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Social studies

Primates trace ancestry back to squirrel-like creature Add to ...

Our squirrel forebears

“Newly discovered fossilized bones for the world’s oldest and most primitive known primate, Purgatorius, reveal a tiny, agile animal that spent much of its time eating fruit and climbing trees, according to a study,” says Discovery Channel. “The fossils, described [Friday] in a presentation at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s [annual meeting] in Raleigh, N.C., are the first known below-the-head bones for Purgatorius. Previously, only teeth revealed its existence.” John Fleagle, a professor at the department of anatomical sciences at Stony Brook University in New York, said Purgatorius and similar mammals “seem to have been squirrel-like arboreal animals with large claws and often bushy tails.”

You be the judge

When a patrolling police officer in Grove City, Fla., stopped James Edwin White, on a bike, he noticed “White’s hands were shaking; he was also trembling and stuttering,” reports The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “According to the report, White gave the deputy permission to search him for any illegal weapons or drugs and denied having any contraband on his person. Twice. The deputy then reportedly found a cellophane wrapper with nine Oxycodone pills inside his right side pocket. Just as the deputy discovered the pills, the 30-year-old … allegedly stated, ‘Oh, wait, these aren’t my pants!’ explaining the pants belong to his uncle and he had no knowledge of the pills.”

Sending Martians to Earth

“Scientific maverick J. Craig Venter says he is confident there is life on Mars and [last] week announced plans to send a ‘biological teleporter’ to the Red Planet to find Martian DNA and beam it back to Earth,” reports TechNewsDaily. “‘There will be life forms there,’ Venter, who is best known for helping to sequence the human genome, said at a Wired Health conference held in New York. … Venter said he plans to send a machine to Mars to seek out Martian life and sequence its DNA. The alien genome could then be beamed back to Earth, where it could be reassembled in a super-secure space lab.”

Why meetings seem deadly?

“Moderately high concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) indoors can significantly impair people’s decision-making performance, according to new research,” says Psych Central. The U.S. study “found that test subjects showed ‘significant’ reductions on six of the nine scales of decision-making performance at CO2 levels of 1,000 parts per million (ppm) and ‘large’ reductions on seven of the scales at 2,500 ppm. … The primary source of indoor CO2 is humans. While typical outdoor concentrations are around 380 ppm, indoor concentrations can go up to several thousand ppm. … In the real world, CO2 concentrations in office buildings normally don’t exceed 1,000 ppm, except in meeting rooms, where groups of people gather for extended periods of time, the researchers explain. In classrooms, concentrations frequently exceed 1,000 ppm and occasionally exceed 3,000 ppm, they add.”

Private cities banned

“The Honduran Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional a project to build privately run cities, with their own police and tax system,” says BBC News. “The ‘model cities’ project was backed by President Porfirio Lobo, who said it would attract foreign investment and create jobs. By 13 votes to one, Supreme Court judges decided the proposal violated the principle of sovereignty. Demonstrators celebrated the decision outside the court in Tegucigalpa. ‘This is great news for the Honduran people. This decision has prevented the country going back into a feudal system that was in place 1,000 years ago,’ said lawyer Fredin Funez. The government proposal to create some 20 ‘special development zones’ – as the new cities were officially called – was approved by Congress last year.”

Thought du jour

“The understanding of atomic physics is child’s play, compared with the understanding of child’s play.”

David Kresh, American poet (1940-2006)

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