Friday, February 19, 2010
A Crazy World
So the Tuesday science section of the New York Times had a pretty interesting piece in it today about, well, the fact that early humans have been capable of navigation at sea for practically ever. The new discovery of old tools in Crete suggests that an early hominid species, (and here is the crazy part) perhaps even prehumans, were essentially sailing around at least a hundred thousand years earlier than previously thought, perhaps upwards of 700,000 years. Maybe not even people! Think about it, early hominids, all hairy and primate looking, sailing the open seas. Pretty wild. Some excerpts from the Times article written by John Noble Wilford*:
"Early humans, possibly even prehuman ancestors, appear to have been going to sea much longer than anyone had ever suspected. That is the startling implication of discoveries made the last two summers on the Greek island of Crete. Stone tools found there, archaeologists say, are at least 130,000 years old, which is considered strong evidence for the earliest known seafaring in the Mediterranean and cause for rethinking the maritime capabilities of prehuman cultures.
Archaeologists can only speculate about who the toolmakers were . . . But archaeologists and experts on early nautical history said the discovery appeared to show that these surprisingly ancient mariners had craft sturdier and more reliable than rafts. They also must have had the cognitive ability to conceive and carry out repeated water crossing over great distances in order to establish sustainable populations producing an abundance of stone artifacts."
Now, the flip side of this story is that I was at a Dallas BBQ the other night for a pals birthday, and I went to use the restroom, which was weird and small and crumby, and this lady came in kind of yelling at her kid, and when I walked out of the stall and went to wash my hands she was changing this child's diaper right there on the dirty, wet counter between the two sinks, essentially rendering both inaccessible unless you went at it at a really tricky angle. And the kid's head was directly beneath the soap dispenser, so it was completely impossible to get to, and also it occurred to me that even if you could, if the dispenser leaked or something it would basically drip soap right into this baby's eye. I either just ate ribs or I'm about to eat ribs (read: I need to wash my hands). I was like, I get that you have to do what you have to do, but holy shit, seriously.
*Nice name right? I looked up this guy on Wikipedia and found out he has two Pulitzer Prizes and that:
Wilford wrote his newspaper's front-page article about mankind's first walk on the moon. His was the only byline on the front page, beneath the headline "Men Walk On Moon" and under the subheading "A Powdery Surface is Closely Explored." Upon the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Wilford's article was lauded by journalist Stephen Dubner, co-author of Freakonomics. Dubner emphasized Wilford's skill in the use of data in his 1969 article. The data of which Dubner speaks is used in the following way by Wilford: "Although Mr. Armstrong is known as a man of few words, his heartbeats told of his excitement upon leading man’s first landing on the moon. At the time of the descent rocket ignition, his heartbeat rate registered 110 a minute — 77 is normal for him — and it shot up to 156 at touchdown." Dubner argues that this is one of the most elegant uses of data to have been ever used in journalism.