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Bare bones: Five human ancestors known only from a few fossils

Posted on 27 Sep 2017 in Human Origins, Journalism

Some of our ancestors are known only by the merest fossils – a toe bone here, a jaw fragment there. In those cases, it’s all we have to build the story of human evolution. But with spectacular recent finds such as Australopithecus sediba and Homo naledi, that story is starting to be rewritten in ways we never imagined. Image: James St. John

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It takes 30 seconds for your fingerprint to grip your smartphone

Posted on 25 Sep 2017 in Journalism, Physics

Your fingers take time to engage in full contact with a touchscreen. In some cases, even 30 seconds or more after placing a dry finger on the glass, your skin is still adjusting. This can lead to problems using fingerprints to access phones and getting screens to respond to your touch. Image: chadmiller

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Ultrafast lasers catch electrons relaxing after brief excitement

Posted on 15 Sep 2017 in Journalism, Physics

No one can match these electrons when it comes to relaxing. Within a few hundred attoseconds – billionths of a billionth of a second – of being hit by an X-ray pulse, they are already back where they were, sitting calmly in a low-energy state. Image: Attoelectronics Group, MPQ

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Tiny worm burrows may reveal when first complex animals evolved

Posted on 11 Sep 2017 in Animal Behaviour, Earth Science, Evolution, Journalism

A set of tiny burrows could resolve a big puzzle: how complex animals evolved and spread around the world without revealing their presence. Image: Luke Parry/Russell Garwood

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Ankle fossil suggests our ancient ancestors leapt like acrobats

Posted on 9 Sep 2017 in Animal Behaviour, Evolution, Featured, Journalism

For years, many biologists have argued that the common ancestor of all primates was a small animal that scampered along thin tree branches. Now a fossil discovered in France suggests the first primate might actually have been a bizarre monkey-like animal capable of acrobatic leaping. Image: Shinagawa

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Controversial footprints suggest we evolved in Europe not Africa

Posted on 4 Sep 2017 in Featured, Human Origins, Journalism

A set of ancient footprints has been found on a Greek island. They are extremely old – 5.7 million years – yet they seem to have been made by one of our hominin ancestors. At that time, hominins are thought to have been confined to Africa. The discovery supports the controversial suggestion that they may also have been living in eastern Europe. Image: zbigphotography

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