First, a story linked here about the social nature of music: http://nautil.us/issue/34/adaptation/when-you-listen-to-music-youre-never-alone
It is very interesting as it goes from a riff about people dancing together while listening to different music on their iPods. Interesting huh? The story says this shows technology does not create social isolation—hmmm, I am not so sure. Another point is that when we feel alone, listening to music brings back feelings of connection, and that makes sense to me. Finally, one quibble here. the story says that mirror neurons help with the processing of music and I do not doubt sometimes they do, but the example given is when someone hears a guitar riff, their mirror neurons for guitar playing light up. Oops, I am pretty sure a good many people do not have mirror neurons for such a thing. They (we) may feel the rhythm and melody and dance along but that is a different phenomena. Mirror neurons process relatively simple actions of an almost universal nature; mirror systems, which are not understood nearly as well, help with easy processing, e.g., recognition and memory, of music, or at least those passages which have achieved memic status, but this would involve not simple motor coordinations but symbolic processes.
Second story is all over the internet. For some time we have understood that some modern humans have Neanderthal DNA as a consequence of mating 40-60,000 years ago, but now they have found some even older Neanderthal DNA that contains some modern human, i.e., Homo sapiens sapiens, DNA. That indicates that mating between the two groups (and the Denisovans as well, whoever they were) happened much earlier and for thousands of years. One scientist said that such an idea was pretty inconceivable even a decade ago, so the field of paleontology is shifting here a bit. One researcher in the first story about music suggested that we (Homo of whatever sort) probably made music before syntactic sentences, and language is thought to be at least 100,000 years old. Maybe some sapiens and neanderthals danced to their own music and found the other attractive?
The third story is to recognize the passing of Hilary Putnam, generally accorded to be a very quick and intelligent philosopher who initiated several schools of thought but later changed his mind. Now I like this. I knew his name and his work only vaguely but I now read that he helped promulgate a school of thought called functionalism which posited the equivalence between biological and machine thinking: if it accomplishes the same function, it is the same in nature. Later he refuted that idea, saying that biological entities are so much more very complex which we do not understand well enough yet. Amen to that. If you have followed this blog at all, you know my thoughts about brains and computers.
That’s it for now, 3 interesting stories, and I will travel on. Next up will probably be another poetic interlude.