Fire According To Yuval Harari

At a recent talk given to children about the development of man, Harari made the point that almost all animals depend on their own bodies for their power. Therefore, the energy in the food they eat is devoted to building their bodies. Man alone learned to make friends with fire. And that was the springboard for differentiating humans from animals.

Cooking increases the available nutritional value in food many times, meaning more of it can be devoted to building the brain.

I can’t even begin to pick holes in this idea, but it may be true nonetheless.

One thing Tamara has said to me many times is how drudge-filled it must be to be a cow – to need to eat almost constantly, as cows do. And of course, their bodies are designed with heads that practically touch the ground. Add to that their four stomachs that are effectively big fermentation vats, and you have a big grass eating machine.

In response to Tamara’s comment I sometimes try to alleviate the painful knowledge of what is probably true, that they get mightily fed up with the constant eating, eating, eating. So I say that what may go through a cow’s mind when it moves forward to a new patch of grass is ‘Ooh, grass!’.

By the way, since the single day of rain we had here in Cambridge about a week and a half ago, we have not had any more rain. Yet the grass has greened up from that day. We still want and need more rain, though.

cow eating grass

I wrote somewhere that when I was a kid watching cowboy films, I saw the range wars in the United States between cattle ranches and sheep farmers and just a tale of greed and domination. I thought the cattle ranchers hated the sheep farmers because sheep farmers were poorer and their wishes were somehow more egalitarian.

Now I know that it was more basic than that. Cows need a certain length of grass to be able to eat. That is because they eat by curling their tongues around the blades of grass and tugging.

Sheep have sharp lower teeth at the front of their mouths and a hard palate (and no teeth) at the top of the front of their jaws. They chop off the grass that way and cut it to a length too short for cows to twist and pull.

So cows cannot eat grass when sheep have cut it to a short sward. Hence the range wars


On reading a bit more, I see that Harari attributes the science behind the connection between cooked food and human development to the writing of Ann Gibbons, the primary writer on human evolution for Science magazine.

In Harari’s graphic novel she is described as follows:

according to our specialist, Mrs. Ann Gibbons, cooking your food makes your teeth and your intestines smaller, and your brain bigger.
Long intestines and big brains consume so much energy, It’s difficult to have both! By shortening the digestive tract and reducing its energy consumption, cooked food will give you a jumbo brain.


I shot the photo of the cow with the Ricoh GR III at f/ 3.2 with a shutter speed of 1/125 second and ISO 100

And I shot this sunflower photo with the Ricoh GR III at f/ 3.2 with a shutter speed of 1/320 and ISO 100

Basically, I had the camera in Aperture Priority and didn’t change the aperture between shots. I am writing more about shooting modes and hope to have the article up in the next few days.



  1. Tamara says:

    Maybe our human brains got better when fire was discovered and we could eat so many more substances because our ancestors exclaimed something to the effect of, “Finally! Something else to eat, our menu has been sooooo boring!” And their brains perked up accordingly. 🤩

    Which segues nicely to your comments about cows, sheep, and grass – and now the serious aspect that many animals have been starving world wide this summer since so many countries are in a state of serious drought due to the climate crisis, and therefore the grass those same animals are grazing upon lacks a lot of the essential moisture and nutrients that they need.

    Lovely photos of yours, as usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. An analysis to rival the analysis of Yuval Harari and Ann Gibbons – and far more satisfying and frankly, I prefer your logic. As for animals in distress, this is the consequence of the path we have been on for years as you and I know, sadly.


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