Galápagos giant tortoises show that in evolution, slow and steady gets you places

Giant tortoises may not seem like high achievers, but their remarkable spread and diversification indicate otherwise

“As I was walking along I met two large tortoises, each of which must have weighed at least two hundred pounds: one was eating a piece of cactus, and as I approached, it stared at me and slowly stalked away; the other gave a deep hiss, and drew in its head. These huge reptiles, surrounded by the black lava, the leafless shrubs, and large cacti, seemed to my fancy like some antediluvian animals. The few dull-coloured birds cared no more for me, than they did for the great tortoises.”

On a hot September day in 1835, Charles Darwin met his first giant tortoise on Chatham Island, part of the Galápagos archipelago. After visiting other islands in the archipelago, he came to realize that each island had its own, but slightly different giant tortoise. This was already known by the natives, who could distinguish the tortoises from different islands, but Darwin was struck with wonder (he even brought some tortoises back to Europe as pets). Eventually, his wonder forever changed our understanding of the natural world.

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Yuval Harari, author of Sapiens, on how meditation made him a better historian

Yuval Noah Harari’s first book, Sapiens, was an international sensation. The Israeli historian’s mind-bending tour through the trump of Homo sapiens is a favorite of, among others, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Barack Obama. His new book, Homo Deus: a Brief History of Tomorrow, is about what comes next for humanity — and the threat our own intelligence and creative capacity poses to our future. And it, too, is fantastically interesting.

I’ve wanted to talk to Harari since reading Sapiens. I’ve had one big question about him: What kind of mind creates a book like Sapiens? And now I know. A clear one.

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The neuroscience of humor investigated

A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience takes a look inside the brains of professional comedians and compares them with less humorous humans. They attempt to home in on the seat of creative humor and ask what it can tell us about creativity.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles recently undertook a rather ambitious project: they set out to spy on the neural correlates of creating a joke.

The study was led by a USC doctoral student, Ori Amir, and Irving Biederman, a professor of psychology and computer science.

Creativity is a muddy area of research; it is nebulous and ethereal by its very nature. However, regardless of these difficulties (and perhaps because of them), many researchers have set their sights on unpicking the processes that underly creativity.

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Kim Jong-nam killing: Suspect ‘was paid $90 for baby oil prank’

An Indonesian woman arrested for the murder of the half-brother of North Korea’s leader has said she was given 400 Malaysian ringgits ($90; £72) to carry out a prank.

Indonesian embassy officials met Siti Aisyah, 25, on Saturday in the Malaysian capital.

She said she was given the cash to smear Kim Jong-nam’s face with “baby oil” as part of a reality show joke.

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Heidelberg car attack injures three

Three people have been injured in the German city of Heidelberg after a man drove a car into a pedestrian area.

The attacker, who was believed to have been armed with a knife, was shot and injured by police in a brief standoff after fleeing the scene on foot.

His motives are unclear, but terrorism is not suspected and he is thought to have acted alone, police say.

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