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Oldest-Known Human Brain Discovered

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the does-not-belong-to-hans-delbrueck dept.

Science 74

Smivs writes "The BBC report that archaeologists have found what could be Britain's oldest surviving human brain. The team, excavating a York University site, discovered a skull containing a yellow substance which scans showed to be shrunken, but brain-shaped. Brains consist of fatty tissue which microbes in the soil would absorb, so neurologists believe the find could be some kind of fossilised brain. More tests will now be done to establish what it is actually made of. The skull was discovered during an exploratory dig at Heslington Eastin, an area of extensive prehistoric farming landscape of fields, trackways and buildings dating back to at least 300 BC."

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Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (5, Funny)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090223)

What the heck? The brain isn't *dead*!?!?!?

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (4, Funny)

MilesAttacca (1016569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090249)

Researchers could not be reached for further comments regarding the possibility of a zombie outbreak.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (3, Funny)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090297)

Actually, there were found, but didn't say much . Just kept walking slowly forward and saying Braaaaaaainnnnsss

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (4, Funny)

neomunk (913773) | more than 5 years ago | (#26092109)

And I always thought that meant they were hungry... Turns out that they, like O.J., just wanted their property back.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (3, Insightful)

tmosley (996283) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091201)

Afterwards, reporters could not be reached for comment on the lack of comments from the researchers.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090279)

"Surviving" as in "intact".

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (3, Funny)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090317)

Glad you cleared that for me! ;-) Oh, wait, patent infringement. Let use :-) instead

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090635)

You mean trademark. ;-) .. shit! (=_=)

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26090961)

Yes, most English speakers would eventually understand that. Grandparent wasn't entirely serious. But using the word "surviving" meaning "intact" when referring to something once living is just wrong, which is GP's major point.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (2, Informative)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 5 years ago | (#26093555)

Sigh,
      It is not "just wrong." It might be slighted shortened to a conversational form. But I assure you, the definition has been around for 100-500 years.

From the Oxford english dictionary:
Survive,
1. a. intr. To continue to live after the death of another...to remain alive, live on.

1b: transf. To continue to exist after some person, thing, or event; to last on.

In this context, unless the brain is from a zombie, I would draw your attention to accepted definition 1b. Even you should be able to infer what the writer is trying to say.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26096163)

Yes, but if definition 1b (above) is what is meant, then it is unnecessary. If it was found then it can be inferred that it survived.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097113)

Except in the case of upon discovery it disintegrated, in which opposite case it continues to... endure.

A shame they'll likely start sectioning it and shaving off layers to examine it long before we develop the technology to read the experiences encoded therein.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (5, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090315)

Well, it's at least revivable.

The problem is that it belonged to some fellow named Ab Normal.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (1)

elgatozorbas (783538) | more than 5 years ago | (#26105639)

For those who don't know the reference [imdb.com] .

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (2, Informative)

SputnikPanic (927985) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090921)

How about "oldest extant human brain"?

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (1)

AragornSonOfArathorn (454526) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097317)

It's like that severed tongue floating in a jar they found a few years ago. It wouldn't die, it just grew and pulsated and gave birth to baby tongues. Pretty cool, huh?

This is the same thing. Put it in a jar and it will grow and pulsate and give birth to baby brains.

Re:Oldest *surviving* human brain!? (1)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 5 years ago | (#26097681)

When I read the headline I thought this was some sort of McCain joke.

shrunken (2, Funny)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090227)

It's not fossilized, it just belongs to a [$PROFESSION|$POLITICAL_PARTY].

Re:shrunken (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090247)

... wha? Am I first or what?

Re:shrunken (3, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090475)

What?

Re:shrunken (2, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090559)

I was actually waiting for a few jokes revolving around "they saved"+$celebrity+"'s brain", but no hit so far either.

Re:shrunken (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091219)

"The researchers have contacted John McCain and fully intend to return the brain to him."

Re:shrunken (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091437)

Ah, no... it's not John McCain's.

It's George W. Bush's. His brain has been in the UK all along. Occam's Razor -- it goes a long way to explaining a great deal.

Re:shrunken (1)

CptNerd (455084) | more than 5 years ago | (#26092787)

Sounds like an advertisement: "It goes a long way to explain a great deal"...on used brains! I guess a brain dealer named "Crazy Eddie" wouldn't be very good, though...

Re:shrunken (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26093391)

Bah. Saying you've found George W. Bush's brain is the same as saying you've found Dick Cheney's heart.

Re:shrunken (1)

phorm (591458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091763)

No, they also found a shrunken heart which they attribute to the owner being either a politician/lawyer.

The brain they believe may have belonged to a early **professional athlete, and it's lasted for quite a long time because it apparently wasn't used much :-)

**disclaimer: Humor intended, I actually know some fairly smart athletes

Re:shrunken (1)

Chrisje (471362) | more than 5 years ago | (#26100939)

Hey man, if you explain the Joke ad nauseam it ain't funny anymore.

You ever see Eddie Murphy explain that he actually knew Jamaicans with Normal Dicks (TM)? Or did you ever see Richard Pryor explain he actually knew some black people that couldn't outrun a dobermann? Should have more faith in your joke. Tsk tsk... it was a perfectly fine joke. Until that American Disclaimer popped up.

Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26090263)

Now, can I have it back?

Re:Thanks (4, Funny)

danieltdp (1287734) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090335)

That explains a lot. They found Anonymous Coward's brain!

Re:Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26091913)

Great, now put it back in the ground. Can't you see it hasn't sprouted, yet? You can dig it up in the summer after I harvest the brain crop.

Dear Mr. Cheney. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26090349)

We will get it back to you as soon as we are done with it.

Sincerely

York University

Yeah right... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26090331)

Carbon-14 dating is the standard method used by scientists to determine the age of certain fossilized remains. As scientists will often claim something to be millions or billions of years old (ages that do not conform to the Biblical account of the age of the earth), Christians are often left wondering about the accuracy of the carbon-14 method. The truth is, carbon-14 dating (or radiocarbon dating, as itâ(TM)s also called) is not a precise dating method in many cases, due to faulty assumptions and other limitations on this method.

Carbon has a weight of twelve atomic mass units (AMUâ(TM)s), and is the building block of all organic matter (plants and animals). A small percentage of carbon atoms have an atomic weight of 14 AMUâ(TM)s. This is carbon-14. Carbon-14 is an unstable, radioactive isotope of carbon 12. As with any radioactive isotope, carbon-14 decays over time. The half-life of carbon 14 is approximate 5,730 years. That means if you took one pound of 100 percent carbon-14, in 5,730 years, you would only have half a pound left.

Carbon-14 is created in the upper atmosphere as nitrogen atoms are bombarded by cosmic radiation. For every one trillion carbon-12 atoms, you will find one carbon-14 atoms. The carbon-14 that results from the reaction caused by cosmic radiation quickly changes to carbon dioxide, just like normal carbon-12 would. Plants utilize, or âoebreath inâ carbon dioxide, then ultimately release oxygen for animals to inhale. The carbon-14 dioxide is utilized by plants in the same way normal carbon dioxide is. This carbon-14 dioxide then ends up in humans and other animals as it moves up the food chain.

There is then a ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12 in the bodies of plants, humans, and other animals that can fluctuate, but will be fixed at the time of death. After death, the carbon-14 would begin to decay at the rate stated above. In 1948, Dr. W.F. Libby introduced the carbon-14 dating method at the University of Chicago. The premise behind the method is to determine the ratio of carbon-14 left in organic matter, and by doing so, estimate how long ago death occurred by running the ratio backwards. The accuracy of this method, however, relies on several faulty assumptions.

First, for carbon-14 dating to be accurate, one must assume the rate of decay of carbon-14 has remained constant over the years. However, evidence indicates that the opposite is true. Experiments have been performed using the radioactive isotopes of uranium-238 and iron-57, and have shown that rates can and do vary. In fact, changing the environments surrounding the samples can alter decay rates.

The second faulty assumption is that the rate of carbon-14 formation has remained constant over the years. There are a few reasons to believe this assumption is erroneous. The industrial revolution greatly increased the amount of carbon-12 released into the atmosphere through the burning of coal. Also, the atomic bomb testing around 1950 caused a rise in neutrons, which increased carbon-14 concentrations. The great flood which Noah and family survived would have uprooted and/or buried entire forests. This would decrease the release of carbon-12 to the atmosphere through the decay of vegetation.

Third, for carbon-14 dating to be accurate, the concentrations of carbon-14 and carbon-12 must have remained constant in the atmosphere. In addition to the reasons mentioned in the previous paragraph, the flood provides another evidence that this is a faulty assumption. During the flood, subterranean water chambers that were under great pressure would have been breached. This would have resulted in an enormous amount of carbon-12 being released into the oceans and atmosphere. The effect would be not unlike opening a can of soda and having the carbon dioxide fizzing out. The water in these subterranean chambers would not have contained carbon-14, as the water was shielded from cosmic radiation. This would have upset the ratio of carbon-14 to carbon-12.

To make carbon-14 dating work, Dr. Libby also assumed that the amount of carbon-14 being presently produced had equaled the amount of carbon-12 â" he assumed that they had reached a balance. The formation of carbon-14 increases with time, and at the time of creation was probably at or near zero. Since carbon-14 is radioactive, it begins to decay immediately as itâ(TM)s formed. If you start with no carbon-14 in the atmosphere, it would take over 50,000 years for the amount being produced to reach equilibrium with the amount decaying. One of the reasons we know that the earth is less than 50,000 years old is because of the biblical record. Another reason we can know this is because the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere is only 78% what it would be if the earth were old.

Finally, Dr. Libby and the evolutionist crowd have assumed that all plant and animal life utilize carbon-14 equally as they do carbon-12. To be grammatically crass, this ainâ(TM)t necessarily so. Live mollusks off the Hawaiian coast have had their shells dated with the carbon-14 method. These test showed that the shells died 2000 years ago! This news came as quite a shock to the mollusks that had been using those shells until just recently.

Weâ(TM)ve listed five faulty assumptions here that have caused overestimates of age using the carbon-14 method. The list of non-compliant dates from this method is endless. Most evolutionists today would conclude that carbon-14 dating is â" at best â" reliable for only the last 3000 to 3500 years. There is another reason that carbon-14 dating has yielded questionable results â" human bias.

If youâ(TM)ve ever been part of a medical study, youâ(TM)re probably familiar with the terms âoeblind studyâ and âoedouble-blind studyâ. In a blind study, using carbon-14 dating for example, a person would send in a few quality control samples along with the actual sample to the laboratory. The laboratory analyst should not know which sample is the one of interest. In this way, the analyst could not introduce bias into the dating of the actual sample. In a double-blind study (using an experimental drug study as an example), some patients will be given the experimental drug, while others will be given a placebo (a harmless sugar pill). Neither the patients nor the doctors while know who gets what. This provides an added layer of protection against bias.

Radiocarbon dates that do not fit a desired theory are often excluded by alleging cross-contamination of the sample. In this manner, an evolutionist can present a sample for analysis, and tell the laboratory that he assumes the sample to be somewhere between 50,000 years old and 100,000 years old. Dates that do not conform to this estimate are thrown out. Repeated testing of the sample may show nine tests that indicate an age of 5000 to 10,000 years old, and one test that shows an age of 65,000 years old. The nine results showing ages that do not conform to the pre-supposed theory are excluded. This is bad science, and it is practiced all the time to fit with the evolutionary model.

The Shroud of Turin, claimed to be the burial cloth of Christ, was supposedly dated by a blind test. Actually, the control specimens were so dissimilar that the technicians at the three laboratories making the measurements could easily tell which specimen was from the Shroud. This would be like taking a piece of wood and two marbles and submitting them to the lab with the instructions that âoeone of these is from an ancient ponderosa pine, guess which.â The test would have been blind if the specimens had been reduced to carbon powder before they were given to the testing laboratories. Humans are naturally biased. We tend to see what we want to see, and explain away unwanted data.

Perhaps the best description of the problem in attempting to use the Carbon-14 dating method is to be found in the words of Dr. Robert Lee. In 1981, he wrote an article for the Anthropological Journal of Canada, in which stated:

        "The troubles of the radiocarbon dating method are undeniably deep and serious. Despite 35 years of technological refinement and better understanding, the underlying assumptions have been strongly challenged, and warnings are out that radiocarbon may soon find itself in a crisis situation. Continuing use of the method depends on a fix-it-as-we-go approach, allowing for contamination here, fractionation there, and calibration whenever possible. It should be no surprise then, that fully half of the dates are rejected. The wonder is, surely, that the remaining half has come to be acceptedâ¦. No matter how useful it is, though, the radiocarbon method is still not capable of yielding accurate and reliable results. There are gross discrepancies, the chronology is uneven and relative, and the accepted dates are actually the selected dates.â

The accuracy of carbon-14 dating relies on faulty assumptions, and is subject to human bias. At best, radiocarbon dating is only accurate for the past few thousand years. As weâ(TM)ve seen though, even relatively youthful samples are often dated incorrectly. The Biblical record gives us an indication of an earth that is relatively young. The most reliable use of radiocarbon dating supports that position. This method of dating, overall, tends to be as faulty and ill conceived as the evolutionary model that is was designed to support.

[citation needed] (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090617)

[citation needed]

Re:Yeah right... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Scoured (1088093) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090965)

I think we found the owner.

Re:Yeah right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26091927)

Bloviating troll bloviates.

Re:Yeah right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26093337)

We tend to see what we want to see, and explain away unwanted data.

umm, so yeah...

its not fossilized brain (4, Funny)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090341)

its fruitcake

its hard to tell the difference without a good sniff

and besides, if you wanted to make sure it wasn't trotted out again for another christmas, wouldn't you hide it some place disageeable and avoidable like a skull too?

Re:its not fossilized brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26091313)

its hard to tell the difference without a good sniff

True - but once you do, it's easy. The 2300 year-old fossilized brain will smell much better.

so many geriatric jokes, so little time (2, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090361)

Oldest brain? Fossilized? I wouldn't even know where to begin.

Leave it alone! (3, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090433)

Leave it alone! We don't want to rouse the oldest known zombie!

Good news, everyone! (1)

illegalcortex (1007791) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090521)

Let's just hope it was "fast fossilized."

Zombies (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090523)

Cue the Zombie jokes now...

Mmmmmm... brain jerky!

Re:Zombies (2, Funny)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091195)

This is an outrage! I was going to eat that mummy.

Re:Zombies (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091229)

This obviously was the inedible part of the brain. I guess akin to the bones in chicken.

It's British....can you say (2, Funny)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090553)

28 centuries later? I just got a really bad feeling about that in my stomach. After Reign Of Fire, that title is possible....

That happens to me all the time. (2, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090855)

Some mornings I wake up and after opening a book and looking at the text, I get suspicious that someone has stolen my brain when I was sleeping and replaced it with a shrunken, but brain-shaped substance. Coffee usually inflates it again. Where do I apply as an archaeological object?

Re:That happens to me all the time. (2, Funny)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090987)

Where do I apply as an archaeological object?

Well, there's rather a lengthy waiting time to get it sorted out, but it can be done with some careful planning. :-P

Cheers

Re:That happens to me all the time. (1)

malkir (1031750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26093247)

...but it can be done with some careful planning. :-P

Copyright infringement!

Re:That happens to me all the time. (1)

smithmc (451373) | more than 5 years ago | (#26116743)

You should apply as a Mentat. "It is by caffeine alone that I set my mind in motion..." and all that.

Wow... (1)

dfdashh (1060546) | more than 5 years ago | (#26090981)

I didn't know Larry King had ever even been to the UK.

mccain (1)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091165)

When I read the title I thought this was going to be another McCain joke.

ziiiiiiiing! (1)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091341)

I thought the McCain jokes would be done with after the election.

Ritual Offering (4, Funny)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091425)

FTFA:

The archaeologists believe the skull, which was found on its own in a muddy pit, may have been a ritual offering.

Perhaps we should do the same for our U.S. banking and automotive executives who can't manage their companies properly.

Instead of a multi-million dollar golden parachute we take their heads and throw them into the nearest bog.

Einstein (1)

ndansmith (582590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091631)

Anyone else find it fitting that the icon for the Science section is Einstein [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Einstein (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26091943)

Yep, it's been fitting for several years now.

Re:Einstein (1)

ndansmith (582590) | more than 5 years ago | (#26098285)

Well, it's a brain thing. But whatever.

Heslington Eastin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26091713)

As a student of York University I would've thought I'd have heard of such a place. Instead, we have the much less weirdly names Heslington East, where first year archeology excavate stuff for half a year. And second year archeology students bury same stuff in the other half of the year.

Prehistoric? (2, Insightful)

Thunderstruck (210399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26091991)

"The skull was discovered during an exploratory dig at Heslington Eastin, an area of extensive prehistoric farming landscape of fields, trackways and buildings dating back to at least 300 BC."

Wait, when did 300 BC become prehistoric?

Re:Prehistoric? (5, Informative)

aproposofwhat (1019098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26092377)

it is in the UK - writing was very uncommon until the Romans came and 'civilised' us.

Re:Prehistoric? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26093397)

History doesn't require writing. Look at Iceland.

Re:Prehistoric? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26093273)

Well, considering that the Earth is only 6,000 years old, 300 BC is pretty far back.

Re:Prehistoric? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26093629)

One of the ways it's used (depending on field) is as denoting prior to recorded history.

It's one of those terms you can't take literally.

Re:Prehistoric? (1)

Thunderstruck (210399) | more than 5 years ago | (#26095585)

Obviously, it's not to be taken literally. He's referring to any purveyor of dairy products.

Oldest? (1)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 5 years ago | (#26092133)

How about a 3200 year old mummy brain?
warning: pdf link http://www.ajronline.org/cgi/reprint/189/2/W105.pdf [ajronline.org]

Re:Oldest? (1)

Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) | more than 5 years ago | (#26092923)

Extend the hyperlink one word to the left (across "Britain's ...") and it makes sense.

FWIW, pictures!:
http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/presspr/pressreleases/brainscan_images.htm [york.ac.uk]

and the Uni press release:
http://www.york.ac.uk/admin/presspr/pressreleases/skull.htm [york.ac.uk]

Wait and See (0, Offtopic)

guyminuslife (1349809) | more than 5 years ago | (#26092341)

Fact: My roommate's dog has brain-shaped droppings.

family guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26092739)

Anyone else reminded of the episode of Family Guy where Peter digs up the native-american skull?

Before we know it, half of europe is gonna be stuck in Meg's ass

Re:family guy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26093049)

Anyone else reminded of the episode of Family Guy where Peter digs up the native-american skull?

No, I don't watch that crap.

Re:family guy (1)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 5 years ago | (#26099479)

Anyone else reminded of the episode of Family Guy where Peter digs up the native-american skull?

No, I don't watch that crap.

He's too busy reading this crap and then adding his own crap to the pile.

Why do you eat people? (1)

davidsyes (765062) | more than 5 years ago | (#26093367)

TorsoWoman: Not PEEEpuhl... BRAAAINS-suh... (spine tapping on table)
Mortician, quizzically: Why do you eat... brains?
TW: It makes the PAIN go AWAY...
M: baffled: Pain? What pain is that?
TW: The PAIN of BEING DEAD...
M: Hwuh, I guess it HURTS to be DEAD...
TW: I.. can feel myself rotting... away... (moans) Brains, brains brains brains brains......(spine tapping on table, rapidly)

Piltdown man (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26093581)

Next they will say it belongs to Piltdown man!

They found... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26096189)

Larry King?

Pickled (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26102061)

As TFA says, "The skull was discovered in an area of extensive prehistoric farming".
The high correlation between the emerge of cultivation and early experimentation with fermentation, especially in Celtic societies, is well documented.
Additional evidence from TFA in that the site was a York University site and that the subject had no skin on the skull supports the hypothesis that the subject was an early British university student of the skinhead genre who consumed a fatal quantity of alcohol, pickling his brain.

Not the World's Oldest (1)

lionaire (1430891) | more than 5 years ago | (#26104507)

While this may be the oldest brain in Britain, (at 300 BC) it's not the world's oldest by a long shot. The oldest intact brains in the world come from paleo-indian skulls found in an anoxic sinkhole in Florida. Discovered by freshwater divers, archeologists were shocked to find soft brain tissue almost 9000 years old within some of the skulls. These unique brains had shrunk to half their normal size, but were otherwise intact, with easily recognizable neurons and clone-able DNA. Some brain tissue also survives in approx 30% of the crania of the Chinchurro mummies (dating from 1800BCE-5000BCE).
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