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Human intelligence is a biological mystery. Evolution is usually a stingy process, giving animals just what they need to thrive in their niche and no more. But humans stand out for being much cleverer than seems strictly necessary. The ability to do geometry, or to prove Pythagoras’s theorem, has turned out to be rather handy over the past few thousand years. But it is hard to imagine that a brain capable of such feats was required to survive on the prehistoric plains of east Africa, especially given the steep price at which it was bought. Humans’ outsized, power-hungry brains suck up around a quarter of their body’s oxygen supplies.
Researchers from Rochester University, in New York, have come up with a possible explanation. In Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, Steven Piantadosi and Celeste Kidd suggest that humans may have become so clever thanks to another evolutionarily odd characteristic: namely that their babies are so helpless. Their helplessness is thought to be one consequence of intelligence—or, at least, of brain size.
Read full, original post: Of bairns and brains