Searching for a biological explanation of music, the British science writer Philip Ball takes stock of Darwin’s idea that it could aid in the reproductive process and Steven Pinker’s view that it is merely icing on the cake. “Charles Darwin, in ‘The Descent of Man’, noted that ‘neither the enjoyment nor the capacity of producing musical notes are faculties of the least direct use to man in reference to his ordinary habits of life.’ Unwilling to believe that music was altogether useless, Darwin concluded that it may have made man’s ancestors more successful at mating. Yet if that were so, you might expect one gender to be musically more gifted than the other, and there is no evidence of that. So what is the point of music? Steven Pinker, a cognitive psychologist best known for his book ‘The Language Instinct’, has called music ‘auditory cheesecake, an exquisite confection crafted to tickle the sensitive spots of at least six of our mental faculties.’ If it vanished from our species, he said, ‘the rest of our lifestyle would be virtually unchanged.’ Others have argued that, on the contrary, music, along with art and literature, is part of what makes people human; its absence would have a brutalising effect. Philip Ball, a British science writer and an avid music enthusiast, comes down somewhere in the middle. He says that music is ingrained in our auditory, cognitive and motor functions. We have a music instinct as much as a language instinct, and could not rid ourselves of it if we tried.”
Short-hop regional flights could be running on batteries in a few years.
The artifacts were often made from found objects – an Ivory dish-soap bottle transformed into an earthenware figure.
On New Year’s Eve 1899, the captain of this Pacific steamliner sailed into history. Or did he?