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Early humans used fire to permanently change the landscape tens of thousands of years ago in Stone Age Africa

Today the shoreline of Lake Malawi is open, not forested the way it was before ancient humans started modifying the landscape. Jessica Thompson, CC BY-NDFields of rust-colored soil, spindly cassava, small farms and villages dot the landscape. Dust and smoke blur the mountains visible beyond massive Lake Malawi. Here in tropical Africa, you can’t escape the signs of human presence. How far back in time would you need to go in this place to discover an entirely natural environment? Our work has shown that it would be a very long time indeed – at least 85,000 years, eight times earlier than the world’s first land transformations via agriculture. We are part of an interdisciplinary collaboration between archaeologists who study past human behavior, geochronologists who study the timing of landscape change and paleoenvironmental scientists who study ancient environments. By combining evidence from these research specialities, we have identified an instance in the very distant past of early humans bending environments to suit their needs. In doing so, they transformed the landscape around them in ways still visible today. Crew members excavate artifacts at a site in Karonga, Malawi, where stone tools are buried more than 3 feet (1 meter) below the modern ground surface. Jessica Thompson, CC BY-ND Digging for behavioral and environmental clues The dry season is the best time to do archaeological fieldwork here, and finding sites is easy. Most places we dig in these red soils, we find stone artifacts. They are evidence that someone sat and skillfully broke stones to create edges so sharp they can still draw blood. Many of these stone tools can be fit back together, reconstructing a single action by a single person, from tens of thousands of years ago. Middle Stone Age artifacts, some of which can be fit back together. Sheila Nightingale, CC BY-ND So far we’ve recovered more than 45,000 stone artifacts here, buried many feet (1 to 7 meters) below the surface of the ground. The sites we are excavating date to a time ranging from about 315,000 to 30,000 years ago known as the Middle Stone Age. This was also a period in Africa when innovations in human behavior and creativity pop up frequently – and earlier than anywhere else in the world. How did these artifacts get buried? Why are there so many of them? And what were these ancient hunter-gatherers doing as they made them? To answer these questions, we needed to figure out more about what was happening in this place during their time. The Viphya drill barge on Lake Malawi, where researchers braved waterspouts and lake fly swarms to obtain a long record of past environments. Andy Cohen, CC BY-ND For a clearer picture of the environments where these early humans lived, we turned to the fossil record preserved in layers of mud at the bottom of Lake Malawi. Over millennia, pollen blown into the water and tiny lake-dwelling organisms became trapped in layers of muck on the lake’s floor. Members of our collaborative team extracted a 1,250-foot (380-meter) drill core of mud from a modified barge, then painstakingly tallied the microscopic fossils it contained, layer by layer. They then used them to reconstruct ancient environments across the entire basin. Today, the high plateaus of northern Malawi harbor most of the remaining forests that once extended all the way to the Lake Malawi shoreline. Jessica Thompson, CC BY-ND Today, this region is characterized by bushy, fire-tolerant open woodlands that do not develop a thick and enclosed canopy. Forests that do develop these canopies harbor the richest diversity in vegetation; this ecosystem is now restricted to patches that occur at higher elevations. But these forests once stretched all the way to the lakeshore. Based on the fossil plant evidence present at various times in the drill cores, we could see that the area around Lake Malawi repeatedly alternated between wet times of forest expansion and dry periods of forest contraction. As the area underwent cycles of aridity, driven by natural climate change, the lake shrank at times to only 5% of its present volume. When lake levels eventually rose each time, forests encroached on the shoreline. This happened time and time again over the last 636,000 years. Harnessing fire to manage resources The mud in the core also contains a record of fire history, in the form of tiny fragments of charcoal. Those little flecks told us that around 85,000 years ago, something strange happened around Lake Malawi. Charcoal production spiked, erosion increased and, for the first time in more than half a million years, rainfall did not bring forest recovery. At the same time this charcoal burst appears in the drill core record, our sites began to show up in the archaeological record – eventually becoming so numerous that they formed one continuous landscape littered with stone tools. Another drill core immediately offshore showed that as site numbers increased, more and more charcoal was washing into the lake. Early humans had begun to make their first permanent mark on the landscape. Many people around the world still rely on fire for warmth, cooking, ritual and socializing – including the research crew when doing fieldwork. Jessica Thompson, CC BY-ND Fire use is a technology that stretches back at least a million years. Using it in such a transformative way is human innovation at its most powerful. Modern hunter-gatherers use fire to warm themselves, cook food and socialize, but many also deploy it as an engineering tool. Based on the wide-scale and permanent transformation of vegetation into more fire-tolerant woodlands, we infer that this was what these ancient hunter-gatherers were doing. By converting the natural seasonal rhythm of wildfire into something more controlled, people can encourage specific areas of vegetation to grow at different stages. This so-called “pyrodiversity” establishes miniature habitat patches and diversifies opportunities for foraging, kind of like increasing product selection at a supermarket. The research team exposes ancient stone tools near Karonga, Malawi. Jessica Thompson, CC BY-ND Just like today, changing any part of an ecosystem has consequences everywhere else. With the loss of closed forests in ancient Malawi, the vegetation became dominated by more open woodlands that are resilient to fire – but these did not contain the same species diversity. This combination of rainfall and reduced tree cover also increased opportunities for erosion, which spread sediments into a thick blanket known as an alluvial fan. It sealed away archaeological sites and created the landscape you can see here today. Human impacts can be sustainable Although the spread of farmers through Africa within the last few thousand years brought about more landscape and vegetation transformations, we have found that the legacy of human impacts was already in place tens of thousands of years before. This offers a chance to understand how such impacts can be sustained over very long timescales. Open woodlands have grown over alluvial fans that formed during the Middle Stone Age. Trenches such as this one at an excavation site show multiple layers of discarded artifacts over a period of tens of thousands of years. Jessica Thompson, CC BY-ND Most people associate human impacts with a time after the Industrial Revolution, but paleo-scientists have a deeper perspective. With it, researchers like us can see that wherever and whenever humans lived, we must abandon the idea of “pristine nature,” untouched by any human imprint. However, we can also see how humans shaped their environments in sustainable ways over very long periods, causing ecosystem transformation without collapse. Seeing the long arc of human influence therefore gives us much to consider about not only our past, but also our future. By establishing long-term ecological patterns, conservation efforts related to fire control, species protection and human food security can be more targeted and effective. People living in the tropics, such as Malawi today, are especially vulnerable to the economic and social impacts of food insecurity brought about by climate change. By studying the deep past, we can establish connections between long-term human presence and the biodiversity that sustains it. With this knowledge, people can be better equipped to do what humans had already innovated nearly 100,000 years ago in Africa: manage the world around us. [The Conversation’s newsletter explains what’s going on with the coronavirus pandemic. Subscribe now.]This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts. It was written by: Jessica Thompson, Yale University; David K. Wright, University of Oslo, and Sarah Ivory, Penn State. Read more:Turbulent environment set the stage for leaps in human evolution and technology 320,000 years agoAncient leaves preserved under a mile of Greenland’s ice – and lost in a freezer for years – hold lessons about climate change Jessica Thompson has received funding for this research from the Australian Research Council, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and National Geographic Society-Waitt Foundation. She is affiliated with Yale University and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, Arizona State University, the Paleoanthropology Society, the Society of Africanist Archaeologists, and the Society for American Archaeology. David K. Wright has received funding from the Wenner-Gren Foundation, National Geographic Foundation, Nordforsk (Nordic Council of Ministers) fund and the National Research Foundation of Korea. He is affiliated with the University of Oslo and the State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and is a member of the Society for American Archaeology and the Society of Africanist Archaeologists.Sarah Ivory receives funding from the US National Science Foundation and the Belmont Forum.

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NBA Twitter erupts after Luka Doncic’s hot Game 3 start vs. Clippers

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Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks wasted no time in Game 3 of their first-round matchup with the LA Clippers, and NBA Twitter erupted over their hot start.

Game 3 Friday night was arguably the biggest game in LA Clippers franchise history. After falling down 0-2 at home to the Dallas Mavericks, winning this road game was critical for a team that entered the 2021 NBA Playoffs with legitimate title aspirations.

Unfortunately for the Clippers, Luka Doncic and the Mavs came out laser-focused to put their opponent in another early hole.

Just over two minutes into Game 3, Dallas already had an 8-0 lead in its first playoff game at home since 2016 … and all eight points belonged to Doncic, who’s rapidly become a Clippers killer. As such, NBA Twitter could immediately smell the blood in the water, erupting over the early deficit and how frazzled LA looked.

NBA Twitter was eating it up as Luka Doncic went off on the Clippers yet again

For starters, we can’t go any further without acknowledging how much Doncic personally torments this LA team. The disrespect on these step-backs!

It was awesome seeing Doncic so fired up in front of a massive Mavs crowd at the American Airlines Center, and the home team quickly built up a 28-11 lead.

People quickly noticed how ruthless Doncic was as he repeatedly targeted poor Ivica Zubac on his step-backs.

Three Ivica Zubac switches, three Luka Doncic buckets. Mavs 8, Clippers 0 and a perhaps concerned Ty Lue calls timeout.

— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 29, 2021

Others couldn’t help but point out how the Clippers’ defensive strategy has had absolutely no answers for Doncic for the last two years now:

Clippers have had absolutely no clue how to stop Luka for two yrs now

— Chris Herring (@Herring_NBA) May 29, 2021

luka really don’t like them boys 😂

— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) May 29, 2021

Either way, there’s no question we are witnessing greatness from a superstar who’s still only 22 years old.

I mean, if Luka wants the be the best player ever, I would not object

— Josh Eberley🇨🇦 (@JoshEberley) May 29, 2021

LUKA ALREADY IN THAT MODE AND TALKING SHIT

— Ahmed🇸🇴/Mach Hommy’s Pray For Haiti AOTY (@big_business_) May 29, 2021

Luka is quickly moving up my favorite players list, this guy doesn’t make sense

— Jacob (AKA Rusty Buckets) (@RustyBUCKETS321) May 29, 2021

“Make Luka a scorer.”

/Luka later holds up the 100 sign

— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) May 29, 2021

It’s still early, and the Clippers went on a late first-quarter run to cut Dallas’ lead back down to single digits (with Doncic sidelined, of course), but there’s no question Luka’s early run was a memorable moment with LA on the ropes.

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Why Kylie Jenner’s Shoe Collection Has Desi Twitter Abuzz

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Why Kylie Jenner's Shoe Collection Has Desi Twitter Abuzz

Kylie Jenner shared a pics of shoes that instantly created a buzz on desi Twitter.

At 23, Kylie Jenner is one of the most popular entrepreneurs of our times. The fashionista — born to Caitlyn and Kris Jenner and sister to the famous Kardashian siblings — has an enviable career. Fans have been hooked to the minutest of details of the star’s life, thanks to the reality series Keeping Up With The Kardashians (and its several spin-offs) as well as her gigantic social media presence. Given this, Kylie Jenner may not have thought twice before sharing a photo of her collection of high-end footwear in just about every colour of the rainbow. The post, as is the norm with her, went viral.

fittings ✨???????????? pic.twitter.com/jL89z8ZL7B

— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) May 10, 2021

While Kylie Jenner surely caught the Internet’s attention with the jaw-dropping collection, what she didn’t take into account was desi Twitter users. Her desi followers had a very unique take on the image. In short, the first thought that popped into many minds on seeing the photo was that they resembled the slippers that line up outside our homes when we host a prayer meeting or a satsang.

Losing no time, one user said that this looked like “every Indian house during satyanarayan pooja.”

Every Indian House during Satyanarayan Pooja ????????#KylieKeGharPoojaHaihttps://t.co/XbzWJ1nQu7

— Prathmesh Thaker (@PrathmeshThaker) May 26, 2021

“When you have keertan at home,” read another comment.

When you have keertan at home https://t.co/frV0uytNSh

— Ritik Gupta (@ritik571) May 26, 2021

Another was sure you could find similar designs in Agra’s local shoe market. Well, that was brutal.

Agra ke Sadar Bazaar mei khub milti hain esi???? https://t.co/u0EiXWdR3L

— ईशान शर्मा???????? (@ishaaaaansharma) May 26, 2021

Some users said that the shoes looked like the ones that were available on sale in local stores for Rs 100.

Sale 100 Di Sale… ???????? https://t.co/TV03inYyS0

— ਕਰਨਪ੍ਰੀਤ ਕੌਰ????✨ (@KannuOyee) May 26, 2021

Why does this look like a Bata showroom that prices each pair at Rs.999 https://t.co/ins54KrO3o

— Vaishnavi Suresh (@vaishnaviisure1) May 25, 2021

“Where are the Punjabi juttis,” demanded one user.

Only heels?

No flats, no wedges, no ballerinas and most important not even a single Punjabi jutti. https://t.co/N6ic6aRavL

— Aman Kaur Grewal (@talk2amanjot) May 26, 2021

It was not just prayer meetings and shoe sales, some also felt that the photo reminded them of the days they would go for tuition and line their slippers outside the class. 

Home tuitions in India: https://t.co/zbZExIt0Tj

— star (@wordsindisguise) May 25, 2021

Take a look at the other reactions:

Why does this look like a Bata showroom that prices each pair at Rs.999 https://t.co/ins54KrO3o

— Vaishnavi Suresh (@vaishnaviisure1) May 25, 2021

Kylie making the world aware about all these new fungi … billionaire for a reason???????? https://t.co/YSl3RWV1ep

— Viraj (@lmaonade9) May 25, 2021

Kylie Jenner is the founder and owner of the cosmetic brand Kylie Cosmetics. She has a daughter named Stormi Webster with American rapper Travis Scott.

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Twitter: Social media giant lists new ‘Blue’ subscription service

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image copyrightGetty Images

image captionTwitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has previously said the company would diversify its revenue sources.

Twitter has listed a new subscription service on app stores, in an indication that the social media giant is preparing to trial the offering soon.

“Twitter Blue” is listed as an in-app purchase, priced at £2.49 in the UK and $2.99 in the US.

Twitter has given no further details, and declined to confirm online claims that the service could allow users to “undo” tweets.

It previously said it was working on special features for paid subscribers.

The firm wouldn’t comment directly on the listing but highlighted to the BBC that it had previously announced plans to diversify its revenue sources.

Although “Twitter Blue” is now listed on app stores, it isn’t yet fully enabled for users.

The BBC understands that pilot offerings of the subscription service are likely to start soon although it is unclear which countries it will be available in first.

According to technology blogger Jane Manchun Wong, who claims to be the first paying user of the service, it includes an “undo tweet” feature as well as a “reader mode” to make reading long threads easier. But Twitter has declined to confirm her claims.

The social media giant told the BBC that increasing “revenue durability” is the company’s top objective.

The firm also plans to continue developing and experimenting with other ways to diversify its revenues beyond advertising this year and further ahead.

These plans could also include subscription services and other ways to offer individuals and businesses access to special features on the platform.

Twitter has also made clear that it will continue to focus on growing its advertising business.

image copyrightTwitter

image captionThe “Twitter Blue” listing has appeared on app stores.

Last month, the company launched a new “tip jar” feature that allowed people to send money to others on the social network.

Twitter said the feature was “an easy way to support the incredible voices that make up the conversation”.

To begin with, only a select group of people can receive tips – a group Twitter said was made up of “creators”, journalists, experts, and non-profits.

The function adds a small icon to a user’s profile – on mobile devices only for now – with a drop-down menu for other payment providers such as PayPal, Venmo, or the Cash App, the latter two of which are popular in the United States.

But the announcement was not without controversy. Because the payment is made through those external systems, some Twitter users noticed that tipping a PayPal account lets the recipient know the postal address of the tip sender.

In other cases, the recipient’s email address could be seen, whether or not any money was sent.

Reporting by Peter Hoskins.

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Facebook and Twitter’s chief executives were asked during a US Senate hearing in November if there was evidence of their platforms being addictive.

media captionTwitter’s Jack Dorsey: “Like anything else, these tools can be addictive”

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