Discovered: Cooking helped humans evolve large brains; beluga vocalizations strikingly similar to human speech; how the dung beetle keeps its cool; measuring consciousness.
Raw food diets evolutionarily inferior. Celebrities like Amanda Seyfried might tout the slimming benefits of a raw food diet, but neuroscientists aren't impressed by raw food's evolutionary effects on the human brain. Humans evolved to form such big brains thanks in part to cooking, says Brazilian researcher Suzana Herculano-Houzel. She found that humans would have to spend upwards of 9 hours per day eating raw unprocessed raw food if they wanted to boost brainpower for future generations of humans. Our brains have three times as many neurons as our closest cousins in the primate kingdom, thanks to our cooking ancestors who discovered that roasting meat and vegetables pre-digested food for us, speeding up digestion and making efficient use of calories. Herculano-Houzel put this theory to the test by studying primate diets and their relationship to fueling the brain. "If you eat only raw food, there are not enough hours in the day to get enough calories to build such a large brain," Herculano-Houzel concludes. "We can afford more neurons, thanks to cooking." [Science Now]
Whale sounds very similar to humans. Whale song has long fascinated scientists, and now researchers from California's National Marine Mammal Foundation have found a beluga whale that who can vocalize sounds strikingly similar to human speech. The adorably named NOC is impressing scientists, because no one even tried to train him to mimic the human voice. Normally belugas deliver a high-pitched chirp, but NOC was speaking at frequencies octaves below normal, and with durations and spaces of silence similar to a human uttering a sentence. "Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds," says lead author Sam Ridgway. "The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale." Belugas have also been scientifically proven to be the cutest type of whale, we're guessing. You can hear a bit of NOC imitating a human, via io9, below. [BBC News]