Human evolution News

Throwing stuff is what made us human?

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So says a recent BBC story:

The ability to throw at very high speeds is unique to humans.We can throw much faster than our closest living relative – the chimpanzee – which can only reach speeds of 20mph compared to 90mph that many professional athletes can reach.

After creditably recording the throwing movements of college basketball players, they fiured that changes in hominin anatomy two million years ago explain it:

“Success at hunting allowed our ancestors to become part-time carnivores, eating more calorie-rich meat and fat and dramatically improving the quality of their diet.

“This dietary change led to seismic shifts in our ancestors’ biology, allowing them to grow larger bodies, larger brains, and to have more children, and it also did interesting things to our social structure.

“We start to see the origins of divisions of labour around that time, where some would be hunting, others would be gathering new foods.

Another researcher, Susan Larson, cited in the article notes that it can’t be that simple; lots of things have to work together to hit the target, besides the ones studied. Athletes will likely agree.

Also, throwing may have been highly desirable for hunting, but not necessary.

Running prey over a cliff (as in Head Smashed In – Buffalo Jump, now commemorated as a park) was a conventional practice among indigenous peoples in Canada until fairly recent times. While the people had had weapons for thousands of years, the jump was an easier method for killing large bovine-type animals.

Theories about “what made us human” tend to feature atomistic, reductionist guesses like this one. = It was this. It was that. No, no, it was this other thing. No, you’re all wrong, it was this still other thing …

Actually, it was clearly a package. Probably a carefully packed package—that is, design not chance.

Hey, don’t complain. The last big idea we heard on throwing and human-ness was that throwing poop explain what made us human.

2 Replies to “Throwing stuff is what made us human?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note:

    Muscles act as metamaterials due to collective behavior, physicists show – June 21, 2013
    Excerpt: Metamaterials are defined as artificial materials that have been engineered to have unusual properties that are not found in nature.,, ,,scientists in a new study have found that biological muscles exhibit a mechanical response that also qualifies them as metamaterials: when a tetanized (maximally contracted) muscle is suddenly extended, it comes loose, and if it is suddenly shortened, it tightens up without using any of the metabolic fuel adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The researchers explained that this behavior is due to the folding and unfolding of proteins called myosin cross-bridges that play a crucial role in muscle contraction. Most interestingly, muscles appear to be finely tuned to perform close to a critical point, at which they can exhibit highly synchronized microscale behavior.,,,
    A remarkable phenomenon reported by Caruel, et al., is that, in contrast to known smart materials, the micro-mechanisms inside muscles are finely tuned to work in unison, which allows them to perform a highly synchronized stroke. Behind this collective behavior is an internal architecture with domineering long-range interactions, which has been previously overlooked in muscle studies.,,,
    Quite surprisingly, the cooperation at the nanoscale in muscles was found to be similar to magnetism; moreover, the critical point at which muscles seem finely tuned to perform near is, in this case, a direct analog of the ferromagnetic Curie point.,,,
    Why and how muscle systems are tuned to criticality is an open problem,,,
    Tuning to criticality in muscles has many intriguing parallels in other biological systems. For instance, in a 2011 paper published in Physical Review Letters, Patzelt and Pawelzik showed that when humans perform control tasks like in upright standing or while balancing a stick, their behavior also exhibits power law fluctuations, which suggests a fine-tuning of the underlying mechanical system to a critical point.,,,
    Overall, the discovery that muscles act as metamaterials due to collective behavior suggests that determining the cause of the critical behavior of muscles may lead to a paradigm change in the biomimetic design of new materials.

    Human Anatomy – Impressive Transparent Visualization – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – video

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: Our Own ‘Incorrigible’ David Berlinski, as only David Berlinski can, takes down Matzke’s critique of Darwin’s Doubt:

    A Graduate Student Writes – David Berlinski July 9, 2013

    Of related note:

    Dr. David Berlinski: Introduction (Part 1)

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