On the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe.

S.T. Dobbs

Recently there has been much fascinating discussion concerning apparent changes in physical laws or universal parameters over the age of the Universe. Most notably this has included a relatively recent and unexpected acceleration of the expansion of the Universe, which has generally been attributed to the occurrence of a previously unknown force which acts on matter, and changes in the speed of light detected in changes of spectroscopic properties of stars which manifest themselves as changes in the fine structure constant.

It seems to me that one possible explanation that unifies these two phenomena has so far been overlooked, and would like to propose it as a hypothesis. This involves the relative “stickiness” of free space to the motion of matter (known as inertia) or to charged or magnetically polarized bodies (which lead to the permittivity and permeability of free space). Inertia is thought to be due to the gravitational influence of the mass of all matter in the Universe on each single body. The equivalent “electrical inertia” which determines that light has a finite velocity is presumably, by analogy with inertial mass, the influence of electrical charge distributed throughout the universe on a single body which feels the electromagnetic interaction..

Gravitational and electrical inertia are both functions of the distribution of the entirety of matter within the Universe. Any massive change in the distribution of matter will have had an influence on both. As matter began to condense out into stars and galaxies, the average distance of most of the matter in the Universe from any single body will have increased. Gravitational and electrical influences decrease with increasing distance according to the famous inverse square law. We could therefore expect the inertial mass of an object to decrease as matter condensed in the Universe., so that the expansion of the Universe would accelerate. Similarly, the “electrical inertia” described in the fine structure constant would have decreased, and the velocity of light therefore increased.

The Naked Ape Revisited


The implications of dietary habit on the development of Homo Sapiens as a species

S.T. Dobbs

In the history of mankind, ever since it split from those ancestors which it has in common with other primates, there occurred a change which remains a mystery and is, to date, unsolved, the very nakedness of the naked ape. At some stage in man’s prehistoric development, he lost the great majority of the protective coat of fur which is present in virtually all mammalian species. Those other species which have lost their body visible body hair have done so for reasons of streamlining or because of the other demands of an exacting environment, for example the naked mole rats of the Sahara desert, which hardly need the thermal protection provided by an insulating layer of fur in the heat of the desert sand, a layer which would become an encumbrance because of its burrowing habit, or the aquatic mammals such as whales and dolphins which need to move through oceans with the minimum of drag. Here the loss of hair was offset by the development of an insulating layer of fatty tissue under the skin (the adipose tissue). Why did mankind lose much of its body hair, even to the point that this necessitated the adoption of artificial layers of skin made from other natural materials, often the skin of other mammals with their original layer of protective hair? There is even a possibility that the resourcefulness which was needed to overcome this lack of insulation in cold climates caused an uncommonly rapid development of innovation and intelligence, which led to the development of clothing, housing, and even central heating systems. My hypothesis is that such a loss of bodyhair is a direct consequence of Man’s habit for cooking his food, a habit which has important subsiduary evolutionary implications, which have rendered such a change in physiology economically (in energetic terms) viable.

This article really concerns the emergence of humankind as a radically more successful species than its contemporary early hominids. Rôles have been mooted for many disparate factors in the evolution of the human species, including some salient ones which have become central to the success of mankind: a large brain, the lack of significant amounts of body hair, an erect habit of locomotion, and the relatively small energetic requirement of the body organs in total, other than that of the brain, which is able to offset the large energy demands of the brain itself in its evidently energy demanding activities. Many evolutionists regard the energy economy of the human body to be of singular importance in the development of the human species, and I agree with this wholeheartedly. I do, however, think that to date an important, if perhaps unfashionable point has been overlooked, namely the importance of the cooking of food on the development of our species. It has been stated that the energy demand of the human gut is much less than that of close relatives, a fact which was attributed to the higher quality of the human diet than that of those relatives. How, it may be asked is the diet of higher quality than other species? Agriculture, and the availability of reliable sources of such quality food is a much more recent phenomenon, but I have long held the view that the cooking of food, essentially the predigesting of food before eating, renders it less energy demanding in its digestion, so that the digestive system needs to work less hard in breaking it down ( that is, less energy is needed to be expended in its digestion)- this is the reason why the human body has the same overall energy requirement as the close apes, despite the high energy demand of the human brain. Of course, such a predilection for partially digested food (in that hydrolysis, the breaking down by water, is effectively what digestion is, and is a process which is mimicked effectively by cooking food) is entirely consistent with the concept of evolution by arrested development (in that their are significant advantages to individuals who bear the characteristics of younger members of the species who are less than fully developed, having greater inquisitiveness and adaptability, for instance, and that it is often the case that offspring are weaned onto predigested food, that is, food that as already been broken down to a certain extent by the stomach of one of the parent and regurgitated)

The predigestion of food before consumption, yielding a significantly greater energy yield per kilogram of food ingested, thus enabling the support of a much more functional and effective brain may not, however, be the only important physiological and evolutionary implication in the consumption of cooked food. I may be stating the obvious, but such inherently self-evident points can easily be missed, cooked food is hot. No other species on earth indulges in such a luxury, and yet the cooking of food is of such an advantage to human survival that the practice is universal in every society on Earth. Nowhere do we find a culture which depends exclusively, or even to any significant degree, on uncooked food. The reasons are clear, the energetic implications have already been noted, but additional to this is the elimination of pathogenic microorganisms which cause disease such as food poisoning, or other more serious conditions (although food poisoning itself can be fatal in the type of harsh environment in which primitive man had to survive.)

There are, however, much more serious implications in the consumption of hot food. A decently hot meal could, without effective thermoregulation,  increase the blood temperature by up to 0.5ºC . The ingestion of hot particles of food poses quite a physiological difficulty for the body, since it involves a significant source of heat very close to the body’s core, close to important organs which require a constant temperature for their function. It is more than probable that an animal possessing any greater than a token degree of insulation close to the surface of the body would suffer severe heat stress which would be virtually intolerable. The rapid dissipation of heat from the body is a necessary corollary to the consumption of sizeable hot meal, and one of the most efficacious ways of ensuring such a rapid loss would be to minimise the coverage of hair over most of the body surface.

In support of this hypothesis, it must be pointed out that most animals with fur, which of course do not undertake the cooking of their food (since man is the only animal to carry out such a practice), are not able to dissipate excess body heat by perspiration. This is the deliberate loss of heat energy by the secretion of a saline solution onto the skin, which evaporates and hence takes any heat energy with it. Fur, an insulating layer on top of the skin, would certainly impede such a mechanism. It seems plausible that animals with fur seldom have the need for such drastic heat dissipation processes, not having evolved mechanisms for such a massive loss of body heat. Why? Because they never ingest food which will compromise the body temperature in the way that humans do. No other animal on Earth ingests food which has been cooked.

It may therefore be postulated that the ingestion of food which is of a significantly higher temperature than the body is advantageous to the animal, even though this poses a physiological difficulty on the organism, and so there is a selection pressure to develop methods of dissipating the excess heat which is so taken on board by the organism. For a mammal, the most obvious method of temperature reduction would be the loss of body hair. The head is, however, exposed to the highest level of ultra violet radiation from the Sun, an thus might require protection from this by retaining hair.

It should also be noted that treatment of hypothermia, where core body organs have become dangerously cold, is often effected by the injection of hot liquids. This is a clear indication of the way in which the injection of hot or cold food can have significant physiological effect.

Alternative explanations for the hairlessness of the human animal have long been expounded. Perhaps the most widely accepted current hypotheses is that hairlessness is somehow selected for sexually because the female of the species prefers hairless males. Why this has led to males which are more hirsute than females remains to be explained. Other ideas have included a prehistoric aquatic habitat for our ancestors, but we are lacking any other adaptations in anatomy or physiology which might give weight to such assertions.

Potential difference.

S.T. Dobbs

It seems to me that the word potential is now used ubiquitously as a synonym of the word possible. It even seems to be regarded as a more sophisticated usage than the word possible, and so is preferred. However,  potential does not mean the same thing as possible. When something is possible, there is the chance that it may happen in the future, or may have happened in the past. On the other hand, potential is the property of being able to happen in the future. There can be no potential that something that has already happened could happen, because it has either happened or it hasn’t, whether we know about it or not.

To illustrate this I would like to employ a couple of  radio announcements. In the first scenario…

“Sherlock Holmes is looking for more possible victims”, we can reasonably deduce that Holmes is a detective using his skills to seek out victims of a crime that has already happened..

In the second scenario,

“Jack was searching for more potential victims”, we can reliably conclude that Jack is a murderer. It would be a shame to lose this distinction between the two words.

My second gripe about the word potential is when it is used tautologically. For instance, a risk is the potential for something bad happening. So in the phrase potential risk, the word potential is redundant. A risk is a real risk, but that means there is potential for something bad happening. Similarly the word threat means the potential for harm, so doesn’t need to be qualified by the word potential. Indeed, in my second radio announcement we could even dispense with the word potential and say…

“Jack was searching for more  victims” and still convey the same meaning.

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