Back in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Californian law banning the sale of violent videogames to children was unconstitutional because it violated the right to free speech.However, the ruling wasn't unanimous. Justice Stephen Breyer filed a dissenting opinion. Unfortunately, it contains a whopping piece of bad neuroscience. The ruling is here. Thanks to the Law & Neuroscience Blog for noticing this.Breyer says (on page 13 of his bit)Cutting-edge neuroscience has shown that “vir........ Read more »
Weber, R., Ritterfeld, U., & Mathiak, K. (2006) Does Playing Violent Video Games Induce Aggression? Empirical Evidence of a Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study. Media Psychology, 8(1), 39-60. DOI: 10.1207/S1532785XMEP0801_4
I’ve just read a review written by William Balée (2010) about the book ‘Amazonian Dark Earths: Origins, Properties, Management’. Balée considers that the discovery of Terra Preta is proof that people in pre-Columbian Amazonia, rather than adapting to environmental conditions, ‘created’ the environment they inhabited. This allowed the development of complex societies in the region regardless of environmental constraints (such as poor soils, floods, lack of protein...). People overcame........ Read more »
William Balée. (2010) Amazonian Dark Earths. Tipit´ı: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America. info:/
Bush, M., & Silman, M. (2007) Amazonian exploitation revisited: ecological asymmetry and the policy pendulum. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 5(9), 457-465. DOI: 10.1890/070018
Glaser, B. (2007) Prehistorically modified soils of central Amazonia: a model for sustainable agriculture in the twenty-first century. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 362(1478), 187-196. DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2006.1978
Indiana Jones would have loved it: 65,000 years ago, stone age hunters in Africa gathered at night in a hidden cave to worship the giant rock snake that seemed to move in the flickering firelight and hissingly promised fertility so long as the rituals were performed. They came to this place every year during when [...]... Read more »
Coulson, Sheila, Staurset, Sigrid, & Walker, Nick. (2011) Ritualized Behavior in the Middle Stone Age: Evidence from Rhino Cave, Tsodilo Hills, Botswana. PaleoAnthropology, 18-61. info:/10.4207/PA.2011.ART42
In theory, medicine works like this. You get some signs or symptoms. You go to the doctor, and depending on those, you get a diagnosis. Your doctor decides on the best available treatment on that basis.The logic of this system depends upon the sequence. A diagnosis is meant to be an objective statement about the nature of your illness; treatments (if any) come afterwards. It would be odd if the treatments on offer influenced what diagnosis you got.An interesting paper just out suggests that exac........ Read more »
Chen SY, & Toh S. (2011) National trends in prescribing antidepressants before and after an FDA advisory on suicidality risk in youths. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.), 62(7), 727-33. PMID: 21724784
The Pith: Afro-Indians are mostly African, with a substantial Indian minority ancestry. The latter is disproportionately female mediated. It also seems that that ancestry is more northwest Indian, and that natural selection has been operating upon them outside of the African environment.
Along the western coast of South Asia, from Makran in southwest Pakistan, down to the Konkan coast of southwest Iindia, there are isolated communities of Afro-Indians. They are called Siddis or Habshi. Their Afr........ Read more »
Anish M. Shah, Rakesh Tamang, Priya Moorjani, Deepa Selvi Rani, Periyasamy Govindaraj, Gururaj Kulkarni, Tanmoy Bhattacharya, Mohammed S. Mustak, L.V.K.S. Bhaskar, Alla G. Reddy.... (2011) Indian Siddis: African Descendants with Indian Admixture. American Journal of Human Genetics. info:/10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.05.030
Ankita Narang, Pankaj Jha, Vimal Rawat, Arijit Mukhopadhayay, Debasis Dash, Indian Genome Variation Consortium, Analabha Basu, & Mitali Mukerji. (2011) , Recent Admixture in an Indian Population of African Ancestry. American Journal of Human Genetics. info:/10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.06.004
Last month, a variety of parenting blogs were in an uproar over the story of a Canadian family that didn’t feel like sharing the sex of newborn Storm with the rest of the world. The media had a field day with the notion of raising a “genderless” child, even after Storm’s mother published an explanation making it clear that their goal was to buffer the child against the relentless gender stereotyping we foist on infants from day one. From garish pink onesies that proclaim “Daddy’s ........ Read more »
A. Herdagdelen, & M. Baroni. (2011) Stereotypical gender actions can be extracted from web text. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. info:/
Jimmy Dugan firmly established that there’s no crying in baseball. But what about in public? In New York City, at some point or another you’re going to encounter a crying person—in fact, you could even be the crier. A few weeks ago, I boarded the subway for a short trip uptown. It was the middle [...]
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The Pith: When it comes to the final outcome of a largely biologically specified trait like human height it looks as if it isn’t just the genes your parents give you that matters. Rather, the relationship of their genes also counts. The more dissimilar they are genetically, the taller you are likely to be (all things equal).
Dienekes points me to an interesting new paper in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Isolation by distance between spouses and its effect on children’........ Read more »
Sławomir Kozieł, Dariusz P. Danel, & Monika Zaręba. (2011) Isolation by distance between spouses and its effect on children's growth in height. American journal of physical anthropology. info:/10.1002/ajpa.21482
I’m teaching my son to think like a scientist. He is two years old. We frequently go for walks together through the woods and along the coastlines of British Columbia where I allow his curiosity to run free. His current research project is throwing rocks into the ocean (this is just the exploratory phase mind [...]... Read more »
Michael Elazar. (2011) Projectile Motion and the Rejection of Superposition. Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 169-187. info:/10.1007/978-94-007-1605-6_16
Trench fever seems to be all the rage these days in paleomicrobiology. It seems as though every time Bartonella quintana is added to a panel of pathogens for aDNA screening its found at some level. So far its been found in in a tooth from 4000 before present, in late medieval Venice, 14th century France, [...]... Read more »
Grumbkow, P., Zipp, A., Seidenberg, V., Fehren-Schmitz, L., Kempf, V., Groß, U., & Hummel, S. (2011) Brief communication: Evidence of Bartonella quintana infections in skeletons of a historical mass grave in Kassel, Germany. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21551
Happy Fourth of July, everyone. The Fourth is actually a pretty important date for the study of Chaco, but in a roundabout (and somewhat controversial) way. It all has to do with a very famous pictograph panel below Peñasco Blanco at the west end of the canyon. While the interpretation of this panel is a [...]... Read more »
Down in Selma, Alabama, a large, robust skeleton nicknamed Mortimer sits on a barrel in Grumbles Alley restaurant. His origin is unclear. Local legend has it that Mortimer was dug up a century ago by a farmer, who bartered the skeleton to the town doctor for medical services. The skeleton is notable because of his stature - Mortimer may have been a 7-foot-tall Indian, according to stories told to a former restaurant worker. Or perhaps he was Montgomery pedi........ Read more »
D.W. Steadman. (2003) The pawn shop mummified head: discriminating among forensic, historic, and ancient contexts. Hard Evidence: Case Studies in Forensic Anthropology, 212-226. info:/
Strange things are afoot at Catalhoyuk (7400-5600 BCE), one of the earliest and most important Neolithic (i.e., sedentary and agricultural) sites known to archaeology. As I noted in Bones, Burials and Ancestors, mortuary practices at Catalhoyuk were unusual and often involved secondary burial in the floors of homes.
The assumption has always been that these were [...]... Read more »
Pilloud, Marin A., & Larsen, Clark Spencer. (2011) “Official” and “practical” kin: Inferring social and community structure from dental phenotype at Neolithic Çatalhöyük, Turkey. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. info:/10.1002/ajpa.21520
In 2006, University of Oslo archaeologist Sheila Coulson gave an open lecture about her work at a small cave in the Tsodilo Hills of northern Botswana. Although her lecture focused on Middle Stone Age tools recovered from the cave and an unusual rock formation that looked to her like a snake or python, she also [...]... Read more »
Robbins, Lawrence, Campbell, Alec, Brook, George, & Murphy, Michael. (2007) World’s Oldest Ritual Site? The “Python Cave” at Tsodilo Hills World Heritage Site, Botswana. Nyame Akuma, 67(June), 2-6. info:/
This is part 2 of my review of Guy Deutscher's new book Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages. This covers The Language Lens (129-249). Part 1 is here. This review will cover the scientific evidence that Deutscher reviews suggesting that language affects thought, and will end with a shocking proposal.To sum up my review of part one: meh. Okay, we've established that culture can influence language. This is a lot less controversial than Deutscher makes it see........ Read more »
Guy deutscher. (2010) Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages. Metropolitan Books. info:/
This will be the first in a series of posts looking at the technical and practical aspects of studying ancient pathogens, or paleomicrobiology. First let’s look at why its worth spending time, money and a lot of creativity on old germs. There are many reasons why directly studying ancient microbes is worthwhile. From a historical [...]... Read more »
Drancourt, M., & Raoult, D. (2005) Palaeomicrobiology: current issues and perspectives. Nature Reviews Microbiology, 3(1), 23-35. DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro1063
Furuse Y, Suzuki A, & Oshitani H. (2010) Origin of measles virus: divergence from rinderpest virus between the 11th and 12th centuries. Virology journal, 52. PMID: 20202190
Nelson, M., Dinardo, A., Hochberg, J., & Armelagos, G. (2010) Brief communication: Mass spectroscopic characterization of tetracycline in the skeletal remains of an ancient population from Sudanese Nubia 350-550 CE. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. DOI: 10.1002/ajpa.21340
The Basketmaker III period (ca. AD 500 to 750) is a very important time for understanding the prehistoric Southwest. Maize agriculture had been introduced earlier, although exactly how early is still a matter of debate, and it was definitely well-established by the immediately preceding Basketmaker II period, but Basketmaker III saw the introduction of beans, [...]... Read more »
Wills, W., & Windes, T. (1989) Evidence for Population Aggregation and Dispersal during the Basketmaker III Period in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico. American Antiquity, 54(2), 347. DOI: 10.2307/281711
An amusing semi-anthropological study was published in JAMA by Ludwig and Levine in 1965. It was based on extensive interviews with 27 "postnarcotic drug addict inpatients" who were treated at a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. The specific drugs of interest included peyote (from the peyotl cactus plant), mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin. The current availability of each drug, most popular methods of intake, slang terms, psychoactive properties, and subcultural norms were discussed. Hallucinogens ........ Read more »
The “Chacoan era” is a period of about 100 years in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries AD during which Chaco Canyon was at the center of some sort of system that covered a large portion of the northern Southwest. The exact nature and exact extent of that system are endlessly debated, but the period [...]... Read more »
Windes, T., & Ford, D. (1996) The Chaco Wood Project: The Chronometric Reappraisal of Pueblo Bonito. American Antiquity, 61(2), 295. DOI: 10.2307/282427
At some point in your teenage years, you probably kept a compass and straightedge in your backpack, learned the ways to prove two triangles are congruent, and knew what a secant was. It all had a taste of the classical about it: Euclid, Archimedes and Pythagoras had figured everything out and passed it down to us. But geometry may be more democratic than it seems. As a group of native Amazonians showed, you don't need to go to school to explain Euclid.French researcher Veronique Izard and h........ Read more »
Izard, V., Pica, P., Spelke, E., & Dehaene, S. (2011) From the Cover: Flexible intuitions of Euclidean geometry in an Amazonian indigene group. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(24), 9782-9787. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1016686108
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