Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Do We Hurry to Wait?

While traveling a few weeks ago, I had ample opportunity to observe the art of waiting. Or rather, the art of not waiting. New Yorkers aren’t known for their patience—something that became painfully obvious when I got frustrated with the service S and I received at a south Florida restaurant. (If it takes more than 10 minutes for a server to come by and get drink orders after the customer has been seated, there is something wrong. We left, by the way, as even the normally unflappable S was perturbed, and were seated and served almost immediately—at the establishment just next door. (1)) While it may be that New Yorkers generally have little tolerance at being made to wait—and really, when you live in a culture of 24/7, the expectations are rather high—perhaps there are certain situations in which we’re all a bit impatient.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Does Cooperation Really Make It Happen?

What didn’t Sesame Street teach us? Working together (sometimes) makes things go easier—whether you're a part of a group of Muppets who want a community garden, or perhaps hunter-gatherers managing your existence. Humans are the only species to cooperate to the degree that we do, and this cooperation may have allowed for many other derived social traits related to group living to emerge, including generosity, sharing, teaching and learning, and shared intentionality. But how and why did cooperation emerge in the first place? A recent paper in Science by Hill, Walker, and colleagues investigates cooperation in the course of human social and cultural evolution by looking to contemporary hunter-gatherer groups for some of the answers.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

From the Archives: Even Trinidadians Are a Little Irish

The Irish have traveled to all corners of the world, and like other immigrant groups, wherever they have stayed they have left a mark.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

From the Archives: The Unglamorous Life of a Pay Phone

These days it seems that everyone has a cell phone. Most of us walk by public pay phones without a second glance in their direction. I definitely do—until Wednesday, when I stumbled upon a couple actually using a pay phone! Yes, they were likely tourists (I made that assumption based on their attire), but hey, it turns out that those ugly, dirty booths, kiosks, and stands actually do work. Well, sometimes. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

From the Archives: Finding Traces of New York's Dutch Heritage

The Jansson-Visscher 1656 Map, Dutch North American
colonies; reprinted 1685. Public domain.

While we tend to think of the history of New York City in terms of the English settlement, the truth is the city's foundation is decidedly Dutch. I say this without any disrespect to the original inhabitants of the land that so enraptured the early Europeans, but it's true. And it is the Dutch I wish to speak of today. Believe it or not, much of the New Amsterdam colony has remained—names of places in and around the city, as well as throughout much of the New England region, remind us of our Dutch heritage: Stuyvesant, the Bouwerie, Greenwyck (Greenwich Village), Breuckelen (Brooklyn), Parelstraat (Pearl Street), Fresh Kills, Gravesende, Van Cortland, Nieuw Haarlem (Harlem), Vlissing (Flushing), Lange Eyelandt, as well as Roode Eyelandt and many more, attest to a Dutch presence in our history. And the truth is that had we solely been an English colony, the flavor of New York City would be immensely different today. While the English Puritans were establishing mono-cultures to the north in Boston and the surrounding areas and to the south in Virginia, New Amsterdam was already a bustling model of diversity. As a port settlement, its main concern was business (which remains true today), so people of many different backgrounds, religions, and races—and characters—settled here from its earliest inception.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Is Your Brain on Disney

Researchers have suggested that Disney generates a successful experience because our brains are responsive and receptive to art, creativity, storytelling, humor, wit, music, fantasy, and morality, all of which may have been important to social development—and feature heavily in the "Disney experience" in a rather amplified way.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Behind-the-Scenes at the American Museum of Natural History

Reception in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History's Dinosaur Tweetup.

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) had a hand in raising me. I literally spent summers there as a kid. The rotunda Barosaurus and I are old friends—it was under his watchful eye, after all, that I had my introduction to evolution, science, and natural history. With two working parents, the museum was the best way to spend my days and I roamed the Hall of Mammals and the fossil halls freely, soaking it all in. As I grew older, it was frequently my escape. And it still is. After a long week, or a particularly rough day, all it takes is quick run uptown on the C train to make me feel better. Leisurely afternoons in the Hall of Pacific Peoples—which often feels like another world—and the fossil halls are my favorite things. This place played a huge role in the ways I think, write, and talk about science. And last night, the AMNH Dinosaur Tweetup took me behind the scenes and showed me some of the ways the spaces I love came to be.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Tweets from the Streets: An Exercise in Awareness?

These days it seems that everyone is using social media—and thanks to the efforts of three interns at BBH, a TriBeCa-based advertising agency, everyone now includes four homeless men.