Caveman Digest – WIF Ancient History

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Theories About

Why the

Neanderthals

Died Out

Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis… or, humans and Neanderthals… started to diverge from a common ancestor, Homo erectus, about 700,000 years ago. Then our species completely branched off about 300,000 years ago.

On average, Neanderthals were shorter than humans and they had a stockier build. They also had angled cheekbones, prominent brow ridges, and wide noses. Like humans, they used tools, controlled fire, and buried their dead. Also, while they are often depicted as dumb, savage brutes, researchers believe they were as intelligent as humans.

They lived in Eurasia, from about Spain to western Siberia, and while the date of their extinction is debated, it’s believed that they died out somewhere between 30,000 to 42,000 years ago. Why they went extinct is one of the biggest mysteries in evolutionary science. So why did our ancestral cousins die out?

10. We Were Better Hunters

The Neanderthals went extinct not long after humans migrated out of Africa into Eurasia. Since the Neanderthals ruled Europe for so long before the arrival of humans, and suddenly died off after coming into contact with them, it has led researchers to believe that humans were somehow responsible, at least in part, for the extinction.

One theory as to how humans drove Neanderthals to extinction was because we were better hunters. This became a problem because, with only a limited amount of food, there would have been competition for it. Since we’re here and they aren’t, it would suggest that we were better hunters and got most of the food. This would have caused the Neanderthal population to plummet, while the human population would have gone up.

9. Humans Violently Replaced Them

Throughout history, groups of humans have had a tendency to kill, enslave, or conquer other groups of people who are different from them. Why would prehistoric humans be any different when they came into contact with the Neanderthals?

When humans migrated out of Africa, they may have been more aggressive and more violent than the Neanderthals because that was advantageous to their hunting style. Meanwhile, it’s believed that the Neanderthals were less violent because they didn’t hunt in the same way. Instead of hunting and chasing down big animals, to get their protein they ate insects.

If they were more peaceful by nature, the Neanderthals would have been unable to fight off the growing population of violent human brutes who invaded their territory.

8. Volcanic Eruption

An event that can have profound effects on the Earth is the eruption of a large volcano. When a volcano erupts, millions of cubic tons of ash and debris can be put into the atmosphere and this alters the climate of the Earth by making it cooler, because less sun reaches the Earth.

Well 39,000 years ago, around the same time that the Neanderthals started to go extinct, the Campi Flegrei volcano west of Naples, Italy had a massive eruption. It was the biggest eruption in Europe in 200,000 years and 60 cubic miles of ash was pumped into the atmosphere.

This would have had devastating effects on the Neanderthals. The sun would have been blotted out for months, if not years. This would have cooled temperatures in Europe and it would have brought acid rain. These types of conditions would have made the environment inhospitable to the Neanderthals, causing them to die out. As the ash dispersed and the Neanderthals were dying off, humans would have moved into Europe with little resistance.

7. Humans Hunted With Wolves

Around the time that the Neanderthals went extinct, there were three top predators competing for food in Europe: the Neanderthals, humans, and wolves. According to anthropologist Pat Shipman of Pennsylvania State University an alliance between the wolves and the humans led to the extinction of the Neanderthals. His theory is that humans were able to tame and breed wolves. These wolf-dogs would have been used to get large animals, like mammoths, cornered so humans could finish them off. Cornering the animal was the most dangerous part of the hunt.

Also, when humans would bring down the animals and started to cut it apart, they would had to fight off scavengers, but the wolves would have been able sense scavengers from longer distances and they would have scared them off. Then the humans would feed the wolves and this would have been a win-win situation for the two top predators.

Meanwhile, there is no evidence that the Neanderthals used wolves to hunt. Without their help, prey would have been more dangerous to hunt and they would have to exert more energy while hunting, meaning they needed more food to sustain themselves. This would have made it hard for the Neanderthal population to maintain and grow their population, especially when two of their competitors teamed up to fight for the same resources that they needed.

6. Humans Had More Culture

According to a mathematical model from Stanford University, the reason that humans are still around and the Neanderthals aren’t is that humans had a high level of culture. By having a stronger culture, they would have been able to hunt and gather food over a larger area than the Neanderthals. This culture would have also led to better tool-making skills, which would allow them to make better weapons. For example, an ax would have been an incredibly useful tool and a devastating weapon.

According to their model, a small population of humans with a high level of culture could have overwhelmed a large population of Neanderthals who were less cultured.

5. The Division of Labor

The Neanderthals didn’t have the most complex diet. They were known to hunt big game animals, which was a dangerous task. They also hunted differently than humans. Neanderthal men, women, and juveniles would get involved with the hunt. Humans, on the other hand, developed tasks based on gender and age. This division of labor allowed them to collect a variety of different foods, and then they could process and cook it.

Being able to eat a variety of cooked food would have given humans an evolutionary edge in two ways. The first is that there would been more sources for food. Secondly, the more complex diet of cooked food not only allowed humans to survive, but it also helped in the evolution of the human brain and helped make it what it is today.

4. Neanderthals Had Smaller Frontal Lobes

One of the prevailing misconceptions surrounding the Neanderthals is that we were smarter than them. However, researchers believe their brains were just as big as humans’, but they were built differently. Neanderthal brains were designed to control their large bodies and to track movement. Humans had larger frontal lobes, which is the region of the brain where decision-making, social behavior, creativity, and abstract thought are controlled. In the long run, these qualities probably gave us an evolutionary edge compared the Neanderthals.

For example, by using abstract thought, humans realized that by processing food, like smashing up cooked yams, it would have saved energy during the eating process because you need less energy to chew your food. This is especially important when raising children. Secondly, the frontal lobe would have been helpful in spreading new technology quickly. With a larger frontal lobe it would have been easier for humans to teach each other, and to learn. Also, thanks to the large frontal lobe, early humans saw the benefit in forming large social groups, and these large groups would have made technology easier to spread across the species.

By saving energy on everyday tasks like eating, and utilizing technology, it would have given us an evolutionary edge that allowed us to survive while the Neanderthals went extinct.

3. The Weather Change Changed Their Habitat

An argument against the replacement theory is that humans had nothing to do with the extinction of the Neanderthals. After all, humans first left Africa about 100,000 years ago and moved into the Middle East, and then about 60,000 years ago they made it to Australia. However, humans only migrated into Europe, the Neanderthal’s homeland, 45,000 years ago. The question is, why did humans travel all the way down to Australia before getting to Europe, which is essentially around the corner from the Middle East? This suggests that humans may have only been able to move in when the Neanderthals were already dying off.

So why were they dying off? Well, drastic weather change could have been the culprit. When the Neanderthals went extinct, the last Ice Age was coming to an end and Eurasia was experiencing unstable weather patterns which dramatically changed the landscape. For example, in Italy around the time the Neanderthals went extinct, forests morphed into open plains over the span of 100 years. The Neanderthal body simply couldn’t evolve fast enough to survive in the new landscape.

The problem was that the Neanderthals hunted in the forest. They used the trees as cover and then they clubbed or stabbed prey. Their bodies simply weren’t built to sneak up on fast moving and dangerous game animals in the newly developed open plains.

Humans, on the other hand, were used to grasslands and open fields because that was the terrain in Africa where humans evolved and strived. With the Neanderthal population dwindling and the landscape becoming advantageous to humans’ skills, our ancestors simply moved into the area.

2. Disease Wiped Them Out

Why the Neanderthals lived for tens of thousands of years in Eurasia, but died out about 1,000 to 5,000 years after coming into contact with humans, is one of the most debated topics in anthropology. The obvious conclusion is that humans had something to do with the extinction, but no one is sure how or why humans caused it.

One theory is that when the Neanderthals moved out of Africa and settled in Eurasia, their immune system developed to deal with that environment. However, when humans migrated out of Africa, they brought African pathogens with them and these caused diseases like tuberculosis, herpes, tapeworms, and stomach ulcers. The Neanderthals’ immune systems simply couldn’t deal with the diseases and they went extinct. Yes, you read that right. Humans gave the Neanderthals herpes and it killed them.

Evidence to back this up is that this is what happened when Europeans came to the Americas starting in 1492. When they came, they brought diseases like smallpox and malaria, and this was devastating to people in the Americas. Since the Native Americans’ immune systems weren’t developed to combat the diseases, it’s estimated that 20 million Native Americans were killed in the years following contact with the Europeans, which was nearly 95 percent of the population in the Americas.

1. They Assimilated With Humans

One theory surrounding the fate of the Neanderthals is that there was no death blow. They simply assimilated with humans by interbreeding. For any of the reasons listed in the other entries on this list, or quite possibly because of a combination of them, the population of Neanderthals became drastically low. However, instead of all of them dying off, the species was just absorbed by the much bigger human population.

Evidence to back this up is that if you were born outside of Africa, 1.5 to 2.1 percent of your DNA is Neanderthal in origin. However, what’s interesting is that it isn’t the same genes in everyone. For example, if you have 2% Neanderthal DNA and your next door neighbor has 2% Neanderthal DNA, you may not share the same 2%. Researchers think that 20 percent of the Neanderthal genome is still found within humans. So they never exactly went extinct; instead, their DNA just became part of the modern human genome.


Caveman Digest –

WIF Ancient History

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #214

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #214

…There were as nearly as many burials at sea than had they been sunk…

Deaths ships-001

‘Masters of the Seas’ by William Lionel Wyllie (Text added)

Judith Eastman and Mary Pickford do not put 10 miles behind them on the way to California, when a telegram arrives at the Pearson-Eastman residence. No one is home. It goes undelivered. Had she been there, as Harv had assumed, the piece of yellow paper would have read:

My Project 17-001

MY DEAREST JUDITH  stop  HAVE LEFT PARIS  stop SHOULD ARRIVE NEW YORK 10/7  stop  CANNOT WAIT TO HOLD YOU  stop  LOVE HARV  end

He will regret not sending the telegram from Paris.

In spite of the coming missed communications, so begins an, albeit, short career as a naval officer aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Chesapeake Bay at the age of 63. Those eight days were gratefully uneventful, at least below the waterline.

Above it, it was another story. There were as nearly as many burials at sea than had they been sunk, or so it seemed. The deck by deck segregation worked for a couple of days, but the devil’s disease finally took hold of the Chesapeake, racing from one sailor to the next. The pattern of taking those in their prime, 20 to 30 years old holds true, men who are or would have been husbands and fathers.

Had they had to go to battle stations, a number of stations would have gone unmanned, such was the carnage. They were a floating sitting duck.

  Word from the other ships in the convoy varies. They seem to be the worse-off naval vessel–it could not get much worse. While the troop-transports hold their own, they are ticking time bombs, likely infectious to anyone who comes in contact with them in the States.

The Chesapeake medical officer finally had the good sense to issue every last surgical mask to those who remain, realizing that one does not have to touch a carrier individual, that it is a dreaded airborne virus; the best possible method of transmission.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #214


page 201

“Did I Say THAT?” – Historical Perspective

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Top Tenz Armageddon

Top Tenz Bad Predictions

 

Top 10 Famously Bad Predictions

Experts Didn’t Actually Make

We all enjoy pointing fingers at experts when they make mistakes. Popular sites love to publish hack lists of embarrassingly wrong predictions by famous people, complete with snappy image macros and a dump truck full of condescension . It’s understandable: seeing someone successful make obvious errors of judgment helps us feel better about our own bloopers.

Yet in our eagerness to point out their blunders, we often end up getting it very wrong. For instance:

10. “We Can Close the Books on Infectious Diseases.”

william-stewart

Allegedly:

William H. Stewart was a U.S. Surgeon General from 1965 to 1969. He is the man responsible for those cheerful warning labels you see on your cigarette packs. In 1969, he supposedly made the above statement to the U.S. Congress. His claim was soon disproved by the emergence of AIDS and other virulent diseases. Even William’s 2008 obituarymentions the criticism he received because of his optimistic prediction.

But Actually:

William never spoke those words. Two authors performed a rigorous search for the primary source of this quote. They failed to find any. More than that, secondary sources disagree on the date of the alleged statement: was it 1967 or 1969?

There is only a single book that points to the primary source of the quote. The book claims it comes from a speech William gave in 1967, at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers. But guess what? That speech contains no such quote at all! Not only that, but in that same speech William actually said this:

“Warning flags are still flying in the communicable disease field … While we are engaged in taking on new duties … we cannot and must not lose sight of our traditional program responsibilities.”

That doesn’t quite sound like a man “closing books” on infectious diseases, does it?

9. “This ‘Telephone’ Has Too Many Shortcomings to be Seriously Considered as a Means of Communication.”

Western-Union-Telegraph

Allegedly:

In 1876 William Orton, the president of Western Union, was offered to buy a patent from a man you may have heard of – Alexander Graham Bell. The patent? A little invention called the telephone. William Orton’s response? That shortsighted quote above! How could it be that William Orton didn’t immediately see the potential of this technology?

But Actually:

The answer is simple: he did! He just didn’t want to pay for Bell’s version. In fact, what William Orton likely said was “this electric toy has too many shortcomings … ” He was trying to downplay the importance of specifically Bell’s invention, not the idea of telephone as a whole. How do we know this? Because in less than a year Orton had started another company – American Speaking Telephone – to develop his own version of the device. What’s more, Orton’s telephone even ended up being superior to Bell’s. Aggressive market competition followed, culminating in a court case. Something about Orton supposedly stealing Bell’s ideas, which seems silly. It ended in 1879 with Western Union giving up the telephone business. More importantly, all of Western Union’s telephone patents wereassigned to Bell Company.

We bet William Orton wished he had just bought Bell’s patent in the first place.

8. “Computers in the Future May Weigh No More than 1.5 Tons.”

old-computer

Allegedly:

This chuckle-worthy quote comes from an old Popular Mechanics magazine. The quote found its way into many compilations of bad predictions. Anyone reading it today on their tiny smartphone can only laugh at the hilariously conservative estimate.

But Actually:

This quote is from an issue of March 1949. Only two short years before that the first general purpose computer was launched. It was a little thing called the ENIAC and it weighed 30 tons. Popular Mechanics were making their prediction within that specific technological framework. In fact, here’s the full quote:

“Where a calculator like ENIAC today is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers in the future may have only 1000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh only 1½ tons.”

To be fair, Popular Mechanics did fail to anticipate revolutionary inventions like transistors and microchips. But even so, their prediction still stood the test of time almost ten years later. In 1957, the IBM 608 came out. It was the first transistor-based computer. Its weight? 1.2 tons. In the rapidly-evolving computer industry, this prediction isn’t quite the laughable gaffe we make it out to be.

7. “Fooling Around with Alternating Current is Just a Waste of Time. Nobody will Use It, Ever.”

thomas-edison

Allegedly:

This 1889 quote is brought to you courtesy of Thomas Edison, one of the most well-known American inventors. It’s enough to look at almost any electrical appliance in your home to discover how wrong his prediction was. Nowadays, alternating current (AC) is exactly whatdelivers electricity to households. Yet Edison called it “a waste of time.” Oops!

But Actually:

Edison’s words are far from a genuine attempt at predicting the future. If anything, they were the desperate cry of a man personally threatened by the invention of AC. You see, Edison was earning money on his own invention: the direct current (DC). Any progress on the AC front was automatically bad news for Edison. Thus, Edison stopped at nothing to undermine and discredit AC. He lobbied the US government to ban it. He went to great lengths to portray AC as dangerous. He even staged public AC electrocutions of animals, including a freaking elephant. Unfortunately for Edison, AC won the ensuing “war of the currents” and became the main method of distributing electricity.

Seen in that light, Edison’s words are no more than a failed smear campaign. They are the equivalent of Sony claiming that the X-Box lost the console war. That actually happened, by the way … in 2001.

6. “I Think There is a World Market for Maybe Five Computers.”

thomas-watson

Allegedly:

This 1943 quote is attributed to Thomas J. Watson, who was the chairman and CEO of IBM. What a puzzling statement from the head of a company that would eventually become one of the leading computer manufacturers in the world. Was Watson ill when he said something so bafflingly wrong?

But Actually:

Watson never said anything like that. This quote is not mentioned by any major newspapers or magazines. There are no speeches, meetings notes or letters that hint at him entertaining this idea. The attribution first appeared in 1986, when a Usenet poster used the alleged quote as his signature. However, an earlier Usenet discussion points at these words having nothing to do with Watson.


Instead, a similar sentiment was supposedly expressed by a Cambridge Professor Douglas Hartree in 1951. It’s not certain whether Hartree indeed said something along those lines. But notably, even if he did, he was talking about the first, large, very specialized computers that he himself developed. They were to modern PCs what Godzilla is to a pet lizard. Suddenly his market-size estimate sounds a lot less off base.

5. “There is Nothing New to be Discovered in Physics Now. All That Remains is More and More Precise Measurement.”

lord-kelvin

Allegedly:

Lord “Absolute Zero” Kelvin is said to have spoken these words in 1900. To a bunch ofphysicists at the British Association for the Advancement of Science, no less. That’s not an audience you want to make such an obvious blooper in front of, is it?

But Actually:

The quote is disputed. There are no primary sources documenting Kelvin’s words. Even some people who have previously used this quote as an example are questioning its origin. More importantly, in the same year as he supposedly made the wrong prediction, Kelvin spoke about “two clouds on the horizon [of theoretical physics.]” These clouds were eventually addressed by the emergence of revolutionary ideas like quantum mechanics and the theory of relativity.

So it appears Lord Kelvin was just a tad more open minded about new possibilities than his alleged statement would have us believe.

4. “There is No Reason for Any Individual to Have a Computer in His Home.”

ken-olsen

Allegedly:

This was said in 1977 by Ken Olsen – founder, president and chairman of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). DEC was a major player in the computer industry and the first company to introduce a mini computer to the market. How foolish it was of Ken to dismiss a huge potential market for personal computers, when his own company was busy developing computer equipment.

But Actually:

Yup, Ken Olsen did say something like that. But he wasn’t talking about PCs. He was referring to a central computer controlling things at home. That’s right, he was essentially describing the dangers of HAL 9000. Olsen was actually exasperated over what he felt was a “ridiculous” interpretation of his words. He stressed that, at the time of the quote, his whole family was already using the equivalents of personal computers.

So, did Ken wrongly predict the future importance of personal computers? Most likely not. Did 2001: A Space Odyssey make him a little paranoid? Quite possibly.

3. “Who the Hell Wants to Hear Actors Talk?”

harry-warner

Allegedly:

Harry Warner of Warner Brothers spoke these words in 1926. How strange to see such lack of foresight from the co-founder of a huge movie studio. Really, Harry? You’d rather movies stayed silent forever?

But Actually:

Not at all. Harry was just being a shrewd businessman. Here’s the full quote: “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? The music – that’s the big plus about this.”

Harry was not dismissing the use of sound in movies. He was, however, suggesting to use it for music as first priority. In the silent era, movie studios employed musicians to provide live accompaniment to films. By “canning” the music, Warner Brothers could spare the musicians’ salaries, which would be a significant cost cut. On top of that, prior attempts at making “talking” films had flopped, so Harry was naturally being cautious. It also didn’t help that actors of the era were hired for their looks and many had terrible voices. Anyone who heard Pierce Brosnan sing in Mamma Mia may look more kindly upon Harry Warner.

2. “640K Ought to be Enough for Everybody.”

bill-gates-young

Allegedly:

This 1981 quote comes from none other than Bill Gates himself, referring to the amount of usable RAM. For a man who started the Microsoft powerhouse, and one of the richest people alive, he sure was laughably mistaken. Many of today’s games need 4GB of RAM to run smoothly, which shows just how wrong Gates was.

But Actually:

The quote seems to be an urban legend. Bill Gates himself, while admitting many past errors of judgement, denies ever saying it. Nobody can identify the true origin of the quote. We do know Gates is responsible for the optimistic prediction of eradicating spam by 2006. Check your mailbox. That didn’t quite pan out, did it?

However, the specific 640K quote is just a myth that manages to get Bill Gates really fired up. Maybe that’s exactly why people keep bringing it up?

1. “Everything that Can be Invented has Been Invented.”

charles-h-duell

Allegedly:

Charles H. Duell was the commissioner of US Patent Office. In 1899, he definitively concluded that people were just about done with the whole “inventing new stuff” business. Soon afterwards, the 20th century proved him wrong by giving us the miracle of human flight, space travel, and blankets that you can wear directly on your body. As the man in charge of the US Patent Office, Duell should really have known better!

But Actually:

Oh, he knew better. In fact, he was convinced that inventions of the 20th century would dwarf all prior progress. So why would he say something so patently (yes, we went there) stupid? The answer is simple: he never said it. A librarian named Samuel Sass set out to find the original source of the alleged quote. He concluded that, far from pulling the brakes on innovation, Duell actually lobbied for improvements to the US patent system to encourage potential inventors.

So where did the quote come from? Sass suggests that it surfaced as the result of a 1843 report by the Henry L. Ellsworth – Patent Office commissioner at the time. Henry used “a bit of rhetorical flourish to emphasize that the number of patents was growing at a great rate.” At some point, his words were taken out of context, misquoted, and then wrongly attributed to Duell.

Authors Cerf and Navasky were behind a 1984 book The Experts Speak, which repeated and popularized the misattributed quote. This is what Sass had to say about them: ”Evidently it did not occur to Cerf and Navasky to question that statement. They simply copied it from the earlier book. One can expect that in the future there will be more such copying because it is easier than checking the facts.”

Oh snap, now that’s some Sass!

You can read more of Daniel Nest’s words on his blog or on Cracked.com.

“Did I Say THAT?” = Historical Perspective