This is Russia: Arriving at the Home-stay

My first ever video game was Need for Speed on Xbox 360. I spent so many hours falling off cliff sides, zooming from the cops and running over anything and everything. So, when I finally became an expert at the game it blew my 11 year old mind. Ever since that first game I have always been a fan of racing games, but just because I like speeding in virtual reality doesn’t mean I like being a speed demon on the actual roads. And, yet here I am in a Russian taxi with a driver who embodies every aspect of Need for Speed.

Gobbling Up The Family Tree: Understanding our phylogenetic tree

It’s Thanksgiving. Your mom and dad are debating the art of properly basting a turkey, while grandma is showing you and the rest of the grandkids your family tree. By now, you’ve noticed how long and complicated your tree is. Along with parents, grandparents and great-grandparents, there are second cousins, great aunts, great grand nieces, etc. And, while you may have never known these people directly, all are in some way related to your family and yourself. But what about the family tree that extends beyond your ancestral family tree?

Who’s That Hominin? The mystery of Homo naledi

Almost everyone has been the “new kid” at some point in their life. And, we can probably all agree that whether it was in a new school, neighborhood, on a sports team, etc., being the new kid meant everyone was interested in you. But, why are we so interesting as the new kid? As someone who is unknown to a group, the new kid enkindles curiosity, which encourages others to better understand them so they can be comfortably classified into a form of the taxonomic system. Likewise, every few years a new hominin fossil typically emerges, and the rush to classify this “new kid” begins among paleoanthropologists. Recently, the discovery of Homo naledi (H. naledi) has led researchers to attempt to classify and place it within the context of our lineage.

These feet are made for walking: Who was Orrorin tugenensis? 

Todays the day you clean out your closet! As you dive in, ready to both mentally and physically declutter your life, you stop. “Do I really have that many shoes?!”. Yes, yes, you do. You have shoes for work, working out, summer, winter and many more. But why? Why are shoes so important? Our earliest ancestors never wore them, and they did just fine. Shoes protect our feet, sure, but just as importantly they are like many other stylized items we place on our bodies to symbolize and define who we are as individuals. And, our society has predetermined specific characteristics to identify the types of styles we see today. If I wear running shoes, I could be seen as active and sporty, while wearing leather loafers might make me seem serious and studious, etc. But, what about specific characteristics that differentiate us from other organisms? What about traits that define us as innately human?