Emperor Napoleon I of France lends his name to an insecurity complex that supposedly plagues some short men. But the neurosis is misnamed: At five-foot-six, Napoleon practically towered over the average Frenchman of his day.
Maybe it’s because Hollywood tends to cast strapping hunks in period dramas that we forget that, for most of human history, the world belonged to shorties. It wasn’t until well after the invention of cars and antibiotics that the average European man outgrew today’s average American teenaged girl.
Until around 250 years ago in the West, archaeological evidence suggests that most human beings had an edge-to-edge bite, similar to apes. In other words, our teeth were aligned liked a guillotine, with the top layer clashing against the bottom layer. Then, quite suddenly, this alignment of the jaw changed: We developed an overbite, which is still normal today. The top layer of teeth fits over the bottom layer like a lid on a box.
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In his recent book The Social Conquest of Earth, the great myrmecologist and evolutionary theorist Edward O. Wilson comments at several points on animals with especially complex social behavior. Leading that parade: human beings. A close second: leafcutter ants. It might seem odd that tiny ants, with their necessarily tiny brains, could rival humans in the sophistication of their social order, but it turns out, the science of emergent behavior has shown, that the consistent following of very simple rules can produce exceptionally complicated actions—rather like computers do. Or, to be more precise, exactly as computers do.
Read more. [Image: Antz/ DreamWorks Animation]