Sunday, March 3, 2013

astro video for the day/Sibudu cave

Video Credit: Solar Dynamics Observatory, SVS, GSFC, NASA;

I recall mentioning this before; that archaeologists recently pushed back the dates of the flowering of art and technology from around thirty thousand to a hundred thousand years ago.  What they mean is a significant increase of art and technology above stone flakes for technology.  For more than a decade, physical anthropologists and archaeologists(they kind of meld together as the archaeologists push back further and further into time) has observed that each significant Bipedal primate that evolved towards Homo Sapiens started in Africa first and then spread out; first, it was Homo Erectus and then of course Homo Sapiens who started spreading out around two hundred thousand years ago. In this light, the latest archaeological findings of a cultural flowering a hundred thousand years ago also started in Africa - in fact in South Africa/Sibudu cave.

This now archaeological site found a number of significant technological advances - the use of fire to make a glue to hold spear tips and perhaps more amazing of all, mosquito repellant mats. Nothing more needs to be said about how amazing that is.

Archaeologists and physical anthropologists can't resist trying to say what clues this Sibudu culture has for when and how come Homo Sapiens became so much more technological than other life on earth. This idea seems pretty interesting.  The suggestion is that with a higher population, you have more people experiencing more things.  In the Sibudu cave, this is what they found; they found a culture that had a population increase.  Further study shows that the cave painters of thirty thousand years in Europe also experienced a significant population increase.  The fact that we have two cultures that experienced increase in technological ability but had to happen again around thirty thousand years ago can be explained by the ice ages.  The ice ages could have caused a little bit of a dark ages.

This correspondence between population size and the creation and combination of every more complex ideas is interesting from a mathematical viewpoint. People tend to grow up in a given culture and take on that culture; hence, an increase of population can increase the different cultural or technological ability of a given society. Life in general can be viewed as a technology; a technology to swim; a technology to fly, and technology to exist in hot or cold environments.  Also some life/technologies are to forage; others are to hunt.   Some life/technologies take in the suns rays and make oxygen; others take in that oxygen and put out carbon dioxide. Well, this idea of correspondence between population size and creation of new ideas is on a population of Homo Sapiens level.  Marvin Minsky is famous for his "Society of Mind" idea; that our brains are a collection of ideas(technologies) that influence and even compete with one another.  The archaeologists championing this idea are saying that well, its not how smart you are, it's who you know.  I'd say it's both; but, maybe back then, when most people didn't have time to do all the experiments in the world, it was more who you knew. Mathematics would come in from the society of mind in a given individual(and with taking in knowledge from previous people; one could argue that language was invented to preserve and communicate this wealth of new ideas).

Let me just say that, in general, a given technology solves a particular problem.  A given key unlocks a given lock.  All the life/technologies for billions of years generaly only existed to solve one problem; after they accomplish their work, they often die by some other technologies/life who's purpose was to solve the problem of keeping that other life in check; this is called an ecosystem. But, Homo Sapiens became the general lifeform; the key that could unlock more than one lock.  Mathematics is ultimately the main technology that unlocks any lock in general.

No comments:

Post a Comment