated out of Africa to settle around Israel but they seem to have died out about 80kya to 70kya when the climate turned cold and neanderthals were driven south.  The cultures of neanderthal and erectus had remained fairly constant for perhaps 150ky and about 50kya there are the first indications of a new culture and the end of neanderthal remains with modern human remains being found for the first time in Europe and the Near East.

C3  First Words  Most abilities of humans can be found in other animals, not speech.  Many animals have simple calls and several varieties of apes and monkeys have a number of vocalizations which are used for different purposes but there is truly a quantum difference between human speech and ape vocalization.  There are suggestions that perhaps language developed from the duplication of genes that were used for some other higher process, perhaps navigation, but there is no evidence to support any serious theorizing.  The origin of language has not been a popular subject in linguistics partially because it is such a complex topic.  A pidgin is a very simple language created when two groups of speakers with different languages come together, pidgins have limited vocabulary and minimal grammar.  Creoles are the languages of their children.  They spontaneously develop the pidgin into a fully fledged language with a uniform grammar.  When children are raised without exposure to language they never become fluent.  Deaf children raised without a special education will spontaneously develop a sign language which is fully as complex as spoken language.  Many archaeologists believe that art, complex tools, and language all arose together about 55-45kya.  The FOXP2 gene has recently come to the attention of geneticists.  It has many effects in the areas of the fetal brain that are important in language.  There is only a single unit (out of 715 units) between this gene in mice and the higher apes and monkeys.  This represents a single change in 65 million years.  There are two changes between humans and chimps and they diverged approximately 5mya.  It is estimated that the final unit change in the FOXP2 gene happened within he last 200,000 years.  Presumably this is the time when the ability to use language appeared in humans.

C4  Eden  Somewhere between 100kya and 50kya ancestral humans arose.  Around 50kya Africa developed a very dry climate and the population was reduced to about 5000 people.  The clearest lines of descent are currently the Y chromosome for men and mitochondrial DNA for women.  Y chromosome dates to about 59kya and mitochondrial DNA dates about 150kya although both are only approximate.  Adam must have been one of Eve's GGGGG...grandsons!  He ends the chapter with some speculations on linguistic and cultural possibilities of this group.

C5  Exodus  Most believe that early African humans left either by way of the Sinai Desert into Israel or across the  southernmost point of the Red Sea called the Gate of Grief.  Wade comes down firmly on the southern route because of DNA evidence.  The most likely route is then along the coast of Saudi Arabia, across the coast to India, down the coastline of southern Asia, past Indonesia, to Australia, New Guinea, and Tasmania.  At this time the oceans were much lower and almost all of these areas were reachable along the coast.  There was on gap of about 20 miles before reaching Australia about 40kya.  When modern humans reached India they seem to have also expanded north into the Pakistan, Iran/Iraq area and then to Turkey.  They probably reached the middle east by 46kya, into Europe around Bulgaria about 41kya, Italy and Germany by 38kya, and into France and Spain by 36kya.  They would have had confrontations with neanderthals all during this period and out competed them with the final result that the neanderthals became extinct about 30kya.  One consistent theme is that the members of this early human population were probably very violent, more violent than any groups today with the exception of certain small isolated populations that may have split off quite early. There is much less information on the fate of Homo erectus who seems to have left Africa much earlier and lived on in the far east until neanderthal times.  Two interesting bits of information.  On the Indonesian island of Flores there was recently discovered remains which some believe were descended from erectus who seem to have gone extinct about 13kya.  There are also two different strains of body louse, they seem to have split from each other around 1.8mya when only H erectus existed.  They could have remained with Homo erectus and only recently joined Homo sapiens when erectus and neanderthal became extinct.

C6  Stasis  Wade follows the genetic traces left as humans spread across Europe and from Asia northward and into the Americas.  He also discusses the data the indicates that dogs were domesticated in East Asia about 15kya.

C7  Settlement  He suggests that in the 30k years that humans spent outside of Africa that they had gradually been loosing some of their extreme violence which allowed them to form larger bands and by about 15kya a culture known as the Natufians living in the area of Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria began settling down and living in farming communities.  They survived from about 15kya until 11.5kya.  He stresses the personality and cultural changes it takes to convert a hunter-gatherer people to a settled people.  Some of the other changes that occurred were the domestication of cereal grains, sheep, goats, cattle, etc.  Another internal change was lactose tolerance.  Each of these changes increased the competiveness of people living in communities over those living as hunter-gatherers.

C8  Sociality  This chapter covers the many elements of socialization that have converted humans to the type of culture that we now have from the behaviors of apes and common patterns in our earlier behavior.

Chimp society is male dominated and quite violent.  Bonobo, the nearest relative of the chimp, is female dominated and highly conciliatory.  Since humans split from that line before they split from one another, we should have genes for both.  In fact we do show tenancies of both, we also have many traits that are not found in either.  Most tribal societies produced very efficient warriors.  Although most of the battles were small scale hit-and-run affairs there were casualties.  Several studies show that around 30% of the deaths of adult men were due to violence in battle.  This is much higher than in modern armies.  The current furor over mad-cow disease, which is caused by eating the brains of cows infected with bovine prions, is nothing when compared with the risk of eating human brains infected with human prions.  In doing research on mad-cow disease it was discovered that almost all human groups are partially protected by some genetic factor.  This factor differs between human groups and it shows that in the recent past all human groups have engaged in cannibalism.  Other factors he discusses are altruistic behavior, how religion can increase survivability, the privatization of sex, and the survival value of living in a large group.

C9  Race  Wade follows Darwin's lead in describing the differences in appearance due to race as being cause by mate selection.  He also presents evidence that shows that although there are racial differences these do not show what the "racists" believed (differences in goodness, intelligence, etc.).  Some of these differences are in physical appearance (obvious) but also in susceptibility to disease, the response to drugs, and performance in certain sports.  It would seem that most of the current racial differences arose around 12kya to 10kya.

C10  Language  Language has been extremely well studied and where written language existed it is easy to follow the patterns of language change for about 5000 years.  However for languages with no writing and no living speakers the task becomes much more difficult.  Linguists are still looking for the linguistic "genes" and they haven't been found yet.  He goes through a fair amount of the history but there is obviously a great deal of controversy in this area.

C11  History  Most of the book refers to events that happened between 100kya and 5kya but genetics can supply  information on what might be called the "hidden" history of the last several thousand years.  Genetic surveys through out the lands of the former Mongol empire show that 8% or 16 million men are are direct descendants of Genghis Khan.  The next highest total is descendants of the founder of the Manchu dynasty in China.  His Y chromosome is carried by 1.6 million men.  Both men and their sons maintained large harems displacing thousands of men who otherwise would have become fathers.  Another interesting result is the study of English surnames.  Prior to around 1300 AD most English did not have surnames.  They were primarily assigned to make record keeping easier.  They were primarily assigned on simple things like occupation, butcher, baker, smith, etc.  There would be no reason to assume that people bearing these names today would be related.  A study showed that many of the groups of people with the same name actually are related and can be traced to ancestors assigned names about this time.  He gives other examples based on Icelanders, Jewish history, especially Ashkenazi Jews, and the secret family of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

C12  Evolution  A review and summation chapter.  Many people do not like what they hear about human evolution but to retreat from the truth is counterproductive.  As E. O. Wilson said, "The human mind evolved to believe in the gods.  It did not evolve to believe in biology."  They present several examples of evolution in the recent human past.
He speculates a bit on possible evolutionary effects on the human race but this is a little premature in my opinion.

He concludes the book with 15 pages of notes, 2 pages of illustration credits, and an 11 page index.

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Physics of the Impossible              Michio Kaku                    Mar 2009

Preface  One of the author's memories is one of his grade school teachers pointing out that the coasts of Africa and South America seem to fit together - she said that some scientists have speculated that once they were both parts of some vast continent - but then she said that was silly, no force could possibly push two gigantic continents apart.  Later on they studied dinosaurs and learned that they had all died out and again some scientistists had again speculated that a giant meteor had killed them all, again that was just science fiction.  We now know better.  With better understanding of the science behind these events we can describe just how they took place.  We are learning more all of the time.  

Other impossibilities: perpetual motion, age of the earth to be greater than 20 - 40 my, Goddard's Folly, H. G. Well's "atom bomb" in 1914.

Kaku divides "impossibilities" into 3 categories.  The first, Class I Impossibilities are impossible today but do not violate the known laws of physics.  They may be possible later on this century or perhaps the next in modified form.  The second, Class II Impossibilities, are at the very edge of our understanding of physics.  If they are possible at all they will probably not become possible for thousands if not millions of years.  The third, Class III Impossibilities, violate the known laws of physics.  If they were to become possible it would be only throuth a fundamental shift in our understanding of physics.  

Part 1: Class I Impossibilities  Arthur C. Clark's Three Laws:
I  When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossibly, he is very probably wrong.
II  The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
III  Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

These impossibilities include: Force Fields, Invisibility, Phasers and Death Stars, Teleportation, Telepathy, Psychokinesis, Robots, Extraterrestrials and UFOs, Starships, Antimatter and Anti-universes.

He considers it possible that we may have teleportation of fairly small objects, perhaps organic molecules, virus' or even a living cell to be a Class I but teleportation of a living human is probably a Class II.

He classifies civilizations into 4 categories.  We are currently residing in a Type 0 civilization (we use dead plants - oil and coal to fuel our machines).  Type I civilizations can harness the power of their planet and utilize much of the sunlight that strikes their planet.  Type II civilization can utilize the entire power of their sun.  A Type III civilization can utilize the power of an entire galaxy.  We are beginning to transition to a Type I civilization.  We are beginning to harvest the power of the sun, we have a communications system, the internet, that is beginning to connect the entire planet, our economic system is going global and English is becoming the language of international transaction.  

Part 2: Class II Impossibilities
 The author only sees three of these impossibilities, faster than light travel, time travel, and parallel universes.  For faster than light travel he sees two possible approaches, they are stretching space in front of you and contracting space behind you and ripping space by means of a wormhole.  For stretching space it appears that one would need to use negative energy - since we still don't know what this it probably won't happen for a long time.  For creating wormholes it would appear that we need the energy contained in black holes.  This would probably take an advanced Type II or a Type III civilization.

Time travel would seem to involve the event horizons surrounding black holes.  Again this would probably require a Type II or Type III civilization.  

Parallel universes is a moderatly hot topic in theoretical physics today.  Theory seems to suggest that such a thing is possible but there doesn't seem to be any liklihood of serious progress for a long, long time.  If it does become possible it would probably be with a new physics and a Type III civilization.  

Part 3: Class III Impossibilities  Kaku sees two types of Class III Impossibilities.  The first is perpetual motion machines.  These are probably either truly impossible or will require a totally new understanding of physics.  The possibilities seemingly revolve around dark energy or quantum energy.  Again, if possible they would require a Type III civilization.

Currently he sees no possiblility that precognition will ever become possible.  My only comment is that perhaps we can get successive approximations to this.  The history of science is a study in how we can  predict future events.  One of the first major advances of the proto-science of astronomy / astrology was the ability to predict the movements of the moon and stars and the seasons.  One of our current major efforts is an attempt to predict the weather.  Another is efforts to predict global warming.  Not perfect, but we are gaining on it.  

The book contains an epilogue which attemps to put it all together.  There are 12 pages of notes, 2 pages of bibliography, and an 11 page index.

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How to Build a Dinosaur                 Jack Horner & James Gorman                 May 2009
            Subtitle:  Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever  

Introduction  What if we wanted to pick a time in earth's history, run it over and over again and see what happens?  Unfortunately you couldn't do that because you couldn't guarantee that humans or any other species would be here a second time.  To conduct an experiment with evolution you need a whole planet to play with.  But maybe we could start with an animal, say perhaps the chicken, because eggs are easy to work with, and reverse engineer evolution and see if we could work backwards to see if we could come up with a dinosaur.  Horner likes giving lectures.  He prepares a series of slides and then just describes each one and the links to the other slides.  His dream lecture is to create a dinosaur like creature using chickens, perhaps the size of a turkey or emu if he could find handlers, and lead it on stage and then ask, "Can anyone here tell me what this is?"  That simple question with the follow-up questions would be the entire lecture.  We are now beginning to develop the tools that may someday make this lecture possible.  He would focus on two features, the arm (wing) bones and the tail bones.  The arm bones of a chicken start very similar to the arm bones in a human fetus, why do the buds at the end lengthen, fuse together, and end up as a wing instead of forming an arm?  The tail at the end of the spine is growing like many other animals but then it stops growing.  Why?  If we could change these two processes we could end up with a creature that looked very much like a small carnivore very much like a species of velociraptor like theropod called a Saurornitholestes.

C1  Hell Creek  Time, Space, and Digging to the Past  To get to Hell Creek, you drive east from Bozeman, and back in time.  Take I 90 for 150 miles until you get to Billings.  Then take 87 north to 200 east to Winnett, population 200.  The road continues east for 75 miles, through the Missouri Breaks.  When you get to the Musselshell River and Garfield county you begin seeing exposed rocks.  These are the rocks of the Hell Creed formation and they are about 65 million years old.  In many places you can notice a thin black line on top of a lighter group of rocks.  This line is coal and it marks the start of the Fort Union Formation, sometimes called Z-coal.  This coal formed just after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.  The Cretaceous rocks beneath this thin black line contain some of the best fossils of dinosaurs of this time.  

Quick note on how local events effect even paleontologists.  Mary Schweitzer, who discovered red blood cells and blood vessels in the fossil of a T rex, was married to the brother of the leader of the Freeman sect who had set up their headquarters in the area.  The area is extreme in other areas, the temperatures often get to 120 in the summer and blizzards at -40 in the winter.  Water is very scarce.  

A brief description of the evolution of life on Earth.  How the nomenclature used by biologists have changed.  We no longer look for a specific ancestor.  We now look for shared characteristics of groups and how these characteristics change over time.  The new characteristics are termed derived characteristics and the groups are called clades.  A diagram of this is called a cladogram (cladistics for the overall process).  Very briefly, mammals and dinosaurs both appeared about the same time more than 245 million years ago.  Following a mass extinction about 245 mya the dinosaurs became dominant.  They remained dominant until they were mostly killed about 65 mya when the mammals became dominant.  By that time Antarctica, Australia, and South America were separated but the rest of the continents were still connected.  One of the biggest questions surrounding this time is what was happening to the great mass of life on earth both before, during, and after the meteor crash.  Unfortunately the Hell Creek Formation doesn't give us any information on the period after the meteor.  

The mammals were poised and ready to take over from the dinosaurs and take over they did, rapidly expanding into many new niches that were opened up.  He quickly goes over the rise of large mammals, the first hominids, the first modern humans to reach the Americas, and the history of the Americas following their discovery by the Europeans.  The first European-American fossil collectors arrived in the West in about the early 1850's.  The first T rex fossil was discovered in the Hell Creek Formation in 1908.  The expedition he describes occurred in 2000 found five individuals.  The most important, in which they found more than 50% of the skeleton they named Bob, or B rex after the name of the person who first spotted the first bone.  One of the bones, a femur, was so big it had to be broken in two to get it out.  This skeleton is probably the most throughly investigated T. rex, ever.

C2  It's A Girl  A Pregnancy Test For T. Rex  Mary Schweitzer took some of the samples from the femur of B rex back to her new job, Asst. Prof. at North Carolina State University.  When she got there she opened her samples, turned one over and realized that she was looking at the bones of a pregnant female T. Rex.  It was coated with medullary bone, which in birds is produced to store calcium which is used in creating eggshells.  This was the first discovery of medullary bone in dinosaurs.  

Before she got her PhD, a friend of hers in a vet lab was helping her making thin sections for display slides.  Her friend displayed some of the slides they had produced at a veterinary conference.  One of the audience members if she had a slide with samples of the oldest dinosaur they had studied.  He said yes, it was from B rex and they showed it.  After the talk another audience member came up to the podium and said, "Do you realize you've got red blood cells in that dinosaur bone?"  This terrified her as the last thing most graduate students want to do is to announce a new and obviously controversial finding as many others will be out trying to prove her wrong.  She used this in her dissertation and they tried to prove her wrong, not successfully yet.  

The final finding that Mary Schweitzer made that he reports is the finding of flexible, transparent vessels from B rex that look and act like blood vessels containing red blood cells.  They appear to be made of collagen.  This is also a major first discovery.  

C3  Molecules Are Fossils Too  Biological Secrets in Ancient Bones  When Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park was published in 1990 its science was state of the art.  Since then many species have been cloned and the DNA of many species has been sequenced and published.  Kary Mullis and the Taq polymerase enzyme reaction.  The discovery of ancient DNA.  DNA has been retrieved from mammoths frozen in permafrost and quite likely from Neanderthals tens of thousands of years old.  The report of DNA from an 80 million year old dinosaur bone is probably false.  The cost for sequencing a complete human genome has gone from $3 billion for the Human Genome Project, to $2 million several years ago.  In 2008 a company has advertised a complete sequence for $350,000, and numerous people are expecting costs of less than $1,000 in a few years.  

In 1965 Philip Abelson found amino acids in 150 myo fossils.  In 1974 proteins were found in 70 myo mollusk shells.  Since then other techniques have made it possible to find many other biological materials.  In 1999 Mary Schweitzer for evidence of hemoglobin and red blood cells.  After all this time archaeologists are slowly changing their field methods to better collect this data.  Collagen and osteocalcin are two of the molecules that have been worked with.  A description of the difficulties of finding organic chemicals in fossils and of the mobile lab acquired by North Carolina State University and used at the fossil sites in Montana.

C4  Dinosaurs Among Us  Chickens and Other Cousins of T. Rex  Have you ever seen a dinosaur?  We all have, they are just called birds.  Perhaps they should be called dinosaur kids as they have done quite a bit of evolving ever since they separated from the rest of the dinosaurs about 175 - 200 mya.  Their first known ancestor is the Archaeopteryx which lived about 150 mya.

For many years few people believed that they were related until Dave Ostrom of Yale discovered a dinosaur which he named Deinonychus which he believed was a quick, fierce animal that hunted in packs and was probably warm blooded.  In the mid-1990's many new dinosaur fossils were discovered in China.  Several of these were roughly bird sized and had feathers.  One was named Sinosauropteryx or Archaeopterys from China.  It was approximately chicken size and other were up to three feet long.  Modern birds first appeared about 55 mya and the galliform birds which include chickens arose around 45 mya with the modern chicken first appearing about 5,000 ya as a result of human selection.  In the chicken we have a direct line back to one of the major branches of dinosaurs.  

C5  Where Babies Come From  Ancestors in the Egg  The chicken genome (or at least the red jungle fowl -Gallus gallus- was published in 2004.  Based on this it has been determined that the last common ancestor of chickens and humans lived about 310 mya.  Needless to say this is a big separation and there are many differences.  As a relevant aside, Aristotle was the first recorded human to perform experiments and scientific observations of chicken embryology.

Horner discuses many topics related to genetics and embryology and how these might influence our ideas about the evolution of birds from early dinosaurs.  He picks two features of chickens (birds) and bases most of his discussion on them.  The features are the development of feathers and the changing of the five fingers/toes into the three related portions of the bird wing.  One of the fascinating elements of his discussion is that it doesn't seem to be as much the creation of new genes that controls new species formation as it is the actions of proteins that change when already existing genes are turned on or turned off.  

Feathers seem to have originated from scales, they elongated, then grew fringed edges, and finally produced hooked and grooved barbules on the ends of the fringes.  Perhaps they originated as a temperature regulating device which grew more and more efficient.  Then they may have been used for increased gliding length and only afterwords were they used for powered flight on some of the smaller members of the vast bird family.  

The first four-limbed animals had various numbers of digits on their limbs.  One early variety had 7 digits on the rear legs and 8 on its front legs.  Somewhere along the line all those that did not have 5 digits on both front and hind legs died out and tetrapods standardized on this.  Since then some species have lost a few digits or they have become vestigial.  The five digit buds can be seen in birds but growth stops for them and the three remaining digits form part of the developing wing.  

C6  Wag The Bird The Shrinking Backbone  Hans Larsson of McGill University in Montreal is the human subject of the final two chapters.  He is one of the leaders in merging the sciences of paleontology and molecular biology using experimental embryology.  Paleontology has always been a descriptive science.  His approach offers a way of using embryology experiments using the methods of molecular biology to gain the power of the experimental method to paleontology.  His technique is to use another of the features of birds that distinguishes them from most other animals; the tail.  There are a few animals that do not have tails, humans being one.  In addition to being of academic or intellectual interest, the backbone from which the tail is a continuance, has always been a problem area in humans.  If we knew more about the formation of tails we might gain knowledge about problems with the human backbone, spina bifida is one such problem.  

Embryonic birds, using the chicken as an example, start out with a full complement of 18 beginnings or buds (anlagen) of tail vertebrae.  Of these, five begin to develop normally, but then development comes to a halt.  These five stop growing and the remaining 13 merge into the pygostyle.  Similar developments occur in the African clawed frog and the salmon but these are enough different and far enough separated evolutionally to make it obvious that it is parallel evolution and not linked.  Larsson is attempting to grow a tail on a chicken embryo by manipulating the chemical signals.  This has never been attempted or even seriously studied before so he is forced to develop new methods and work his way around problems that no one has ever run into before.  

C7  Reverse Evolution  Experimenting With Extinction  This chapter deals more with the scientific, moral, and religious issues of the attempt to grow a dinosaur.  Without going into all the arguments Horner believes that it is a perfectly valid thing to attempt.  The current project that he envisions is to grow a tailed, front clawed (and possibly toothed) Chickenosaurus from a chicken embryo.  The goal of the first project would be to do this strictly with the manipulation of growth controlling chemicals.  There would be no need to manipulate genes.  The creation of new species which would be self-propagating and which would breed true is a completely different goal.  The implications of this follow-on project are much different.  The first project is strictly a scientific experiment with no further implications.  The second or follow-on project would need to be examined much more closely and the decision to proceed would have to be made by our society as a whole.  

Again he repeats his dream of walking onto a stage to make a presentation.  He is leading a Chickenosaurus and he asks the question to the audience, "Can anyone here tell me what this is?"

The book ends with the comparison of two skeletons, one is a Saurornitholestes, a small theropod from the Cretaceous and his proposed Chickenosaurus.  It has a 10 page bibliography and a 16 page index.

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