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Archive for February, 2009

Grand Stone

Posted by dlende on February 26, 2009

menhir-by-ceoilTwo great carnivals this week. The Blog That Ate Manhattan (love the name!) is hosting Grand Rounds, the weekly medical round-up. Fat Barbies, why a public health campaign to lower salt is wrong, and lots more over at a well-organized and delictable edition.

The Moore Groups Blog is hosting all things anthropological with Four Stone Hearth. First off, congratulations on parting ways with those cigarettes. The When on Google Earth? game looks fun, Neanderthal hybrids are always provocative, and the 2008 Flickr anthropology contest now has winners. That and Moore at the latest Four Stone.

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Wednesday Round Up #52

Posted by dlende on February 25, 2009

It’s simple – favs, brain, anthro. A good way to finish off one year of this.

Top of the List

The Horizon Report: 2009 Edition
The latest edition on the coming trends in the increasing convergence of new media and education. It’s a big report, and they have an executive summary, as well as discussion of trends over the short, medium and longer term.

Cogprints: Cognitive Science E-Print Archive
Self-archived electronic versions of papers in the areas of psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, and more

NPR, ‘Sons of Gandhi’ Take to Brazil Streets for Carnival
Peace, love and sex in Salvador’s oldest and largest parade group

The Neurocritic, Very Gradual Change We Can Believe In
Darwin in Obama street colors… very clever

Tara Parker-Pope, The 3 R’s? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess
Recess helps kids learn better – and now there are studies to back it up, particularly focusing on how attention works


David Dobbs, This IS Rock-It Science: Scientists to rock out March 3, NYC
Joseph LeDoux and the Amygdaloids rock in this video – prefaced by a lecture by LeDoux on emotions, brain wiring, and control

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Brain Books for Kids

Posted by dlende on February 24, 2009

your-brain-by-anita-ganeriMy eight year old son just wrapped up his science presentation project for school, a large poster that he’ll share with his class and then judges at the school’s version of a Science Fair. His topic? How the Brain Works.

A great topic, of course! Maybe a tad ambitious (!), but just the sort of question you want kids to ask. So I was excited to show off my Internet skills and get him hooked into some sites to help explain the brain to a growing boy. Paul outlined a bunch of them in his post Brain School.

But none of them did the trick! My son wasn’t particularly interested in them, the explanations and graphics didn’t always seem accessible, and I came away a little frustrated with the state of neuroscience for kids on the internet.

We had better luck at the local library, so I’m detailing the four most useful books below. If there are other books you like, please leave a comment! It would be great to build a resource. And if there is a great Internet site out there that your kid really hooked into, then tell us about that too.

Here are the boosk with Amazon links:

Anita Ganeri (2003). Your Brain. Gareth Stevens Publishing and part of the How Your Body Works series.
-This book was short, with vivid illustrations and language that my son got – it was the one he drew on the most to get the basics down for his presentation.

HP Newquist (2004). The Great Brain Book: An Inside Look at the Inside of Your Head. Scholastic Reference.
-A more encyclopediac book, covering history, evolution, the brain itself, treatment and more. It’s more text oriented, but does have good illustrations. Amazon plugs it for ages 9-12, but the School Library Review says Grade 7 and beyond.

Michael DiSpezio (2004). How Bright Is Your Brain? Amazing Games to Play with Your Mind. Sterling Publishing.
-It gets info across using kid-friendly drawings, but also focuses on activities kids can do to help understand their brains. Definitely some fun ones, and a good way to introduce some ideas about experiments.

Steve Parker (2006). Control Freak: Hormones, The Brain, and the Nervous System. Raintree.
-This book has more photos and focuses on what the brain does. Good stuff on the senses and movement.

Posted in Education | 3 Comments »

Mark Nichter and Global Health

Posted by dlende on February 24, 2009

Mark Nichter is a prominent medical anthropologist who teaches at the University of Arizona. In this video Nichter speaks on medical anthropology and health policy. We also get more background on Nichter and his work from colleagues and students.

I am using Mark’s new textbook, Global Health: Why Cultural Perceptions, Social Representations, and Biopolitics Matter, in my Intro to Med Anth class this semester, and the students have responded quite positively. It’s a relatively short book, so I am able to use it in conjunction with other texts – not the mega intro to all things med anthro that seems to be the norm out there now. I also like the practical/applied focus that he provides throughout the book.

The last chapter, “Toward a Next Generation of Social Science Research,” is the real pay-off after previous sections on both popular health culture and international health policy. That’s where he discusses global health, syndemics, ecosocial epidemiology, local biology, the importance of studying up, biopolitics, and more. Yes, he packs a lot in – but that leaves room for me as the teacher to discuss more general issues and to provide background for the points he is making.

Mark has several recent articles which will likely interest readers:

Coming to Our Senses: Appreciating the Sensorial in Medical Anthropology (2008) in Transcultural Psychiatry

Reconsidering the Placebo Response from a Broad Anthropological Perspective (2009) in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry with Jennifer Jo Thompson and Cheryl Ritenbaugh

Qualitative Research: Contributions to the Study of Drug Use, Drug Abuse, and Drug Use(r)-Related Interventions (2004) in Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry with Gilbert Quintero, Mimi Nichter, Jeremiah Mock and Sohaila Shakib

Posted in Applied Anthropology, Medical anthropology | Leave a Comment »

The Sex Round Up

Posted by dlende on February 21, 2009

I just have to start off with this great video, Business Time, from the group Flight of the Conchords. It’s just as funny, maybe even more so, than my previous favorite, Ooh Girl – An Honest R&B Song.

So Greg had an enormously popular post discussing the latest sex research and media portrayals in What Do These Enigmatic Women Want? Here I do my thing, providing a round up of all things sex-related.

To put you in the mood, I’ll start with funny sex, then go through neuro, anthro and public health themes, and wrap up with some basic info sites and a couple places to explore more.

Funny Sex

Bonobos – Let’s Talk about Sex
Of course we have a bonobo sex video! But not just any video. It’s a music video.

Dr. Petrya Boyton, My Geeky Valentine (and not a PR sex survey in sight!)
Dr. Petra shares some of the geekier valentine links she has gotten. Some funny stuff.

Regina Lynn, NSF Management Had Time to Surf Porn?
A great take on the recent “scandal” of government employees doing NSFW activities

Natasha Mitchell, A Poet Responds (with Sexually Selected Verse)
Sexual selection and the mating mind. It starts: “So evolution has made the human brain a phallus. A frontal protuberance that is rather callous.”

Neuro Sex

Scicurious, Friday Weird Science: Sex in an MRI, Is That Romantic or What!
Kinda cramped – but, hey, there’s no standing in the way of science. You can also get the full paper, Magnetic resonance imaging of male and female genitals during coitus and female sexual arousal

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Posted in general | 10 Comments »

Measuring Process Not Belief: Shane Battier and Stress

Posted by dlende on February 20, 2009

The Wrong Box Score

The Wrong Box Score

Besides being a great read about Shane Battier and success in professional basketball, The No-Stats All-Star article by Michael Lewis in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine carries a larger lesson about how our understanding of the world is shifting. One of its main points is that we are becoming increasingly statistics driven, with sports at the leading edge of this transformation. We can spend lots of money on stars, like the New York Yankees, or we look more closely at what actually leads to success and how we can achieve that with less money. Shane Battier epitomizes this change because his individual stats are rather mediocre, his physical skills rather normal for an NBA player. But he makes his team win.

The key question becomes, how does he do this? That is where Michael Lewis mixes qualitative research (interviews) and ethnographic insight (coming from Battier’s own experience) with an examination of new ways of measuring everything that might count about a basketball game. It’s a powerful mix.

For me it illustrates two important points about how we can develop better measures, ones that are closer to what actually determine outcomes and that don’t fall into so easily into measuring our own beliefs about the world. And yes, by “our own” I mean the researchers who come up with the measures. Here’s a relevant section describing Daryl Morey, the man behind the Houston Rockets new approach to figuring out what works:

What [Morey] will say, however, is that the big challenge on any basketball court is to measure the right things. The five players on any basketball team are far more than the sum of their parts; the Rockets devote a lot of energy to untangling subtle interactions among the team’s elements. To get at this they need something that basketball hasn’t historically supplied: meaningful statistics. For most of its history basketball has measured not so much what is important as what is easy to measure — points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots — and these measurements have warped perceptions of the game. (“Someone created the box score,” Morey says, “and he should be shot.”) How many points a player scores, for example, is no true indication of how much he has helped his team.

Here is how it makes a difference. Battier doesn’t get great traditional stats – points scored, shots blocked, and so forth. But he does things that, on aggregate, make a bigger difference.

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Posted in Cognitive anthropology, Methods, Sport, Stress | 3 Comments »

Round Encephalon

Posted by dlende on February 19, 2009

brain-coralThe Neurocritic has posted a fine post-presidential Friday the 13th Darwin Day Encephalon, rounding up the best mind/brain blogging.

This edition is as super-sized as its name! We have a book review of Embracing the Wide Sky where the author, an autistic savant, explores the way his mind works. Then there is The Mouse That Couldn’t Get High, discussing a paper about dopamine transporter knock out mice, which leaves the dopamine theory of addiction intact but raises interesting questions about how supposedly identical mice have different levels of drug self-administration. Plus neuroplasticity, livetweeting, nature/nurture, Dan Ariely, brainbows and more over at the latest Encephalon.

Emergiblog is hosting the medical Grand Rounds this week. And we have a Napoleon Dynamite theme – so keep him away from the coral, because that’s no way to fish. But really, a stand-out effort – working movie quotes into the entire carnival. Lots of fun.

Junkfood Science cuts the obesity virus down to size, Doc Gurley takes down the stereotype that being mentally ill means being violent, and other things amanzi, the blog of a surgeon in South Africa, struggles being philosophical about a horrific outcome.

Those and much more at Emergiblog’s Napoleon Dynamite Grand Rounds.

Posted in Links | Leave a Comment »

Wednesday Round Up #51

Posted by dlende on February 18, 2009

Some meaty favorites, an interdisciplinary fix of ethnography, resources for those of you interested in Colombia (including some great music!), and then the brain and anthropology. Enjoy.

Top of the List

Elizabeth Rudd et al., Social Science PhDs Five Years Out: The Anthropology Report
The pdf of a large-scale survey on early careers among recent PhD anthro grads

C. Liston et al., Psychosocial Stress Reversibly Disrupts Prefrontal Processing and Attentional Control
PNAS full-text paper by one of the leading groups in the field – one month of chronic stress produces impairment in human adults. And I am already thinking about summer break. But really another piece in the puzzle of how societal faultlines drive unequal outcomes.

Junk Food Science, What You Didn’t Hear about the Latest Study of Sudden and Unexpected Infant Deaths
Great meditation on statistics, measurements and ideology: “looking closely at the CDC study, there is a lot of missing data, negating the ability to soundly support much of the claims and conclusions being made in the media.”

David DiSalvo, Welcome to the Age of the Neuron Chip
Getting neurons to grow in detailed patterns on a silicon chip – is this the future of repairing or even augmenting brain function? Plus a couple cool videos.


Jack Katz, From How to Why: On Luminous Description and Causal Inference in Ethnography (Part 1)
Pdf of this luminous 2001 article. You can see more of Katz’s writings here.

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Posted in Wednesday Round Up | 3 Comments »

Science news in crisis

Posted by gregdowney on February 14, 2009

There’s a fascinating piece at the science reporters’ blog at Nature, In the Field: ‘AAAS: Science journalism in crisis?’ The story has a mix of sad news leavened with just a bit of optimism. The bottom line is that, with newspapers suffering badly from the economic crisis, many are cutting budgets for their science reporting.

A panel at the AAAS meeting was inspired when CNN announced last December ‘to axe its entire space, science and environment unit.’ Christine Russell, a former science reporter for the Washington Post, now president of the US Council for the Advancement of Science Writing, reported that ‘the number of dedicated science pages in US newspapers has fallen from a peak of 95 in 1989 to 34 in 2005, and is still dropping–with a big shift toward consumer and health reporting in those remaining.’ The piece at In the Field discusses the shrinking space for science news at the Boston Globe and the accompanying shrinkage of the science reporting staff.

I’ve leveled a fair bit of criticism at science writing on this blog, but the unfortunate thing is that as the field becomes less professional, less practiced, it’s only going to get worse. So many of the science issues facing the public — genetics, neuroscience, climate science, stem cells, energy policy, ecosystem change, nuclear proliferation, developmental biology — are complex and require a pretty sophisticated set of analytical lenses to sort the significant discoveries from the dross. They aren’t the sort of science stories that your business reporter is going to be able to write astutely about (unless your business reporter was previously downsized when the science page was dissolved).

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Posted in Conferences, general | 7 Comments »

What Is American Cuisine?

Posted by dlende on February 13, 2009

Mundane Ethnography is a site I enjoy, an interdisciplinary mix of anthropology, food, and everyday life. Melissa recently sent me a post that she cherishes with pride and frustration: Cuisine vs. Food: What Is American Cuisine?

As she wrote to me, “I think this post sums up what anthropology should be: deep critical analysis leading to more, pretty much, unanswerable questions. That is the beauty of the discipline.”

In asking What is American Cuisine?, Melissa writes “the term “cuisine” means more than just food, but rather means the big picture around food–the form of expression through food and cooking and how people use food and cooking and eating as a way of expressing identity, even if it is an unconscious or understated form of affiliation and identity.”
By way of answering, I will use some photos from Melissa’s own Flickr site (with a whole range of photos, not just food) – the old cliche of American pie and our signature holiday, Thanksgiving.

So go enjoy more of What is American Cuisine?

Posted in Food & Eating, Links | 1 Comment »


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