And by “my” penis I mean “your” penis, of course.
This is a perennial question. For some reason, which I do not understand, the feminist perspective (note: I’m a feminist) is often to belittle the question, but really, that isn’t fair. It is not that difficult to imagine how anyone would come to a question about whether or not a particular organ of the body, the head, the breasts, the butt, the thumb, is somehow out of proportion. The penis is just one of many body parts that people may obsess over, and the larger scale issue of the intersection between physical and mental health should not be put aside for the penis, even if it is the Organ of Continue reading Is my penis too small, too big, or just right?
The newly reported Saadanius hijazensis may or may not be a “missing link” but in order for this monkey to climb onto the primate family tree, a new branch had to be sprouted. So, not only is Saadanius hijazensis a new species, but it is a member of a new taxonomic Family, Saadaniidae, which in turn is a member of a new Superfamily, Saadanioidea. Why is this important? It’s complicated. But not too complicated.
The fossil was found while University of Michigan paleontologist Iyad Zalmout was busy looking for dinosaur fossils in western Saudi Arabia. He found the monkey, from a much later time period, instead. Ooops.
Continue reading New Primate Fossil Informs Us of the Ape-Monkey Split During the Oligocene
One of those really cool and useful “evolution stories” gets verified and illuminated by actual research. And blogging!
Continue reading The Oystercatcher and the Clam
The Aquatic Ape Theory is being discussed over at Pharyngula. As PZ points out, an excellent resource on this idea is Moore’s site on the topic. Here, I just want to make a few remarks about it.
Continue reading Musings on the Aquatic Ape Theory
Gallup has taken on the task of explaining, in ultimate terms, the evolutionarily designed features of the human penis. He works this as an engineering problem from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, which is always a little bit dangerious, but gallup isn’t quite the arm waiver that a lot of other EP’s are, so he may be doing it right.
Gallup’s work is written up an an all-too-sophomoric Scientific American article by Jesse Bering which just barely falls short of explaining this important biological phenomenon in terms of a pair of headlights, a flashlight, and a little red waagon.
Here’s the money quote:
Magnetic imaging studies of heterosexual couples having sex reveal that, during coitus, the typical penis completely expands and occupies the vaginal tract, and with full penetration can even reach the woman’s cervix and lift her uterus. This combined with the fact that human ejaculate is expelled with great force and considerable distance (up to two feet if not contained), suggests that men are designed to release sperm into the uppermost portion of the vagina possible. Thus… “A longer penis would not only have been an advantage for leaving semen in a less accessible part of the vagina, but by filling and expanding the vagina it also would aid and abet the displacement of semen left by other males as a means of maximizing the likelihood of paternity.”
The other component of the work is the intriguing possibility that penises have evolved to carry semen previously left in one female’s vagina from another male to be deposited hours later in the vagina of a second female. Which I suppose could be called facilitated cuckoldry.
I’ve not read the original paper yet. I’m not quite up to it. But if I do, I’ll let you know if it is truly a seminal work, or if Gallup is just jerking us around.
The writeup is here.
Much is made of the early use of stone tools by human ancestors. Darwin saw the freeing of the hands ad co-evolving with the use of the hands to make and use tools which co-evolved with the big brain. And that would make the initial appearance of stone tools in the archaeological record a great and momentous thing. However, things did not work out that way.
Continue reading Great Moments in Human Evolution: The Invention of Chipped Stone Tools
This finger needs a ring! (soure) … then it’s OK if the ‘woman’ is a guy in drag, right?
The couple walked into a Norfolk courthouse on a spring day, exchanged a few words, and within 10 minutes, were seemingly husband and wife.It was an unremarkable ceremony – except that several weeks later, officials realized the shapely bride might not have been a woman.Now authorities in Virginia, where same-sex marriages are illegal, are weighing whether to file misdemeanor charges against the couple, Antonio E. Blount, 31, and Justin L. McCain, 18. An announcement is expected this week.
Read the whole story here.The people who are insisting that marriage is only valid if it is people of different sexes are asking for it. It might, in many states, be easier to recognize gender orientations beyond hetero male and female as additional ‘sexes’ (in courts) than to get legislatures to pass non-discriminatory bills.Just as interesting would be the reaction in some legislatures…. Continue reading If Marriage is a Sacred Bond between Man and Woman ….
Deconstructed and Constructed, but not in the same sentence.
Philip Guston’s “Sea,” a lithograph on handmade paper from 1980, the year the artist died. Students at Cornell have constructed an exhibit of the art of human body disassembled or otherwise rearranged called Exquisite Corpus: Interacting with the Fragmented Body which is on exhibit through June 15th (details here).
“In contemporary art right now, there are no limits, no boundaries,” Hirsch said. “We wanted to show contemporary work, and show that art can be anything, maybe even vulgar.”The title and concept refer to the Exquisite Corpse, a Surrealist exercise in which three artists independently draw a section of a body: head, torso and legs. In “Exquisite Corpus,” viewers are also welcome to play.
Now, you now what this is, right? It’s that pallor game where you pass around the paper, each person draws a body part (in order from head to feet) folding their contribution out of sight and passing it on to the next person. …Meanwhile, in Austria, Cristo With Flesh artist Spencer Tunick has gone ahead and draped a major sports stadium in Austria with naked human bodies.
The latest work by New York photographer Spencer Tunick gathered 1,840 people, baring it all in Austria’s Happel Stadium on Sunday.”Stay very still. Don’t move,” the Austria Press Agency quoted Tunick as telling the crowd as he went to work.Much of the hours-long photo shoot had little to do with soccer, with naked volunteers assuming different poses at the behest of the artist. But at least one of the photos had them with the ball, men first and then the women.The stadium will host seven of the Euro 2008 soccer championship matches being staged by Austria and Switzerland, including the June 29 final.Tunick has made a name for himself with his works featuring hundreds of naked people at unusual venues. He described Sunday’s shooting on his Web site as combining “the spirit of sports, the grand sweeping waves of stadium architecture and the abstract relation of the human form to modern structures.”[source]
Continue reading Art and Bodies: Deconstructed and Constructed and Abused
Welcome to the Lucky 13th Edition of The Boneyard … the Web Carnival about Bones and Stuff.
“The Boneyard is a blog carnival covering all things paleo, from dinosaurs to pollen to hominids and everywhere in between. It’s held every two weeks (the 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month), traveling around to a different blog for each installment, connecting some of the best blogging on ancient life.”
The previous edition of The Boneyard is here, at Dragon’s Tales. The next edition of The Boneyard will be Here at Archaeozoology. If you would like to submit an entry to the next edition, you may do so here. As always, thanks to Brian for originating and managing this carnival.
Continue reading The Boneyard XIII
According to one of the leading experts on the human circulatory system, blood flowing through veins is blue. Continue reading Is Blood Ever Blue? Science Teachers Want to Know!
The question is basic: Is evolutionary change largely random or is it more often shaped by selective forces? The former is linked to what is called Neutral Theory, and it has a lot of support, to the extent that it most likely true. The latter is part of what is sometimes known as the Adaptationist Program, and it is certainly correct. New research on the Development of the Nematode Vulva is sure to cloud the issue even further.. Continue reading The Nematode Vulva and the Nature of Evolution
The ape human split is a bit of a moving target. In the 1970s and early 1980s, there were geneticists who placed it at very recent (close to 4 million years ago) and palaeoanthropologists, using fossils, who placed it at much earlier. During the 1980s, the ape-human split moved back in time because of the importance of sivapithecus, then later in time when Sivapithecus slipped and fell out of the hominid/hominin (human ancestor) family tree. Meanwhile the geneticists were moving towards a more and more recent split. At one point not too long ago, all the evidence converged with the split being around five million years ago. The fossils and the genes agreed, and there were rumors (but nothing published) saying that palaeoanthropologists working in Ethiopia were prepared (soon) to announce that one of the fossils dating to this time had “less then fully developed” bipedalism.But science marches on, and the kinds of questions we are asking of the human fossil record are more detailed than the fossil record usually gives up in a mere few decades of research. So new finds came along and everything changed again. Now, there is a new paper by Richmond and Jungers suggesting that one of the earliest hominid, Orrorin tugenensis, was just as bipedal as any australopith, yet is much farther back in time than, and in many ways, different from our genus (Homo). Continue reading Early, somewhat controversial hominid walked like an Australopith
There is a new paper out suggesting that the Flores hominids, known as Hobbits, were “human endemic cretins.”From the abstract of this paper:
… We hypothesize that these individuals are myxoedematous endemic (ME) cretins, part of an inland population of (mostly unaffected) Homo sapiens. ME cretins are born without a functioning thyroid; their congenital hypothyroidism leads to severe dwarfism and reduced brain size, but less severe mental retardation and motor disability than neurological endemic cretins. We show that the fossils display many signs of congenital hypothyroidism, including enlarged pituitary fossa, and that distinctive primitive features of LB1 such as the double rooted lower premolar and the primitive wrist morphology are consistent with the hypothesis. We find that the null hypothesis (that LB1 is not a cretin) is rejected by the pituitary fossa size of LB1, and by multivariate analyses of cranial measures. We show that critical environmental factors were potentially present on Flores, how remains of cretins but not of unaffected individuals could be preserved in caves, and that extant oral traditions may provide a record of cretinism.
Continue reading Why the Hobbits of Flores Were Probably Not Broken People
A colleague and grad student of mine, Rob, just sent me the following question, slightly edited here:
A student in my intro class asked me a good question the other day to which I had no answer. When did smiling cease to be a threat gesture? I have a couple of ideas. One is that with reduced canines, smiling became a way to say “look, I have small canines, I am not a threat to you.” The other is that smiling is based more on a “fear-grin” than a threat. Under this idea, smiling might have been a way of showing deference to others. If everyone shows deference, it would be egalitarian, until the one guy comes along who never smiles. Maybe that’s why bosses often don’t smile. … let me know when you have some free time to have lunch. Tuesdays andWed’s probably work best for me.
Good question, and good ideas as to a possible answer. I have a couple of other ideas to contribute…. Continue reading The Origin of the Human Smile