Hominid Claim Is More Philosophy Than Fossils


first_imgTwo weeks ago, the media had a feeding frenzy over Tim White’s claim that his team found bones in Ethiopia from three hominid species lined up in a vertical row, showing a clear progression toward humans.  Now, the fine print has come out.  A review in Nature1 begins, “Deciding whether our ancestors evolved as a single lineage may depend more on philosophy than fossils” (emphasis added in all quotes).    Rex Dalton wrote some juicy lines in his article that creationists will love, and evolutionists will insist are taken out of context (because evolution is a fact).  You be the judge:The team suggests three species evolved as a single lineage between at least 4.4 million years ago and 2.9 million years ago – an era when humankind refined its ability to walk upright while developing new ways to live (see timeline below).    The idea is one of the most contentious in palaeoanthropology.  The fossil trove, reported earlier this month (T. D. White et al. Nature 440, 883-889; 2006) has confirmed [sic] some important aspects of the trail towards the genus Homo, which appeared around 2.3 million years ago [sic].  But experts are still bickering over the relationship between the species that have been found.Experts have squabbled over the relationship between Ar. ramidus, Au. anamensis and Au. afarensis ever since they were discovered.This month’s Nature paper makes a bold argument, and shows the Awash team seeking to put its mark on the record.  Others in the field are impressed.  “When you find 30 new hominid fossils, you are allowed a certain amount of conjecture,” says Bernard Wood, a palaeoanthropologist at George Washington University in Washington DC.  “As always, they have done a fantastic job.”    But he and others are unconvinced by the Awash team’s conclusion: “This is only the first half of the rugby match,” says Wood.Meave Leakey, lead author on the Au. anamensis discoveries in Kenya, is more blunt.  “I don’t believe this,” she says.  “We do not have the specimens to fill the gaps.”The existence of other species would cloud or eliminate the argument for a direct lineage.  “My prejudice is there are more lineages rather than fewer – more diversity,“ says Wood.  “I have to concede these new data are dramatic.  But we should beware coming out with a complete explanation when we don’t have all the evidence.”This argument frustrates White.  “There were Martians there back then too,” he says.  “And spacecraft all over the Pliocene – we just haven’t found them yet.”Similar arguments run for various phases of hominid evolution, for example whether Homo ergaster evolved into H. erectus, or whether they were two coexisting lineages – White advocates the former.  But ultimately, the argument comes down to the point that more fossils could always be found, so it is unclear that the two sides will ever agree.One of Dalton’s subtitles is, “Theory of Relativity.”  The context is the lineage of these fossils, but the subtext is the differing interpretations about their relevance to the human story.  Everyone in this rugby match, however, can agree on one thing.  The Ethiopian National Museum, which has the new fossils, is a nice place for the stadium.  Dalton ends, “This strengthens the museum as an ideal centre to study human evolution.”1Rex Dalton, “Feel it in your bones,” Nature 440, 1100-1101 (27 April 2006) | doi:10.1038/4401100a.Didn’t we foretell this?  Go back to April 12 when all the news media were slain in the spirit over White’s holey relics.  We warned that “the field of evolutionary paleoanthropology is filled with rivalry, contradiction, deception, exaggeration and outright fraud.”  Notice that Dalton’s depiction of rivalry applies not just to this case, but to “various phases of hominid evolution” – indeed, all of them.    We also said, “Too bad the news media are all dupes; they think this is science instead of mud wrestling.”  Our only mistake was getting the sport wrong.  We should have known that rugby is more bloody.(Visited 44 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

South Africans nominated for Innovation Prize for Africa


first_imgFour South African innovations have made it on to this year’s list of 10 nominees for the Innovation Prize for Africa. Its aim is to encourage local solutions to challenges and inspire continued growth on the continent. The winner will be announced in a ceremony in June in Botswana. This year’s Innovation Prize for Africa takes place in June in Botswana. Four South Africans are in the running. (Image: African Press Organisation)• Girls in space! Africa’s first private satellite – designed by schoolgirls• How can digital technology boost growth in Africa?• Busting the myth that Africa doesn’t produce scientific innovators• African scientists make headway in grasping persistent TB bacteria• Robotic gliders boost for ocean research• Meet the global leaders heading WEF Africa 2016 Priya PitamberFour South Africans have been included in the list of 10 nominees announced for the Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA). Run by the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) and now in its fifth year, this year’s theme is “Made in Africa”. The aim is to create home-grown solutions for Africa to spur growth and prosperity on the continent.“As Africans, we have the talent, potential and clout to solve our own problems with ingenuity too, and IPA is testimony of this,” said IAP director Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbl. “In the past five years, I’ve seen innovation grow from a mere buzzword to a sturdy path for African growth in multidisciplinary industries across the continent.”There has been tremendous growth in applications and keen interest from innovators and innovation enablers since the inception of the awards. “IPA 2016 attracted a record 3 600-plus innovators and received 985 successful submissions from 46 African countries,” it said in a statement. To date, it has attracted more than 6 000 innovators from 50 African countries.The nominees and their inventionsThis year, the nominees include breakthrough innovations in malaria and other public health burdens, smart solutions for farmers and dynamic energy initiatives.Tackling malaria and other public health concernsDr Eddy Agbo, Nigeria: Urine Test for MalariaUrine Test for Malaria (UMT) is a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device that is able diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes. Africa is still in the process of eradicating malaria. Diagnosis of the disease can take a long time, and if the patient is not treated quickly enough, it can lead to kidney failure, lung fluid build-up, and even death.The technology in the UMT detects malaria parasite proteins in the patient’s urine. The UMT is simple and affordable, and a potential game changer in managing malaria across Africa.Valentin Agon, Benin: Api-PaluApi-Palu is an anti-malaria drug treatment developed out of natural plant extract. It is significantly cheaper than available anti-malarial drugs, and has great inhibitory effects on 3D7 strains of plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of malaria.The drug is available in tablets, capsules or syrup. It has been approved in Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Central Africa Republic because of its therapeutic and non-toxic effects.Dr Imogen Wright, South Africa: ExatypeExatype is a software solution that enables health care workers to determine the responsiveness of HIV-positive patients to antiretroviral (ARV) drug treatment. A growing number of people are increasingly resistant to ARVs. Exatype processes the highly complex data produced by advanced “next-generation” DNA sequencing of the HIV DNA in a patient’s blood. Through a simple report, it detects drugs that are resistant to the patient, then highlights the need to avoid these to ensure successful treatment.It has the potential to contribute towards effectively managing HIV/Aids in Africa, and also holds promise in helping to detect drug resistance for other diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria.Dr Kit Vaughan, South Africa: AcesoAceso improves breast cancer detection by using imaging technology that is capable of performing full-field digital mammography and automated breast ultrasound at the same time.If diagnosed early enough, the cancer can be treated successfully. However, because 40% of women have dense tissue, their cancers cannot be seen on X-ray. Furthermore, a false negative finding can have devastating consequences. This world first system is protected by international patents and has been successfully tested in two separate clinical trials with 120 women.IF you could do one innovative thing to show your LOVE for #Africa, what would it be? #MadeinAfrica #IPA2016 pic.twitter.com/DwGVy5EkQS— IPA Prize (@IPAprize) May 3, 2016Design architecture and learning platformsDr Youssef Rashed, Egypt: The Plate PackageThe Plate Package (PLPAK) is a software solution that assesses the architecture of building plans or technical drawings, determining structural integrity of the end design. PLPAK applies the boundary element based method to analyse and view practical design of building foundations and slabs.It enables engineers to represent building slabs over sophisticated foundation models easily, building information modelling techniques and eliminating human error. With the rapid growth of African cities, there is increased demand for infrastructural developments to support the growing population.Godwin Benson, Nigeria: TuteriaTuteria is an innovative peer-to-peer learning online platform that allows people who want to learn any skill, whether formal or informal, to connect with anyone else near them who is offering that skill. For instance, a student needing maths skills can connect online with someone in their vicinity offering remedial classes in mathematics.Tutors and learners form an online community that connects them, and once a fit is established, they meet offline for practical exchange. Both tutors and learners are thoroughly vetted to ensure safety, accountability and a quality learning experience.Smart farming solutionsOlufemi Odeleye, Nigeria: the TryctorThe Tryctor is a mini tractor modelled on the motorcycle. By attaching various farming implements, it can carry out similar operations as a conventional tractor, but on a smaller scale.Through inspired alterations to a motorcycle’s engine, gearing system and chassis, this innovation has made it possible to mechanise agriculture in Africa for small-scale farmers in a way that was previously not possible.Additionally, the Tryctor is easy to use and cheaper to maintain as 60% of its parts and components are locally sourced.Samuel Rigu, Kenya: Safi Sarvi OrganicsSafi Sarvi Organics is a low-cost fertiliser made from purely organic products and waste from farm harvests, designed to improve yields for farmers by up to 30%.Safi Sarvi costs the same as traditional fertilisers, can reverse farmers’ soil degradation and lead to improved yield and income. The product uses biochar-based fertiliser that can counteract soil acidity, retaining nutrients and moisture in the soil.The carbon-rich fertiliser also removes carbon from the atmosphere by at least 2.2 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per acre of farm per year. The nominees for this year’s Innovation Prize for come from all over the continent. (Image: IPA, Facebook)Dynamic energy initiativesAndre Nel, South Africa: Green TowerGreen Tower is an off-grid water heating and air conditioning solution based on solar power that uses advanced thermos-dynamics to create up to 90% savings in electricity consumption.The Green Tower improves efficiency of a solar heat pump with solar thermal collectors, low pressure storage tanks and heat exchangers.With Africa’s middle class rapidly growing and demand for energy outstripping supply, this initiative has the potential for large-scale roll out. Green Tower can conserve limited energy resources, diverting them from heating and cooling systems to more productive industries.Johan Theron, South Africa: PowerGuardPowerGuard enables consumers to determine the maximum amount of power supply required for daily operations. Consumers can thus reduce their power demand, especially during peak times, leading to a more efficient power supply, and helping to reduce power cuts.Consumers are able to set their own maximum peak power usage needs. This technology substantially reduces load shedding and power rationing, diverting power to more productive industries.The existence of a smart grid can help to reduce the pressure on existing infrastructure while moving the continent slowly towards renewable energy.The big nightThe winner will be announced at a gala ceremony on 23 June at the Gaborone International Conference Centre in Botswana.Watch this:There is a grand share prize of $150 000 (about R2.3-million).last_img read more

Net-Zero For a Competitive Price


first_imgThe designers of a 1,700 square-foot net-zero-energy demonstration home in Irvine, California, claim that a similar home can be built by virtually anyone for less than $150 per sq. ft., a figure that’s price-competitive with conventional homes in this market.The developers of the home — Southern California Edison and Green Homebuilder magazine — call the three-bedroom, two-bath model home “the ABC (Affordable, Buildable, and Certified) Green Home.” The home’s energy features should reduce its estimated monthly utility bills by $150 to $200 compared to a similarly sized conventionally built home.John Morton, project manager for Southern California Edison, says that the ABC home’s energy-saving strategies are mainstream and so they shouldn’t scare off buyers who might be leery of unfamiliar technology. The mild climate means the house can achieve net-zero status with 3 1/2 inches of Demilec closed-cell spray foam in the walls (in addition to 2 inches of EPS on the exterior side of the wall sheathing) and 5 1/2 inches of closed-cell spray foam in the ceiling. The roof deck is insulated to keep the ductwork within the conditioned space.The water-resistive barrier (WRB) installed on the walls is a vapor-permeable membrane (Henry BlueSkin VP). The wall panels were built by high school studentsThe house was built in conjunction with North Orange County Regional Occupational Program. Students in seven high-school construction classes designed and built the wall panels as part of their training. The panel sections were then brought to the site (in Irvine’s Great Park), where they were assembled by a contractor. The partners spent $204,000 to build the house — about $120 per sq. ft., a figure they say could be lower with a large builder’s efficiency of scale factored in.For a virtual tour of the ABC Green Home, click here.The house will be on display Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. until October 2013. At that time, the house will be separated from its slab foundation and donated to Habitat for Humanity, which will move it to a new site. The next ABC home will be a similarly sized two-story model. California is trying to make all new homes net-zero by the year 2020. Notable features of the ABC Green HomeOne story, three bedrooms, two baths, a den, no fireplace or chimney1,695 sq. ft. with a 440-sq.-ft. attached garage2×6 wall studs on 2-ft. centersAMX home automation system controls lighting and window shading5-kw PV array“Smart” electric appliances for use with “smart” electric meterHot-water recirculationGray-water recyclingRainwater collectionAir-to-water Daiken Altherma heat pumpPermeable paving stonesDrought-tolerant plantsUniversal designPlug-in stations for electric carsMeets the NAHB Green Building Standard and requirements for the California Advanced Homes Program, USGBC’s LEED program, and Energy Starlast_img read more