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humanfootprint

Science Bulletin

Human Footprint

Humans leave a mark on Earth that is detectable from space. By analyzing satellite images, scientists can measure the extent of deforestation, agriculture, urbanization, and other features. Satellite analysts estimate that humans directly affect 83 percent of our planet's land surface, leaving a dwindling percentage of land truly "wild." This huge influence is called the "human footprint."
The Pearl River delta near Hong Kong is a dramatic example of the human footprint. Humans have continuously occupied the region for thousands of years, and the region's cities are among the fastest-growing urban centers ever observed. Scientists use the same techniques illustrated for the Pearl River delta to study human-altered surface features around the world, thus mapping the global human footprint.

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Science Bulletin

Language in the Brain

Why is it that humans can speak but chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, cannot? The human brain is uniquely wired to produce language. Untangling this wiring is a major frontier of brain research. Peer into the mental machinery behind language with this feature video, which visits a brain-scanning laboratory, Columbia Universitys Program for Imaging and Cognitive Sciences, or PICS. Columbia neuroscientist Joy Hirsch and New York University psychologist Gary Marcus explain what researchers have learned about how our brain tackles language—and whats left to learn.

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Science Bulletin

Thinking in Symbols

Modern human culture underwent a "creative explosion" in Ice Age Europe 40,000 to 10,000 years ago. The evidence, which ranges from fantastic cave paintings to elaborate graves to innovative tools, is a sure sign that human symbolic thought-our ability to create and combine meaningful symbols to represent the world-was in full bloom. What evolutionary steps seeded this mental flowering? This Human Bulletin video follows the ongoing excavations of Christopher Henshilwood, an archaeologist who is seeking the earliest evidence of our species' unique mental powers. Recent finds dating to 72,000 years ago at his South African excavation site, Blombos Cave, are slowly shedding light an era of human culture that has been all but dark.

Aiming High: The Search for Ultra

Science Bulletin

Aiming High: The Search for High-Energy Cosmic Rays

The history of cosmic ray research is a story of scientific adventure. For nearly a century, cosmic ray researchers have climbed mountains, soared in hot air balloons, and traveled to the far corners of the Earth in the quest to understand these energetic particles from space. They have solved some scientific mysteries—and revealed many more. With each passing decade, scientists have discovered higher-energy and increasingly more rare cosmic rays. The Pierre Auger Project is the largest scientific enterprise ever conducted to search for the unknown sources of the highest-energy cosmic rays ever observed.

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Essay

Essay: Stars in Exquisite Accuracy

There’s only one star that astronomers have a firm grasp on: the Sun. Fundamental facts about other stars remain elusive. Find out how a powerful interferometer atop Mount Wilson in Southern California hopes to change that.

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Article

Elephants Return to the Forest

Unlike most zoo-raised or domestic species, Asian elephants have never been selectively bred, so they remain genetically wild. See how this helps with forest reintroduction efforts. 

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Article

The Burdens of a Beast

Unlike people in Africa, who kept their distance from elephants except to hunt them, people in Asia have lived closely with elephants since at least 2000 B.C. Take a closer look at the underlying bond that exists today. 

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Article

Asian Elephants: Threats and Solutions

The Asian elephant once roamed from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in western Asia as far east as China's Yangtze River. Take a closer look at this now highly endangered species. 

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