This is us: Earliest fossils of our
species found in Morocco
New York (AP) -
How long has our species been around? New fossils from Morocco push the
evidence back by about 100,000 years.
The bones, about
300,000 years old, were unearthed thousands of miles from the previous
record-holder, found in fossil-rich eastern Africa. The new discovery
reveals people from an early stage of our species’ evolution, with a mix
of modern and more primitive traits.
“They are not just
like us,” said Jean-Jacques Hublin, one of the scientists reporting the
find. But they had “basically the face you could meet on the train in
Coupled with other
evidence, the Moroccan fossils suggest that Homo sapiens may have
reached its modern-day form in more than one place within Africa, said
Hublin, of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in
Leipzig, Germany, and the College of France in Paris.
oldest known fossils clearly from Homo sapiens were from Ethiopia, at
about 195,000 years old.
It’s not clear just
when or where Homo sapiens came on the scene in Africa. Hublin said he
thinks an earlier stage of development preceded the one revealed by his
We evolved from
predecessors who had differently shaped skulls and often heavier builds,
but were otherwise much more like us than, say, the ape-men that came
before them. Our species lived at the same time as some related ones,
like Neanderthals, but only we survive.
Hublin and others
described the new findings in two papers released by the journal
Nature. The discovery could help illuminate how our species evolved,
Chris Stringer and Julia Galway-Witham of the Natural History Museum in
London wrote in a Nature commentary.
specimens were found between 2007 and 2011 and include a skull, a jaw
and teeth, along with stone tools. Combined with other bones that were
found there decades ago but not correctly dated, the fossil collection
represents at least five people, including young adults, an adolescent
and a child of around 8 years old. Analysis shows their brain shape was
more elongated than what people have today.
“In the last
300,000 years, the main story is the change of the brain,” Hublin said.
When these ancient
people lived, the site in Morocco was a cave that might have served as a
hunting camp, where people butchered and ate gazelles and other prey.
They used fire and their tools were made of flint from about 25 miles
So where did the
fully modern human body develop? The researchers say evidence suggests
primitive forms of Homo sapiens had already widely spread throughout
Africa by around 300,000 years ago. The different populations may have
exchanged beneficial genetic mutations and behaviors, gradually nudging
each other toward a more modern form of the species, Hublin said. In
this way, he said in an interview, modern Homo sapiens may have arisen
in more than one place.
So if there’s a
Garden of Eden, he said, it’s the continent as a whole.
Some experts who
didn’t participate in the research called that idea possible, although
not yet demonstrated. But John Shea, an anthropologist at Stony Brook
University in New York, said it’s more useful to think of the different
local populations as a single one, connected the same way a big city is
connected by subway stops.
“These are parts of
a network,” through which ideas and genes flowed, he said.
Shea said it made
sense to find such old traces of early Homo sapiens in northwestern
Africa. He agreed that it doesn’t mean our species first appeared there.
“When it comes to
evidence for human origins in northwest Africa versus eastern Africa
versus southern Africa, it’s a tie,” he wrote in an email.
Richard Potts of
the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History said
the Morocco fossils “appear to reflect the very early transition to Homo
sapiens, very possibly denoting the outset of the lineage to which all
The site is about
34 miles southeast of the coastal city of Safi, northwest of Marrakech.
Its age was determined chiefly by analyzing bits of flint found there,
and the authors concluded they were around 315,000 years old. Hublin
said that since a different method suggested a younger age for the site,
he considers the bones to be about 300,000 years old.
Richard Roberts of
the University of Woollongong in Australia, an expert in determining
ages of ancient sites, supported that conclusion.
“I’d say the
authors have presented pretty convincing evidence for the presence of
early modern humans at this site by 300,000 years ago and perhaps a
little earlier,” Roberts wrote in an email.
UN says world population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050
Edith M. Lederer
United Nations (AP) -
India’s population is expected to surpass China’s in about seven years
and Nigeria is projected to overtake the United States and become the
third most populous country in the world shortly before 2050, a U.N.
report said Wednesday, June 21.
The report by the Department of
Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division forecasts that the
current world population of nearly 7.6 billion will increase to 8.6
billion by 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100.
It said roughly 83 million people
are added to the world’s population every year and the upward trend is
expected to continue even with a continuing decline in fertility rates,
which have fallen steadily since the 1960s.
John Wilmoth, director of the
Population Division, said at a news conference that the report includes
information on the populations of 233 countries or areas of the world.
“The population in Africa is
notable for its rapid rate of growth, and it is anticipated that over
half of global population growth between now and 2050 will take place in
that region,” he said. “At the other extreme, it is expected that the
population of Europe will, in fact, decline somewhat in the coming
The U.N. agency forecasts that from
now through 2050 half the world’s population growth will be concentrated
in just nine countries - India, Nigeria, Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia,
Tanzania, United States, Uganda and Indonesia. Those nations are listed
in the order of their “expected contribution to total growth,” the
During the same period, it added,
the populations of 26 African countries are expected to at least double.
Nigeria, currently the world’s
seventh largest country, has the fastest growing population of the 10
most populous countries worldwide, and the report projects it will
surpass the U.S. shortly before mid-century.
The new projections also forecast
that China, which currently has 1.4 billion inhabitants, will be
replaced as the world’s most populous country around 2024 by India,
which now has 1.3 billion inhabitants.
The report, titled “The World
Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision,” said fertility has been
declining in nearly all regions in recent years.
Between 2010 and 2015, Wilmoth
said, “the world’s women had 2 1/2 births per woman over a lifetime -
but this number varies widely around the world.”
“Europe has the lowest fertility
level, estimated at 1.6 births per woman in the most recent period,
while Africa has the highest fertility, with around 4.7 births per
woman,” he said.
The report said birth rates in the
47 least developed countries remain relatively high, with population
growth around 2.4 percent a year. While this rate is expected to slow
significantly in the coming decades, the U.N. said the combined
population of the 47 countries is projected to increase by 33 percent
from roughly 1 billion now to 1.9 billion in 2050.
More and more countries now have
fertility rates below the level of roughly 2.1 births per woman needed
to replace the current generation, the report said. During the 2010-2015
period, fertility was below the replacement level in 83 countries
comprising 46 percent of the world’s population, it said.
The 10 most populous countries with
low fertility levels are China, United States, Brazil, Russia, Japan,
Vietnam, Germany, Iran, Thailand and United Kingdom, the report said.
In addition to slowing population
growth, low fertility levels lead to an older population, the report
noted. It forecasts that the number of people aged 60 or above will more
than double from the current 962 million to 2.1 billion in 2050 and more
than triple to 3.1 billion in 2100.
A quarter of Europe’s population is
already aged 60 or over, and that share is projected to reach 35 percent
in 2050 then remain around that level for the rest of the century, the
Launch fails for Chinese heavy-lift carrier rocket
Beijing (AP) -
A Chinese rocket launch failed on Sunday evening, July 2, due to
abnormality during the flight following what appeared to be a successful
liftoff, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
investigate the cause of the glitch for the launch of the Long March-5
Y2, China’s second heavy-lift carrier rocket, from the Wenchang Space
Launch Center in the southern province of Hainan, Xinhua said.
Video from the live
broadcast showed the rocket lifting off and shooting into the sky, with
a voice-over indicating everything was going well. It was not clear from
the live broadcast whether anything had gone wrong. It also was not
clear whether the rocket, which was carrying a communication satellite,
had entered its orbit.
Several launches of
the Long March-5 were scheduled in preparation for China’s lunar probe,
manned space station and Mars probe missions, according to Xinhua.
Sunday’s launch was to be the last drill before the rocket was to carry
a lunar probe later this year. It was not immediately clear how Sunday’s
failure will affect planned missions.
SpaceX launches 10 satellites from California air base
contrail is left as a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, left, carrying a set of
Iridium communications satellites heads skyward after being launched at
the Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., on Sunday, June 25, 2017. (AP
Falcon 9 rocket carrying a set of Iridium communications satellites
heads skyward. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
John Antczak & Christopher Weber
Los Angeles (AP)
- A SpaceX rocket carried 10 communications
satellites into orbit from California on Sunday, June 25, two days after
the company successfully launched a satellite from Florida.
The Falcon 9 rocket
blasted off through low-lying fog at 1:25 p.m. PDT from Vandenberg Air
Force Base northwest of Los Angeles. It carried a second batch of new
satellites for Iridium Communications, which is replacing its orbiting
fleet with a next-generation constellation of satellites.
About 7 minutes
after liftoff, the rocket’s first-stage booster returned to earth and
landed on a floating platform on a ship in the Pacific Ocean, while the
rocket’s second stage continued to carry the satellites toward orbit.
A SpaceX Falcon 9
on Friday launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida and boosted a
communications satellite for Bulgaria into orbit. Its first stage was
recovered after landing on a drone ship in the Atlantic.
Musk, who founded Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX, believes reusing
rocket components will bring down the cost of space launches.
Iridium plans to
put in place 75 new satellites for its mobile voice and data
communications system by mid-2018, requiring six more launches, all by
The $3 billion
effort by the McLean, Virginia, company involves complex procedures to
replace 66 operational satellites in use for many years. Some of the new
satellites will be so-called on-orbit spares, or older satellites that
remain in orbit on standby for use if the newer ones malfunction.
Swapping out and
deorbiting some old satellites has already begun, Iridium CEO Matt Desch
said in a pre-launch call with reporters.
satellites have been moved into lower orbits to use up their remaining
fuel and configure the solar panels for maximum drag so they will
re-enter the atmosphere and burn up.
The first re-entry
was believed to have occurred on June 11, Desch said.
“It’s hard to
celebrate something like that, but these satellites have put in almost
20 years of service, and making sure we’ve cleaned up after ourselves as
we deploy our new constellation is a priority,” he said.
The new satellites
also carry payloads for joint-venture Aerion’s space-based, real-time
tracking and surveillance of aircraft around the globe, which has
implications for efficiency, economy and safety - especially in remote
airspace over the oceans.
“This will truly be
a revolutionary aspect of air-traffic control,” said Aireon CEO Don
which requires aircraft to be equipped with certain equipment, is
undergoing testing involving eight of the initial batch of Iridium NEXT
The Iridium NEXT
program also will bring an end to so-called “Iridium flares,” which
space enthusiasts have observed for years. The new satellites will not
create visible flashes of reflected sunlight as they passed overhead.
Trump’s claim that US is cleanest lacks support from studies
worker listens to radio parked next to a billboard promoting environment
protection with the slogan “Environment protection starts from you and me”
on display in Beijing. U.S. President Donald Trump said the United States
“will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country
on Earth”. But facts muddy that claim. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Washington (AP) - President
Donald Trump said the United States “will continue to be the cleanest and
most environmentally friendly country on Earth” as he announced a U.S.
pullout from an international accord designed to curb climate change.
But facts muddy that claim.
Data show that the U.S. is among the
dirtiest countries when it comes to heat-trapping carbon pollution. One
nation that has cleaner air in nearly every way is Sweden.
“The U.S. is well behind other
countries in having the cleanest and most sustainable environment,”
University of Michigan environmental scientist Rosina Bierbaum said in an
The U.S. emits more carbon dioxide than
any other nation except China. In 2014, the U.S. spewed 237 times more
carbon dioxide into the air than Sweden, according to figures by the U.S.
Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
“On pretty much any climate-related
indicator, the U.S. will not look good,” said Glen Peters, a Norwegian
climate scientist who is part of the Global Carbon Project that ranks
The U.S. is No. 2 in per person carbon
dioxide pollution, behind Luxembourg, among 35 developed nations plus China,
India and Brazil, Energy Department data show. That’s 19.1 tons (17.3 metric
tons) of carbon dioxide per year for the average American, compared with 4.9
tons (4.5 metric tons) for the average Swede.
Taking into account economics, the U.S.
ranks 10th highest in carbon pollution per gross domestic product behind
China, India, Russia, Estonia, Poland, South Korea, the Czech Republic,
Mexico and Turkey, according to the International Energy Agency. The U.S.
spews almost five times more carbon dioxide per dollar in the economy than
Because carbon dioxide stays in the
atmosphere for more than a century, scientists and regulators say it’s more
important to look at historical emissions. Since 1870, the U.S. has produced
about one-quarter of the world’s carbon dioxide - twice as much as China -
and that makes it the biggest polluter in the world by far, Peters said.
In some traditional air pollution
measurements, the United States is cleaner than most nations, said William
K. Reilly, who headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under
Republican President George H.W. Bush.
But “when the problem he is dealing
with is carbon dioxide, we are notably not better than the rest of the
world,” said Reilly, adding that Trump is “just wrong.”
The U.S. is better than most of the
world when it comes to dangerous soot or fine particles. Among
industrialized countries, the U.S. tied for sixth cleanest, according to the
Health Effects Institute.
It’s also tied for sixth smoggiest in
the world with Turkey, according to the institute.
“There are a number of countries that
have cleaner air in terms of major industrial nations. We are certainly in
the top core,” said Dan Greenbaum, the group’s president. “Clearly,
countries like China and India are much, much worse than we are.”
The U.S. leads in helping people fight
for a clean environment by having laws and procedures that allow citizens to
sue to enforce pollution protections and get information, said Princeton
University climate scientist and international affairs professor Michael
Other countries are far ahead of the
U.S. in cleaner energy, especially Germany, which on occasion is fueled
fully by renewables, Oppenheimer said.
Reilly, the former EPA head, recalled
how the U.S. took environmental leadership 25 years ago this month as it
became the first industrial country to ratify the first climate treaty.
“Now we turn the page,” Reilly said.
“We’ll see where it goes.”
Interactive on temperature deviation
and global emissions: