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Tiny ear bones are unique to earliest humans

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences could shed new light on the earliest existence of humans. The study analyzed the tiny ear bones – the malleus, incus and stapes – from two species of early human ancestor in South Africa. These bones, the smallest bones in the human body, are among the rarest of human fossils recovered.

Unlike other bones of the skeleton, the ossicles are already fully formed and adult-sized at birth. This indicates that their size and shape is under very strong genetic control.

The study, led by Binghamton (N.Y.) University anthropologist Rolf Quam analyzed ossicles representing the early hominin species Paranthropus robustus and Australopithecus africanus. The bones date to around two million years ago.

The malleus is clearly humanlike, and its size and shape can be easily distinguished from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Eurekalert.org

N.C. State develops better detection of cyberattacks

Researchers from North Carolina State University have developed a software algorithm that detects and isolates cybertattacks on networked control systems – which are used to coordinate transportation, power and other infrastructure across the United States.

Because they often rely on wireless or Internet connections, these systems are vulnerable to cyberattacks.

As networked control systems have grown increasingly large and complex, system designers have created “distributed network control systems” that allow all of the system agents to work together, like a bunch of mini-brains, to coordinate their activities more efficiently.

N.C. State researchers have developed a software algorithm that can detect when an individual agent in a D-NCS has been compromised by a cyberattack. The algorithm then isolates the compromised agent, protecting the rest of the system and allowing it to continue functioning normally. “In addition, our security algorithm can be incorporated directly into the code used to operate existing distributed control systems, with minor modifications,” said Dr. Mo-Yuen Chow, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at N.C. State and co-author of a paper on the work. “It would not require a complete overhaul of existing systems.” N.C. State

It’s much less angst-y to compete with pals

A University of Missouri study has found that testosterone levels during group competition are modulated depending on the relationships among the competitors and may be related to the formation of alliances in warfare.

“One interesting thing about humans is that we are the only animal that competes in teams,” said Mark Flinn, professor of anthropology at MU. “Our hormonal reactions while competing are part of how we evolved as a cooperative species. What we found in our study is that although male’s testosterone levels increase when men are victorious against strangers or rivals, levels of the hormone tend to stay the same when competing against friends.”

His research team studied males on the island of Dominica while they played dominoes or cricket. When males competed against a group outside of their community, their testosterone levels rose. When males competed with their friends, their testosterone levels did not change in response to victory or defeat. University of Missouri

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