Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (973 – after 1050) was a Persian scholar and polymath. He was from Khwarazm – a region which encompasses modern-day western Uzbekistan, and northern Turkmenistan.
Al-Biruni was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist. He studied almost all fields of science and was compensated for his research and strenuous work. Royalty and powerful members of society sought out Al-Biruni to conduct research and study to uncover certain findings. He lived during the Islamic Golden Age. In addition to this type of influence, Al-Biruni was also influenced by other nations, such as the Greeks, who he took inspiration from when he turned to studies of philosophy. He was conversant in Khwarezmian, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, and also knew Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. He spent much of his life in Ghazni, then capital of the Ghaznavid dynasty, in modern-day central-eastern Afghanistan. In 1017 he travelled to the Indian subcontinent and authored a study of Indian culture Tārīkh al-Hind (History of India) after exploring the Hindu faith practiced in India. He was given the title "founder of Indology". He was an impartial writer on customs and creeds of various nations, and was given the title al-Ustadh ("The Master") for his remarkable description of early 11th-century India.
- "Abū Rayhān Bīrūnī -- Medieval Islamic Scientist, quite a read... " | 2008-09-15 | 55 Upvotes 50 Comments
Cat's Cradle is a satirical postmodern novel, with science fiction elements, by American writer Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut's fourth novel, it was first published in 1963, exploring and satirizing issues of science, technology, the purpose of religion, and the arms race, often through the use of black humor. After turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded Vonnegut his master's degree in anthropology in 1971 for Cat's Cradle.
- "Bokononism: a fictional religion based on harmless untruths" | 2010-07-10 | 24 Upvotes 4 Comments
Dunbar's number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships. Dunbar explained it informally as "the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar".
Proponents assert that numbers larger than this generally require more restrictive rules, laws, and enforced norms to maintain a stable, cohesive group. It has been proposed to lie between 100 and 250, with a commonly used value of 150. Dunbar's number states the number of people one knows and keeps social contact with, and it does not include the number of people known personally with a ceased social relationship, nor people just generally known with a lack of persistent social relationship, a number which might be much higher and likely depends on long-term memory size.
Dunbar theorised that "this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size [...] the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained". On the periphery, the number also includes past colleagues, such as high school friends, with whom a person would want to reacquaint himself or herself if they met again.
- "Dunbar's Number" | 2018-04-07 | 108 Upvotes 63 Comments
The endurance running hypothesis is the hypothesis that the evolution of certain human characteristics can be explained as adaptations to long-distance running. The hypothesis suggests that endurance running played an important role for early hominins in obtaining food. Researchers have proposed that endurance running began as an adaptation for scavenging and later for persistence hunting.
- "Endurance Running Hypothesis" | 2019-09-17 | 97 Upvotes 52 Comments
Homo floresiensis ("Flores Man"; nicknamed "hobbit") is a pygmy archaic human which inhabited the island of Flores, Indonesia, until the arrival of modern humans about 50,000 years ago.
The remains of an individual who would have stood about 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) in height were discovered in 2003 at Liang Bua on the island of Flores in Indonesia. Partial skeletons of nine individuals have been recovered, including one complete skull, referred to as "LB1". These remains have been the subject of intense research to determine whether they represent a species distinct from modern humans; the dominant consensus is that these remains do represent a distinct species due to genetic and anatomical differences.
This hominin had originally been considered remarkable for its survival until relatively recent times, only 12,000 years ago. However, more extensive stratigraphic and chronological work has pushed the dating of the most recent evidence of its existence back to 50,000 years ago. The Homo floresiensis skeletal material is now dated from 60,000 to 100,000 years ago; stone tools recovered alongside the skeletal remains were from archaeological horizons ranging from 50,000 to 190,000 years ago.
- "Homo floresiensis" | 2013-10-14 | 12 Upvotes 3 Comments
IQ and the Wealth of Nations is a 2002 book by psychologist Richard Lynn and political scientist Tatu Vanhanen. The authors argue that differences in national income (in the form of per capita gross domestic product) are correlated with differences in the average national intelligence quotient (IQ). They further argue that differences in average national IQs constitute one important factor, but not the only one, contributing to differences in national wealth and rates of economic growth.
The book has drawn widespread criticism from other academics. Critiques have included questioning of the methodology used, the incompleteness of the data, and the conclusions drawn from the analysis. The 2006 book IQ and Global Inequality is a follow-up to IQ and the Wealth of Nations by the same authors.
- "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" | 2009-11-22 | 13 Upvotes 10 Comments
The hypothesis of linguistic relativity, part of relativism, also known as the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis , or Whorfianism is a principle claiming that the structure of a language affects its speakers' world view or cognition, and thus people's perceptions are relative to their spoken language.
The principle is often defined in one of two versions: the strong hypothesis, which was held by some of the early linguists before World War II, and the weak hypothesis, mostly held by some of the modern linguists.
- The strong version says that language determines thought and that linguistic categories limit and determine cognitive categories.
- The weak version says that linguistic categories and usage only influence thought and decisions.
The principle had been accepted and then abandoned by linguists during the early 20th century following the changing perceptions of social acceptance for the other especially after World War II. The origin of formulated arguments against the acceptance of linguistic relativity are attributed to Noam Chomsky.
- "The reason why Blub programmers have such a hard time picking up more powerful languages." | 2007-09-29 | 7 Upvotes 28 Comments
The Micronesian island of Yap is known for its stone money, known as Rai (Yapese: raay), or Fei: large doughnut-shaped, carved disks of (usually) calcite, up to 4 m (13 ft) in diameter (most are much smaller). The smallest can be as little as 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in) in diameter. There are around 6,000 of the large, circular stone disks carved out of limestone formed from aragonite and calcite crystals. Rai stones were quarried on several of the Micronesian islands, mainly Palau, but briefly on Guam as well, and transported to Yap for use as money. They have been used in trade by the Yapese as a form of currency.
The monetary system of Yap relies on an oral history of ownership. In the case of stones that are too large to move, buying an item with one simply involves agreeing that the ownership has changed. As long as the transaction is recorded in the oral history, it will now be owned by the person to whom it is passed and no physical movement of the stone is required.
- "Rai Stones" | 2020-03-20 | 95 Upvotes 35 Comments
The Schöningen spears are a set of eight wooden throwing spears from the Palaeolithic Age that were excavated between 1994 and 1998 in the open-cast lignite mine in Schöningen, Helmstedt district, Germany, together with an associated cache of approximately 16,000 animal bones. The excavations took place under the management of Hartmut Thieme of the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage (NLD).
Originally assessed as being between 380,000 and 400,000 years old, they represent the oldest completely preserved hunting weapons of prehistoric Europe so far discovered. As such they predate the age of Neanderthal Man (by convention taken to have emerged 300,000 years ago), and are associated with Homo heidelbergensis. The spears support the practice of hunting by archaic humans in Europe in the late Lower Paleolithic.
The age of the spears was estimated from their stratigraphic position, "sandwiched between deposits of the Elsterian and Saalian glaciations, and situated within a well-studied sedimentary sequence." More recently, thermoluminescence dating of heated flints in a deposit beneath that which contained the spears suggested that the spears were between 337,000 and 300,000 years old.
- "Schöningen Spears" | 2020-01-29 | 63 Upvotes 7 Comments