17 November 2009

Becoming Human

I've never posted about science in the media, but I've really enjoyed NOVA's new documentary series on PBS about human evolution entitled Becoming Human, and I want to share it with my readers. It's shown in three parts, with the third part airing tonight. It's also available online.

The most interesting thing I learned from the first part is the theory that the necessity of adapting to rapid climate change in east Africa several millions of years ago initiated the brain growth that eventually lead to our large brains today. From the second part, I learned that bipedalism is more energy efficient than quadripedism but that large brains require a lot more energy than small ones. I was also truly fascinated by the theory that we lost our body hair so we could sweat to stay cool, allowing us to run much longer in the midday sun than most animals, thus enabling us to chase larger, faster, and stronger prey to absolute exhaustion and kill them with only the most primitive technology. (The meat in turn provided the energy for our large brains that plants couldn't.) The filmmakers even showed modern Bushmen employing this strategy to hunt a kudu! They chased it for four hours, the kudu suffered from heat stroke and just stopped moving, and the hunters got close and killed it with spears. I thought it was amazing.

I'm looking forward to part three, but I'll have to watch it online like I did the first two parts. I intend to share my comments here afterward. Check it out!

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1 comment:

BP said...

I love nova. Not only meat in the diet enlarged our brains, but with the arrival of bipedalism came distance to other plant varieties which lead to better nutrition throughout the year. I am an older college student working toward a degree in Anthropology, It is great!
Keep blogging, Betterpanic
www.betterpanic.blogspot.com