The last mammoths died out because their DNA became ‘riddled with errors’

Woolly mammoth

“The last woolly mammoths to walk the Earth were so wracked with genetic disease that they lost their sense of smell, shunned company, and had a strange shiny coat.”

Researchers found “many deletions, big chunks of the genome that are missing, some of which even affected functional genes”.

Dr Rebekah Rogers of the University of California, Berkeley, who led the research, said the mammoths’ genomes “were falling apart right before they went extinct”.

“Knowledge of the last days of the mammoth could help modern species on the brink of extinction, such as the panda, mountain gorilla and Indian elephant.” Full article

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Your ability to focus declines after 30 (it’s not just because smartphones)

This uncharacteristically warm weather feels more like LA than NY, and this trendy trekker is definitely bringing the heat. A simple black t-shirt and jeans hasn’t looked this good since Hank Moody. Forget the beautiful weather outside, all I care...

There are two totally separate systems that govern attention:

  • your ability to maintain focus on the thing (‘enhancement’)
  • your ability to tune out other things (‘suppression’).

“These processes are so separate, in fact, there are different networks of brain structures that carry out their respective functions, each of which is critical for attention.”

Although it may seem counterintuitive, we now appreciate that focusing and ignoring are not two sides of the same coin […] it is not necessarily true that when you focus more on something, you automatically ignore everything else better.

By understanding these as separate systems, rather than seeing an inability to suppress distractions as just a side-effect of not having focused well enough, you’ll be better equipped to try and improve the situation.

This article says that it’s the suppression aspect, our ability to tune out distracting stimuli, that declines with age. That’s a huge relief, because as a kid I used to read in the playground and not notice stuff like a basketball hitting the wall next to my head (generally thrown by a kid who was annoyed that I spent all my lunchtimes reading.) But I can’t do that anymore, and I assumed it was just smartphones and stuff, the Age of Distraction, and I’d let that skill deteriorate through my own fault. But it probably isn’t, not totally.

So, just like if you needed reading glasses you’d just buy them and wear them, maybe now you need to remove external distractions to read a book properly, and you should go ahead and do that instead of just CONCENTRATING… HARDER…

It also probably means older people are genuinely more sensitive to a cluttered room or desk than young people (rather than young people just being too lazy to tidy or whatever the prevailing theory is).

Also you already know this, but meditating will help you improve since it’s literally practising focusing, go on, take your damn medicine.

Image taken from hotdudesreading.tumblr.com

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Stilts and stumps

“Hunting for food, ants roam haphazardly. But when they find it, they use celestial cues, perhaps from the sun, to head back to their nests more or less in a straight line – rather than retracing the tortuous journeys they’d made on their outbound searches.

So how does an ant know when to stop running?

It must not be based on seeing the nest entrance, because a returning ant rarely runs straight down into its hole. Instead, when they think they’re in the right area, they stop running, make a U-turn, and pace back and forth until they find it.”

Scientists showed that they ‘count’ their steps by giving some ants stilts and amputating the last segment off the legs of other ants (ants’ legs can’t feel anything because they have to walk across boiling sand). The ants with stilts overshot their nest by 50% and the ants with stumps only got halfway home.

“Interestingly, the ants quickly adjusted to their new leg lengths. The next day the modified ants were allowed to engage in normal foraging, and they returned to the nest as well as the unmodified ants.”
Full article

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Molyneux’s Problem: thought experiment from 1688 solved in 2003

Q: If a man born blind can feel the differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he, if his sight was restored, distinguish those objects by sight (without touching them)?

A: No. Huh. “Although after restoration of sight, the subjects could distinguish between objects visually almost as effectively as they would do by touch alone, they were unable to form the connection between an object perceived using the two different senses. The correlation was barely better than if the subjects had guessed. They had no innate ability to transfer their tactile shape knowledge to the visual domain.”

“Ostrovsky, et al studied a woman who gained sight at the age of 12 when she underwent surgery for dense bilateral congenital cataracts. They report that the subject could recognize family members by sight six months after surgery, but took up to a year to recognize most household objects purely by sight.” Wikipedia article

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The Honeybee Industrial Complex

The case for not saving the bees

Controversial but interesting! I’m gonna try and summarise this long read on all the stuff that’s missing from the conversation:

  • There are many many pollinators, honeybees aren’t even that great it.
  • Industrial agriculture relies on bundling up pollinators and taking them from farm to farm:
    “Domesticated landscapes bloom all at once, and die all at once. If you’re a pollinator, that means that you’ve got a ton of food, and then you have no food”—not a sustainable living situation for an insect. “We’ve created a system where we need to bring in an outside pollinator. And the honeybee, being stackable, is what we selected.”
  • STACKABLE. So yeah, we rely on honeybees because they’re portable.
  • Only 5-10% of honeybees are wild, the rest are part of this industry.
  • Our much-talked-about reliance on honeybees is not natural, it’s a result of a disastrous lack of biodiversity.
  • Don’t save the bee, become less dependent on the bee!
  • Lack of pollinator diversity is a bigger threat than Colony Collapse Disorder.

Okay obviously there’s a LOT I haven’t included here, but oh my gosh, CONTRARIAN DELIGHT. Read the full article.

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Pom-pom crabs = best crabs


Boxer crabs (or pom-pom crabs) go through their lives with an anemone in each claw. (The anemones have defensive stinging cells.) If you take one of their pom-poms away, they’ll induce asexual reproduction in the remaining one by tearing it in half. If you take both away, they’ll steal one off another crab and do the same thing, so they always have two at all times. Full article

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