The Universe Within

The aim of the talk ‘The Universe Within: A Scientific Adventure’ was, in Neil Shubin’s own words: “to investigate the common history of rocks, planets, and people”. Neil Shubin, author of the titular book …

Chris Stringer’s Human Evolution

Professor Chris Stringer, an anthropologist from the natural history museum, talks to Graihagh Jackson about his life’s research on human evolution. Chris revolutionised his field with his out-of-Africa theory …

Sting-stealing slugs

Last week I introduced the nudibranchs, a group of beautiful and surprising sea slugs. In this post, I’ll be talking about how nudibranchs steal weapons from their prey and use them to their own advantage. Nudibranchs like to eat Cnidaria. This group of simple but fascinating animals includes corals, sea anemones, jellyfish and others. Cnidaria […]

Placebo: making evidence-based medicine bad for you

The placebo effect is like a slightly embarrassing trick you play on someone who’s never heard it before. There’s no deception that makes a person look so gullible or so much of a hypochondriac as to bring them back to health with a treatment that does nothing at all. However, although it’s still debated, the […]

Putting Love in a Pill

We can all admit to being, on occasion, slaves to our emotions. But what if we could medically alter and regulate our most basic feelings? Be prescribed a pill to love, an inhaler to feel anger, or a topical lotion for loneliness? Neuroscience is starting to better understand the hard-wiring of our emotions. And one […]

Did Humans Emerge “Out of Asia”?

The phrase ‘out of Africa’ has become synonymous with the concept of early primate – and by extension, human – evolution. However, recent research challenges this view, instead indicating that primates left Asia some tens of millions of years ago and colonised Africa, where they continued their evolution. The new findings, produced by an international […]

Can Computers Teach Us About Evolution of Cooperation?

Evolution can be merciless. It selects for success and banishes failure. It is therefore natural to assume that it favours genes that help themselves and not others. Yet for some reason, cooperative behaviour has managed to evolve, with no solid explanation as to why. But thanks to computer technology, we may now be closer to […]

Battle of the Sexes

Liger and male handler The battle of the sexes is as old as time itself. George Gilder commented that “differences between sexes are one of the most single important facts of human society”. These differences are also one of the most important foundations for human existence. Evolution has gradually crafted us from the humblest of […]

Intellectual Chess

There is no question about it, we have big heads. Relative to our body size we have the largest brains on earth, and even non-relative to body size, our brains are still some of the largest. If we consider that we are the well-honed product of mother nature’s machinations then it follows logically that large […]

Original Sin: Selfish Genes?

Darwin’s Origin of Species was not the only landmark literature to be published in the late 19th century; it was framed by contrasting books considering the moral behaviour of man. One Self Help considered humans to be so flawed and innately immoral that the only way to achieve goodness was to remove all traces of […]

The Descent of Giraffe

The birth of a new life, for most of us, is a wonderful thing. For the newborn, it is the first glimpse of our bright, brave new world. What adventures have we set in store? What beauty will we see? A multitude of possibilities are ahead. For a baby giraffe, however, birth must be an […]

Getting over the ‘Great Dying’

It’s not how you fail, it’s how you bounce back.  And while the end-Permian mass extinction may have been nature’s greatest failure, new evidence shows its recovery was even more impressive than we thought. Two hundred and fifty million years ago, life nearly died.  96% of marine species were lost, 70% of land vertebrates perished, […]

Bad gossip catches the eye

Gossip doesn’t just affect how you’re judged, a study shows, it controls whether people see you at all. According to evolutionists, a good prattle is vital in forging relationships.  It’s the human equivalent of chimps picking flees from each other. It’s also key to our huge social groups.  We quickly evaluate people we’ve never met, learning […]

On the origins of the female orgasm

The debate of the origins of the female orgasm in humans has been of great interest to both the scientific community and the world at large for centuries, yet the debate is still not concluded based on current evidence.  In addition certain standpoints, whilst seeming scientifically savvy, have sparked controversy because of their implications to […]

A bug’s life is better with company

Parasites are amazing.  By taking advantage of the efforts of another species, parasites have been able to flourish in countless strange ways. For example, there is one parasite that lives only on the lips of lobsters (Symbion americanus). The fungal parasite, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infects the brains of ants, causing them to climb high into the forest canopy, […]

Book Review: The Immortalisation Commission

John Gray, he of ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ fame, has a new book out. It’s been out for two months here in the UK, but today the book get’s its US launch. Ben Good gives his thoughts on Gray’s most recent effort… Death and Taxes. Attempt to cheat one and you […]

Down in the dumps

If you men out there have just broken up with your girlfriend, you will probably hear the platitude “time is the greatest healer”. Given enough time you will be able to forget that old flame and move on to someone better. Science has, unfortunately, shown this to be nothing but empty words. According to the Journal […]

She’s quite a dish

I love it when science demonstrates something that is bloomin’ obvious to the rest of us. In the journal of Evolutionary Psychology, researchers have published a study showing that men are significantly more likely to pay for a meal when their female companion was attractive. The scientists showed pictures of women to 245 men, and […]

Nurturing Nature

Animal behaviour is a subject that has always fascinated me. At first glance, the actions of animals seems so familiar, obvious to the point of not being noteworthy. They eat when they are hungry, they run when danger is present, and they get down to it when, you know, they want to. What I find […]

Unseen Heroes of Science

Gideon Mantell (1790–1852) Mantell was a full-time medical doctor, but made some incredible contributions to palaeontology in his spare time. He was the first to correctly identify dinosaur fossils as giant reptiles and to describe Iguanodon, but was constantly fielding criticism from his rival, the founder of the Natural History Museum, Richard Owen. Eminent French […]

Deep voices and shallow personalities

Why is it that Barry White is seen as a quivering mass of concentrated sexiness, yet poor Joe Pasquale is resigned to the shallow end of the genetic swimming pool? Well, new research, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, has shown that men with deep and manly voices are more likely to be judged as […]

Puppy love

Warning: this post contains scenes of extreme cuteness and adorability. Reader discretion is advised. Scientists have, for the first time, proved systematically that tiny little kittens and puppies are actually cute. It sounds incredibly obvious; even the coldest, stony-hearted grinches out there will melt at the sight of a baby animal looking up at them. […]

Happy Birthday Charlie

I have always found the idea of continuing to celebrate someone’s birthday after they have died a rather strange concept. However, for Charles Darwin I can make an exception. Today is his 202nd birthday and so celebrations are definitely in order. For those of you who live under a rock, Charles Darwin came up with […]

Neural clues to anxiety disorders

Fear is one of the most primitive emotions, having evolved deep in evolutionary history to make sure our ancestors stayed away from bigger, toothier or more poisonous animals. There is a very good reason why some of the most common fears around the world concern snakes and spiders, animals that, if given the chance, could […]

Giant Penguin Discovered in Peru

The dulcet tones of Morgan Freeman and the journey of the Emperor penguins warmed the hearts of millions following the release of March of the Penguins. However, the evolutionary trail of the species is equally as interesting. A new study, published in the journal Science, tells of the discovery of a ‘Giant Penguin’ fossil discovery with implications […]

Copycats

Apart from a few eccentric Germans, being eaten is probably the last thing any of us would ever like to have happen to us. The same is true throughout the rest of the animal kingdom, of course, with millions of adaptations evolving to help prevent such an occurrence happening. Many of these adaptations are pretty […]

May Contain Alcohol

Katie Tomlinson & Jan Piotrowski explore the science of drinking. From the night before to the morning after, here is the science behind a great night out.