Wednesday Round Up #33

This week, besides the tops, we have education, animals, genetics, anthropology, and the brain.

Top of the List

Garrison Keillor, Dying of the Light
A captivating review of the new book, Nothing to Be Frightened Of, by Julian Barnes. The accomplished writer and “atheist turned agnostic” confronts (and reflects on) his fear of death at the age of 62

Sean Hurley/NPR, Boston Orchestra Makes Typewriters Sing
The Boston Typewriter Orchestra plays the QWERTY Waltz. Listen to the entire NPR story here.
This story highlights the difficulties of a brain-based or culture-based approach to creativity. Here we have a story about effort and spontaneity, where practice and the adaptation of technology, social settings and finding rhythms all “coalesced into a form” that is quite a show.

Bruce Bower, Body in Mind
Science News covers embodied cognition! How new experimental studies and robot designs are changing our very old views of cognition.

Steve Higgins, The Ass Area of the Brain Exists in Chimps
On top for the title alone! Chimps recognize each other by their asses – and what parts of the brain process that

Kenneth Chang, A Guiding Glow to Track What Was Once Invisible
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry went this year to three scientists who developed green fluorescent protein (from jellyfish!) to study cell function.
To see the amazing outcome of using a range of fluorescent colors to study the brain, check out our previous posts on Jeff Lichtman’s Brainbows and More on Brainbow. Truly some of the most striking science images I have even seen.


Sam Dillon, Under ‘No Child’ Law, Even Solid Schools Falter
The perils of prescribing standardized change – schools making progress and using tough tests are not making the grade

Open Anthropology, A Crisis of Vast Quantities in Academia?
Publish or perish – academics on the production line

Chris Kelty et al., Anthropology Of/In Circulation: The Future of Open Access and Scholarly Societies
Discussion by some prominent anthropologists concerned with open access over at Cultural Anthropology – and yes, it’s the actual pdf (not hidden behind a fee-access door)

Three-Toed Sloth, Data Mining
Online lecture notes for this top-notch statistics class

Miguel Helft, An Elephant Backs Up Google’s Library
Google just isn’t good enough for these librarians – they want digital collections until, like, forever

Academia.Edu, “A Tree of Academics around the World”
Here’s how Savage Minds describes it: Half social networking site, one-fourth open access initiative, and one-fourth to be decided, [Richard] Price is “hoping that the site will eventually list every academic in the world—Faculty members, Post-Docs, and Graduate Students. People can add their departments, and themselves, to the tree by clicking on the arrows.”

Sara Rimer, Math Skills Suffer in U.S., Study Finds
The US is failing at teaching math, especially at the highest levels, to young students

Steve Lohr, Intel’s Barrett: Teachers Matter More Than PCs
The head of Intel talks about investing in the people and infrastructure that support education – economic competitiveness is at stake, bur really Barrett asks, “Where is the public outrage that the U.S. education system is failing our kids?”


Henry Fountain, Thrill of the Hunt Is Not Lost on Bonobos
Thought this was the peaceful, sexy primate? They hunt too!

Jeanna Bryner, Dogs Catch Human Yawns
Is it empathy? Or just contagion?

Nicholas Mulcahy and Josep Call, Apes Save Tools for Future Use
2006 Science article (pdf) on a study with bonobos and orangs

James Kanter, One in 4 Mammals Threatened With Extinction, Group Finds
A new study shows we, and all our mammalian brethren, face an “extinction crisis” due to habitat change from global warming, habitat loss due to development and population growth, and over-hunting

Olivia Judson, Cancer of the Devil
The Tasmanian Devil faces extinction due to a cancer that is infectious!


Genetic Genealogist, Ancestral GPS – Pinpointing the Geographic Origin of Autosomal DNA Sequences
Unique genetic sequences, populations, and geography – looking at some recent research

Gene Expression, Male Skew; Dude Likes Ladies
Different effective population sizes in males and females, and the genetics therein. Follow that up with Demography + Genetics = Insight?

Bioephemera, Good for Cops, Bad for Geneticists?
It’s possible to identify individual DNA even in large population samples. Previously, pooled data had been considered safe to release. And now?


remote central, Stonehenge As A&E Unit , Or A Triumph of Modern Hype Over Neolithic Death?
Critical review of the recent claims of Stonehenge as a place of healing or “Accident and Emergency unit”

Language Log, Code Switching Consciousness?
Linguistic code switching in social switching – does our way of thinking change too?

John Hawks, Human Evolution Stopping? Wrong Wrong Wrong
Hawks takes on the geneticist Steve Jones – evolution still very active, both biologically and through social forces, and there’s genetic data to back it up

Anthropology.Net, Modeling the Egalitarian Revolution
The dynamics of alliance formation and how that helped break down rigid hierarchical social systems for our human ancestors – at least that’s what the computer model says…

Jessica Wapner, He Counts Your Words (Even Those Pronouns)
The wonders of content analysis and the wide-ranging work of James Pennebaker, from the Beatles to Al Qaeda

Michael Mathas, “Rednecks for Obama” Want to Bridge Yawning Culture Gap
And get 800,000 hits on their website too.

Sabrina Tavernise, Youthful Voice Stirs Challenge to Secular Turks
Young Turkish women return to wearing head scarves, and social controversy ensues

Jennifer Steinhauer, Road to November: As Industries Dry Up, Frustration and Despair
Elkhart is my neighbor, and this story about the economic meltdown there is just a hard read


Andrea Thompson, Internet Searching May Boost Brain
Finally, the article I was waiting for – my Wednesday obsession actually makes me smarter! Well, if I were over 55. And the results are interesting due to the role of prior experience in the fMRI activation patterns

AskMen.Com, 5 Daily Brain Exercises
And given the site, not one is about sex! A shocker! In fact, all of them sound rather like being that perfect boyfriend – remembering things, paying attention, keeping control, paying attention to what other people are wearing (works those visual-spatial skills), and talking, talking, talking

Jim Dawson, Circadian Rhythm Affects Memory
“Ruby found that learning and memory appears to hinge on the amount of the neurochemical GABA, which is found in the brains of all animals. GABA, which inhibits brain activity, is released rhythmically by the body in accordance to the circadian clock controlling sleep and wake cycles.”

Figural Effect, What Is Cognition?
Outlining four prominent definitions – which one works for you?

Not Exactly Rocket Science, Taking the New Out of Neurons
Carbon dating neurons: “Bhardwaj’s elegant experiments bring the debate [over neurogenesis during the lifespan] crashing down in favour of one side. It strongly suggests that all 100 million neurons in our neocortex are produced during a strict developmental window while we are still inside the womb. We are then stuck with these cells for our entire lives.

That is not to say that the brain creates no new neurons at all. On the contrary, they are most definitely produced in two specific regions – the olfactory bulb, which controls the sense of smell, and the hippocampus, a region associated with building short-term memories. But in the neocortex, stability is the order of the day.”

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