10 Amazing Discoveries That Should Be Worth Millions
In all the breaking news this week, perhaps the story about how entertainment television channel E! would be renewing the Kardashian family's $40 million contract was probably the least significant. Except it got us thinking about how to better spend all that dough.
The fantasy of wealth has such power. If we had a few mil to throw at the people who engage, inspire and entertain us, here's who we’d award it to:
1. Brainiacs: We all make mistakes
“Can it be doubted that three-kilogramme brains were once nearly fatal defects in the evolution of the human race?”
The question was posed by the late, great Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Galapagos. Once you read about the idea that our brains were not an entirely beneficial adaptation, you never forget it. It pops up whenever you see us doing something that doesn’t seem very evolved at all.
It popped up when we read Jennifer Welsh’s "Did A Copying Mistake Build Man’s Brain?" on Live Science. I t doesn’t judge our big brains as harshly as Vonnegut, but does suggest it was the cellular equivalent of an inattentive Kinko’s employee that made us who we are.
Here's the gist: When cells divide they make a copy of their entire genome. These copies sometimes spawn errors or “mutations,” one of which is duplication: making more than one copy. These extra copies are inessential to the original so evolution can noodle with them…like (we suppose) if you order two pizzas and it’s okay to go crazy and get pineapple and jalapenos on the second because you have the first, essential, tummy-filling pizza.
Researchers at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla studied one gene in particular, SRGAP2, which they think went through this erroneous duplication process 2.5 million years ago but made an incomplete copy that that may have interfered with the original, ancestral copy.
The second duplication coincided with the decline of Australopithicus and the “ Homo, which led to modern humans,” and the expansion of our brains.
They added this partially duplicated genome to a mouse genome and “ it seemed to speed the migration of brain cells during development, which makes brain organization more efficient,” and had more “spines” which connect with other brain cells and make them look like human brain cells.
2. Bigfoot and time warpers
There’s one creature that some consider to be the bridge that connects homo big brain to our ape relations: Bigfoot.
We’re agnostic about Bigfoot. We’re dubious about the existence of the ape-man, but have seen enough seemingly impossible things to be wary of saying “absolutely never.” Besides, real or not, his legend has enriched the culture and we wouldn’t shoot him even though we could. In Texas.
John Lloyd Scharf of Salem, Oregon isn’t happy about that. Life’s Little Mysteries reports that Mr. Scharf emailed the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission to find out whether the manimal (or womanimal) was protected.
The short answer is “No,” but we’ll say this for David Sinclair, of the law enforcement division of Texas Parks and Wildlife: he took the question seriously, replying in part that "A nonprotected, nongame animal may be hunted on private property with landowner consent by any means, at any time and there is no bag limit or possession limit."