Rohan Byrne4 April 2018
Roughly 9,000 years ago, somewhere around the Tehuacan Valley of present-day Mexico, a common local wildgrass began an extraordinary transformation. It probably started by accident: local foragers favouring those plants with larger, looser seeds, and inadvertently spreading them through their waste. But it wasn’t long before humans made art out of chance and began deliberately selecting the best grasses to sow—and unwittingly became the world’s first genetic engineers.
If you’ve caught the last ten minutes of the news any time in the past six weeks, you may have noticed that Hawai’i is on fire. The culprit is Kilauea, one of the tropical island’s five volcanoes: a diminutive creature huddled on the east flank of the mighty Mauna Loa, and a remorseless slayer of volcanologists.
Rohan Byrne looks at the physics behind the tactic
Any first-year psych student knows the story. A mouse is placed in a box with two levers. One delivers food on demand—the other, cocaine. Come back five days later and you will find the outcome is always the same: having tasted euphoria, the mouse has starved itself to death.
Rohan Byrne on the bizarre natural experiment of Hawaii’s aborted doomsday
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