Even More News

“Hobbits” Called a New Species After All

Indonesia’s little people really were a different species. The so-called “Hobbit” whose skeleton was discovered in 2003 on the Indonesian island of Flores has been the subject of considerable controversy ever since. Many in the main­stream scientific establishment have been reluctant to concede the creature could be anything other than a small hu­man, perhaps a pigmy or a microcephalic—a human with an abnormally small skull. The idea that, at a time Homo sapiens were presumed to be Earth’s sole inhabitants, there could have been another species here, is hard, it seems, for some to accept.

All of that may be put to rest now. A world-renowned paleoneurologist and chair of the anthropology department at Florida State University says the Hobbit is definitely a new species, albeit one closely related to Homo sapiens. Dean Falk has recently reexamined her initial research and says she is absolutely convinced this is a new species and not just a microcephalic human.

It’s time to move on to other questions now says Falk. “Where did it come from? Who did it descend from? Who are its relatives, and what does it say about human evolution? That’s the real excitement about this discovery.”

Japanese Are Able to Capture Pictures Directly from Brain

Scientists in Japan working at ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories have figured out how to extract images directly from the brain and to display them on a computer screen.

In the experiment, subjects were shown a set of simple images while a computer analyzed the blood flow to cer­tain parts of the brain. Later when new images were shown to the subjects, the computer was able to figure out what was being seen based entirely on brain activity and to display the result on a computer screen.

Right now they are talking about fairly crude black and white pictures, but the expectation is that some day soon the technology will be able to produce color images with much more detail, and it will be possible virtually to look around inside someone else’s thinking processes.

That, say the researchers, is a good thing. According to Dr. Kang Cheng, “In as little as 10 years, advances in this field of research may make it possible to read a person’s thoughts with some degree of accuracy.” The researchers en­vision a day when it might be possible to access quickly the images in an artists head, or maybe to treat psychiatric disorders. ATR chief researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani says, “This technology can also be applied to senses other than vi­sion. In the future, it may also become possible to read feelings and complicated emotional states.”

For those who think the thought police could be getting too much of an advantage here, they might be wise to be careful lest those thoughts end up in the wrong data base. Just a thought. We mean no harm.

Brain Changed by Meditation

It’s virtually official; meditation is good for you. Scientists say it, so it must be so. The latest results come from re­searchers at Emory University using MRIs who say meditators are better than non-meditators at clearing extraneous thoughts from their brains, which means that meditation may help the brain protect itself. In fact, the evidence is that meditators can actually change the physical properties of their brains.

In 2007, the same scientists produced evidence that meditators don’t lose as much gray matter with age as do non meditators. In fact, gray matter can be increased with meditative practice.

Some see the research as more evidence that the function of the physical brain is guided by something beyond the brain itself—some kind of higher mind. That idea, of course, has unwelcome implications for materialist reductionist science which sees the brain as essentially a kind of thought muscle incapable of rewiring itself, anymore than we can pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

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