Field Notes of a Cosmic Anthropologist

"The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine." - J. B. S. Haldane


Now featuring: #space shamanism, #sensawunda, #clarkean magix, #the nature of uplift, #deep time, #wide history, #posthuman flight club and #multiverse tv.

permalink poetryconcrete:

The salt mines (lithium deposit) in the Atacama desert of northern Chile.


The salt mines (lithium deposit) in the Atacama desert of northern Chile.

(via darklyeuphoric)

permalink brucesterling:

*Sci fi guy keen on rules-based world-building combat simulations


*Sci fi guy keen on rules-based world-building combat simulations


grinderbot: » Blog Archive » welcome to the grim meathook present

Bruce Sterling once said something like: “the future is on a sliderbar between the grim meathook future and the bright green spime world“. Well it’s clear now that those are two options on the one Möbius strip; two sides of the one dystopic, bad penny. Any hope for a bright internet-of-things that isn’t just another tool of surveillance seems a naive dream in the Snowden Effected world we all share.
The true horror of the real isn’t the ghoulishness of reporters walking through the wreckage of a passenger plane shot down for no reason on breakfast television. It’s that for all the politicians making speeches over the bodies of dead children, there is no empathic energy to be channelled into tv or approval ratings as the West Antarctic Ice Shelf falls into the ocean and the Arctic bubbles with ever more methane. Efforts like to visualize this on a local level completely fail to resonate. Yet these are exactly the things that will cause more regional conflicts around the Earth; more water wars, more heavy weather events, more refugees. More bad news to obsessively dissect on 24hr news channels; experts for every facet, infinite opinions. No action. More dead children.
Our global civilisation: seemingly ever more doomed, completely intent on wallowing in its death throes, turning its spasms into some macabre dance to be celebrated. Are we to be only numbed spectators, or can find our way through this and locate the seeds of the next thing, to plant in the ashes of the world we knew and loved and helplessly watched die? Can we plan now how to re-purpose the very tools causing its destruction and pull this culture out of its nosedive? Please.


permalink SOON! #shivaspeak

SOON! #shivaspeak



The speech from the season opener of Utopia, where Philip Carvel explains why mankind is doomed and how we messed up. Set during the energy crisis of the mid 1970s. In short, his “Greater Good” justification to do the horrible thing that the show is about.

An alternative viewpoint would be to acknowledge that this is a unique moment in history, an opportunity to spread forwards into the universe, burning through all the energy that the Earth and its history has gifted us. Even if that means fleeing into space like so many seed pods from a dying tree.

One thing we can both agree on: sustainability is stasis is death. There’s no putting the brakes on, it’s mass death and the coming collapse, or populating a living universe. I say accelerate!!!

permalink When I die, or ascend with the machine gods, or fake my death and flee Earth with my fellow Type II Civ Anthropologists to continue reporting live at Galactic HQ, or what have you.. I wish @mattfraction to author my ‘fictional’ biography.

When I die, or ascend with the machine gods, or fake my death and flee Earth with my fellow Type II Civ Anthropologists to continue reporting live at Galactic HQ, or what have you.. I wish @mattfraction to author my ‘fictional’ biography.


In the past, some researchers have tried to explain the demise of the Neanderthals by suggesting that the newcomers were superior to Neanderthals in key ways, including their ability to hunt, communicate, innovate and adapt to different environments.

But in an extensive review of recent Neanderthal research, CU-Boulder researcher Paola Villa and co-author Wil Roebroeks, an archaeologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands, make the case that the available evidence does not support the opinion that Neanderthals were less advanced than anatomically modern humans. Their paper was published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

"The evidence for cognitive inferiority is simply not there," said Villa, a curator at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. "What we are saying is that the conventional view of Neanderthals is not true."
Villa and Roebroeks scrutinized nearly a dozen common explanations for Neanderthal extinction that rely largely on the notion that the Neanderthals were inferior to anatomically modern humans. These include the hypotheses that Neanderthals did not use complex, symbolic communication; that they were less efficient hunters who had inferior weapons; and that they had a narrow diet that put them at a competitive disadvantage to anatomically modern humans, who ate a broad range of things.

The researchers found that none of the hypotheses were supported by the available research. For example, evidence from multiple archaeological sites in Europe suggests that Neanderthals hunted as a group, using the landscape to aid them.

Researchers have shown that Neanderthals likely herded hundreds of bison to their death by steering them into a sinkhole in southwestern France. At another site used by Neanderthals, this one in the Channel Islands, fossilized remains of 18 mammoths and five woolly rhinoceroses were discovered at the base of a deep ravine. These findings imply that Neanderthals could plan ahead, communicate as a group and make efficient use of their surroundings, the authors said.
Other archaeological evidence unearthed at Neanderthal sites provides reason to believe that Neanderthals did in fact have a diverse diet. Microfossils found in Neanderthal teeth and food remains left behind at cooking sites indicate that they may have eaten wild peas, acorns, pistachios, grass seeds, wild olives, pine nuts and date palms depending on what was locally available.

Additionally, researchers have found ochre, a kind of earth pigment, at sites inhabited by Neanderthals, which may have been used for body painting. Ornaments have also been collected at Neanderthal sites. Taken together, these findings suggest that Neanderthals had cultural rituals and symbolic communication.

Villa and Roebroeks say that the past misrepresentation of Neanderthals’ cognitive ability may be linked to the tendency of researchers to compare Neanderthals, who lived in the Middle Paleolithic, to modern humans living during the more recent Upper Paleolithic period, when leaps in technology were being made.
“Researchers were comparing Neanderthals not to their contemporaries on other continents but to their successors,” Villa said. “It would be like comparing the performance of Model T Fords, widely used in America and Europe in the early part of the last century, to the performance of a modern-day Ferrari and conclude that Henry Ford was cognitively inferior to Enzo Ferrari.”

Although many still search for a simple explanation and like to attribute the Neanderthal demise to a single factor, such as cognitive or technological inferiority, archaeology shows that there is no support for such interpretations, the authors said.

But if Neanderthals were not technologically and cognitively disadvantaged, why didn’t they survive?

The researchers argue that the real reason for Neanderthal extinction is likely complex, but they say some clues may be found in recent analyses of the Neanderthal genome over the last several years. These genomic studies suggest that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals likely interbred and that the resulting male children may have had reduced fertility. Recent genomic studies also suggest that Neanderthals lived in small groups. All of these factors could have contributed to the decline of the Neanderthals, who were eventually swamped and assimilated by the increasing numbers of modern immigrants.