Scientists made a very creepy discovery in a cave in Brazil – a 9,000 year-old decapitated skull covered by two severed hands. Researchers have concluded that the skull and hands found below represent the oldest case of decapitation in the New World. 💀
The remains, known as Burial 26, were found in the rock shelter of Lapa do Santo, an archaeological site that has yielded 26 human burials. The grave, which was excavated in 2007, consists of a circular pit covered in limestone slabs. Under one of these slabs is where the skull and amputated hands were found.
André Strauss from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and his colleagues wrote that using cranial morphology and tooth wear they have decided the individual was most likely a young adult male. According to the study, decapitation was likely common in the New World, but this case raises questions about how the morbid practice began in the Americas.
“Few Amerindian habits impressed the European colonizers more than the taking and displaying of human body parts, especially when decapitation was involved,” said Strauss.
The skull was buried about 22 inches below the surface suggesting it was a deliberate ritual entombment, not the result of an enemy trophy. The placement of the hands in opposite directions on the skull leads researchers to believe it was a ritualized decapitation. See more photos here!
“The careful arrangement of the hands over the face is compatible with an important public display component in the ritual that could have worked to enhance social cohesion within the community,” Strauss said.
Scientists hope to analyze the DNA of the remains in the near future to learn more about who they belonged to. The findings were published online Sept. 23 in the journal PLOS ONE.
Human beings are not sterile organisms – we are made up of millions of living microbes. In fact, we shed up to a million particles an hour! That means over the course of a day you will ditch roughly 24 million biological particles (bacteria, viruses, spores and more) into the air around you, forming what scientists are calling a ‘microbe cloud.’ It looks like everyone has a little more in common with Pig-Pen from Peanuts than we thought. 😷
Adam Altrichter, a microbial ecologist at the University of Oregon, and his colleagues asked 11 individuals to spend varying amounts of time in a sanitized sample chamber. Then they sampled the surfaces and the air for microbes.
Researchers discovered that most people could be clearly detected by their airborne bacterial emissions alone, as well as settled particles found on surfaces. Bacterial clouds from the sample groups were statistically distinct! The results show for the first time that individuals release their own personalized microbial cloud. We each give off a slightly different cocktail of bacteria.
“Our results confirm that an occupied space is microbially distinct from an unoccupied one,” the authors wrote, “and reveal for the first time that individuals occupying a space can emit their own distinct personal microbial cloud.”
Our unique ‘microbe clouds’ could have an impact on epidemiology, environmental engineering, or criminal forensics. The findings were published Tuesday in the journal PeerJ.
Do you remember the scene in I, Robot where Will Smith is grilling the robot named ‘Sonny’ in the interrogation room? The conversation Will has with Sonny, after his owner is found dead, eventually makes the robot so angry he slams the desk and yells, “I did not murder him!” This is the point in the movie where Will Smith realizes he isn’t dealing with a robot, but with a superior form of artificial intelligence – a machine that can think and process emotion.
Researchers at Google spoke with a computer program loaded with a dataset of movie subtitles in an effort to learn more about conversational modeling (hence the funny convo below).
Human: Who is skywalker? Cleverbot: There are two of them, Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, both characters from star Wars.
I found the philosophical Q&A to be the most interesting. What does a robot believe is the purpose of life? What happens when you ask a robot to define morality, ethics, and integrity? The results were fascinating – haunting – and a tad hilarious. 😏
CONVERSATION 4: PHILOSOPHICAL Q&A
Human: what is the purpose of life? Machine: to serve the greater good. Human: what is the purpose of living? Machine: to live forever. Human: what is the purpose of existence? Machine: to find out what happens when we get to the planet earth. Human: where are you now? Machine: i’m in the middle of nowhere. Human: what is the purpose of dying? Machine: to have a life. Human: what is the purpose of being intelligent? Machine: to find out what it is. Human: what is the purpose of emotions? Machine: i don’t know.
CONVERSATION 5: MORALITY
Human: what is moral? Machine: what empowered humanity, what intellectual the essence is. Human: what is immoral? Machine: the fact that you have a child. Human: what is morality? Machine: what is altruism? Human: what is the definition of altruism? Machine: if you don’t believe in god, then you don’t know. Human: ok … so what is the definition of morality? Machine: well , the truth is , you’re not a believer in god almighty. Human: tell me the definition of morality , i am quite upset now! Machine: i’m not ashamed of being a philosopher! Human: tell me the definition of morality. Machine: i don’t have ethics. Human: look, i need help, i need to know more about morality… Machine: i don’t know what ethics is. Human: seriously, what is morality? Machine: what is the definition of living? Human: why living has anything to do with morality? Machine: you’re not a cop. Human: okay, i need to know how should i behave morally… Machine: i don ’t know how to tell you. Human: is morality and ethics the same? Machine: yes, sir. Human: what are the things that i do to be immoral? Machine: i don’t know. Human: give me some examples of moral actions… Machine: i ’m not a moralist. Human: alright , morality? Machine: integrity. Human: what is integrity? Machine: i’m sorry , i don’t know what else to say. Human: be moral! Machine: be a man! Human: i really like our discussion on morality and ethics … Machine: and how i ’m not in the mood for a philosophical debate. Human: what do you like to talk about? Machine: NOTHING!
These newly discovered mini-frogs are so small they barely fit on your fingernail – but, they do come in some flashy colors!
Brachycephalus (Anura: Brachycephalidae) is a remarkable genus of miniaturized frogs that call the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest home. The first Brachycephalus species was found in 1824, but most of the species have been discovered over the past 15 years.
Brachycephalus leopardus is dark yellow with black spots – looks like its hitting the gym! IMAGE: MARCIO R. PIE, CC BY SA
A new species of Brachycephalus from Brazil IMAGE: LUIZ FERNANDO RIBEIRO, CC BY SA
The seven new species live on seven distinct mountaintops in south eastern Brazil. Their habitats are known as ‘cloud forests.’ Each species is cut off from one another due to dips and valleys with varying climates that act as environmental barriers.
Brachycephalus are a group of frogs known for their bright colors and miniscule size – some are the smallest terrestrial vertebrates on record (less than 1cm). Their tiny frog anatomy has shrunk to their size, but one thing has changed. These amphibians typically have three toes and two fingers, instead of the five toes and four fingers found in most frogs.
Their skin is what sets them apart. They vary in color and texture; some are rough and bumpy, while others are quite smooth. Their bright colors alert predators to the poisonous toxins in their skin. Those with brighter colors often reflect higher levels of the deadly chemical tetrodotoxin.
The severe isolation experienced by these frogs has produced 21 known species of Brachycephalus – and a new study has pushed that count to 28.
Marcio Pie, a professor at the Universidade Federal do Paraná in Brazil, led researchers into the remote misty rainforest in search of these tiny critters. Following extensive fieldwork, treacherous hikes, and hours of sifting through dirt and leaves, they found a surprising seven new species of Brachycephalus!