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Science Saturday: Human brains, AI's creativity and penguin flu

Tech It Out


Ancient human brains

An Oxford University research team has compiled a new archive of more than 4,000 ancient human brains. This is the most complete study of the archeological literature to date.

It includes human brains from all continents except Antarctica. The oldest dates back 12,000 years. These findings could reveal how certain conditions preserved this delicate human organ over millennia.

Intriguingly, the archive also offers scientists a unique opportunity to investigate whether certain diseases existing today were also present in the past. It could also provide clues about the effect of current lifestyles or environmental factors on these diseases.

AI vs. human mind

Artificial intelligence (AI) outperformed humans in a test of creativity in a recent study from the University of Arkansas.

A total of 151 participants squared off against GPT-4. Three tests were designed to measure divergent thinking, such as imagining the consequences if humans didn't need sleep and coming up with 10 unrelated nouns.

The results showed that GPT-4 was consistently more original and elaborate than humans across all tasks. But the researchers noted that AI's creativity always requires human input. Without human prompts, AI is in a constant state of stagnation.

Bird flu in Antarctica

Adélie penguins in Antarctica have tested positive for H5N1 bird flu yet show no symptoms so far. Since bird flu reached Antarctica this year, scientists have feared a catastrophic impact on the penguin population.

But after two months of observation, the infected penguins appear to be foraging normally and show no symptoms. Scientists are cautiously optimistic and continue to monitor. The asymptomatic penguins could potentially spread the virus to other vulnerable species in the region.

Galactic origins

Astronomers have uncovered two ancient star streams that might have been part of the Milky Way's earliest building blocks during its formative years. This was done using the European Space Agency's Gaia space telescope.

The two streams are named Shakti and Shiva. They are believed to be relics from other galaxies that merged with the budding Milky Way around 12 billion years ago. The structures are now situated within about 30,000 light years of the galactic center.

Astronomers believe the study of Shakti and Shiva's fusion will shed light on the galaxy's origins.

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