Wednesday Round Up #146

I found this image over at Sailor Julien


David Kroll, Dear Dad, With Love
*Touching account commemorating the anniversary of a father’s death and the struggles he dealt with in his life.

John Hawks, Population Structure within Africa: Has “Modern Human Origins” Become a Non Sequitur?
*An impressive review of what we are learning about modern human origins based on recent genetic and non-genetic evidence – get your take-away messages about the large-scale reorganization in how we think about human origins that is happening right now

Dietrich Stout, Technology, Expertise And Social Cognition In Human Evolution
*Fascinating study examining how prehistoric stone tools can tell us about the development of cognitive abilities among early humans.

Paleolithic stone tools provide concrete evidence of major developments in human behavioural and cognitive evolution. Of particular interest are evolving cognitive mechanisms implied by the cultural transmission of increasingly complex prehistoric technologies, hypothetically including motor resonance, causal reasoning and mentalizing. To test the relevance of these mechanisms to specific Paleolithic technologies, we conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging study of Naïve, Trained and Expert subjects observing two toolmaking methods of differing complexity and antiquity: the simple ‘Oldowan’ method documented by the earliest tools 2.5 million years ago; and the more complex ‘Acheulean’ method used to produce refined tools 0.5 million years ago.

Subjects observed 20-s video clips of an expert demonstrator, followed by behavioural tasks designed to maintain attention. Results show that observational understanding of Acheulean toolmaking involves increased demands for the recognition of abstract technological intentions. Across subject groups, Acheulean compared with Oldowan toolmaking was associated with activation of left anterior intraparietal and inferior frontal sulci, indicating the relevance of resonance mechanisms.

Between groups, Naïve subjects relied on bottom-up kinematic simulation in the premotor cortex to reconstruct unfamiliar intentions, and Experts employed a combination of familiarity-based sensorimotor matching in the posterior parietal cortex and top-down mentalizing involving the medial prefrontal cortex. While no specific differences between toolmaking technologies were found for Trained subjects, both produced frontal activation relative to Control, suggesting focused engagement with toolmaking stimuli. These findings support motor resonance hypotheses for the evolutionary origins of human social cognition and cumulative culture, directly linking these hypotheses with archaeologically observable behaviours in prehistory.

Eric Johnson, Penis Spines, Pearly Papules, And Pope Benedict’s Balls
*A new study on why human penises have lost the spines found in other primates has set off a debate in the science world, regarding penis morphology and genetic variation. Johnson does a good job of wading through the different perspectives and pointing out flaws in some conclusions.

Holly Dunsworth, Science without Hypotheses? Not Exactly Penis-spine Tingling
*How hypotheses make for better science writing

Brian McKenna, How Will Gillian Tett Connect With The Natives Of The US Left?
*”Studying up” and the ethical dilemmas of engaging in applied anthropology. Gillian Tett, a British anthropologist, studies corporations and is advocating for more anthropologists to communicate their research on financial institutions with the public.

Robert Sapolsky, Science Of Pleasure
*Do you think dopamine levels increase in anticipation of a reward or when the reward is obtained? Surprising findings from a study on pleasure and dopamine levels among monkeys.

Paul Stoller, Living With Cancer
*Powerful first-hand account of dealing with cancer and how an anthropologist used his fieldwork to cope with his diagnosis.

Michael Smith, Are Shantytowns A Normal Form of Urban Residence?
*Squatter camps are often viewed with distaste and blamed for high crime rates and poverty in urban areas. Through ethnographic fieldwork, cultural anthropologists have shown that residents of squatter camps work hard to keep their neighborhoods clean and safe. Archaeological research has added a new perspective, showing that squatter camps are not a new phenomena and have actually been around for a while.

Jennifer Viegas, Monkeys Invent New Fishing Technique
*Monkeys termite fish too!

Julia James, Science, Upstream: Balancing Trust in Embedded Journalism
*The careful balancing act of respecting informants, but also accurately reporting what you observe as an embedded journalist.

Sophie Scott, Guest Post: Language On The Left?
*Pinpointing regions in the brain that monitor our use of language and its development.

Maia Szalavitz, Tending to Japan’s Psychological Scars: What Hurts, What Helps
*An interview with Emory psychologist Scott Lilienfeld, providing a good overview of what research shows about how to deal with post-disaster trauma
-Mind Hacks covers the interview, and goes more in-depth on the research in The myths of ‘post-disaster counseling’

Scientific Publishing and Peer Review

Richard Poynder, PLoS ONE, Open Access, And The Future Of Scholarly Publishing
*A tale of how PLoS ONE began. The story of how Harold Varmus’s dissatisfaction with the peer review system led to him launching an open access site for researchers. What does PLoS ONE now tell us about the future?

Cameron Neylon, Reforming Peer Review: What Are The Practical Steps?
*Maintaining the quality of scholarly articles and over hauling the peer review system. Good post on the challenges of the current peer review system, allowing researchers to be the “first” in publishing their findings, and a way forward.

Björn Brembs, The Future Of Scholarly Publishing Is Bright – If You Think Long Term
*A response to Poynder’s post and a different viewpoint of how the peer system should be revamped.

Richard Panek, Talking Universe Blues, Part 3
*Great post on answering this question: What can we as scientists do to better communicate science to the general public?


John McCreery, The Missing Exemplary
*Focusing on the exemplary, rather than the average. Thought provoking article on some of the drawbacks of ethnographic research on cultures.

Mr. Zoller, Indentured Servant
*Good podcast on indentured servants in colonial America.

Jason Antrosio, Culture Doesn’t Matter
*A recently published book entitled “Culture Matters” only includes three essays by anthropologists and makes some frightening conclusions about cultural practices in relation to a country’s development. Antrosio provides a thorough and critical review of the essays included in this book.

Jason Antrosio, Ten Current Items, March 1-8
*Excellent list of anthropological critiques of recent news items and articles. Make sure to read the response to Thomas Friedman’s column on the Egyptian uprising.

Paula Gray, Business Anthropology And The Culture Of Product Managers
*Good article that provides an overview of how business anthropology started and its domains.

James Birx, The Anthropological Quest
*James Birx’s anthropological adventures in studying human evolution and many other topics.

Menlo Innovations, High-Tech Anthropology
*Sometimes the greatest impact an anthropologist can do in their work is to simply observe and listen. Watch this clip of how pictures of beach scenes can help with work related stress.

Stephen Casper, The Reality-Based Community
*The difference between those who observe history and those who “make” history. An interesting foot note from Eric Morris’s 5 series essay.

John Eligon, Carnival’s Louder Commercial Beat Adds Dissonance
*Commercialism invades carnival celebrations in Trinidad and raises questions about maintaining cultural traditions.

Elizabeth Lindsey, Curating Humanity’s Heritage
*Gripping Ted talk on preserving and appreciating the cultural knowledge of our elders.

Nicholas Wade, New View of How Humans Moved Away From Apes
*Archaeologists now believe that our early ancestors cooperated more with non-relatives than previously believed.

Lolita Nikolova, To Embrace Anthropology As A Science Of The 21st Century
*The anthropology of all types of disaster (e.g. natural, political, economic) and the importance of teaching young children anthropology.


Neurophilosophy, Looking Into Ramachandran’s Broken Mirror
*Great interview with Vilayanur S. Ramachandran on neurological theories explaining autism and his own “broken mirror” hypothesis.

Wray Herbert, Roots Of Self-Sabotage: Seduced By The ‘Devil We Know’
*A look at why we make self-destructive decisions when we know better.

John Hawks, Number As Cognitive Technology
*Different viewpoint of technology and how numbers help us build upon our cognitive abilities.

Elephant Drawing
*Amazing footage of an elephant painting.

Terrence Sejnowski, The Computational Brain
*You have to register, but if you do, you get to listen to Terrence Sejnowski talk about the Computational Brain

TLC, Addicted To Eating Couch Cushions
*“She’s eaten seven couches and two chairs.”

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One Response to Wednesday Round Up #146

  1. Craig says:

    That’s an amazing elephant painting!