Light Friday: Will Shrinking Humans Save the Planet?

November 15, 2013

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Consider this: On average, women are 7 percent shorter than men and they tend to live 7 percent longer. That’s the latest musing of Dutch artist Arne Hendriks, who has invested what many would consider a ridiculous amount of effort researching the advantages of shrinking humans to the size of chickens.

His premise is laudable, and perhaps thought-provoking. If science could say, “Honey, I’ve shrunk the species,” it would essentially erase all worry about the depletion of the world’s food supply and natural resources, as well as dramatically reduce pollution and waste.

Hendriks, who at 6-feet-4 is about the size of an NBA shooting guard, has spent several months studying the benefits of downsizing humans. “It has been a long established trend for people to grow taller,” he writes on his website, The Incredible Shrinking Man. “As a direct result we need more energy, more food and more space.”

His blog posts range from the science of growth deceleration to the use of cane toad leather for the shrinking man’s shoes, bags, and accessories. Food is a frequent blog topic. “The meat of one chicken could easily feed 100 people,” he writes. “There’s poetry in having a cup of coffee that is made from just one single coffee bean.”

An understandable fear, Hendriks notes, is that shrinking the human body might reduce brain capacity. He responds by pointing to research into the possibility of shrinking animals for space colonization. That research suggests that the goal would be to reduce brain cell size, not cell number.

One might also argue that humans aren’t using all their brain capacity, anyway.

Love and Breakups Are Explained by Science

Are you or someone you know in love? There’s a science to that. A new report by LifeHacker looks into our physiological reactions to romance -- whether we’re embarking on a new relationship or dealing with a case of unrequited love.

The article cites a Stony Brook University study that compares the brain activity of a heartbroken person to the brain of a cocaine addict. The researchers found that losers in love and cocaine addicts have “several neural correlates in common.” In short: the love-scorned and rejected exhibit the same brain responses as drug addict. That would explain “Fatal Attraction” type relationships.

Another scientific study that can be linked to love is focused on football players and field goal performance. Players with more successful kicks perceived the crossbar to be closer to the ground and the field goal posts farther apart. The study showed that perceptual effects related to performance happened after kicking the football, but not before kicking. This means that our errors influence our perceptions, so if we’ve failed at love once, or even a few times, we are prone to take the stance that romance just isn’t for us.

The cure? Most of the time, the common denominator is ourselves, rather than the people we date, says relationship and family therapist Roger Gil. So after some major self-reflection, go out there and take a chance!

The String Tease Incident

Be prepared to read a gruesome story about death, decay, and the unknown. For the world’s oldest string has been discovered.

Wait, what? The oldest piece of string? That’s not very scary. That’s barely interesting.

Actually, it is! The 90,000 year-old piece of string discovered in southeast France provides interesting evidence of Neanderthal tool use and creativity. Typically, tools of this nature -- the kind that decay, like plant fibers -- don’t last very long, nor do they leave much evidence. Prior to the find, the oldest string on record is only 30,000 years old.

Small indentations in stones and aesthetic objects discovered in a known Neanderthal site suggest the presence of string, alongside some remnants of twisted plant material, which archaeologists theorize was used as necklace material. Theorize, mind you: "The wear patterns provide circumstantial evidence of early use of string, but the evidence is not definitive," Professor Bruce Hardy of Kenyon College told New Scientist.

The most important part of this string theory is the age and the creators. Neanderthals were alone in Europe 90,000 years ago, so Hardy and his colleagues have to propose that the ancient hominids, which were either a side-branch to Homo sapiens or even a sub species, must have invented the string-tying technique themselves.

"If they are indeed remnants of string or cordage, then they would be the earliest direct evidence of string," said Hardy. "Albeit very fragmentary evidence."

Man Named ‘Batman’ Goes to Jail

It’s hard to live up to a name like Batman. But for 23 years a young man in Singapore has done just that -- at least until recently.

Batman bin Suparman became a Facebook celebrity when he posted his driver’s license online in 2008. His fan page has nearly 12,000 likes. But earlier this week, Mr. Suparman was sentenced to prison for 33 months for housebreaking and theft.

The arrest came after a security camera caught him stealing $400 from a store. He also pleaded guilty to stealing his brother’s ATM card and withdrawing $680, as well possession and use of heroin.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Finally, A Dose of Pun

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