We often dismiss our extinct cousins as brutal cavemen – and the word Neanderthal is tossed around as an engraving on people who have outdated ways of thinking.
Good try, but not quite. We learn that Neanderthals were as innovative and sophisticated as we want to be – raising questions about what it means to be human.
It’s me, Katie Hunt, who completes Ashley Strickland in this issue of Wonder Theory.
A small engraved bone changes the way we think of Neanderthals, the heavily built Stone Age hominins that disappeared about 40,000 years ago.
Found in the Einhornhöhle (or Unicorn) cave in northern Germany, the decorated deer phalanx or fox has a geometric pattern. Scientists have said that it is the most conclusive evidence yet that Neanderthals were capable of artistic expression – a sign of what archaeologists call complex behavior, once thought unique to Homo sapiens.
What is less clear is how Homo neanderthalensis learned these skills. The possibility that the Neanderthals were as cognitively advanced as Homo sapiens may also have consequences for why they died out.
Aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, is the Earth’s largest light show, dazzling those lucky enough to see them in the northernmost row of our planet.
It is a phenomenon shared by other planets in our solar system, including the largest, Jupiter, which is bathed in spectacular color at its poles.
Characterized by massive pulsating X-rays, Jupiter’s northern lights were first discovered 40 years ago. Astronomers have long tried to explain the mechanism behind these northern lights.
Now an international team of scientists has announced that they have solved what NASA has called “a strong mystery.”
Plastic waste is a visible way in which humans pollute rivers and oceans, but less noticeable forms of pollution can be just as dangerous to aquatic life.
Traces of illicit drugs – via sewer systems – can infiltrate waterways in urban areas. Researchers in the Czech Republic have investigated whether illegal substances at levels found in fresh water change the behavior of fish.
In the study, the researchers found brown trout living in a tank of water containing methamphetamine for a period of eight weeks sought out water containing the substance – when selected – for four days after transfer to meth-free water.
This behavior suggested that the fish experienced withdrawal because they sought the drug when it became available, according to researchers.
A spacewalk is the most dangerous job in space. Imagine trying to focus on a remembered set of tasks as you step out of an airlock and wear a 300 pound space suit – with the glow of planet Earth and the sun and the dark void of the universe all around you.
Two Chinese astronauts have completed the country’s second ever spacewalk and the first from the core module of China’s new space station. The mission marked a huge achievement for the country, which is excluded from the International Space Station.
Back on Earth, however, a violent attack on two Chinese space scientists has drawn the wrong attention to China’s celestial ambitions.
Sign up in the meantime in China, CNN’s three times a week newsletter on the latest news you need to know about China’s rise and analysis of what it means for the world.
Scientists have reviewed more than 300 fossils belonging to different members of the Homo genus or human family tree – including us, Homo sapiens – and reconstructed the Earth’s climate to see what conditions were like when these different species of humans lived.
Researchers have found that climate – especially temperature – has been the main driver of changes in body size over the last million years.
Colder, harsher climates were associated with larger bodies, such as those of well-built Homo neanderthalensis, while warmer climates were associated with smaller bodies, the researchers found.
For now, the team said it is unlikely that the current, man-made climate crisis will dramatically affect our body sizes.
Here are some more mind-blowing reads.
— Holy cow! Researchers in Austria may have found an unlikely solution to the problem of plastic pollution.
– Check out eight key moments from NASA’s space program.
– Virgin Group founder Richard Branson is taking a rocket-powered spacecraft to the edge of space this weekend. If all goes according to plan, Branson will be the first billionaire to travel to space on a vehicle he helped fund, beating fellow Rome baron Jeff Bezos by nine days.
– In a fossilized dinosaur poop, scientists have found a creature that science does not know. And it was preserved in three dimensions.
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