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Apes & Japes: Can Monkey Laughs Explain The Human Condition?

Researchers have found that chimpanzees use laughter to bond just like we do, vocalizing in ways that are uncannily human. But do they really get the joke?

Monkeying around
Monkeying around
Hervé Morin

The French humorist and keen observer of human nature François Rabelais once famously declared that "laughter is the property of man." Yet serious doubts on this affirmation can arise on a visit to any city zoo, where we see a wide range of facial expressions and laughter-like sounds coming from the monkey cage.

But are our primate cousins really chortling? The question has nagged primatologists for decades. One expert says we should turn the question around: "When I hear people laughing, what I am basically hearing is the laughter of a primate," says Bernard Thierry of France's national center of research (CNRS), at the University of Strasbourg.

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Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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