TIME Google

See How Google’s Logo Has Evolved Over the Years

The company made another big change Tuesday

TIME Research

Horses Smile and Pout Just Like Humans, Study Says

horse smile
Courtesy of Jennifer Wathan

Horses are pros at sad puppy dog eyes and cheesy smiles

Horse faces share some surprising similarities to human faces, shows a curious new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.

After dissecting a horse head, analyzing its musculature, and scrutinizing 15 hours of horse video footage, a group of researchers managed to map out every possible facial expression a horse could make. It turns out our faces are a lot more similar than we think.

“Horses and humans are distantly related and have such differently shaped faces that I personally thought there would be really no similarities,” says study author Jennifer Wathan, a PhD candidate in social cognition and communication in horses at the University of Sussex in the U.K. “But there was a surprising amount of similarities.”

For the first time, Wathan and her colleagues created a full map of a horse face using a technique called the Facial Action Coding Systems (FACS). It’s a tool for objectively measuring facial movement, without letting subjective interpretations of facial expressions get in the way.

Humans have a FACS (we make 27 separate facial movements), and so do chimpanzees (they make 13) and dogs (16 for them). But horses had even more: 17 facial movements in total. “Most people who have horses know they are expressive and use their ears a lot, but I’ve got to admit, I was really surprised by the extent to which they use their face,” Wathan says. “They’ve got a huge facial repertoire.”

It’s not yet clear why there are similarities between humans and horses. “Whether animals communicate intentionally is still a huge and fairly contested issue,” she says. But three of our shared expressions particularly captivated Wathan. “One is raising the inner eyebrows,” she says—something humans do when we’re scared, surprised or sad. “You know, puppy-dog eyes,”she says. (Dogs really do this, by the way: one study of shelter dogs, by Bridget Waller and Juliane Kaminski at the University of Portsmouth, found that dogs who raised their brows were adopted faster than dogs who didn’t. You can see what it looks like by watching this video that the researchers made to go with their study:)

“They think that’s potentially because it enhances the proportions of the dog’s face to make them look more like human babies,” Wathan says. “It taps into our sensory biases to provide care for human babies.” Horses also do this expression, she says, “and it seems that they do it in negative emotional situations, too.”

Humans also pull the corners of their lips back—also known as smiling—sort of like horses do. “It seems to be part of the submissive gesture,” she says, and younger horses tend to do it to older horses.

Finally, both humans and horses widen their eyes in fear.

Findings like these can help us understand the evolution of complex communication between species—and they may suggest that using complex facial expressions to communicate is an ancient ability we shared with our last common ancestor with horses, or that the ability has evolved under the social pressure to communicate with important social partners, Wathan says.” Horses, like us, have a rich social life where effective communication would be to their advantage, she says.

“The ability to use complex facial expressions was one of these things that was kind of touted as being uniquely human,” Wathan says. “But other species are doing it, and we share these abilities with all the other species around us.”

TIME animals

Researchers Have Discovered What Made T. Rex Teeth So Deadly

The jagged teeth of Theropods, a classification of mostly flesh-eating dinosaurs, were useful for grasping and tearing at prey

Though notoriously short-armed, the T. Rex had other genetic advantages: namely, its teeth.

Researchers have found that the saw-like internal tooth structure of carnivorous dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus Rex may have played an important role in their success as predators.

In the study published in Scientific Reports, researchers discovered that the teeth of meat-eating Theropod dinosaurs featured specially layered arrangements of dentine, a hardened tissue which helped not only strengthen the tooth, but also to enlarge the tooth’s jagged edges. This tooth structure allowed them to develop a “hypercarnivorous feeding style,” the study says, with the ability to crush bones and feed on other large animals.

When teeth were worn out or lost, these dinosaurs were able to grow new teeth to replace them. Growing new teeth could take up to two years, however, which is why these dinosaurs needed a tooth structure strong enough to last – and to keep up that meaty diet.

TIME Microsoft

See How Microsoft Windows Has Evolved Over 30 Years

What a long strange trip it's been

Windows 10, the latest version of Microsoft’s iconic operating system, launched on Wednesday. Microsoft has given the interface several nips, tucks and full-on reconstructive surgeries since the first version released some 30 years ago in the early days of personal computing.

Flip through the slides above to see how Windows has evolved new features, typefaces and designs, while retaining that essential concept of the computer screen as a “window” onto the computer’s features. It certainly captures the spirit of the software better than Microsoft’s original codename, “Interface Manager.”

TIME Law

Remembering the Scopes Monkey Trial on Its 90th Anniversary

John T. Scopes Monkey Trial
New York Daily News/Getty Images Attorney Clarence Darrow consults with Judge Raulston about procedure in the Tennessee courts during the trial of John T. Scopes.

It was a turning point for the acceptance of evolution

Today the theory of evolution is taught in schools across the United States, but that wasn’t the case when teacher John Thomas Scopes went on trial for teaching it to his high school students in Tennessee. In March of 1925, the state had passed a law banning the teaching of evolution because it conflicted with the story of creation in Bible. Scopes’ case was brought to court on July 10—precisely 90 years ago Friday—in what came to be known as the “Scopes Monkey Trial,” one of the most famous trials in U.S. history.

Three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan argued for the prosecution, seeking to prove that Scopes had violated the law. As TIME reported that year, Bryan—who died shortly after the trial ended—had planned for his closing remarks of the trial to be his “greatest speech.” The speech wasn’t actually given during the trial due to legal maneuvering by the defense, but he delivered it to the public after the fact. It included passages like this:

It need hardly be added that this law did not have its origin in bigotry. The majority is not trying to establish a religion or to teach it—it is trying to protect itself from the effort of an insolent minority to force irreligion upon the children under the guise of teaching Science.

Scopes ended up losing the case and was charged a $100 fine, though the verdict was later overturned on a technicality. But the real star of the trial was Clarence Darrow, Scopes’ skilled lawyer, who poked numerous holes in Bryan’s argument and fundamentalist theory in general. The case marked a turning point in the way evolution was taught in schools and more widely acknowledged in the U.S.

After it was all over, TIME compared the trial to the examination of Socrates in ancient Greece:

Scientists and teachers shook their heads. Mr. Bryan was dead and at least for the time they as a body declined to enter upon animadversion, but some of them privately compared the Scopes trial, not with the trial in Pilate’s court, but with a trial in the court of Athens, where a teacher, accused (like Mr. Scopes) of corrupting the youth by teaching things contrary to law and disrespectful to the gods, had (like Mr Scopes) refused to deny his action, but defended it only by saying that he had taught the truth, which was, in his eyes, the highest form of reverence; and was (like Mr. Scopes) convicted. The parallel, they said, fell down in only one important point: Mr. Scopes was given a fine of $100; Socrates was given a cup of hemlock.

Read TIME’s full 1925 post-mortem on the Scopes trial, free of charge, here in the TIME archives: Dixit

TIME the brain

Why You’re Pretty Much Unconscious All the Time

Nobody's home: There's less of you here than you think
Getty Images Nobody's home: There's less of you here than you think

A surprising new paper argues that consciousness is just a bit player in the human brain

Your body has a lot of nifty parts, but it’s the brain that’s the it organ of the summer. The brain’s all-the-rage moment is mostly a result of the box office hit Inside Out, from Pixar, the animation company that had previously limited itself to such fanciful questions as “What would happen if your toys could come alive?” or “Are there really monsters in my closet?” With Inside Out, the filmmakers raised their game, taking on a rather more vexing issue: How does the brain work?

The answer—which involves five colorful characters living inside your head and operating a giant control panel—was perfect at a lot of levels, equal parts fairy tale, metaphor, and sort-of, kind-of, pretty good science. But no sooner did the problem get solved, than the real scientists came along and spoiled the party. And they did it in a big way.

In a new paper published in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a group of researchers led by associate professor of psychology Ezequiel Morsella of San Francisco State University, took on the somewhat narrower question of exactly what consciousness is—and came up with a decidedly bleaker view: It’s pretty much nothing at all. Never mind the five characters controlling your thoughts, you barely control them. It’s the unconscious that’s really in charge.

Morsella’s paper was not based on any breaking experimental work. There were no new brain scans or questionnaires or subjects being asked to respond to flashing lights or flickering images on a computer screen. Rather, the work involved little more than a group of really, really smart people thinking really, really hard about things. That, for better or worse, is how most questions about consciousness have been answered since humans began considering them, and the answers have often been pretty compelling.

The one Morsella and his colleagues came up with is something they call “Passive Frame Theory,” and their provocative idea goes like this: nearly all of your brain’s work is conducted in different lobes and regions at the unconscious level, completely without your knowledge. When the processing is done and there is a decision to make or a physical act to perform, that very small job is served up to the conscious mind, which executes the work and then flatters itself that it was in charge all the time.

The conscious you, in effect, is like a not terribly bright CEO, whose subordinates do all of the research, draft all of the documents, then lay them out and say, “Sign here, sir.” The CEO does—and takes the credit.

“The information we perceive in our consciousness is not created by conscious thought,” Morsella said in a statement accompanying the release of the paper. “Nor is it reacted to by conscious processes. Consciousness is the middle-man and it doesn’t do as much work as you think.”

There are deep evolutionary reasons for things to work that way. Humans, like all animals, operate as parsimoniously as possible; if we could be run entirely by our reflexes and instincts with no conscious thought at all, we would. There’s a reason you don’t stop to contemplate whether you should pull your hand off a hot stove, and instead simply do it. Consciousness in that case would just slow things down.

But as we became complex, social organisms, capable of speech and emotion and tool-making and more, we needed a bit of the brain that could step in not so much to run things, but to guide the body or choose between two or three very simple options. Take the experience of holding your breath underwater or carrying a hot dish. Your musculoskeletal system wants you to take a breath in the first case and drop the dish in the second. However, the part of your unconscious brain that is aware of consequences knows why both of those choices are bad ideas. So the conflict is served up to the conscious mind that keeps you in control until you’ve reached the surface of the water or put the dish on the table.

But the unconscious mind is far more powerful and creative than that. The authors cite language in particular—a human faculty that is considered perhaps our highest and most complex gift—as one more area in which consciousness is just a bit player. You may be the world’s finest raconteur, but when you’re speaking you’re only consciously aware of the few words you’re saying at any one moment—and that’s only so you can direct the muscles that make it possible to form and express the words in the first place. All of the content of your speech is being pre-cooked for you before you say it.

Things are a bit different if you’re, say, delivering a rehearsed toast or speaking in a language that is not your own; in these cases, the conscious mind has either mastered a script or is continually consulting an inner dictionary, reminding itself to convert, say, the English cat to the Spanish gato. But the whole goal of language fluency is to eliminate that step, to think in the second language and thus, once again, put the conscious mind out of work.

Morsella goes heavy on the acronyms to make his case. The brain’s guiding principle in mediating between the conscious and unconscious is described as EASE—for Elemental, Action-based, Simple and Evolutionary-based. The system for speaking one word instead of another or holding onto a hot dish even when you don’t want to is PRISM—for Parallel Responses into Skeletal Muscle. But those utilitarian terms do a very good job of capturing the utilitarian way the human system works.

We are, like it or not, biological machines, and the simpler we keep things, the less chance there is for a mistake or a breakdown. The mind, as the most complex part of us, needs the streamlining more than anything else. None of this changes the fact that our brains are the seat of our greatest achievements—our poetry, our inventions, our compassion, our art. It’s just that it’s the unconscious rather than the conscious that should take the bow. The only thing that should have any quarrel with that is one of our lesser impulses: our vanity.

TIME Music

Hip-Hop Was the Biggest Revolution in American Music and That’s Backed By a Study of 17,000 Songs

Photo of Public Enemy Jan. 1, 1991
Ebet Roberts—Redferns/Getty Images Photo of Public Enemy , on Jan. 1, 1991

Forget the British invasion of the 1960s or the synth-pop of the 1980s

The explosion of hip-hop onto the music scene in the 1990s was the biggest musical revolution in American pop history.

That’s according to a team of scientists who, for the first time, have analyzed the evolution of Western pop music, spanning from 1960 to 2010, and published their findings in the Royal Society Open Journal.

The team, from Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London, looked at 30-second snippets from about 17,000 songs from the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 over a 50-year period. The researchers studied trends in style and diversity as well as how harmony, chord changes and tonal quality changed over time.

“We can actually go beyond what music experts tell us, or what we know ourselves about them, by looking directly into the songs, measuring their makeup, and understanding how they have changed,” said lead author of the study Matthias Mauch.

Mauch’s team found that there were three distinct music revolutions: 1964, 1983 and 1991.

1964 was the start of “British invasion” when bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones flooded the American charts. But contrary to popular belief, these bands didn’t initiate the rock revolution, they were merely following existing trends.

The rise of new technologies — such as synthesizers, samplers and drum machines — in the 1980s ushered in a new style of music, personified in bands like Duran Duran or the Eurythmics.

But then hip-hop exploded into the mainstream in the 1990s, sparking the biggest music revolution in 50 years.

“The rise of rap and related genres appears, then, to be the single most important event that has shaped the musical structure of the American charts in the period that we studied,” Mauch said.

TIME Research

People With Back Pain May Have Chimpanzee-Shaped Spines

Research shows that people with spines similar to chimpanzees' have more trouble walking upright

People who suffer from lower back pain may have spines that are similar to chimpanzees, new research shows. In a study published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, researchers analyzed the spine shapes of modern humans, ancient humans, chimpanzees and orangutans. They found that modern humans who had spine shapes most similar to chimps were more likely to have a small lesion that forms in the disc between vertebrae in the lower back, causing pain. These people’s spines are less well-adapted for walking upright, making them more susceptible to back pain.

The research could help doctors to analyze spine shapes to evaluate which people are most likely to suffer from back pain.

TIME Science

You’re Not Fooling Anyone With Your Pretend Laughter

Getty Images

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

A fake laugh is produced with a slightly different set of vocal muscles controlled by a different part of our brain

Why do we laugh? The obvious answer is because something is funny. But if we look closer at when and how laughter occurs in ordinary social situations, we see that it’s not so simple. Like most aspects of human behavior, laughter is complicated.

Scientists are learning about not only the ways in which people hear and categorize laughs, but also how human laughter relates to similar vocal behaviors across the animal kingdom. We have now uncovered many clues about the origins of this fascinating and ubiquitous behavior: While laughter might seem on the surface to be about jokes and humor, it turns out that it’s really about communicating affiliation and trust.

And then it gets tricky.

In one line of research in my Vocal Communication Lab at UCLA, we have been playing recorded laughs to listeners and asking them, is this laugh “real” or “fake”? Our recorded laughs were taken from real conversations between friends in a laboratory setting, or produced on command, also in the lab. Listeners were able to tell the “real” laughs from the “fake” laughs about 70 percent of the time. Why are people falling for the fake laughs? Before we can answer that, we need to address where laughter came from in the first place.

Laughter in humans likely evolved from play vocalizations in our primate ancestors. We see related vocal behaviors in many primate species today, as well as in rats and dogs. Scientists have described these play vocalizations as evolved from labored breathing during play. If one animal bites another, it could be taken as an attack—but if they signal while panting that they are just playing, the play can continue without being interrupted by an unnecessary real fight.

So how does this relate to human laughter? By comparing traits in different species, and then incorporating what is known about the evolutionary connection between those species, we can estimate how old a trait is, and how it has changed over evolutionary time. Our laughs have become longer, and the sound has more of a tone, including the stereotyped vowel sounds we all know: the human “hahaha.” Of course, human laughter can be composed of many sounds, including snorts, grunts, and hisses. But when we produce the classic “hahaha” sound, we are revealing the action of an ancient emotional vocal system shared with many species, and that has important consequences in how people appraise a laugh, and the laugher, at that moment.

Laughter triggers the release of brain endorphins that make us feel good, and it reduces stress. There is even evidence that we experience a temporary slight muscle weakness called cataplexy when we laugh, so we could be communicating that we are unlikely (or relatively unable) to attack. But laughter is not always made in fun, and can be quite hurtful (e.g., teasing). Laughter is a powerful signal with huge communicative flexibility.

We were laughing before we were talking, and crying, screaming, gesturing, and making other nonverbal signals. But we did eventually learn to talk, and developed fine control over our breathing to regulate it for speech, and better motor control over our larynx, lips, and tongue. These innovations afford us the ability to be vocal mimics. As this skill developed for speech production, the ability to imitate other non-speech sounds came rather quickly. Suddenly, the fake laugh was born.

A fake laugh is produced with a slightly different set of vocal muscles controlled by a different part of our brain. The result is that there are subtle features of the laughs that sound like speech, and recent evidence suggests people are unconsciously quite sensitive to them. For example, if you slow down a “real” laugh about two and half times, the result is strangely animal-like. But when you slow down human speech, or a “fake” laugh, it sounds like human speech slowed down.

The ability to be a good faker has its advantages, so there has likely been evolutionary pressure to fake it well, with subsequent pressure on listeners to be good “faker detectors.” This “arms race” dynamic, as it’s called in evolutionary biology, results in good fakers, and good fake detectors, as evidenced by many recent studies, including my own.

The reasons we laugh are as complicated as our social lives, and relate closely to our personal relationships and communicative strategies. One focus of researchers now is trying to decipher the relationship between specific sound features of our laughs—from loud belly laughs to quiet snickering—and what listeners perceive those features to mean. For someone studying the evolution of human communication, there are few things better to study. And it’s no joke.

Greg Bryant received his Ph.D. in psychology from UC Santa Cruz in 2004 and is now an associate professor in the Department of Communication at UCLA. He is interested broadly in the evolution of communication and cognition, and has published on a variety of topics exploring the role of the voice in social interaction. He wrote this for Thinking L.A., a partnership of UCLA and Zócalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Research

Men Are Totally Hardwired by Evolution to Prefer Curvy Women, Study Finds

Human Spine
Getty Images

And it's one curve in particular

A new University of Texas study has found that men express a clear preference for women who have a pronounced back-to-buttock curve.

After asking around 100 men to rank the attractiveness of images of various females, researchers found that men strongly preferred women with a back-to-buttock curve of 45.5 degrees, which they described as the “theoretically optimal angle of lumbar curvature.”

They theorized that, in ancient times, such an angle meant that women were more likely to carry out successful pregnancies.

“This spinal structure would have enabled pregnant women to balance their weight over the hips,” said researcher David Lewis.

“These women would have been more effective at foraging during pregnancy and less likely to suffer spinal injuries. In turn, men who preferred these women would have had mates who were better able to provide for fetus and offspring, and who would have been able to carry out multiple pregnancies without injury.”

Researchers conducted a second study to rule out if the spinal curvature preference was due to the buttock size rather than the spinal curvature angle itself. But they discovered that men repeatedly exhibited a preference for women with spinal-curvature angles closer to the optimum, even if the women had smaller buttocks.

“Beauty is not entirely arbitrary, or ‘in the eyes of the beholder’ as many in mainstream social science believed, but rather has a coherent adaptive logic,” Lewis added.

Read next: This App Alerts You When You’re Near a Spot Where a Woman Made History

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