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Tues Aug 23rd Science Roundup

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Westerners and Easterners see the world differently, American view wrong:

Chinese and American people see the world differently – literally. While Americans focus on the central objects of photographs, Chinese individuals pay more attention to the image as a whole, according to psychologists at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, US.

“There is plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that Western and East Asian people have contrasting world-views,” explains Richard Nisbett, who carried out the study. “Americans break things down analytically, focusing on putting objects into categories and working out what rules they should obey,” he says.

By contrast, East Asians have a more holistic philosophy, looking at objects in relation to the whole. “Figuratively, Americans see things in black and white, while East Asians see more shades of grey,” says Nisbett. “We wanted to devise an experiment to see if that translated to a literal difference in what they actually see.”

Researchers conclude that Eastern people have more nuanced, gray world views while Americans are black and white loving sots. The Europeans tended to see the world in more of the mauve area. All the results suggest what everyone has always suspected: Americans are neither Eastern nor actually European, being instead derived from a race of militant aliens.

Frankly, I was very surprised and interested to hear this result. I had never heard the idea. It must have only been discussed in obscure sources like the News.

A Family Reunion for Tuberculosis Bugs:

In an effort to reunite the MTBC with its extended family, M.-Cristina Gutierrez of the Institut Pasteur in Paris and colleagues analyzed tuberculosis bacteria from patients in eastern Africa. Based on the DNA sequences of seven genes, they divided the bacteria into eight groups that were significantly different from each other and from the MTBC strains. The newly characterized groups and the MTBC together comprise a single species, which the authors named Mycobacterium prototuberculosis.

Although the MTBC strains appear to be extraordinarily genetically stable today, the DNA comparison indicates that they once traded genes with their African relatives. So the whole family must have lived in the same place at some point.

Most of the members of the Tuberculosis family that attended the reunion concluded that the prototuberculosis part of the clan were really just a bunch of inbred yokels and in the future would not be invited to family gatherings.

Scientists discover culture in chimps, confident it will eventually be found in humans:

Chimps can not only use tools, but also seem to follow the fashion in how they are used.

Researchers have found that a group of chimpanzees will stick to the same method used by their peers, even if they stumble across a different way of using a tool by themselves. That shows that chimps follow a cultural norm that is socially learned and maintained, the researchers say – proof, perhaps, that chimpanzees really do have culture.

Researchers will now search for chimpanzee rebels, motorcycle riding chimps with wind tossed hair and an attitude for destruction. You know they are out there. Being loved by women and answering to no man…those of the chimps that you really want to meet. All those other chimps are just conformists, man. They are just following what the Man tells them to do. Or the rather the Chimp.

Another couple species for the Minute Men to worry about — Re-wilding North America:

(First you actually have to read the article to get a gist of what these guys want to do.)

Moreover, humans have emotional relationships with large vertebrates that reflect our own Pleistocene heritage. More than 1.5 million people annually visit San Diego’s Wild Animal Park to catch a glimpse of large mammals — more than the number of visitors to most US National Parks. So an understanding of ecological and evolutionary history, inspired by visits to private or public reserves containing free-roaming megafauna, could strengthen support for conservation. Pleistocene re-wilding would probably increase the appeal and economic value of both private and public reserves, as evidenced by the restoration of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

It is indeed true that seeing baboons throw excrement at tourists in the San Diego Zoo or the minute to minute evaluation of Panda reproduction at the National Zoo does bring a little tear to my eye, but this does not imply I would like to worry about hitting a wildebeast with the Saturn on a country road at night. Deer have got that pretty much covered.

On the other hand, this whole business does reveal that all the arguments between conservationist and developers are really just arguments about time. What time should we pick as a goal to try and bring America back to? The conservationists would like to see us return to a recent past where America was covered with megafauna, whereas the developers would like a return to an even more distant past when America was covered with meteoric impact craters, lava, and a smattering of bacteria.

As a final note: Environmentalists…Get a PR Guy! As if The Day After Tomorrow didn’t do enough to convince us that you are all a bunch of nut jobs, now you are letting people talk up the idea of cheetah reserves in Iowa. You need to start censoring this stuff in the planning stage, or no one is ever going to take you seriously.

Michigan slowly solving the problem of Winter:

On 56 of the lakes the spring thaw showed an earlier trend, occurring two days sooner each decade on average. Though the thaw has been happening ever earlier since 1846, the calculations show the rate of change is now more than three times as fast as it was before 1975. Benson says the date of ice break-up has ‘marched northward 100 kilometres per decade’ in that time.

Do you know how cold it is in the Great Lakes in the winter? The locals are probably rejoicing as the mind-numbingly freezing winters end a little sooner every year.

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