THE COLLEGE HILL INDEPENDENT


WEEK IN REVIEW 2/17/11

by by Jonah Kagan, Sam Levinson & Ashton Strait

illustration by by Kah Yangi

SHRUNKEN HEADS
According to University of Wisconsin anthropologist John Hawks, the human brain has been shrinking. Nope, it’s not from all that ecstasy we’ve been taking, but simply good ol’ natural selection at work. “Over the past 20,000 years, the average volume of the human male brain has decreased from 1,500 cubic centimetres to 1,350 cubic centimetres, losing a chunk the size of a tennis ball,” wrote Kathleen McAuliffe in Discover magazine, citing an interview with Hawks. “The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion,” she added.
This new revelation raises a multitude of new questions: Why is this happening? Are we getting dumber? Several groups of scientists have offered different explanations for what Hawks called a “major downsizing in an evolutionary eyeblink.”
Harvard University primatologist Richard Wrangham believes that as natural selection has weeded out our more aggressive traits, humans have become domesticated—just like dogs, whose brains are 10 to 15 percent smaller than those of the wolves they evolved from. Another theory contends that the warming trend of the past 20,000 years has favored the development of smaller skeletons, and thus, smaller skulls, since bulkier bodies retain more heat.
While it’s just as tempting to blame it all on global warming as it is to imagine humans one day living a carefree life playing fetch with ourselves, a group of scientists from the University of Missouri has used what little brainpower our species has left to come up with a more plausible explanation. They hypothesize that as societies became more complex, individuals no longer needed to be as smart to survive. Humans born with a little less gray matter could rely on the help of others to get by. To put it in terms we modern cretins can understand: smaller brains mean lower IQs. So if we are left with the sad conclusion that the human race is getting dumber, at least we will finally all agree that size does matter. –JK

FAILIN' PALIN: SARAH'S TRADEMARK WOES
She may be able to see Russia from her house, but it seems that Sarah Palin’s trendy eyewear has failed her in the task of discerning the all-important dotted line. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the conservative sweetheart’s application to trademark her name was rejected after she neglected to include her signature on the document.
Following in the footsteps of accomplished female celebrities like Paris Hilton®, Cher® and Barbie®, Palin is seeking to add “brand” to her long list of titles that currently includes former governor, former vice-presidential candidate, and current face of ghostwriter Lynn Vincent. Palin, who’s been basking in the conservative spotlight since John McCain got desperate in 2008, hopes to acquire the trademark as she begins a career on the lecture circuit and prepares for a possible 2012 presidential campaign.
It appears that dotted-line blindness is genetic. Palin’s daughter, Bristol, also had her trademark application rejected for failure to sign. The younger Palin gained national exposure by reaching the finals on last year’s Dancing with the (pseudo)Stars despite receiving consistently low scores from the judging panel, but is also known for preaching the gospel of abstinence to young women across America following her unplanned pregnancy in 2008. Both Bristol and her mother believe that the trademarks are necessary for protecting the use of their “motivational speaking services” against exploitation. –SL

In what has become a national pissing contest, Arizona is now counter-suing the federal government for blocking the state from enforcing its harsh immigration laws. The Justice Department sued the state last year to challenge S.B. 1070, the controversial law aimed at cracking down on illegal immigrants in the state. For Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, the clear solution was counter-suing the national government in federal court on behalf of the state. The lawsuit claims that the feds have neglected to maintain “operational control” of the border or protect Arizona from “harms associated with rampant illegal immigration.”
This fight-fire-with-fire approach has apparently stirred up the enthusiasm of constitutional authority hot-heads across the state—if the fact that the counterclaims have been funded entirely by private donations is any indication. Arizona’s also playing fast and loose with Webster’s, claiming in the suit that they are facing an invasion that the federal government has failed to stop. After all, didn’t you know that the “word ‘invasion’ does not necessarily mean invasion of one country by another, but can mean large numbers of illegal immigrants from various countries”?
The claims in this lawsuit make it sound as if Arizona is under siege by an invading horde. Of course, they expect their very own Great Wall to keep out the angry Huns­—the suit calls for construction of a 700-mile-long reinforced fence along the border between Arizona and Mexico. –AS