Saturday December 15, 2018

Ancient Human Ancestor was Tallest known member of Prehuman Species, best known for Fossil Skeleton nicknamed “Lucy”

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FILE - An exhibit featuring Australopithecus afarensis skeleton called Lucy at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Houston, Texas, Aug. 28, 2007. VOA
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He stood a majestic 5-foot-5, weighed around 100 pounds and maybe had a harem. That’s what scientists figure from the footprints he left behind some 3.7 million year ago.

He’s evidently the tallest known member of the prehuman species best known for the fossil skeleton nicknamed “Lucy,” reaching a stature no other member of our family tree matched for another 1.5 million years, the researchers say.

The 13 footprints are impressions left in volcanic ash that later hardened into rock, excavated last year in northern Tanzania in Africa. Their comparatively large size, averaging a bit over 10 inches long (26 centimeters), suggest they were made by a male member of the species known as Australopithecus afarensis.

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The prints were found at a site called Laetoli, which is famous for another set of smaller footprints left by other A. afarensis individuals. Those made headlines in the 1970s as the earliest clear evidence of upright walking by our ancestors. The newly discovered prints are only about 160 yards (150 meters) away.

Researchers named the new creature S1, for the first discovery made at the “S” site. From the footprints, they calculated that he stood about 5-foot-5 (roughly 165 centimeters) and weighed around 100 pounds (about 45 kilograms).

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They figured that he loomed at least 8 inches (more than 20 centimeters) above the individuals who made the other tracks, and stood maybe 3 inches (7 centimeters) taller than a large A. afarensis specimen previously found in Ethiopia. “Lucy”, also from Ethiopia, was much shorter at about 3 ½ feet (107 centimeters).

The findings are described in a report released Wednesday by the journal eLife. Authors include Giorgio Manzi of Sapienza University in Rome, Marco Cherin of the University of Perugia in Italy, and others.

Nobody knows the ages or sexes of any of the track-makers, although the size of the latest footprints suggest they were made by a male. It’s quite possible that the new discovery means A. afarensis males were a lot bigger than females, with more of a difference than what is seen in modern humans, the researchers say. That’s not a new idea, but it’s still under debate.

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The large male-female disparity suggests A. afarensis may have had a gorilla-like social arrangement of one dominant male with a group of females and their offspring, the researchers said.

But not everybody agrees with their analysis of S1’s height.

Their estimate is suspect, says anthropologist William Jungers, a research associate at the Association Vahatra in Madagascar who wrote a commentary on the study. That’s because scientists haven’t recovered enough of an A. afarensis foot to reliably calculate height from footprints, he said in an email.

Philip Reno, an assistant anthropology professor at Penn State who didn’t participate in the new work, said he believed the height estimate was in the right ballpark. But he’s not convinced that S1 was really taller than the large Ethiopian A. afarensis.

So rather than setting a record, “I think it confirms about the size we thought the big specimens were,” Reno said.

Manzi and Cherin said they can’t be sure S1 was taller than the Ethiopian specimen. “We only suggest,” they wrote in an email. (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google, Facebook face greater scrutiny in Australia. Wikimedia Commons

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?