Science and Medicine

Oldest Eurasian Hominoids Lived in Swabia

Photo of the 17-million-year-old molar tooth of the hominoid from Engelswies. (Credit: Böhme)

Africa is regarded as the center of evolution of humans and their precursors. Yet long before modern humans left Africa some 125,000 years ago, their antecedents migrated from Africa to Eurasia many times, as is documented in the fossil record. How often, when and why hominoids went “out of Africa” is still a hotly debated field of intense research. Possibly, the first wave of emigration occurred 17 million years before the present, as documented by finds in the Swabian northern Alpine foreland basin, southwest of Sigmaringen.

Researchers from Tübingen successfully pinpointed the age of a molar tooth at 17 to 17.1 Ma, together with colleagues from Helsinki, Munich and Stuttgart. It is thus the oldest known Eurasian hominoid found to date. The results are now published in the Journal of Human Evolution. The owner of the tooth once inhabited a lakeside landscape with subtropical vegetation in a warm-humid climatic zone. Today, there is an abandoned quarry at the locality known among palaeontologists for its fossiliferous layers.

Prof. Dr. Madelaine Böhme of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoecology (HEP) at the Tübingen University combined different methods of dating of the rocks in which the molar tooth was found. Housed at the Stuttgart State Museum of Natural History, the find itself dates to June 24, 1973. It was discovered by the founder and then-director of the Geological-Palaeontological Institute in Mainz, Prof. Dr. Heinz Tobien, in the “Talsberg” quarry in Engelswies, Inzigkofen. Only in 2001 was the molar taken under scrutiny and determined as a hominoid fossil, albeit with some insecurity regarding its age.

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Pitchers Bean More Batters in the Heat of the Summer

“When a batter is hit by the opposing team, his teammates don’t know if it was an accident or deliberate.”

During spring training, you will find Major League pitchers practicing their pitches, perfecting their technique, and strengthening their muscles to endure the grueling 162-game season. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, suggests that hurlers might also consider the effect these sweltering months could have on their brains.

The study, led by researchers from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, has found pitchers whose teammates get hit by a pitch are more likely to strike back and peg an opposing batter when the temperature reaches 90 degrees than on cooler days. But if no one has already been hit in the game, then high temperatures have little effect on a pitcher’s behavior.

“We found that heat does not lead to more aggression in general,” said Richard Larrick, a management professor at Fuqua. “Instead, heat affects a specific form of aggression. It increases retribution.”

Major League statistics show there were 1,549 incidents of hit batters last season, an average of 0.64 hit-by-pitch incidents per game. Larrick said that it is not a necessarily a winning strategy to hit batters, as the plunked player gets to proceed to first base and is effortlessly placed in potential scoring position. However, managers and players alike admit that sometimes they intentionally target batters.

“When a batter is hit by the opposing team, his teammates don’t know if it was an accident or deliberate,” said Larrick, who also holds an appointment in the department of psychology and neuroscience. “We think hotter temperatures make a pitcher more likely to see the action as deliberate and hostile. And once a pitcher feels provoked, hotter temperatures increase feelings of revenge.”

The study examined 57,293 Major League Baseball games from 1952 through 2009—roughly 4.5 million matchups between a pitcher and a hitter. Temperature served as a better forecaster of whether or not a player would be beamed if the opposing team’s pitcher had already hit one or more hitters. If the temperatures were resting in the 50s during a game, there was a 22 percent chance a pitcher would hit a batter if a hasty pitch occurred in the first inning of the game. This escalated to 27 percent if the temperatures were in the 90s.

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Teen Brains Predict Song Popularity

The results suggest it may be possible to use brain responses from a group of people to predict cultural phenomenon across a population

The brain activity of teens, recorded while they are listening to new songs, may help predict a tune’s popularity.

“We have scientifically demonstrated that you can, to some extent, use neuroimaging in a group of people to predict cultural popularity,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroeconomist at Emory University.

The Journal of Consumer Psychology is publishing the results of the study, conducted by Berns and Sara Moore, an economics research specialist in his lab.

In 2006, Berns’ lab selected 120 songs from MySpace pages, all of them by relatively unknown musicians without recording contracts. Twenty-seven research subjects, aged 12 to 17, listened to the songs while their neural reactions were recorded through functional magnetic resolution imaging (fMRI). The subjects were also asked to rate each song on a scale of one to five.

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