Thursday, February 01, 2007

'Hobbit' human 'is a new species'





"People refused to believe that someone with that small of a brain could make the tools," said Professor Falk.

She said the Hobbit brain was nothing like that of a microcephalic and was advanced in a way that is different from living humans.

A previous study of LB1's endocast revealed that large parts of the frontal lobe and other anatomical features were consistent with higher cognitive processes.

"LB1 has a highly evolved brain," said Professor Falk. "It didn't get bigger, it got rewired and reorganised, and that's very interesting."


Which begs the question: how small can a brain be and still be considered "intelligent"?

It's tempting to wonder how many other "hobbit"-like species might await discovery . . . and if any of them made the evolutionary cut before we did.

4 comments:

razorsmile said...

Which begs the question: how small can a brain be and still be considered "intelligent"?

I'd have to say, a whole lot smaller than ours.

Here's what we know:

- software can compose music

- and write research papers

- and fiction

These are crappy little expert systems, not huge terabyte-consuming programs. You could probably fit all three on a decent flash drive or a current generation PDA, if you insist on an OS for running them.

How big is the algorithm for the ability and willingness to learn?

Anna Murphy said...

My husband and I argue all the time over whether our cat's brain is the size of a grape or a golf ball, but the fact remains that she outsmarts us whenever she puts her tiny mind to it.

But seriously, scientists proved long ago (after the decades of skull-measuring eugenics research) that there is no correlation between brain size and intelligence. It's the number of connections between your brain cells that count, not the amount of meat you've got in there.

Makes you wonder about that old saying that we only use 99% of our brain...

W.M. Bear said...

Way back when I studied evolutionary biology we learned that what was important was not absolute brain size, but the ratio of brain size to body size. It looks as though this is roughly the same for "hobbits" as for us, ergo they were/are at least as smart. The one in the illustration certainly looks like a badass hunter-dude. (And as Yoda says in one of the Star Wars movies -- I forget which one -- "Size doesn't matter." (Well, at least not where kicking imperial butt is concerned.)

Dustin said...

WM, that's interesting, and being a chemist who avoided biology like the plague I didn't know that. I always thought that "rearrangement" was the key in our evolution, not size or ratio. Thanks for the info. :-)