Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Readings: Gagging Indian Scientists, Human Evolution, Sand Mining

From the past couple of weeks:

1) Slow Subsidence of Scientific Institutions: As land movement and destruction of homes in Joshimath Uttarakhand became a prominent talking point, the Indian government reacted like it usually does when faced with an awkward situation concerning its own accountability. It imposed a gag order on its scientists, forbidding them from talking to the media until publication of a final report. Dinesh C. Sharma offers a thoughtful perspective on the corrosion of autonomy of India's scientific institutions and the damage this withholding of information does to open and informed debate. 

2) Teeth Reveal How Brains Developed In Utero: How fast did our ancestors brain grow before birth? When did patterns of brain growth become more human like? Teeth start developing very early in a fetus at about 20 weeks old and they fossilize well too. Researchers found a relationship between molar length and prenatal brain growth by studying teeth from skeletons of various primate species and comparing them with gestation length and mass at birth of each species. The final conclusion was that rates of pre natal brain development increased during hominid evolution and became more human like about one million years ago.  By anthropologist Tesla Monson.

3) Grains of Sand: Too Much and Never Enough. This is a topic of great concern in India too. Unregulated sand mining is stripping river valleys barren of sand, in turn changing river morphology and devastating habitats. Alka Tripathy-Lang writes about the global demand for sand and its impact on environment and livelihoods. What is the future for this resource? Will we learn to use it sustainably?  I'll also recommend this Planet Money podcast episode on Peak Sand featuring a stolen beach! - Episode 853: Peak Sand

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