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  • The Atlantic's Ed Yong notes the discovery of dated Homo sapiens fossils 300k years old in Morocco. (!)

  • The Atlantic reports on Twitter-driven science that has highlighted the remarkable visual acuity of the spider.

  • The Economist notes that multilingual societies can encounter more difficulties prospering than unilingual ones.

  • Torontoist notes a Thunder Bay park devoted to the idea of First Nations reconciliation.

  • The Inter Press Service reports on how gardens grown under solar tents in Bolivia can improve nutrition in poor highland villages.

  • The Toronto Star's Christopher Hume trolls Rob Ford's supporters over the new, well-designed, Etobicoke Civic Centre.Metro Toronto calculates just how many avocado toasts would go into a mortgage in the GTA.

  • MacLean's hosts a collection of twenty photos from gritty Niagara Falls, New York.

  • The National Post shows remarkable, heartbreaking photos from the flooded Toronto Islands.

  • Edward Keenan argues that the Toronto Islands' flooding should help prompt a local discussion on climate change.

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  • Anthropology.net reports on new evidence that Homo naledi may have used tools, buried their dead, and lived alongside Homo sapiens.
  • Centauri Dreams remembers an abortive solar sail mission to Halley's Comet.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of the "Apache" dancers of France.

  • Cody Delistraty writes about Swedish futurist Anders Sandberg and his efforts to plan for humanity's future.

  • At the Everyday Sociology Blog, Karen Sternheimer talks about her day as a sociologist.

  • Joe. My. God. notes the good news that normal young HIV patients can now expect near-normal life expectancies.

  • Language Hat looks at a recent surge of interest in Italian dialects.

  • Language Log looks at the phenomenon of East Asians taking English-language names.

  • The LRB Blog considers the dynamics of the United Kingdom's own UDI.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the existential issues of a growing Kinshasa still disconnected from the wider world.

  • Steve Munro notes that Metrolinx will now buy vehicles from France's Alstom.

  • The New APPS Blog uses Foucault to look at the "thanatopolitics" of the Republicans.

  • The NYRB Daily looks at Trump's constitutional crisis.

  • Out There considers the issues surrounding the detection of an alien civilization less advanced than ours.

  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at the United States' planetary science exploration budget.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at Argentina's underrated reputation as a destination for foreign investment.

  • Progressive Download shares some thinking about sexual orientation in the context of evolution.

  • Peter Rukavina looks at the success of wind energy generation on the Island.

  • Understanding Society takes a look at the dynamics of Rome.

  • Window on Eurasia shares a lunatic Russian scheme for a partition of eastern Europe between Russia and Germany.

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The National Post carries Ben Guarino's Washington Post article reporting on the exciting finds of mysterious hominid skulls in China. Could these actually be, as some speculate, remnants of the Denisovans, or of another still more obscure human population?

Modern humans outlasted the Neanderthals by about 40,000 years and counting. But don’t pat yourself on the back too firmly for outliving those troglodytes. Neanderthals crafted tools and tamed fire. They cared for their dead. Animal horns and blackened fire pits encircling the remains of a Neanderthal toddler suggest a 42,000-year-old funeral rite. If a Neanderthal indeed wore a talon necklace, as a collection of polished eagle claws indicate, they beat us to jewelry, too. Perhaps one of your ancient ancestors found the claw necklaces sexy: Some scientists theorize humans gave Neanderthals genital herpes and tapeworm parasites.

Their proportions, however, remained distinctly Neanderthal. Neanderthal bodies were shorter and stockier, more Gimli son of Gloin than Gigi Hadid. Their skulls were built differently, too, with a few features – like heavy brow ridges – particularly unlike ours.

Which makes a pair of newly-described skulls something of a wonder. The partial skulls have features up to this time unseen in the hominid fossil record, sharing both human and Neanderthal characteristics.

“It is a very exciting discovery,” as Katerina Harvati, an expert in Neanderthal evolution at the University of Tübingen in Germany who was not involved with the research, told The Washington Post. “Especially because the human fossil record from East Asia has been not only fragmentary but also difficult to date.”

Excavators dug up the skull cap fragments in 2007 and 2014, in Lingjing, located within China’s Henan province. The diggers discovered two partial skulls in a site thought to be inhabited 105,000 to 125,000 years ago, during an epoch called the Pleistocene. The owners of the skulls were good hunters, capable of fashioning stone blades from quartz. Ancient bones of horses and cattle, as well as extinct woolly rhinoceros and giant deer, were found strewn nearby the skull remains.
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BBC's Jane Palmer reports on how cats remain strongly individualistic, despite recent pressures from humans towards greater sociability.

How hard can it really be to herd cats?

Ask Daniel Mills, professor of veterinary behavioural medicine at the University of Lincoln, UK. In a recent study, Mills and his colleague Alice Potter demonstrated that cats are more autonomous and solitary than dogs. Carrying out the research for the project was as difficult as the cat's reputation might suggest.

"They are challenging if you want them to do certain things in a certain way," says Mills. "They tend to do their own thing."

Cat owners everywhere will sympathise. But why exactly are cats so reluctant to cooperate, either with each other or with a human? Or to flip the question around, why are so many other animals – wild and domestic – willing team players?

Group living is very common in nature. Birds flock, wildebeest herd, fish school. Predators often hunt together too, of course. Even the domestic cat's relative, the lion, lives in a pride.
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  • Bad Astronomy shares a photo of the Earth and Moon taken by a Mars probe.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money responds to a baffling claim by a New York City policeman that stranger rape is more of a concern than acquaintance rape.

  • Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw, returned from Denmark, wonders
    about the extent to which social happiness is maximized by stability and security.

  • Progressive Download's John Farrell argues that scientists should approach the theory of evolution in a less mechanistic light.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on the transformation of United Russia into a parallel structure of government akin to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and engages with the possibility of a pro-Russian Ukrainian government-in-exile.

  • Alex Harrowell of Yorkshire Ranter looks at the problems of an independent central bank, finding that failings attributed to these are actually faults of government.

  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the highly evolved fashion sense of faggots, in the context of Italy's divides and celebrities.

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  • blogTO notes that TTC tunnels will get WiFi in 2018.

  • Border Thinking's Laura Augustín shares some of Edvard Munch's brothel paintings.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at the latest science on fast radio bursts.

  • Dangerous Minds shares some of the sexy covers of Yugoslavian computer magazine Računari.

  • Dead Things looks at the latest research into dinosaur eggs.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to a paper suggesting that a high surface magnetic field in a red giant star indicates a recent swallowing of a planet.

  • Language Log shares an ad for a portable smog mask from China.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money takes issue with the idea of NAFTA being of general benefit to Mexico.

  • Torontoist looks at the history of Toronto General Hospital.

  • Window on Eurasia is skeptical about an American proposal for Ukraine, and suggests Ossetian reunification within Russia is the next annexation likely to be made by Russia.

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  • Anthropology.net looks at the genetics of how the Inuit have adapted to cold weather.

  • 'Nathan Smith's Apostrophen shares the author's plans for the coming year.

  • Beyond the Beyond's Bruce Sterling shares Margaret Atwood's commitment to fighting for freedom of expression.

  • Crooked Timber asks its readers for recommendations in Anglophone science fiction.

  • D-Brief notes the discovery of the human mesentery.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at the protoplanetary disk of LkCa 15 disk.

  • Far Outliers looks at some lobsters imported to Japan from (a) Christmas Island.

  • Joe. My. God. notes Janet Jackson has given birth.

  • Language Hat examines the contrast often made between indigenous and immigrant languages.

  • Language Log looks at the names of the stations of the Haifa subway.

  • Steve Munro notes Bathurst Station's goodbye to Honest Ed's.

  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the Dawn probe's discoveries at Ceres in the past year.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the permafrost of the Russian far north is melting and endangering entire cities, and contrasts the prosperity of the Estonian city of Narva relative to the decay of adjacent Ivangorod.

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  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of showing up for major events.

  • Crooked Timber looks at e-publishing for academia.

  • Dead Things notes that the evolution of the human brain and human teeth were not linked.

  • The Dragon's Gaze links to two papers about ocean worlds and greenhouse effects.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the hopeful seasteaders of French Polynesia.

  • Towleroad looks at the life of a trans man in the mid-20th century.

  • Window on Eurasia shares a Catalonian linguists' argument that linguistic diversity helps minority languages.

  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the gay cowboy scene.

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Anthropology.net's Kambiz Kamrani reports on an exciting archeological finding from the Aegean, suggesting that Neanderthals or a different hominid population managed to reach the Greek islands.

Mousterian spearheads, a classic Neanderthal tool type, were excavated from the Stelida archeological site on the Greek island of Naxos by from McMaster University. There has been a long time belief that the first people to colonize this particular region were early farmers who arrived by boat approximately 9,000 years ago. These artifacts imply something much much different as they could be 250,000 years old. Archaeologist, Tristan Carter, co-director, comments on the these artifacts,

““The stone tools they were finding on the site looked nothing like the stone tools that had ever been found before on prehistoric sites in the Cycladic Islands.””

The Mousterian culture is Paleolithic. And these spear heads furnish evidence that humans reached the islands of the Aegean Sea a quarter million years ago and maybe earlier. If confirmed, it means the first people on Naxos were Neanderthals, or their probable ancestors, Homo heidelbergensis or maybe even Homo erectus. But how did they get there -Could these archaic hominins have travelled by boat?
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Michael Greshko writes in National Geographic about new findigns about the possibile social structures of our hominid ancestors.

Adding to an electrifying discovery made almost 40 years ago, researchers have uncovered a new set of footprints made by an early human ancestor that roamed Africa more than 3.6 million years ago.

Found in Laetoli, a renowned archaeological site in northeastern Tanzania, the 14 newfound footprints add to a set of 70 tracks uncovered in 1978 by paleontologist Mary Leakey. In all, the tracks are the oldest prints of their kind ever found, providing crucial evidence that walking on two legs was picked up early in the human lineage.

Spread out over an area three times bigger than an average parking space, the prints most likely belong to two individuals of Australopithecus afarensis, the hominin species most famously represented by the fossil known as “Lucy.” (Read more about how Lucy might have died.)

The footprints are among the many cultural treasures found in Tanzania, a country rich in ancient paleontological sites. Olduvai Gorge, some 20 miles to the northeast of Laetoli, famously harbored some of the earliest known human fossils.

Celebrating that heritage was the only reason the new prints were found at all: In 2015, Tanzanian archaeologists Fidelis Masao and Elgidius Ichumbaki, both of the University of Dar es Salaam, found the new footprints while evaluating the potential impacts of building a museum on the Laetoli site.
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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the advanced microelectronics that might last a space probe the two decades it would take to get to Proxima Centauri.

  • Dangerous Minds links to a 1980 filmed concert performance by Queen.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on the discovery of potassium in the atmosphere of WASP-17b.

  • Language Hat looks at the Carmina of Optatianus, an interesting piece of Latin literature.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on the shameless anti-democratic maneuvering of the Republicans in North Carolina.

  • The LRB Blog reflects on the shamelessness of the perpetrators of the Aleppo massacres.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at what Charles Darwin's reading habits have to say about the man's process of research.

  • North!'s Justin Petrone looks at the elves of Estonia.

  • The NYRB Daily praises the new movie Manchester by the Sea.

  • The Planetary Society Blog shares a recent photo of Phobos.

  • Peter Rukavina argues that the Island's low PISA scores do not necessarily reflect on what Islanders have learned.

  • Savage Minds shares an essay by someone who combines academic work with library work.

  • Torontoist notes the city's subsidies to some major water polluters.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the anniversary of some important riots in Kazakhstan.

  • Arnold Zwicky reflects on the penguin-related caption of a photo on Wikipedia that has made the world laugh.

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EurekAlert! shared this intriguing press release from Princeton University highlighting new research claiming that the reason some monkeys do not speak has everything to do with their innate intelligence, not their anatomy.

Monkeys known as macaques possess the vocal anatomy to produce "clearly intelligible" human speech but lack the brain circuitry to do so, according to new research.

The findings -- which could apply to other African and Asian primates known as Old World monkeys -- suggest that human speech stems mainly from the unique evolution and construction of our brains, and is not linked to vocalization-related anatomical differences between humans and primates, the researchers reported Dec. 9 in the journal Science Advances.

Co-corresponding author Asif Ghazanfar, a Princeton University professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, said that scientists across many disciplines have long debated if -- and to what extent -- differences between the human and primate vocal anatomy allow people to speak but not monkeys and apes.

"Now nobody can say that it's something about the vocal anatomy that keeps monkeys from being able to speak -- it has to be something in the brain. Even if this finding only applies to macaque monkeys, it would still debunk the idea that it's the anatomy that limits speech in nonhumans," Ghazanfar said. "Now, the interesting question is, what is it in the human brain that makes it special?"
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  • Apostrophen's 'Nathan Smith notes that his husky loves the winter that has descended on Ottawa.

  • blogTO notes Toronto's continuing housing price spikes.

  • D-Brief notes that chimpanzees apparently are built to recognize butts.

  • Dead Things reports on discoveries of the first land vertebrates.

  • The Dragon's Gaze notes the weird patterns of KIC 8462852.

  • Marginal Revolution considers Westworld's analogies to the Haitian Revolution.

  • Steve Munro looks at the latest on the TTC budget.

  • Window on Eurasia notes the controversial nature of the new official doctrine of Russia's nationhood.

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  • Crooked Timber looks at how evolutionary psychology can be used to justify monarchy.

  • Far Outliers shares an excerpt describing how methamphetamine is used as a secondary currency in North Korea.

  • The Frailest Thing shares quotes examining the link between seeing something and liking it.
  • Language Hat talks about ways of voicing surprise.
  • Language Log looks at a linguistically mixed language of China.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues the recounts are far more likely to help Trump than Clinton.

  • Marginal Revolution points to an interesting book on the Cuban economy.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy looks at the idea of a sanctuary city in the context of American federalism.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at the complex legalities surrounding religion and disbelief in Russia.

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  • Antipope Charlie Stross wonders about the interactions between parasite loads and the intelligence of the inhabitants of off-world colonies.

  • Bad Astronomy shares a stunning mosaic of the Milky Way Galaxy.

  • blogTO notes the construction of a viewing platform for Toronto plane spotters.

  • The Everyday Sociology Blog examines why we call other people stupid.

  • Imageo notes how Arctic sea ice is trending at record low levels.

  • Language Hat looks at the ways in which the English language is changing.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money and the Volokh Conspiracy consider whether the FBI announcement of the expansion of the Weiner E-mail search to target Hillary Clinton was legal.

  • Marginal Revolution reports that GM crops are apparently not increasing yields particularly.

  • Progressive Download's John Farrell reports on the politics of bashing Darwin and evolution.

  • Spacing considers a recent election outcome for mayor in Saskatoon.

  • Torontoist reports on the Russell Hill subway crash of 1995.

  • Window on Eurasia considers the prospect of Russians turning against Putin and argue his regime's fascist turn will be continuing.

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  • Beyond the Beyond quotes a Vladimir Putin statement on geopolitics.

  • blogTO shares photos from Yorkdale's expansion.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at more evidence for Planet Nine.

  • Dead Things notes evidence that right-handedness has been predominant among hominins for some time.

  • The Dragon's Gaze reports on the discovery of three hot Jupiters.

  • Marginal Revolution looks at the Philippines' shift towards China.

  • The Planetary Society Weblog looks at ExoMars' mission and the failure of the Schiaparelli lander.

  • Torontoist notes that the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has bought Constellation Wineries, making some Canadian wineries Canadian-owned again.

  • Towleroad reports on a Europe-wide census of LGBT identities.

  • Whatever's John Scalzi notes that Hillary Clinton is winning because she puts work into it.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at Putin's changing style of governance.

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  • blogTO notes that 1975 was a formative year for Toronto.

  • Centauri Dreams speculates about the oceans of Pluto and Saturn's Dione.

  • Crooked Timber talks about Hannah Arendt's arguments about the importance of bearing testament.

  • D-Brief looks at the cnyodont, an extinct reptile ancestral to mammals.

  • Dangerous Minds shares photos of Patti Smith.

  • The Dragon's Gaze suggests that K-class dwarf stars are best for life.

  • Language Log looks at a merging of Wu and Mandarin Chinese on signage.

  • Lawyers, Guns and Money reports on how supply chains can hide corporations from responsibility.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes an American court ruling to the effect that barring Syrian refugees is unconstitutional discrimination.

  • Window on Eurasia reports on collapsing life expectancy in many Russian regions, looks at Russia's withdrawal from the plutonium agreement with the United States, and criticizes American policy towards Belarus and Lukashenka.

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  • Antipope Charlie Stross imagines future directions of evolution.

  • Anthropology.net reports on a reconstruction of the vocal tract of Iceman Otzi.

  • blogTO notes the temporary return of the Dufferin jog owing to construction.

  • Centauri Dreams considers asteroids.

  • The Dragon's Tales reports on the expected crash of China's Tiangong-1 space station.

  • Joe. My. God. notes that San Francisco's Millennium Tower is sinking into the ground.

  • The LRB Blog notes Brexiteers' use of the Commonwealth.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer looks at what might be the beginning of culture wars in Mexico.

  • The Volokh Conspiracy talks about the need to make it easier for Americans to move.

  • Window on Eurasia notes that Lukashenka wants to "Belarusianize" the clergy of local churches.

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CBC reported on the grim findings of the researchers who determined why the mammoths of Alaska's Saint Paul Island, last of their kind, died out.

St. Paul Island's mammoths were a vulnerable population that probably never numbered more than 30, [one researcher] estimates. Pinpointing the cause of their extinction "just sort of underscores the precariousness of small island populations to what seems like fairly subtle environmental change."

Even today, the crater lake that the researchers studied is only a metre deep. The researchers drilled through the ice in winter, into the layers of sediment deposited on the bottom of the lake over thousands of years.

There they found mammoth DNA, spores of fungi that can only live in the fresh dung of large mammals like mammoths, and the remains of aquatic insects that contain chemical information about water levels over the lake's history.

Together, the data pinpoint the time of extinction at 5,600 years ago — about 900 years after the date of the youngest mammoth remains ever dug up on the island — and chronicle the deterioration of the lake during the last days of the mammoths.

The result doesn't just solve a longstanding mystery about a puzzling extinction.

It may also be a warning about the seriousness of a problem that has never been linked to extinctions in the past, but is relevant for human communities in our own age of rapid climate change, rising seas and a coastal flooding[.]
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  • Bad Astronomy reports on the discovery of two hot Jupiters and what this means.

  • Centauri Dreams looks at hot Jupiter K2-33b.

  • D-Brief notes that pollution has reached even the bottom of the Mariana trench.

  • Dangerous Minds notes a 1971 BBC documentary that was actually respectful towards the young.

  • The Dragon's Gaze looks at tidal locking for gas giants.

  • The Dragon's Tales links to a report suggesting mammals developed night vision in order to fend off dinosaurs.

  • Language Log examines how Brexit is pronounced.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that artworks were a good investment in occupied France, and observes that marijuana legalization has not increased marijuana usage in Colorado.

  • pollotenchegg maps the decline of the Basque language in Spain.

  • The Russian Demographics Blog notes changing patterns in news acquisition among the young and the old.

  • Savage Minds takes an anthropological look at the Ramadan fast, the post being written by two Muslims.

  • Torontoist notes that an artist has painted the names of the Orlando victims on the streets of Church and Wellesley.

  • Window on Eurasia looks at North Caucasian perceptions of the Russian state.

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