A lot of the debate about when modern humans became modern humans has to do with the head--when our brains evolved into the functional equivalent of that of modern mankind. But while that particular argument continues, a team of UK researchers using a new kind of statistical technique have analyzed ancient footprints at a site in Tanzania and found that if our feet are allowed to tell the tale, our early ancestors were becoming human-like as much as two million years earlier than we previously thought.
By looking to the neural networks of spiders, crabs, lobsters, and worms, European researchers are building better gait-governing systems for robots. Mimicking the rhythmic nerve impulses of some invertebrates can create automatic, repetitive motions that help robots move more naturally and seamlessly, much like the organisms they emulate.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.