Wednesday Round Up #144

This marvelous picture of greenstone axes really caught my eye – the perfection of their polishing, the smooth curves, the wondrous color. The axes come from the central plaza of Ceibal, a Mayan site in Guatamala.

The photo was taken by the anthropologist Takeshi Inomata, and accompanied his great entry, Maya Axes, and Moles Under the Pyramid, in the NYT’s Scientist at Work series


Brian Switek, Ancestor Worship
*The difficulty in putting together an accurate fossil record of our early ancestors. Good overview of some of the challenges paleontologists face when studying fossils.

Michael Lisieski, Pleasure, Reward…And Rabbits! Why Do Animals Behave As They Do?
*Likes, dislikes, and personal preferences. A look at why animals act the way they do.

USF Department of Anthropology, AnthroScope
*Check out the exciting research and recent accomplishments of the Anthropology Department at USF!

Sean Carey, ‘Big society’ Means Understanding How Communities Work
*A refreshing and timely article on how the UK government could benefit from the expertise of anthropologists in dealing with the “problem” of multiculturalism in the country. Carey argues against forcing people to change their behaviors and writes that studying cultural attributes will aid in mutual understanding and respect.

National Science Foundation, SBE 2020: All White Papers
*Unique and interesting proposals on the future of the social, behavioral, and economic sciences.

Mark Bittman, A Food Manifesto For The Future
*Food production in the U.S. is unhealthy for both consumers and workers. Here are some excellent recommendations for making food consumption safer and healthier for people and the environment.

Holland Wild, Cultural Farming
*An interesting approach to studying media through how stories are produced and performed. Some of the topics explored, include bullying, porn, and ethnographies.

Board on Life Sciences, A New Biology For The 21st Century
*Findings from a government funded study on the current state of biological research and how new technological advancements have been used by biologists to further their research.

Society for Medical Anthropology, Medical Anthropology At The Intersections: Celebrating 50 Years Of Interdisciplinarity
*Video footage of excellent keynote speeches from the 2009 SMA conference, including Paul Farmer, Arthur Kleinman, Lawrence Cohen, and Merrill Singer.

Amy Novotney, Strong In Mind And Body
*The introduction of a new mental health initiative within the military, which emphasizes psychological well being in conjunction with physical fitness.

Armin Geertz, Brain, Body And Culture: A Biocultural Theory Of Religion
*An expanded biocultural theory of religion that accommodates the cultural and neurobiological sciences.

T. Tian et al., The Origins Of Cancer Robustness And Evolvability
*And, on another topic, cancer research finally has an exciting new theoretical framework with a daring set of unique hypotheses.

Video Games

My Mini City
*Help my son Sebastian build his mini-city online! Each time you visit, the population grows!

Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Art Of Video Games
*An exhibit on the development of video games that you get to design. What games do you think best represent visual and technological achievements in gaming?

Science Daily, The Real Avatar
*James Cameron’s Avatar left many of us wondering what it would be like to live in an avatar. Read this recent study on how neuroscientists are examing what affect avatars have on our brain activity.

Jane McGonigal, Could Gaming Be Good For You?
*The author of the recently published “Reality is Broken” explores how games can help solve real world problems and fulfill needs that don’t exist in reality.

Geoff Duncan, Study: Casual Games Ease Anxiety And Depression
*Feeling sad and stressed? Findings from a new study suggesting that playing games may alleviate your symptoms.

Victoria Gill, Monkeys ‘Display Self-Doubt’ Like Humans
*We’re not the only primates that enjoy video games. Interesting new research showing high levels of self-awareness among monkeys trained to play a video game.

Lin Edwards, Monkeys Demonstrate Self-Awareness In Computer Game
*More on the study on monkeys playing video games. The findings indicate that monkeys are aware when they don’t know the answer and prefer to pass on the questions they’re unsure about rather than getting it wrong.

Mikael Jakobsson and Olli Sotamaa, Special Issue – Game Reward Systems
*Great selection of articles in this special issue on the origins of reward systems and focus areas that require further study.

Ben Kuchera, Cubelets: Modular, Affordable Robotics For Kids And Students
*The building blocks of an education in robotics. If you’re looking for new ways in which to teach robotics, you should consider using cubelets. They’re individual blocks with specific functions, which can be connected to form more complex structures.

Michael Abbott, Putting A Newsgame To The Test
*Curious about the life of a Somali pirate? The game Cutthroat Capitalism allows users to oversee a Somali piracy operation, involving the selection of targets, negotiation strategies and dividing ransoms among your partners. Advocates of the game say it doesn’t glorify piracy, but instead provides a different perspective rarely reported in the media.


Femora and Cream, Thoughts On Cultural Anthropology
*A physical anthropologist grapples with the lack of “science” in cultural anthropology, but ultimately realizes the sub-discipline is an irreplaceable part of anthropology and relevant to her own specialization.

Dexter Filkins, The Next Impasse
*Gaining the respect and appreciation of locals helped the U.S. military in Iraq, but will it work in Afghanistan? A new book on the counterinsurgency in the country argues that it will not because of aid dependency.

Eugene Raikhel, Dispatches From The Neurosociety
*Excellent recordings of sessions given at last year’s Oxford conference on “Neurosociety: What is it with the brain these days?”

Human Rights

John Gray, What Rawls Hath Wrought
*Review of Samuel Moyn’s, The Last Utopia, which examines the history of human rights and how it has become an integral part of Western societies.

Daniel Goldberg, On Moral Esperanto
*The search for the Ethical El Dorado. Is it possible for scientists to reach a consensus on bioethics?

Terence, Human Rights And Wrongs
*The frustrations and complexities of incorporating human rights into development work. It’s not easy.


Science Daily, Brain’s ‘Reward’ Center Also Responds To Bad Experiences
*Eating chocolate and the thought of falling off a build both illicit the same response in the brain’s reward system – the release of dopamine.

Christiane Jarrett, For Infants, Walking Is More Than Just Another Step In Motor Development
*The development of motor skills also coincides with changes in an infant’s social behaviors.

Polly Curtis, ‘Nudge Unit’ Not Guaranteed To Work, Says Oliver Letwin
*A behavioral change initiative funded by the UK government has failed to convince any departments to adopt its ideas and some of its researchers doubt their ability to succeed.

Ira Flatow, Tracing Signals In The Brain
*Good interview with neurobiologist, Nelson Spruston, on his findings showing that dendrite activity may be more complicated than believed.

The Neurocritic, Is Romantic Love A Western, Heterosexual Construct?
*Comprehensive overview of studies done on “romantic love” and if it’s found across cultures.

Pete Alcorn, The World In 2200
*Pessimistic mindsets can lead to rash decisions and periods of transition are best navigated by positive thinking. A positive outlook on solution-finding (without the pessimistic reaction to Malthusian predictions).

Terrence Sejnowski, The Computational Brain
*And on an entirely different topic, a presentation on “The computational brain” by Professor Terrence Sejnowski at the Melbourne Convention centre on Wednesday 9th March. Registration is free and online:


David Dobbs, Placebo Power Explained, Really Really Fast
*The therapeutic value of placebos explained in 3 minutes! Great, concise explanation of the placebo effect and how it varies depending on type and nationality.

Ben Goldacre, Nerdstock
*An entertaining and fast talk on the nocebo effect aka the evil twin of the placebo effect.

Lauran Neergaard, The ‘Nocebo’ Effect: Pessimism Can Hinder Treatment
*More on the nocebo effect from the perspective of doctors.

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