Friday, January 7, 2011

The Anthro Reader, Vol. 23

The latest edition of the anthropology blog carnival is live at Afarensis. The hominin has compiled an interesting collection of science writing from around the web, including a look at how silverfishes closed a museum, the nature of anthropology and publicity, Viking recipes, and the ethics of habituating primates.

It's back to work now that the holiday season is over, which means getting reacquainted with my desk, both at home and at work. But desk time carries with it the increased risk of cardiovascular disease—it's no secret, after all, that physical activity is important, and desk time tends to be rather sedentary. Travis Saunders' SciAm guest feature discusses offsetting the effects of sedentary behavior. The bottom line is that any exercise is better than none, and as we are a largely sedentary  society, every little bit you can do counts. So taking small breaks throughout the day—actually walking away from your desk for a few minutes a few times a day—can add up, and help you meet current physical activity guidelines.

The big news this week has been the mass deaths of birds and fish. National Geographic doesn't believe this is a sign of a coming apocalypse:
At any given time there are "at least ten billion birds in North America ... and there could be as much as 20 billion—and almost half die each year due to natural causes," said ornithologist Greg Butcher, director of bird conservation for the National Audubon Society in Washington, D.C.
It appears that the birds may have been stirred from their roost by firecrackers, and then died after flying into various objects. Biologists are saying that mass deaths are common, but are hoping to use the attention to bolster public awareness about other issues.

Finally, harder to read fonts may increase retention. Princeton researchers found that students were able to recall more from texts using more complicated fonts because they had to work harder to process and understand the information. The significance of this? It tells us that small things can have an immense impact on learning and cognition. (So perhaps going forward, I'll post in something other than Arial.)

That's it for this week. I'll be traveling next week, so the Anthro Reader will resume on Friday, January 21.

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