The World According to kcillini77

December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Filed under: Christmas — kcillini77 @ 3:38 pm

If you have a minute, read this short piece.

December 13, 2007

They’ve Finally Figured it Out!

Filed under: Evolution/I.D.,Kansas City,Sarcasm — kcillini77 @ 9:08 pm

Found this in the Kansas City Star today. My comments follow the article (in italics).

Researchers discover why pregnant women don’t tip over

By SETH BORENSTEIN

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON | Scientists think they have figured out why pregnant women don’t lose their balance and topple over despite ever-growing weight up front.Evolution provided them with slight differences from men in their lower backs and hip joints, allowing them to adjust their center of gravity, new research shows.

This elegant engineering is seen only in female humans and our immediate ancestors who walked on two feet, but not in chimps and apes, according to a study being published today in the journal Nature.

“That’s a big load that’s pulling you forward,” said Liza Shapiro, an anthropology professor at the University of Texas, the only one of the study’s three authors who has been pregnant. “You experience discomfort. Maybe it would be a lot worse if (the design changes) were not there.”

Harvard anthropology researcher Katherine Whitcomb found two physical differences in male and female backs that until now had gone unnoticed: One lower lumbar vertebra is wedge-shaped in women and more square in men; and a key hip joint is 14 percent larger in women than men when body size is taken into account.

The researchers did engineering tests that show how those slight changes allow women to carry the additional and growing load without toppling over — and typically without disabling back pain.

“When you think about it, women make it look so very … easy,” Whitcomb said. “They are experiencing a pretty impressive challenge. Evolution has tinkered … to the point where they can deal with the challenge.

Walking on two feet separates humans from most other animals. And while anthropologists still debate the evolutionary benefit of walking on two feet, there are notable costs, such as pain for pregnant females. Animals on all fours can better handle the extra belly weight.

The back changes appear to have evolved to overcome the cost of walking on two feet, said Harvard anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman.

When the researchers looked back at fossil records of human ancestors, including the oldest spines that go back 2 million years to our predecessor, Australopithecus, they found a male without the lower-back changes and a female with them.

The lower spine in humans had already developed a unique forward curve that helps compensate for the extra pressures that arose when the primate ancestors went from moving around on four limbs to walking upright.

Because the engine of evolution runs on the passage of genes from one generation to the next, pregnancy is a critical moment. Without that adaptation, Whitcomb said, females would have been in considerably greater pain during pregnancy and might not have been able to forage effectively or escape predators, ending the pregnancy and the genetic line as well.

As solutions go, the forward spine is only partly successful, Shaprio said, because women still commonly complain of back trouble and pain during pregnancy. Even the basic forward curve that promotes balance in upright walking is “not a structurally ideal solution,” she said, because it can lead to instability and even fractured vertebrae.

If evolution provided relief for women in pregnancy, one might ask, what about the equally awkward morphology of men with beer guts?

Shapiro said that their research shows that “men would not be as well adapted to a beer gut” as a woman.

Whitcomb noted that in terms of the time that the evolutionary shift occurred, “finding extra calories wasn’t likely,” so an early hominid primate with a potbelly would have been quite a rarity.

John Schwartz of The New York Times contributed to this report.

 

I find the choice of words the author used to begin the second and third paragraphs very thought provoking. “Evolution provided…”, “This elegant engineering…”

Biological evolution, by definition, is anything but engineering. It is trial and error. There is no end goal in mind other than survival, so the solution that is arrived upon is the best means to an end reached by random chance. It can by no means be referred to as engineering, and certainly not as elegant.

But this article does point out one very critical question we all must consider when it mentions that “anthropologists still debate the evolutionary benefit of walking on two feet.” Wouldn’t we all be better off on all fours? Let’s all give it a shot for the next week. My son moved pretty quickly on all fours before he started walking… Maybe he was onto something!

I suppose I owe an update…

Filed under: Family,Me — kcillini77 @ 8:44 pm

…after my “pouring it on” post.

We have a new furnace and it works.

The car had a faulty water pump and some other stuff going on.  It was a $700 repair but not catastrophic.

Brinton developed pneumonia, was treated with antibiotics and is doing very well now.

The washing machine also had a faulty water pump (what is it with us and water pumps) but that is now repaired as well.

So, we remain cash strapped for the time being, but we have our health, shelter, and each other, and therefore all is good.

December 4, 2007

My motivation for my erratic blogging

Filed under: Blog,Me,Pastis,Pearls Before Swine,Sarcasm — kcillini77 @ 8:16 pm

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(If you’re having trouble reading it, click on it and it will clear up a little)

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