Editor's note

How can we figure out how the brains of our long distant ancestors worked millions of years ago? All they left behind are some fossilized bones and some stone tools, making it hard to know much definitive about their cognitive processes, including when language first emerged. But maybe those aren’t the only clues we have. Indiana University’s Shelby Putt hooked modern humans – like you – up to brain imaging devices as they worked to make various stone tools. The idea is that we can zero in on what kind of brainpower is necessary to complete these tool-making tasks whether performed today or by our ancient predecessors.

In Germany – a country where going to the theater is more popular than going to soccer matches – the Syrian refugee crisis has been a fertile subject for playwrights. As Stanford University’s Emily Goodling explains, this is largely the result of Germany’s unique political “theaterkultur,” which for decades has blurred the lines between activism and art.

Closer to home, political scientist Jose Miguel Cruz traces the complex origins of the notorious, transnational gang MS-13 to the streets of Los Angeles in the 1980s. “Despite what President Donald Trump and Attorney General Sessions have claimed,” he writes, “lax immigration policies are not what allowed MS-13 and other Central American gangs to form in the U.S.”

Maggie Villiger

Senior Editor, Science + Technology

Top story

The stone flakes are flying, but what brain regions are firing? Shelby S. Putt

Brain-imaging modern people making Stone Age tools hints at evolution of human intelligence

Shelby Putt, Indiana University

We can't observe the brain activity of extinct human species. But we can observe modern brains doing the things that our distant ancestors did, looking for clues about how ancient brains worked.

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