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Ten Things We Still Don't Understand About Humans

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the why-do-they-like-will-ferrell-movies dept.

Science 397

ParticleGirl writes "New Scientist has an article examining 10 human features (bugs?) that we still don't understand, like blushing, laughing, and nose-picking. There are some interesting, speculative evolutionary explanations listed for each. '[Psychologist Robert R. Provine] thinks laughing began in our pre-human ancestors as a physiological response to tickling. Modern apes maintain the ancestral 'pant-pant' laugh when they are tickled during play, and this evolved into the human 'ha-ha.' Then, he argues, as our brains got bigger, laughter acquired a powerful social function — to bond people. Indeed, Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford has found that laughing increases levels of endorphins, our body's natural opiates, which he believes helps to strengthen social relationships.'"

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Nose picking? (5, Insightful)

18_Rabbit (663482) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992307)

What's not to understand? It clears the nose!

Re:Nose picking? (4, Insightful)

Kokuyo (549451) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992321)

And is so much less uncomfortable than blowing your nose.

Re:Nose picking? (5, Insightful)

Abstrackt (609015) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992383)

And it dislodges whatever blowing your nose couldn't.

Re:Nose picking? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992791)

And it dislodges whatever blowing your nose couldn't.

This one morning... I had one of those hard, pointy bits of dried mucus in my nose, I had to pull it out, the poking was painful. It was firmly glued to the side of my nose, and I ended up pulling out a long strand that felt like it had been filling up a sinus cavity all the way across my cheekbone. It felt like my head was 5 pounds lighter after that! It was magical, I tell you.

How about Titanic conspiracies... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992825)

Like this one...

In 1912, the far looking director of the Black Star Line, Ernest Borgnine, decided to build three ships that looked like his dick. To reinforce how large he thought his wanker was, he named the three Olympic (as his dick could compete in the Olympics and win), Titanic, and Gigantic (later renamed Britannic as he was castrated for his involvement in the sinking of Titanic) As was the fashion at the time, the boat was made of marshmallow with Graham cracker reinforcements and holes in the side for the oars, chocolate and cannon mounts. Due to the extreme lightness of the marshmallow, the ship was pronounced "unsinkable" (which is a strange way to say "Titanic", but the English have odd accents).

Later that year, the Titanic made its maiden voyage (the maidens were to be delivered to Afghanistan to be sold into slavery. It is thought that the fact that Afghanistan is land-locked may have contributed to the ship's demise). The voyage took it past the Bermuda Triangle (often thought to have caused the downfall of Vanilla Ice), which is known for its abundance of crayfish. These crayfish eat plankton, krill, the occasional local native, and manganese nodules which are found on the seabed. Manganese is a ferromagnetic substance, which is why most of the crayfish are magnetised (this is why you find them in large conga lines at the bottom of the ocean). Occasionally, these lines of crayfish double back on themselves, and create loops. Once these get up to speed, the rotating magnetic field can cause significant inductive heating and structural failure in nearby metal. Unfortunately, the Titanic was floating over one of these so called "lobster twirls", the structural supports gave way, and the marshmallow collapsed into the water. People say that the surrounding water was syrupy for days.

The prospect of there ever being a 'Titanic II' - alternative titles included 'The Ship That Wouldn't Sink' and 'The Boobtaculous Adventures of Kate Winslet and her Gay, Monkey-Loving Matey Leo' - is scarce since both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were killed in a double-murder-suicide after Leo caught Kate making out with director James Cameron. Suffice to say, the movie industry has lost three truly great idiots.

...or these ones...

Many people believe that it was in fact the TARDIS that sank the Titanic though she was not badly damaged the sinking was as many survivors say was done by an extremely fat retard who was weighing down the front of the ship by trying to look out for jam filled cream pies that had floated down from the polo mint icing sugar caps and in stead of jumping for the ice burg he go the cream pies.

Kate Winslet and Barbara Stanwyck had both fallen in love with Leonardo DiCaprio and were fighting on the main deck rolling over and over, first one on top of the other then the other - they crashed into the Wheel Room - Kate Winslet was sitting on top of Barbara repeatedly bashing her. This distracted the staff in the engine room. While pulling Kate off Barbara they failed to steer clear of the Iceberg. The fight continued as the Captain and crew struggled to deal with the aftermath, it went into the Marconi room - Barbara threw 2 of her stilettos, one of which took out a Marconi Wireless operator. Kate then let rip some dreadful fartium which put the only other person able to operate the Marconi into a coma. The fight ended as Barbara was thrown into the engine, which exploded. On her way back Kate bumped into Leonardo, who started banging her. It was so vigorous that they breached one of the bulkheads damaged in the collision with the iceberg, and the Titanic went down.

Re:Nose picking? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992375)

And let's not forget how much fun it is. Not to mention how it drives the ladies wild.

Re:Nose picking? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992415)

No, we do it because it tastes great

Re:Nose picking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992753)

No, because it's less filling!

Re:Nose picking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992423)

But TFA assumes we eat our snot after!

Re:Nose picking? (3, Funny)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992473)

Aye. And it happens in children who are still not coordinated enough to figure out HOW to blow their nose. I'd love to get some grant money to study that...

Re:Nose picking? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992671)

If you claim that children who pick their noses contributes to global warming somehow, you will get all of the funding you want.

Re:Nose picking? (1)

Q-Hack! (37846) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992823)

Think of the children!

Re:Nose picking? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992517)

That's exactly what it is for. As mentioned above, even kids do it instinctively.

The mucus in the nose protects the soft tissue and captures lots of bacteria and other germs. That stuff needs cleaned out every once in a while and blowing your nose can not get all that encrusted stuff out. You want rotting bacteria in your nose?

Re:Nose picking? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992659)

Personally I think the nose and the nasal passages are undergoing some of the fastest evolution of any part of the body right now. You see a huge variation in nose shape around the world, and I don't know about you but personally my nose is one of the most annoying parts of my body, not allowing enough air through and often getting clogged, sometimes running, sometimes bleeding for no reason, and getting boogers (there must be a technical term, please enlighten me). I often wonder if people with different-shaped noses have the same problems I do, or if these problems are solved in the nose designs of other races.

Re:Nose picking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992907)

Variation doesn't imply evolution. Selecting out bad versions of the nose is what would cause evolution. Are you suggesting we not have children with people who get bloody noses?

Re:Nose picking? (5, Funny)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992713)

Obligatory:
Why do gorillas have such big nostrils?

Because they have big fingers.

Re:Nose picking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992799)

Actually, if you RTFA, you would see they are not referring to the first act of picking, but the second act of how some people dispose of it.

Re:Nose picking? (4, Informative)

Ozan (176854) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992959)

I think the author equates nose picking with eating one's boogers, Mucophagy [wikipedia.org] . I would really like to know why people do THAT.

As for nose-picking itself, since humans are dry-nosed primates, drying of mucus in the nose is natural and cleaning it out is as well.

#1 (0, Redundant)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992309)

The desire to be first

Re:#1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992323)

Desire to be first does not apply /everywhere/

Re:#1 (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992327)

The desire to be first

And the crushing despair that follows when one fails.

at what point did humans turn nigger/white etc (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992329)

why are we niggers and white? wasn't there only 1 color in the beginning?

Re:at what point did humans turn nigger/white etc (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992391)

Yes. When God created us, we were all black. Then the devil came along and caused some of us to degenerate and loose colour.

Re:at what point did humans turn nigger/white etc (0, Troll)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992483)

I adore this post.

Re:at what point did humans turn nigger/white etc (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992761)

BEST comeback ever.

Missed one: (5, Funny)

ninjapiratemonkey (968710) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992337)

Women.

Re:Missed one: (3, Funny)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992409)

It has already been understood. Women are da debbil, like that foosball.

Missed another pair: Teh goat guy and tubgirl (0, Offtopic)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992653)

Not that we want to know the why of what they do ... and pity anyone who ends up with that as a research assignment. "Today, I have to interview this really big asshole - no, not Rush Limbaugh - and if you thing THAT's shitty, you ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Re:Missed one: (1)

gbarules2999 (1440265) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992785)

You should be glad there aren't any members of the fairer sex on Slashdot. You'd get your ass kicked.

Re:Missed one: (4, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992881)

You don't. I do. In fact I changed from your point of view to being able to not only understand how women think but sometimes even play on their motivations like on a piano. Nice side effect: Works on men too! :) But of course, any unfair manipulation is completely out of question. Analog to "white hat hacking".

But for you I have one single rule that you have to burn into your brain like your life would depend on it:
It's not important what you say, but how you say it. Or more general, how it feels.

This works while flirting, in every day communication, when arguing, when she asks if she looks fat, in creating a situation that will make her hot, etc, etc, etc.
You can walk up to a girl, and literally say the biggest crap. If it creates the right feeling in her, it will work.
That's why pickup lines are completely use- and pointless.

Politicians and especially advertisers are professionals in this too. Because it works on the more "basic" emotional brain. (Which really is not "simpler" than logic, but just another kind of intelligence.)

Never forgetting that single thing will help you more than any stupid relationship-help book. (Ok, I guess most of these include this nowadays.)

Re:Missed one: (4, Insightful)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992901)

Oh, I forgot: Of course I meant "how it feels for her"! Which means you have to listen to your emotional brain. Something that goes a bit against the stereotype of the cool western male, but in the end will make you a more manly man. (Protip: You still don't have to actually show all of those emotions. ^^)

Re:Missed one: (1)

ninjapiratemonkey (968710) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992963)

All nice and well, but that's still not understanding women. You just have the operators manual. It's similar to knowing how to drive a car, or knowing that you can run. Most people can (somewhat) drive, but they probably couldn't tell you how it worked. They can give you an explanation like "the gas goes through the pipes to the engine and then it goes vroom!", but they won't understand how it works. It just does; much like your explanation on how you understand women. You don't. You simply know how to push the buttons in the right way to get them to do what you want.

Re:Missed one: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992949)

RTFA, it's about things we don't understand in *humans*.

OW OW OW OW OW OW OW STOP IT. I was kidding, I'm not going to post it.

Or why people still take ... (4, Insightful)

Charles Dodgeson (248492) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992377)

... the New Sensationalist [newscientist.com] seriously as a science magazine.

(Fine, mod this flamebait. I've got Karma to burn and I really dislike that rag.)

Re:Or why people still take ... (4, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992451)

... the New Sensationalist [newscientist.com] seriously as a science magazine.

Yeah, particularly as the article uses the outmoded term "altruism" for helping behaviour, and for some reason says, "most people say it doesn't make any evolutionary sense." I guess by "most people" they mean "most people who know nothing about the extensive and sound work on kin-selection and the evolutionary advantages of being a member of a group that engages in helping behaviour that has taken place in the past fifty years."

Seriously, helping behaviour hasn't been an issue for a couple of decades, and only then amongst the innumerate hangers-on from an earlier era. No one who knows anything about modern evolutionary thinking believes it is an issue today, which pretty much means, "New Sensationalist chooses ignorant ass to make up plausible bullshit to sell magazines to ignorant people under the guise of science."

Re:Or why people still take ... (4, Informative)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992519)

Parent is not a flaimbait. NewScientist is definitely "new stupidist" in this article.

For example, it's clear that altruism is generally good for the community (even though it might be detrimental to an individual), thus it makes perfect sense that we've evolved it. Same for blushing.

Etc.

Re:Or why people still take ... (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992903)

Parent is not a flaimbait.

For example, it's clear that altruism is generally good for the community (even though it might be detrimental to an individual)

I would like to point out, from altruistic motivations, that the word is "flamebait", not "flaimbait" [google.com] .

I apologize for any detrimental impact that this may have upon you as an individual.

Re:Or why people still take ... (1)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992661)

If you needed any more convincing, half their articles are top 10 lists like this one.

Optimistic (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992381)

Good thing psychology figured out the rest of the puzzle, huh?!

Re:Optimistic (1)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992417)

Ok, Ok, that was at this New Scientist piece, not at psychology in general.

Quick... (3, Funny)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992393)

... smell my finger!

(explain that one)

Re:Quick... (1)

Nonillion (266505) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992693)

Only if you pull my finger.....

Re:Quick... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992717)

... smell my finger!

(explain that one)

Stinky pinky, the game of smell!

Re:Quick... (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992727)

Easy - it's the desire to share!

Memes (3, Informative)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992405)

Memes [ted.com] could explain some of them. Some could be pure cultural (i.e. kissing, superstition, altruism) and others could had helped that we evolved this way (your odds of mating could had been increased if you had the ability to do some of those things).

Re:Memes (0)

thenextstevejobs (1586847) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992453)

Does anyone else just immediately stop listening when they see words like 'meme'? Makes me feel like you're going to try to get me to subscribe to Adbusters or that maybe you're taking sociology seriously for some bizarre reason. Reminds me of something Feynman once said...

Re:Memes (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992479)

Sociology is a legitimate science.

Re:Memes (1)

Kratisto (1080113) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992675)

If I had mod points, I'd mod you Funny.

Re:Memes (4, Interesting)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992503)

Does anyone else just immediately stop listening when they see words like 'meme'?

Perhaps 'meme' is a fnord.

Re:Memes (4, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992991)

Perhaps 'meme' is a fnord.

'Meme' is a what?

You didn't finish your sentence

Re:Memes (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992927)

No. It's really just you.

Yes, I'll get off your lawn now! ^^

But welcome to the 21st century.

Teenagers? (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992427)

Teenagers are not a biological issue at all, but a societal one. And one pretty easy to understand. Actually allow a smooth transition between childhood and adulthood, rather than making laws to restrict and "protect" teens until they hit that magic age of 18 or 21 or whatever, and while the problems won't go away, they'll become no worse than those of other young primates.

Re:Teenagers? (5, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992487)

Right and wrong. Teenagers are an invention. It used to be that you went from late childhood (13 - 14) into adulthood. There's a reason why many people had little more than an 8th grade education - after that you were expected to join the world of work. Alexander the Great had pounded much of the world into submission by the time he was 20. "Teenagers" as we understand them are a product of post WW2 western culture as a market for commodity capitalism in the face of expanding resource bases. As resource bases contract and the world goes back to a solar economy, expect the teenager to disappear.

Re:Teenagers? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992655)

The Underground History of American Education is relevent here, if you're interested in one former teacher's account of how forced schooling came to be in the U.S. and where the new concept of "adolescence" came from. Highly depressing; I thoroughly recommend it. It's free to read online. (Not affiliated with it in any way, I just happened to have read it recently.)

link [johntaylorgatto.com]

Re:Teenagers? (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992711)

indeed - it's a great book.

Re:Teenagers? (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992743)

There's a reason why many people had little more than an 8th grade education - after that you were expected to join the world of work. .... As resource bases contract and the world goes back to a solar economy, expect the teenager to disappear.

Wow ... so what you're saying is that Africa and the Middle East are actually progressive! Damn. We westerners are so ignorant ....

Re:Teenagers? (5, Insightful)

Rozine (1345911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992797)

Just because society expected teenagers to work in the past doesn't mean that there aren't significant mental (physical brain) changes going on during that timeframe.

And resources contracting back to a "solar economy"? Turn in your geek card - geeks believe in the power of technology to improve lives. There's no reason to expect that that won't continue.

Re:Teenagers? (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992803)

"Teenager" actually correlates with puberty pretty well. During puberty, people are drenched with abnormally high levels of various hormones which changes their behavior pretty drastically.

A society that depends on 15 years olds in any serious manner is screwed.

Re:Teenagers? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992957)

"Teenager" actually correlates with puberty pretty well. During puberty, people are drenched with abnormally high levels of various hormones which changes their behavior pretty drastically.

A society that depends on 15 years olds in any serious manner is screwed.

Depends on the society. In a society where the average lifespan is 35 years, 15yr olds are absolutely crucial to reproduction, and since they are raised to, they generally fall into a very adult and responsible role at an earlier age than we are used to, and they're fine at it.

Thank you! (2, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992861)

You pointed out nicely what I was about to post. Here are the links I was going to add though:

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=teenage [etymonline.com]
http://www.answers.com/topic/teenager [answers.com]
http://www.home-school.com/Articles/PlattTeenagers.html [home-school.com]

As resource bases contract and the world goes back to a solar economy, expect the teenager to disappear.

I wouldn't agree on this though.

Teen and teen-age are a western 1st world invention - now in use globally.
Unless entire western... no... HUMAN civilization disappears COMPLETELY - the term and the stage of human development it describes will remain distinctive from childhood and adulthood.
And I am talking going back to hunter-gatherer stage long enough that current languages are changed and forgotten.
Even then, upper classes WILL continue to pamper their young long after they (the "rulers" and "thinkers" - not the kids) stop writing dictionaries and regulating language. Teenagers would continue to exist in tradition among the upper class even if no one remained who could remember the word any more.

The only way it may be replaced or removed from use (other than what I said above) is if it is further broken down to early and late teens.
Into something like earleens and lateens. Or prims and seconds. Or juniors and seniors.

But, for something like that to happen you would need a HUGE social difference to appear. Globally.
Like for example giving 15-16 year-olds a right to vote or something similar.
Just like teenagers first appeared when kids globally started being sent to school despite hitting puberty (instead of being sent to work in mines, fields etc.) - a new stage in the society would have to be created first.

Re:Teenagers? (0)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992897)

Alexander the Great had pounded much of the world into submission by the time he was 20.

Yeah, but with a middle and last name like that, I probably would have too.

Re:Teenagers? (3, Insightful)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992933)

I agree. It is hard to say how what we call teenagers fit into the evolutionary system, I believe that the teen years, as depicted in the late and generation defining John Hughes films are more a reflection of having so much excess production that we not only need to insure that our children do not produce, but are also massive consumers. This is a recent phenomena, and a new state of adolescence.

Evolutionary, we have a biology in which, I am told by people who seem to know, that a 15-17 year old girl is almost perfectly situation to bear offspring. The can carry them without the problems of later year, and often can deliver them without the difficulty of later years. Also the Circadian rhythm seems to change in a teen, allowing teens to sleep later, and in smaller chunks, as one might benefit one who had a child that needed to fed every couple hours. It is strange.

This of course is one issue we have with teens. On one hand we want to treat them children, which they are not. On the other hand, we won't give them a responsibility, which they need. We still have high schools starting at the same time as the elementary schools, a pretty silly thing to do, many adults, if they have a choice, go to work between 8 and 9. Many young people, if they have choice, work the night shift. In this way, adolescence is truly screwed up because the teen is still controlled by the assumptions of the adults, while having legitimate needs that are given no reasonable outlet.

Re:Teenagers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992955)

my wife will be incredibly pleased.

Re:Teenagers? (4, Insightful)

tacarat (696339) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992549)

Can it be argued that the some of the problems with teens is that they're treated as kids longer than is healthy? Folks used to be "adults" much sooner. Maybe it's Darwin award fodder, but if an adult makes a stupid mistake, they're morons and treated accordingly. If a child does it, they're "just kids" who couldn't have known better. If a teen does it then they're sort of in the middle, dumb, but not responsible. The coddling that some parents throw into the mix does nothing but protect or encourage some behavior.

So yes, kids should be allowed to start drinking, swearing, fighting, fucking, smoking, shooting, PAYING THEIR OWN WAY and whatever else sooner in life than when they're allowed to now.

/rant off
/goto parent's basement of neverending virginity

Laughter... (1)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992501)

... as any fule know, is associated with a reduced defence mechanism and is therefore a sign of insanity.

Simon (pulling some strings)

Re:Laughter... (5, Interesting)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992601)

Kurt Vonnegut sort of agrees (about the reduced defenses) : "Jokes can be noble. Laughs are exactly as honorable as tears. Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion, to the futility of thinking and striving anymore. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward â" and since I can start thinking and striving again that much sooner."

Laughter is certainly not always pleasant, as anyone who's laughed to much will tell you. You know the laughter that borders on hysteria and sometimes ends in tears. It IS a cleansing experience though, your body's safety valve for letting out stored up emotion and frustration.

Why do noses run? (0)

pauljlucas (529435) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992509)

I want to know why noses run (secrete clear liquid) when it's cold outside.

Re:Why do noses run? (5, Funny)

Knoeki (1149769) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992555)

Why does your nose run, but your feet smell? That's what *I* have been wondering.

Re:Why do noses run? (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992581)

. . . when it's cold outside.

It's to alert the owner of the nose to come inside out of the cold . . . ?

Re:Why do noses run? (2, Interesting)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992837)

I want to know why noses run (secrete clear liquid) when it's cold outside.

The cold is an irritant, and there's this one trick that mucus membranes can rely on to ward off irritants: excrete mighty mucus!

Have you ever been out in minus 30 or below weather? The first breath you take flash-freezes all the humidity in your nose, it feels really weird. A nice layer of mucus between your living cells and water crystallization is better than frost bite.

Re:Why do noses run? (2, Interesting)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992905)

I think you will find that most human reactions that occur "when it's cold outside" exist to help people survive in extremely cold weather. Maintaining a body temperature of 98.6 degrees in anything from 30 to 110 degree environments is quite a feat.

The benefit of a runny nose is to loosen mucous and prevent respiratory infections. This is obviously more important for people with large noses adapted for cold weather and those who spend long periods of time in confined spaces, during a long winter for example.

and #11... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992523)

#11: Why, when faced with a dialog box saying, "installing this program will stomp on all your registry keys, watch every move you make on the internet for reporting back to our central databases, and possibly kill your dog, but also display a cute little dancing monkey" they'll say, "uh, sure! go ahead! i'd like to see that!".

debated != "mystery" (5, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992559)

Example: Altruism.

It actually seems pretty obvious -- a community which was altruistic would, in the long run, have a higher chance of survival than a community which wasn't.

Another example: Superstition. I love this bit:

Religion offers another possible evolutionary benefit of superstition.

So... how is religion not superstition? Now you've got two mysteries, instead of one. And the same explanation still holds:

Our ancestors would not have lasted long if they had assumed that a rustle in the grass was caused by wind when there was even a small chance it was a lion. And it is worth making false-positive mistakes to get these relationships right.

Basically, religion and other superstitions are maladaptions of our ability to recognize patterns -- and an acceptable alternative to missing some pattern. Better to be paranoid than to be gullible -- better to be afraid of the tiger that isn't there than to be eaten by the tiger who is.

I suppose these aren't proven, but I do find this pretty weak, even for a "top 10" list. It's not "mysteries" so much as "cases which are not yet airtight".

Re:debated != "mystery" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992639)

Only morons write != when they aren't programming.

Re:debated != "mystery" (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992769)

Only nigger faggots whine about other peoples' grammar.

Re:debated != "mystery" (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992721)

Example: Altruism.

It actually seems pretty obvious -- a community which was altruistic would, in the long run, have a higher chance of survival than a community which wasn't.

Yeah evolution made altruism feel good, who doesn't want to feel good ? Todays attitudes might make you think there's something wrong with that, but there really isn't. I do something good for you and I get to feel good about myself, see it's even in the language! Altruism = selfishness.

Re:debated != "mystery" (3, Interesting)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992749)

Damn forgot to mention, ofcourse there's the whole "mutual aid" as an evolutionary advantage thing. But that's a REALLY old idea, I mean 1890's old [wikipedia.org] . People just ignore it though, doesn't fit in with the ideology and the travesty they've made of the whole "survival of the fittest" thing.

Re:debated != "mystery" (2, Insightful)

jimshatt (1002452) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992723)

So... how is religion not superstition?

You read it wrong. TFA doesn't state that religion isn't superstition. It states that religion offers a benefit of superstition (the words are interchangeable a bit), namely promoting cohesion. This cohesion is a specific effect of religion and not of superstition, though the cause of both is the same because religion is a subclass of superstition.

Re:debated != "mystery" (-1, Troll)

Zecheus (1072058) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992983)

religion is a subclass of superstition.

Ask Jesus to come into your life and you will be blown away by His love. The experience is not superstition.

However, your point is, sadly, at times true, especially for those who practice religion as mere ritual.

Jesus told us to love like he loved us, then he let himself be crucified for our sake. This deep self-sacrificing love, which is at the root of the Christian religion, is far and away much higher than simple 'altruism'. Believing it, and living it is much different and more challenging than 'superstition'.

You hold the same view on gambling as Descartes (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992859)

Better to be paranoid than to be gullible -- better to be afraid of the tiger that isn't there than to be eaten by the tiger who is.

Religion gets the gullible paranoid about an invisible, all seeing judgmental sky tiger.

Re:You hold the same view on gambling as Descartes (2, Insightful)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992951)

You hold the same view on gambling as Descartes

Do you mean Pascal [wikipedia.org] maybe ? Come on, the guy had a programming language named after him and everything.

Re:debated != "mystery" (2, Insightful)

bjourne (1034822) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992977)

Example: Altruism. It actually seems pretty obvious -- a community which was altruistic would, in the long run, have a higher chance of survival than a community which wasn't.

But it isn't obvious. Ask yourself this, what is the best way for an individual to live in an altruistic society? Answer: to be a selfish asshole that takes advantage of all the altruistic suckers. That tension between what is best for an individual and the common good creates many paradoxical situations and is much more involved than what you seem to think.

Re:debated != "mystery" (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992985)

Basically, religion and other superstitions are maladaptions of our ability to recognize patterns -- and an acceptable alternative to missing some pattern.

There is no mal here. It is a simple matter of doing the best we can with limited data. At some point we as a people realized that every year there was less time of sunlight. We danced in hopes that the sun would not go away completely. The pattern recognition of the time determined pretty accurately the time of least sun, and set the dances then. Even now no one can prove that if no one danced to bring the sun back it would not go away. It is just that we have more useful theories. Knowing that the earth travels around the sun in an eliptical orbit, with equal area traced in equal time, and the we are tilted on axis reletive to the sun, allows us to do a lot more stuff than dancing, even though in some ways dancing is more fun that working out the physics equations, but not in all ways.

Everything else is pretty much the same. As we realize more data, and our schemes of analysis become more sophiticated, we can make models that can be applied in a more generalized way. Saying the very old models were bad makes as little sense as saying the newtonian mechanics is bad.

Likewise, faulting people for living based on those beliefs is equally silly. I bet that many people live thier life based on newtonian mechanics, with no idea at all that there is some chance, no matter how small, that this computer I am typing on migh tunnel though the desk, or even that an electrostatic force, not a vague normal force, is keeping the computer on the desk. Does it matter? Not really. We still live life.

How many of you were... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992579)

picking your nose when you read this? I was - it scared me to think that scientist still haven't figured out why I am doing it!

easy (1)

antiquitas (1489845) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992587)

boogers = nostril bugs = grooming -- meaning, clearly, nose-picking should be socially acceptable.

Re:easy (1)

redKrane (672370) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992771)

The funny thing is, in terms of function, nose picking is not only acceptable but mandatory. Society just prefers that we not allow anyone to see us perform this action. Possibly even funnier, society prefers us to expel the items in our nose all over the damn place, rather than carefully removing the unwanted material. Kinda gross, I know, but still odd to me.

Re:easy (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992921)

You can pick your friends. And you can pick your nose. But you can't pick your friend's nose.

Why there has to be reason for everything? (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992613)

Sure there are traits that might arise due to evolution.

But there are also traits that may arise randomly, perhaps, e.g. Eye color. The fact we have 2 eyes on one side of our body, and not 2 eyes in front and 2 eyes behind, for 360 degree view.

Perhaps because the trait was coincidentally accompanied with a different desired trait. And the random, meaningless trait wasn't harmful enough to get selected out of the population.

Re:Why there has to be reason for everything? (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992935)

I think I recall reading that the brain expends a large portion of the body's total energy in processing visual information. Having twice as many eyes might not be worth the extra food required to operate them.

Is slashdot going the way of Digg? (5, Insightful)

lalena (1221394) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992689)

We've all heard the joke about how to get on the front page of Digg.
Your article title should be "Top X {Reasons|Ways|Games...] To [Pick Up Girls|Make your own Fusion Reactor...]"
Yesterday on /. it was an article on 10 failed mouse designs. Today it is 10 things we don't know about the human body.

Re:Is slashdot going the way of Digg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992915)

Posting anon to prevent OT karma burn.

If there is a story that you don't like, log in and click the "-" on the top of the story. If enough people do that, it WILL disappear from the front page.

Wow. (4, Insightful)

Hubbell (850646) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992701)

"Indeed, Robin Dunbar at the University of Oxford has found that laughing increases levels of endorphins, our body's natural opiates, which he believes helps to strengthen social relationships."

Pretty sure this has been common knowledge for years/decades.

Some Seem Obvious (4, Informative)

BinaryX01 (1609025) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992729)

Some of these seem obvious, I am not a researcher or professor not am I involved with any sort of grant so I could be completely wrong but... Blushing - When we become excited or anxious blood rushes faster to the face that it is pumped away so the increased oxygenated blood causes the reddish tint, seems like this one is more of a why does our heart rate increase when we are excited or anxious? Pubic hair, we have hair around every part of the body that has more sensitive skin, head, genitals, inside of the nose, etc... Most of us don't have hair on the palms of our hands (you know who you are you unclean slashdotters) because that would interfere with tactile sensation needed for more dexterous tasks Teenagers, apes don't have someone constantly trying to sell them a look or mood. Teenagers don't invent fashions and trends marketers do. Then a popular teenager decides that what the marketer said about it being cool must be true and their peers all wanting to be cool too follow. I am pretty sure my grandmother was not "emo". Again it seems like the question here is why do humans feel the need to follow the crowd. Superstition - Somewhere along the way someone had a bad experience that they linked with another event (most likely coincidental) and they shared that information, and just as stories are retold superstition is passed along as well. There have also been some early studies showing that belief in superstitions may be a mild form of OCD. Nose Picking, if your nose is clogged up you pick it to open nasal passages. Like any other behavior this can become habitual to the point of it happening unconsciously at inappropriate times.

Re:Some Seem Obvious (1)

reub2000 (705806) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992899)

If the genitals need protection against chaffing, then why does the hair not develop until adolescence? Me thinks it's a marker of maturity, leftover from the days when humans created offspring at much younger ages.

I think we know more than this. (3, Interesting)

hyperion2010 (1587241) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992751)

Laughter, art, pubic hair and kissing are the only things that stand out on the list as possibly unknown. Art is probably the most complex and "advanced" of all human behaviors so it will only have a highly complex answer. I have this feeling that laughter is not unique to humans and is probably based at some level on a physiological/neurological response to a number of mental states such as relief, happiness, perception of incongruity (irony), and a few others (for some people pain which is where we will probably have the best shot at figuring out that actual mechanisms...). At least in males and probably females this would probably be the product of the overlapping expression of two (maybe more) genes, one receptor that triggers localized hair growth when it receives a signal from another molecule (probably testosterone?), thus, when humans hit puberty and start developing secondary sexual features high concentrations of pubes form in the crotch because the signaling molecule is in such high abundance there (just a guess...). Kissing? Hell if I know, maybe a delaying tactic developed by females to see just how committed and patient a male was.

Nose picking? DUH??!!?? Ever seen a fly groom itself or a monkey in the mirror? The monkey always checks its teeth. No one likes boogers, they are irritating, thus, remove the irritant. Same as picking at scabs.
Puberty? Tons of animals have it, its just another stage in development which just so happens to involve major rewiring of their neural circuitry and reformatting of their bodies. Not surprisingly, they tend to get a bit testy during this phase.
Blushing? Vasodialation caused by a hormonal release triggered by embarrassment AKA a type of fear.
Altruism? Pretty good explanations out there based on group selection theories and group size + competition.
Supersition? Our brains continually look for causes by default and when they don't find an obvious one they will make the next best connection based on the associations available in the brain. Very hand if someone comes up with a single universal cause for everything (god anyone?).
Dreams. Ok maybe not very well understood experimentally, but lots of animals dream. Neurons have to keep firing or they loose their connections, at some point during the evolutionary process a state developed for neural networks at rest were they started to replay their most recently experiences and integrate them in to the structure of the brain. Basically dreams are the time when the brain does upkeep and integrates its most recent experiences and solidifies the most memorable ones. Probably where we do most of our associational learning.

(Full disclosure: NON EXPERT, but this is /. so you know that already)

What about Cricket? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992757)

It has to be one of the most bizarre and unexplainable forms of human behavior.

Re:What about Cricket? (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992835)

Clearly you've never watched a game of curling.

Pre-human ancestors? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28992777)

Gimme a break.

Teenage behaviour is evolution's reaction (3, Interesting)

jsveiga (465473) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992819)

...to incest, which is bad for the gene pool.

When our primate ancestors stopped leaving the cave as soon as they could and started staying home with their parents until later in life, what better way to avoid interbreeding between offspring and parents than to make teenagers hate/piss off their parents, and do whatever they could to impregnate/get impregnated by someone else?

That's nature saying: "Get away from these same-gene carriers. Get out, and get wild. Multiply now!". And when they do, that's positive feedback for the evolutionary push. Interbreeding would reduce the probability of survival of the group in the long term (and short term, if <disgusting attempt to joke about people locked in basements removed>).

They forgot something. The Piss Shivers. (1, Insightful)

NoPantsJim (1149003) | more than 5 years ago | (#28992845)

Still haven't heard a reasonable explanation on that one.
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