The Ape That Cooks #poem #poetry #nature #evolution #human

Homo erectus - the first cook. Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. (except for the hat)

Homo erectus – the first cook. Hall of Human Origins in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. (except for the hat)

We are the hunting ape,
But other apes do hunt.
We are the speaking ape,
But other apes do grunt.

What set us on the path
To our enormous brain?
And brought us down
From the trees
To walk across the plain?

We are the ape with fire!
There’s evidence to show
Prometheus brought us his gift
A long long time ago.

With fire, sleeping on the ground,
Protected from the lions,
We shed our dense and furry coats,
It warmed us through the nighttime.

While other apes use their day
To chew and chew and chew
Their tubers, leaves, and wild fruits
We cooked the first fast food.

This new step in digestion
Meant more calories,
Cooked out the germs and toxins
Of wild plants and meats.

Tied to our adaption,
We’d never be the same.
“We are the cooking apes,
The creatures of the flame.”

I recently read Catching Fire, How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham. I was happily surprised at how fascinating his hypothesis is: that starting as long ago as Homo erectus, humans evolved with fire and cooking. There are lines of evidence I would have never thought about – delightful.

Wrangham is really involved in his subject. He knows how much effort it takes to chew raw wild foods because he’s studied chimpanzees and tried their various foods. With some friends he ran an informal experiment chewing raw goat meat. They found that adding old leaves to their mouths – as chimps do when they eat meat – gave their teeth more “traction” to get the (nasty sounding) mess down.

He also covers a lot of related topics, including raw foodists and modern hunter-gatherers. It’s a great book.

Thanks to Wrangham for the final quote in the poem above.

R&R 3 coversAll my books, including collections of my science-inspired poetry, are available at Amazon for Kindle and as paperbacks, and at other favorite stores in all the major digital formats. Read one today.

Space Weather and Solophobia

space_weather_dialsHave you noticed reports from time to time (for example, here) warning of “huge expulsions of magnetic field and plasma” from the sun, perhaps accompanied by dire predictions that satellites will be destroyed, the electrical grid disrupted, or doomsday is upon us? I hope you have also noticed we are still alive. Predictions of the apocalypse are common and many people take them seriously. Some scenarios are crazy, and it’s not just the sun that frightens people – remember the Nibiru or Planet X 2012 Doomsday scare? But “fear of the sun” probably deserves its own “phobia” term – maybe solophobia.

If you are interested in solar activity, you’ll find many scientists share your interest. I found a nice site to monitor the sun’s activity:

Scroll down to the gages showing the sun’s magnetic field, solar wind speed, and dynamic pressure. Without studying these terms, you can watch the gauge move from green to yellow to red. Relax when everything is green, and take comfort from the occasional excursion into the red: we’re still here. Click around the site and learn more about space weather.

I don’t mean to disparage reasonable preparation. From earthquakes to hurricanes, there are disasters that can leave you off the grid and beyond help for days. I live in southwest New Mexico on a ridge surrounded by dry forest. Wildfires are common and any fire around me is likely to run straight up the slopes to my house. I keep my home firewise and have a “bug out” list pinned to my bulletin board – a prioritized list of things to do or toss in the car if I need to evacuate. Everyone should be ready to take care of themselves in an emergency.

When you make your own emergency plans, consider two risks. The danger from whatever event you prepare for, and the opportunities you’ll lose by living in a bunker.