All posts filed under: Evolution

How species change over generations: mutations, genetic drift, natural selection and more.

The reality of the Uncanny Valley

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Psychology

Technology has made making extremely human-like robots a reality. But is this a good thing? Tara Bautista delves into the unease that many people experience with things that are almost – but not quite – human. Welcome to the ‘Uncanny Valley’. When realistic isn’t pleasantly real enough Last weekend I started watching a new fantasy show on Netflix called The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. You could say it’s a cross between Game of Thrones […]

The low down on the sunk cost fallacy

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Evolution / Myths / Psychology

Waiting in line at the grocery, you hesitate to move to another counter when it opens up. Even though you’re not looking forward to seeing it, you head to a movie you’ve already paid for. You stay in a career or relationship that no longer ‘sparks joy’. Tara Bautista asks why we cling on when we should let go. Going down with the ship Humans are weird creatures. We prize our supposedly unrivalled ability to […]

The truth about early birds

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Anthropology / Biology / Evolution / Genetics / Health / Myths / Psychology

We all know the saying ‘The early bird catches the worm’. But are there any real benefits to being a morning person? What determines whether you’re an early bird or a night owl anyway? And can night owls become early risers if they want to? Tick tock Your body has an internal clock. It’s located in the base of your brain, in the hypothalamus. You’ve probably heard the term circadian rhythm: this is the natural […]

Counting friends

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Psychology

First: check how many friends you have on Facebook. Next: ask yourself how many of them you consider to be ‘real’ friends? According to Dunbar’s number, we can only maintain about 150 meaningful relationships at one time. And you can probably count your closest friends on one hand. Your social brain Robin Dunbar has spent nearly 50 years studying primates. Back in the 90s, he looked at the relationship between group size and brain size […]

Do dogs understand our emotions?

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Evolution / Psychology / Zoology

Dogs give the impression of understanding our every word. How well can dogs read our emotions, and can they really smell fear? Man – and woman’s – best friend Anyone who grew up with, or has a pet dog will agree: dogs have an amazing ability to make us feel understood. It’s in the way their eyes study us intently, often with a sympathetic tilt of the head. Dogs tend to stay close when we […]

There’s a face in there

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Psychology

Ever seen Elvis in a corn chip? How about a face in a building or a cloud? Spotting faces – even ones that don’t exist – is something your brain is very good at. Do you see what I see? One of my favourite Twitter accounts is Faces in Things. You’d be amazed where people have spied faces and other human and animal shapes. You’ve probably heard about Jesus on a banana peel, the Man […]

Itchy and scratchy

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Evolution / Health / Myths

We all know the sweet relief that comes from scratching an itch. But why does scratching feel so good? And why does it make the itch worse? Why so itchy? An itch is simply a sensation on the skin leading to the desire to scratch. But the science of itching is far from simple – it’s been the subject of decades of research (there’s even a scientific research journal called Itch). Researchers discovered the first […]

Scaling great heights

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Anthropology / Evolution / Genetics / Health / Myths

Sherpas – sometimes called superhumans – are extraordinary mountaineers who are at home in the peaks of the Himalayas. What is it about Sherpas that enables them to power on at such high altitude? The top of the world Standing at 8,848 m above sea level, the peak of Mt. Everest is not a welcoming place for humans. We need oxygen, and up there, oxygen levels are only a third of those found at sea […]

Early learning

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Zoology

Love spicy food? Find certain songs calming? You started developing preferences for flavours and sounds while you were still in the womb.  And it’s not just us: many animals begin learning about the world around them before they’re even born. Listening from the inside Before you were born, you had a lot to listen to. There was the regular thumping of your mother’s heart, the blood whooshing through her body, and even the rumbling and […]

Seeing in the dark

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Anthropology / Evolution / Myths / Zoology

You’ve probably heard of echolocation. Whales, dolphins and bats all use it to find their way around when their eyes just aren’t up to the task. But did you know some blind humans have learned to do it too? Seeing with sound In the late 1700s, Italian scientist Lazzaro Spallanzani surgically blinded bats in an attempt to work out how they navigate when flying in the dark. He was amazed to discover blind bats could […]