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Posts Tagged "anthropology"

Anthropology in Practice

What can teeth tell us about our prehistoric ancestors?

Photo by Justin Mclean.

Our distant past is just that: the distant past. It’s this murky place that science is slowly filling in but the landscape still largely exists just on the periphery of our imagination, and it’s dominated by raw, somewhat violent natures. And in this distant past, we’ve cast our ancestors with personalities and traits to match [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

“Rethinking Home” with Citizen Anthropologists

A traditional Samoan fale overlooking the water. Photo by NeilsPhotography.

There is something to be said for having a space that you call home. It grounds you in social and cultural ways. As much as your home is a reflection of who you are, it also becomes a mirror for larger social observances. While we may add our own personal touches to our homes in [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Why are we sleeping with our phones?

cellphonebybedDC2014

When you woke up this morning, did you reach for your cell phone? Was it right next to the bed? Or under your pillow? Did you use it as an alarm clock? And if you did what was the first thing you did after you disabled the alarm? Read email? Check Facebook? Tweet? If the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

True Calling Interview: Anthropology in a Non-Traditional Path

Krystal

Last week I was interviewed by Renee Masur of Sokanu as part of the “True Calling” series, which looks at people who have found careers (allegedly) doing things they love. I am definitely fortunate to be one of those people, although my path has been far from the norm. I get to meld anthropology with [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Stories Our Refrigerators Tell

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Do any of you remember The Brave Little Toaster? Anyone? It was an animated feature from the ’80s in which a group of older appliances leave the cabin where they “lived” to find their master owner in the big city. It’s a story about talking appliances—plus one electric blanket—but it also very much highlights the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Missing Link that Wasn’t

Reconstruction of the Piltdown Skull. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

April Fools’ Day is not unique to Western cultures. People all over the world and all throughout history have celebrated the coming of Spring with festivals of deception and lightheartedness. In this spirit, all this week, we’ll explore themes of magic, fraud, and trickery. Today’s post is not quite so lighthearted, however, and looks at [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

What does it mean to be an introvert online?

Photo by AshtonPal, CC. Click on image for license and information.

Did you take public transportation today? And where did you sit? Did you take the seat on the end? What about your phone at work? Did it actually ring today? Did you let it go to voicemail? In fact, do you prefer responding to emails over talking on the phone? Or maybe you went out—and [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Share This: Chain Letters and Social Networks

Photo by Liz West. CC; Click on image for license and information.

Did you hear about the seventeen year old girl who was pushed into an open manhole by bullies in her school? Her name was Carmen and she had made up her mind to tell someone that she was being bullied, but she didn’t get a chance. During a fire drill the bullies kept crowding her [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Social Lessons from Our Favorite Horror Movies

Photo by Paree, CC.

I’m a fan of scary stories. With a few hours to spare, I’ll gladly spend them with Richard Matheson or Shirley Jackson. If I don’t have a few hours to spare, I’ll pass the time with whatever horror movie I can find playing in the background while I work. Yes, they can be campy. Yes, [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

On My Shelf: Blue Jeans–The Art of the Ordinary

bluejeans

Blue Jeans: The Art of the Ordinary | Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward | University of California Press | 184 pages | $24.95 (Paperback) I’m willing to bet you own at least one pair of jeans. Denim clothing—which will be used interchangeably with jeans for this discussion—is popular with people just about everywhere, with the [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Popular special edition adapted for eBook format: Becoming Human: Our Past, Present and Future*

Becoming Human cover

We humans are a strange bunch. We have self-awareness and yet often act on impulses that remain hidden. We were forged in adversity but live in a world of plenty. Who are we? What is to become of us? To these age-old questions, science has in recent years brought powerful tools and reams of data. [...]

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Cross-Check

Anthropologist Finds Flaw in Claim That Chimp Raids Are “Adaptive”

Chimp violence by one community produces little or no net advantage over other communities and hence may not be adaptive, according to anthropologist Brian Ferguson.

Since September, I’ve posted three columns, including two written by others, on whether lethal chimpanzee raids–and by implication, human warfare—are adaptive and hence innate. In the first, I critique a widely reported study in Nature: “Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts.” In the second, anthropologist Brian Ferguson criticizes the [...]

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Cross-Check

Thanksgiving and the Slanderous Myth of the Savage Savage

Native Americans, accused of Hobbesian savagery by modern scientists, actually treated Europeans kindly in some early encounters. This painting shows the legendary Thanksgiving feast between Pilgrims and the Wampanoag, who helped the newcomers survive and were eventually driven from their land.

The approach of Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday, has me brooding once again over slanderous scientific portrayals of Native Americans as bellicose brutes.* When I was in grade school, my classmates and I wore paper Indian headdresses and Pilgrim hats and reenacted the “first Thanksgiving,” in which supposedly friendly Native Americans joined Pilgrims for a [...]

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Cross-Check

Science “faction”: Is theoretical physics becoming “softer” than anthropology?

black hole illustration

Two recent science stories, one in anthropology and the other in physics, have me wondering which field is "hard" and which "soft." The first story involves the decision of the American Anthropological Association to delete the word "science" from its mission statement. That step provoked squawks from anthropologists who’ve struggled to counter the image of [...]

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Cross-Check

Margaret Mead’s war theory kicks butt of neo-Darwinian and Malthusian models

Why war? Darwinian explanations, such as the popular "demonic males" theory of Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham, are clearly insufficient. They can’t explain why war emerged relatively recently in human prehistory—less than 15,000 years ago, according to the archaeological record—or why since then it has erupted only in certain times and places. Many scholars solve this [...]

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Cross-Check

Margaret Mead’s bashers owe her an apology

cover of The Trashing of Margaret Mead

Thirty-two years after her death, the anthropologist Margaret Mead remains a favorite whipping girl for ideologues of all stripes. Did you know that she cooked up the global-warming "hoax"? Some over-the-top global warming deniers say it all started in 1975 when Mead organized a conference to address overpopulation. Most attacks on Mead focus on her [...]

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Dog Spies

How Well Do You Know Your Dog?: Part 1

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Your knowledge of your dog is unparalleled: You, not I, know whether she sleeps in the same spot all night or instead has a migratory sleep pattern. You know her affinity for trash, or lack thereof. And telling me her breed, age or name won’t give me access to those intimate details. They are for [...]

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Guest Blog

How Networks Are Revolutionizing Scientific (and Maybe Human) Thought

Visualization of social network analysis. (Calvinius/Wikimedia Commons)

Science and common sense are alike grounded in human experience. Yet these ways of thinking about things are often in conflict. Sometimes the simplicity of most commonsense explanations can make it hard to win people over to the complexity and uncertainties of most scientific arguments. Consider the textbook case of the mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus [...]

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Guest Blog

I don’t have a 28-day menstrual cycle, and neither should you

Most of us are familiar with a 28-day menstrual cycle, which, divided in half, comprises the follicular phase – that’s when the dominant follicle, or egg, is growing and preparing for ovulation – and the luteal phase – when the endometrium, or lining of the uterus, is preparing for possible conception and implantation. If implantation [...]

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Observations

Why Pygmies Are Short: New Evidence Surprises

Why pygmies are short

Pygmy populations, scientists have speculated, may owe their abbreviated stature to natural selection pressures that allowed them to better adapt to dense tropical forests where heat is oppressive and food is scarce. “An outstanding question for many, many years among anthropologists and human geneticists has been what is the genetic basis of the short stature [...]

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Observations

Forensic Anthropology Gives Voice to Unidentified Remains

RALEIGH, N.C.—Bone-hunters and anthropologists typically guard their fossils as priceless specimens. I’ve learned to ask: “Is that real or a cast?” when shown a specimen. Often it’s a replica. So, I was as thrilled as a 12-year-old today when I saw two real, contemporary human skeletons and several human skulls during a tour here of [...]

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Symbiartic

Atmosphere and Action: Interview with illustrator Tyler Jacobson

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When I opened the November 2011 issue of Scientific American and leafed through it, I was immediately drawn to one of the highlights of the issue: illustrations for the cover story about The First Americans. They were done by illustrator Tyler Jacobson, with art direction by Michael Mrak and Jen Christiansen. Here in the interview below, [...]

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Symbiartic

Sequencing art: Lynn Fellman’s paleogenomic slideshow

© Lynn Fellman

Communicating science through art is sometimes still in its nascent stages, I think.  While traditional + digital scientific illustration using representational techniques will always be central to reaching out with new research, less traditional aesthetic approaches can be just as illuminating and effective at communicating science.  And we’re starting to see some of that develop [...]

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Talking back

Einstein’s Brain: New Insights into the Roots of Genius

Ever since his death in 1955, scientists have asked what features of Einstein’s brain contributed to his extraordinary insights into physical laws. Research on the anatomy of Einsteins’ genius was stymied because many of the post-mortem images and slides of tissue from the subsequently dissected organ were unavailable to researchers. The story is complex and [...]

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Tetrapod Zoology

Humans among the primates

A montage of modern primates. From left to right: human, tarsier, eastern gorilla, bonobo, orangutan, crested gibbon, capuchin, macaque, lemur. Image by Darren Naish.

It is not in the least bit controversial to picture humans* within the context of the placental mammal group that we belong to, the primates. Nor is it unusual for primatologists, anthropologists or biologists of other sorts to compare the anatomy, social or sexual behaviour, lifestyles or cognitive abilities of humans with those of other [...]

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