Friday, September 24, 2010

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 8

This edition of the reader is fairly well stocked, with posts on Facebook power users, the moral rights of mummies, new gibbons, stone knapping, and urban streams. Read on below the fold for more on these topics.

PsyBlog has rounded up recent research on Facebook to generate seven tips to help you become a Facebook power user. One of the tips actually touches on something we'll be exploring in the coming weeks:
Because we move huge distances nowadays, away from home towns and old friends, it's easy to lose contact with people who might be able to give us a leg up in life. Facebook to the rescue...

Ellison et al. (2008) found that Facebook users had higher levels of 'social capital'. In other words: people are using their Facebook contacts to get jobs or other opportunities.

See, Facebookers aren't just surfing for photos of people they know and people they'd like to know, they're building social capital.
Social capital—remember that one, folks.

Do we have a right to display mummies? Don't they have any rights? These are the questions that Dig Girl asks after reading an article in New Scientist that states:
"The human body, alive or dead, has a moral value," says Rühli, who is himself involved in mummy research. He says that no matter how old a body is, researchers must balance the benefits of their research against the potential rights and desires of the deceased individual."
Dig Girl proposes that morality lies with the living for enforcement—let her know your thoughts on the matter.

Photo by Tilo Nadler.
How about a new gibbon species to round out the week? Primatology.net has news that research on vocalization and genetics has resulted in the classification of buff-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus annamensis) as a separate species. They were previously classified as the yellow-cheeked gibbon. This information not only opens the door for additional research, but can facilitate conservation measures. You can find additional links on Primatology.net for more on this story.

Stone knapping seems to capture the imagination of archaeologists and the public alike. At Savage Minds, Alex Golub draws an interesting parallel between the archaeological rite of teaching grad students how to create stone tools and anthropological study in general:
On the one hand, they produce articles like the one in the Journal of Archaeological Science, full of exhaustive and incredibly sophisticated methods to study the acquisition of knapping skills from the outside in. On the other hand, they round up a bunch of 20 year olds, give them some gloves (hopefully!) and make them knapp till they bleed — which often doesn’t take very long. This is knapping form the inside out, the skill passed down from one archaeologist to the other via bruised, calloused fingers.
It is a thoughtful discussion of the discipline—one that resonates deeply here, given the objective of AiP.

Anne at Highly Allochthonous discusses the science of streams in urban environments, something that really fascinates me given how water must be managed. Anne describes a new research venture she is undertaking in this area:
Along with colleagues Sara McMillan and Sandra Clinton at UNC Charlotte and Christina Tague at UCSB, I’ll be looking at the effects of stormwater management practices on urban headwater streams. We’re taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines hydrology, temperature, water quality, nutrient processing, and macroinvertebrate assemblages through field measurements and modeling. We’re interested in whether the flow and water quality benefits of stormwater management that are seen by comparing pond inflow and outflow actually translate into differences in ecosystem function in the receiving streams.
Anne has a full project description on the page—and an announcement that her team is looking for interested grad students to work with them.

And finally, who says you shouldn't run before you walk? Science News reports that these frogs learn to leap and figure out the landing:


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