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Posts Tagged "history"

Absolutely Maybe

Long Overdue: Is the Question of Induction of Labor and Cesarean Section Settled?

Cartoon of pregnancy etiquette for childbirth advice

I used to think there was no question about this. Induction was the prologue to a long, hard labor that often wouldn’t go well. And cesarean section was the (un)natural logical end of that. Simples. In the early 1970s, induction got out of hand - over half of labors in the UK were induced. Then came a [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

Is a Baby Aspirin a Day the New Apple?

Cartoon of a shelf of aspirin

His first big clue came when people started hemorrhaging after chewing gum. Lawrence Craven did tonsil and adenoid surgery in his office. And it usually went well. But in the mid-1940s, “an alarming number of hemorrhages were evidenced in disturbing frequency,” he said. He figured it was the aspirin chewing gum people were using for [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

(Hi)stories our bodies tell: Experiencing racism (Guest Post)

Sharecropper by Elizabeth Catlett

Guest post by Michelle Munyikwa I am currently still reveling in Black History Month. Yes, it is no longer February. But I hope to retain that mindfulness, grasping onto this moment each year that forces us to pay attention to the stories of black peoples across America and draws into stark relief how histories have [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

Out from the shadows of racist anthropology (Guest Post)

Human skull inscribed for phrenological demonstration

Guest post by Michelle Munyikwa The skull was smaller than I expected it to be, shockingly light in my hands. Despite its yellow-stained surface it had the appearance of being well kept, almost as if it had been polished. On the forehead was a simple label: American Idiot. As if that told us everything we [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

The winter sneeze – hand, tissue or Dracula style? (Gesundheit!)

Cartoon of Marie Antoinette saying "Let them sneeze into their elbows"

When I was a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, wiping your nose on your clothes was a marker of social class. Lots of us girls were very keen on our hankies, though. I used to embroider initials on them and crochet lace around their edges. Now it’s hankies that should make people [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

Blemish: The truth about blackheads

Cartoon from Statistically Funny Blogspot

Some old wives’ and doctors’ tales are pretty harmless. Behind the myths about blackheads and acne, though, it gets very ugly. And what the truth shows us about how superficial we can be isn’t pretty either. The sisters in this cartoon are very unusual. They’re blasé about their blemishes and the rather untoward experience they’re [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

Nutrient X prevents disease? Sorting the wheat from the bran

Cartoon of a disappointing treatment from promising larval stage

It started, as many issues do, because we didn’t get enough roughage in our diets. Before dietary fiber gained currency in the ‘70s as a way to protect against serious disease, people who believed we were eating ourselves into early graves weren’t taken very seriously. We’ll meet the interesting Irishman who turned that around shortly. [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

The Hawthorne effect: An old scientists’ tale lingering “in the gunsmoke of academic snipers”

Cartoon showing confusion of cause and effect

It’s easy to see a “cause and effect” relationship where there isn’t one. Or overlook one that should be as plain as daylight. Sometimes, these errors are dramatic. And when scientists make them, a lot of people can follow down the garden path without ever looking too closely at how they got there. That’s what [...]

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Absolutely Maybe

Baby’s due, but might not have gotten the memo

Cartoon of pregnancy ultrasound

It’s becoming a spectacle of Diana-esque proportions. I can’t quite get my head around the fact that there is a ‘Royal Baby Monitor’ live-streaming the hospital door. Although journalists don’t know when Kate Middleton’s due date is (or was), there’s speculation from People magazine to Perez Hilton that she might have a medical induction to [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Needs of the New War: Fresh Aviators and Novel Tactics

airmen training

Reported in Scientific American: This Week in World War I: September 19, 1914 The first few weeks of the Great War in Europe had convincingly shown the value of aircraft for reconnaissance work. The technology was brand new: workable airplanes were an invention less than ten years old. Armies scrambled to set up a steady [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

1915 Warning: Beware of Used-Car Salesmen

old car with doors open

Suspicion of used-car dealers has a long history in the U.S. if an article in a 1915 supplement to Scientific American is any guide. The story, “Buying a Second-Hand Automobile,” by Victor W. Pagé, runs for more than 3,000 words, recalling one horror story in detail and giving loads of advice on how to avoid [...]

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Anecdotes from the Archive

Happy 100th Birthday to the Crossword

inboxex part of grid Screen Shot 2013-11-09 at 4.11.06 PM

On this day a hundred years ago, a journalist named Arthur Wynne published what is widely regarded as the first modern crossword puzzle. It appeared in the New York World, where it was called a “Word-Cross Puzzle.” By the 1930s most newspapers in America featured the games as well. Scientific American put a toe in [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Why did Pirates Fly the Jolly Roger?

Photo by eddiemcfish. Click on image for license and information.

The “pirate brand” has long been tied to the skull and crossbones—the Jolly Roger—as a symbol of terror on the high seas. A 2011 article in The New York Times hails the ominous design as a magnificent exercise in collective hybrid branding, noting that economics drove pirates to adopt a version of this particular symbol [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

How Did Patterns Help Reveal an Older Origin of Mummies?

Coffin and Mummy of Nesmin (Around 250 BC). Photo by Daniel Decristo. Click on image for license and information.

I want to talk about patterns. We take them for granted but they shape our lives. That morning coffee you need to start your day has more meaning than you think. We build our sense of self on repetition, and we draw upon continuity to shape our society. Patterns can provide valuable clues about our [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Labor Day: It’s About Time

CC, Tom Blackwell. Click on image for license and information.

The first Monday in September is a federal holiday in the United States. It marks Labor Day—a tribute to contributions made by American workers to the growth and development of the country (or at least those in a position to contribute without being exploited). The history of labor day is the history of labor—and laborer [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

What troubles us about unfaithful politicians?

Creative Commons, Maegan Tintari

History is littered with private indiscretions made public—some have just been more public than others: It is believed the Leonardo da Vinci was a passionate instructor to his students; one in particular remained in da Vinci’s favor for 26 years. Cleopatra made no secret of the nature of her political alliances, which included a close [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Global Connection at the Heart of Baseball

521491_10200111395084220_2125646351_n

Baseball season is officially underway! And what better way to celebrate than by looking at the ball that drives the game? A few years ago, I talked S into helping me take apart a baseball. I wanted to understand the properties that Johan Santana can hold in his hand and with the flick of his [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

You Are What You Eat: Unraveling the Truth in Food Records

A Roman Feast, Roberto Bompiani late 1800s. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 72.PA.4.

The last time I browsed the cookbook section of a bookstore, the options were dizzying. The present day culinary record of our habits and inclinations is diverse. It reflects the need to both speed up and slow down, have quick meals and lingering dinner parties, and preserve the tried and true and dabble with the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Cleveland Rocks

Cleveland rocks. Or so the saying goes. I’ve been traveling for work this week, and have spent the last two and a half days in Cleveland, Ohio. It was my first visit, and it offered me a chance to do the things I love most: talk to people, see places through the eyes of others, [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

A Right to Be Clean: Sanitation and the Rise of New York City’s Water Towers

These iconic structures are as much a part of New York City's skyline as any famed landmark. But they play a larger role in New York City's history.

During the morning rush hour in New York City, tourists stand out as being the ones looking up. It’s possible that they see more clearly what most New Yorkers take for granted: water towers. Those archaic looking wooden structures that grace the rooftops of almost every New York City building play an integral, though often [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Spin Cycle: The Social Realm of the Laundromat

Sunday afternoons should never be spent in a laundromat if you can avoid it. One of the outcomes of our recent move is that I went from having my own washer and dryer to having a washer that floods the basement and a landlord who isn’t inclined to fixing it. That means I’ve had to [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Story of Grand Central Station and the Taming of the Crowd

Grand Central Terminal waiting room, c. 1904. | Public domain.

“Left or right?” he asked me as we watched the commuter train approach. A group of people nearby moved into position to line up with the door, all likely thinking the same thing: How do I get a seat? “Left,” I said. “These people are going to go right.” He looked at me for a [...]

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Bering in Mind

The Original Cupid Was a Sociopath

“Winged Cupid, rash and hardy, who by his evil manners, contemning all public justice and law, armed with fire and arrows, running up and down in the nights from house to house, and corrupting lawful marriages of every person, doth nothing but evil.” —Lucius Apuleius, The Tale of Cupid and Psyche (late second century A.D.) [...]

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Cross-Check

Thanksgiving guilt trip: How warlike were Native Americans before Europeans showed up?

The approach of Thanksgiving, that quintessential American holiday, has me brooding over recent 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 fall feast [...]

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Food Matters

Variolation, Aviation, and Genetic Modification: Progress in the Face of Fear and Danger

The Wright Brothers' Plane (click for source)

In 1721, a small pox epidemic was ripping through the colonial city of Boston. Cotton Mather, a Reverend and Royal minister, convinced the physician Zebadiah Boylston to perform an arcane medical procedure on two slaves and Mather’s own son. The procedure, called “variolation,” involved piercing the skin of the patient with needle that was contaminated [...]

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Observations

Internet Shopping, as Conceived in 1961: Plenty of Rocket Deliveries Thursday Morning [Video]

I know, you’re disappointed that we don’t have the flying cars and moving sidewalks as promised in those old film reels from the 1950s and 60s that you may have seen in school. But this clip, from the AT&T Archives and History Center, does do a great job predicting how we shop in the digital [...]

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Observations

Yes, Government Researchers Really Did Invent the Internet

“It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet,” writes Gordon Crovitz in an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. Most histories cite the Pentagon-backed ARPANet as the Internet’s immediate predecessor, but that view undersells the importance of research conducted at Xerox PARC labs in the 1970s, claims Crovitz. In fact, Crovitz implies that, [...]

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Observations

Google Pays Homage to Zipper Engineer Gideon Sundback

Google zipper page as of April 24, 2012

Today, an image of a zipper runs down Google’s home page in celebration of the 132nd birthday of Gideon Sundback, who helped make the device an indispensable item for today’s man on the go. (Read that as you will.)  Sundback did not invent the slide fastener, as it is generically called (“zipper” is actually a [...]

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Observations

The line between science and journalism is getting blurry….again

Human #1: "Hello, nice weather today, isn’t it?" Human #2: "Ummm…actually not. It’s a gray, cold, windy, rainy kind of day!" Many a joke depends on confusion about the meaning of language, as in the example above. But understanding the sources of such confusion is important in realms other than stand-up comedy, including in the [...]

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Observations

Old oyster shells reveal dry, salty details of Jamestown settlers’ hardships

oyster shells jamestown settlers starvation drought

What can a handful of old oyster shells reveal about the trials some of the New World’s early European settlers? A lot, it turns out. As a prevalent resource in the Chesapeake Bay, eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) ended up being a crucial food source for the first full-time European settlers in North America, who arrived [...]

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Oscillator

Creation and Synthetic Biology: Book Review

creation_cover

What is the origin of life on Earth? What is the future of life in the age of synthetic biology? These are two of the biggest questions of contemporary biology, and the questions that drive Adam Rutherford’s new book, Creation: How Science is Reinventing Life Itself, a compelling and accessible two-part look through the history [...]

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Oscillator

Bacterial Encounters at the Salton Sea

salton_sea

The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake, stretching 35 miles along the San Andreas fault about 150 miles east of Los Angeles and 200 feet below sea level. It is surrounded by harsh desert as well as productive agricultural land irrigated by water from the Colorado River and draining back into the Sea. The Salton [...]

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Oscillator

The Structure of Industrial Revolutions

This post originally appeared on the brand new Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center (Synberc) Blog. Check it out for other new posts by Jay Keasling and Linda Kahl on intellectual property law and synthetic biology. —————— Synthetic biology is often referred to as “the field of the future,” the foundation of a third industrial revolution” [...]

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Oscillator

Synthetic Classification: The Evolution of Imaginary Animals

camintree

Darwin’s sketch of an evolutionary tree under the heading “I think” is a powerful and enduring image of his theory evolution by natural selection. Phylogenetic trees–branching diagrams that show the relationships between organisms and their evolution from a common ancestor–are now a standard image in biology texts used to situate an organism in biological space [...]

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Oscillator

The Taxonomy of Wonder

Wonder and amazement at the natural world inspire many blog posts, projects, and even careers in science, but it’s rare that you’ll see wonder break through the soul-crushing passive voice of the scientific literature. It wasn’t always this way, of course. In Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750, historians of science Lorraine Daston and [...]

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Oscillator

Alpha males and “adventurous human females”: gender and synthetic genomics

In May of 2010, two influential Science papers changed the way that we think about the past and future of genomes. The decoding of the Neandertal genome showed that humans and Neandertals interbred some time before Neandertals went extinct some 30,000 years ago. A couple weeks later, the J. Craig Venter Institute announced their chemical [...]

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Oscillator

Medieval Tines: A Brief History of the Fork

You may have seen the recent news of a sensor-filled smartfork that vibrates to warn you if you’re eating too quickly. I’m going to reserve judgement on the merits of the smartfork, invented by the French company Slow Control and marketed by HAPILABS, but I think it’s interesting to look at this cutlery innovation in [...]

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Oscillator

Scientific Aesthetics

DNA

I have a piece with Sissel Tolaas in the new issue of Current Opinion in Chemical Biology on aesthetics in science. The issue, edited by the artist and designer Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, includes reviews by scientists, philosophers, and artists discussing the role of aesthetic and senory judgements in the everyday practice of science, the theory [...]

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Oscillator

Smell-O-Vision

Before there was sound in movies there was smell. In 1906, a Pennsylvania movie theater soaked a wad of cotton wool in rose oil and placed it in front of a fan. When a newsreel about the Rose Bowl played, they turned on the fan and the smell of roses wafted over the theater. Audience [...]

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Oscillator

The Urine Wheel

Urine Wheel

I recently saw an image that perfectly encapsulates many of my current interests, including odor and flavor mapping, the senses in scientific analysis, medieval ideas about health and disease, body fluids, and metabolic profiling. The Urine Wheel was used for diagnosing diseases based on the color, smell, and taste of the patient’s urine in the [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Trouble at the Heart of Psychiatry’s Revised Rule Book

By Edward Shorter* Part 3 in a series One might liken the latest draft of psychiatry’s new diagnostic manual, the DSM-5, to a bowl of spaghetti. Hanging over the side are the marginal diagnoses of psychiatry, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism, important for certain subpopulations but not central to the discipline. At [...]

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Symbiartic

A September Afternoon on the Grand River, 1825

Damstra_Davisville_mini

One of the most powerful contributions of scientific illustration is to give us an informed visual where it is typically impossible to find one. While creating images for for a nature walk along the Grand River Walter Bean Trail near Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, illustrator Emily Damstra incorporated archaeological evidence as well as records about the [...]

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Symbiartic

Atmosphere and Action: Interview with illustrator Tyler Jacobson

Yuri-Gagarin-Tyler-Jacobson

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

SciArt Plugs 1: Lectures, Exhibits, News and More

The intersection of science and art is bustling with activity. With this weekly-ish post, we’ll try to keep you abreast of the most happenin’ happenings around the country. Don’t miss out! SCIART LECTURES/EVENTS Beacon, NY’s Annual Open Studio Event (Beacon, NY) September 24-25, 2011; 12-6pm | Take a tour of scientific illustrator Chris Sanders‘ and [...]

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Symbiartic

Spongelab: gaming the art of science education

Spongelab_NerveSystem-ava

“What famous painting does this remind you of?” I was sitting in the offices of Spongelab Interactive about a month ago speaking with  Jeremy Friedberg, molecular genetics and biotechnology professor, now science education game-guru, and we were discussing the interactive opening image of History of Biology, an expansive mystery game. The image in question, above, contains [...]

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Symbiartic

The Dudley Bug

Coat of Arms of the Dudley County Borough Council, Dudley, U.K. {link url="http://www.civicheraldry.co.uk/worcs_ob.html"}Image source here.{/link}"

One of the things that fascinates me most about the current state of science-based art, are the roots we can retroactively look to in pre-scientific eras. Most artistic movements claim ancestry from previous movements, such as the Surrealists arising out of the Symbolists, who in part arose out of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who claimed the [...]

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