Friday, May 27, 2011

3 Quarks Daily Science Prize

The science and culture blog 3 Quarks Daily, which is somewhat of a fixture in the science writing community, recently announced the 3rd installment of its science blogging prize, to be judged by physicist and writer Lisa Randall.

Somewhat to my surprise, someone has nominated "Power, Confidence, and High-Heels" for the competition, and I'm thrilled that readers would put forth AiP in such esteemed company. If you have a favorite science post—from AiP or elsewhere—head on over and share your nomination. Details are here, and you have until 31 May, 11:59 pm EST.

Thanks, as always, for your support, and for reading.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Editor's Selections: Language, Corruption, Picky Eaters, and Magic

This week in the social sciences on
  • Ingrid Pillar of Language on the Move discusses how English can be both empowering and limiting through the experiences of Australian immigrants.
  • With great power comes great responsibility—and temptation. Michael Kraus of Psych Your Mind delves into the relationship between power and corruption.
  • The author of This Is Serious Monkey Business reports that orangutans are not picky eaters. Why is this important? Well, it could help preservation efforts as these primates lose their natural habitat and find themselves in captive/semi-captive environments.
  • Franco Bejarano of Culture Potion explores the use of magical clothing in folklore, tracing similarities in stories through different geographic locations.
I'll be back next week with more from the social sciences.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Social Signs

New Yorkers are a busy bunch—sometimes we need a little direction in life.

The City can be a dangerous place after all: Ice can drop on you at any time (during the winter months), and who knows what lurks in the Gap!

Ice has been cleared for falling in this area only ;)
Step over, not into the Gap—if you'd like to keep your foot.

And how else would traffic patterns be maintained?

Seems simple enough ...
And it works!

Femora and Cream Calls for Posts for Four Stone Hearth

Femora and Cream will be hosting the next Four Stone Hearth on May 25th—please submit new and notable anthropology writing that you may have stumbled upon (you can also nominate your own work).

And if you haven't already, you may want to read some recent editions of the carnival:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Come to the #NYCscitweetup on June 2nd

Every month or so, the science community in New York City gathers to talk science over beer. The event—or TweetUp if you will—began as a means of connecting the online science community offline, which is why it bears a hashtag in its name. While the gathering is still in its infancy, turnouts have been fairly moderate—and certainly enthusiastic.

The next one is scheduled for June 2nd, and will likely be held in DUMBO, following the World Science Fair "Women in Science" panel that will take place at the Galapagos Space. If you're a local, consider saving the date—it's a very low-key and open affair. If you have an interest in science, are a scientist, a science journalist, or just want to hang with science-minded folks (who continue to have super smart conversations after the beer has been flowing for a bit), come on by. 

For more details, you can:
The meetup will be at
126 Front Street
Brooklyn, NY
6:30 - 11:00 pm

View Larger Map

Hope to see you there!

Editor's Selections: Modern Day Alchemy, Sex Bias, and Learning

On ResearchBlogging this week:
  • Can gold fight cancer? Possibly! From the Lab Bench under the Research/Scholarship heading Paige Brown reports how the Xia lab uses alchemy to create gold nanocages, which can then be used for diagnostics and drug delivery.
  • Under the Anthropology heading, Kate Clancy of Context and Variation investigates how sex bias can impact parental investment, which in turn can have serious effects on their children's development.
  • Also under Anthropology, Jason Goldman discusses learning processes at the aptly named The Thoughtful Animal. Are humans unique in the ways we retain and recall information? The short answer is yes, but Jason drums up a few examples where other species come close.
Come back next week for more ResearchBlogging picks in anthropology, philosophy, and research!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Science and Technology in Television Cartoons

ThunderCats (ho!) © Warner Bros

ThunderCats. Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles. He-Man. Denver the Last Dinosaur. Ghostbusters. Duck Tales. Voltron. Inspector Gadget. The Pink Panther. She-Ra. Tail Spin. Transformers. GI Joe. Smurfs. Muppet Babies. Scooby Doo. Bugs Bunny Road Runner Hour. The Snorks. Gummi Bears. Batman. Johnny Quest. Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers. The Jetsons. Iron Man. Darkwing Duck.

If any of the above sound familiar, you probably spent a few Saturday mornings in front of the television waiting for the next installment of saving the world, solving mysteries, helping friends, fighting crime, and/or just generally having adventures. And you weren't alone. I asked Twitter followers to name their favorite Saturday morning cartoon last night, and got a flurry of answers in no time—and I'm still humming the Muppet Babies theme to boot. The Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles appear to have been a favorite. As were the Thundercats and Scooby Doo. But the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons is long gone. Changing educational standards, marketing regulations, and lifestyles helped put this particular tradition to bed. The rise of specialized cable networks also moved these programs away from the pedestal of Saturday. And as they are accessible at almost any time, they seem to have lost some of their magic. It became sort of like eating an entire box of cupcakes as a kid (bear with me): It seems like a good idea—cartoons all the time!—but you can get pretty sick pretty quickly. How many times can you watch the same programming before losing interest?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Evolution of Communication—AiP Makes the Stage for Internet Week!

Readers, you did it! AiP has earned a spot on the Big Stage during Internet Week thanks to your votes! Thank you!

Date: June 9th
Time: 3:00 pm

Internet Week HQ at Metropolitan Pavilion
125 W. 18th Street
New York, NY 10011

Tickets are available here.

It may also be live-streamed—will post more details once I have 'em.

The American Public's Fascination With the Undead

"Braaiiiinnns ..." Zombies on the hunt for a meal, Night of the Living Dead.
May is Zombie Awareness Month—just in case you were wondering. Don’t roll your eyes: yes, we need a whole month of preparedness. I too was skeptical, but as the inimitable Christie Wilcox tweeted in response to my disbelief that May would be so used:

I think I must be. Prepared, that is. Surely the plethora of zombie movies, books, survival guides, and even exercise regimens have given me a sense of how to survive the coming zombie apocalypse. If you’ve seen even one zombie movie, I’d be willing to bet that you’re pretty prepared too. If you haven’t, go watch Zombieland. It provides a fair list of “rules” that should boost your chances of survival. For example, "When in doubt, know your way out" and "check the backseat" make a lot of sense. Then again, those might be things you should be doing anyway. And yet, they keep coming: Wikipedia lists seventeen zombie movies scheduled for release this year—and there are already films on the docket through 2014.

Zombies aren’t pretty creatures. Popular media depicts them in assorted states of decay. They shamble. They’re insatiable cannibals. And, well, they’re dead. So why can’t we get enough of them?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Goes Awry—AiP Emerges Largely Unscathed

Blogger, the service that hosts AiP, went down yesterday after a maintenance update went wrong. As a result, blogs were available to readers but could not be updated. The Blogger team has since restored admin access—as you can clearly see, since you're reading this—but Wednesday's and Thursday's posts have disappeared into the murky depths of the Internet. Blogger is working to restore these posts, but in the event that they cannot, I'll attempt to repost them over the weekend.

Apologies to Readers who subscribe via email—Feedburner emailed Readers with some very old posts. It appears Google products are having a very hard Friday the 13th. Barring any other unpleasant surprises, AiP appears to be back ... [cue dramatic music].

Update: No need for dramatic music: The missing posts are back! Glad things are working again.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Editor's Selections: Duckrabbits, the Hymen, Religion, and Hot Shots

Bloggers were busy last week and it shows: there's no shortage of posts on to choose from. Here are my picks for the week:
  • Neuroskeptic asks, is it a duck or a rabbit? And why isn't it a "duckrabbit"? The neuroscientist discusses the perception of ambiguous figures by individuals with autism.
  • The host of This is Serious Monkey Business presents a thorough investigation of the possible evolutionary roots of the hymen, including a look at how sexual selection may have helped preserve this culturally-laden tissue.
  • At Brain Posts, Bill Yates' second post on how the brain processes complex beliefs shows readers how religious beliefs about the nature of God manifests in brain activity.
  • Chad Orzel has basketball on his brain at Uncertain Principles. He takes another look at "hot shooting" and asks whether researchers have been interpreting the term correctly in their analysis.
  • And finally, the author of The Autist's Corner, discusses a study  that has found that people are more receptive to deism when confronted with their own mortality. (So perhaps there really are no atheists in foxholes?)
I'll be back next week with more picks from the social sciences.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Raising Digitally Savvy Kids:

Do we really need another online social networking site that targets kids? There is certainly no shortage of options to choose from to prep your child for the Facebook landscape, but as concerns about cyberbullying grow, it's probably best to orient your child toward a site that helps model proper netiquette. And this is precisely what claims to do.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Unraveling The Fear o' the Jolly Roger

Calico Jack Rackham's Jolly Roger.
Blackbeard's Jolly Roger.
Walter Kennedy's Jolly Roger.
Emanuel Wynn's Jolly Roger.
Above: A sampling of pirate flags.

The NYTimes recently explored the "pirate brand" by tracing the emergence of the skull and crossbones—the Jolly Roger—as a symbol of terror on the high seas. The Times hails the ominous design as a magnificent exercise in collective hybrid branding, noting that economics drove pirates to adopt a version of this particular symbol to facilitate their intent to plunder. It's a fascinating discussion on the efficiency and power that good branding can deliver, but it overlooks the ways in which the power of the symbol as we recognize it draws in part in the acceptance and manipulation of the image by others.

Friday, May 6, 2011

As Above So Below—Investigating "Life Underground"

New York City has a reputation for being a dangerous place. You never know what may lurk beneath the streets—alligators, giant rats, even turtles and fish. The 14th Street and 8th Avenue subway station is home to one of my favorite public art installations: Tom Otterness' Life Underground at 14th Street and 8th Avenue places miniature characters in precarious situations—such as being eaten by an alligator.

Otterness allegedly based the characters on the themes of corruption that were common during the Boss Tweed era of New York City, but these figures strike a chord with today's climate: the financial pinch that many Americans find themselves in resonates with the family caught in the claws of the scorpion with the money-bagged head. The installation has an air of subversion about it—a couple creeps out of the subway and a robber type figure sits triumphantly on a pile of coins, reading nonchalantly. There are examples of waste as money bags and coins are strewn about, and in one case need to be swept up by porters. And there are also instances of triumph and humanity, as a big figure hands out coins to a smaller figure.

For more scenes from Life Underground, please visit the Facebook album—and if you're ever in the area, stop by, but watch out for that alligator.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Editor's Selections: Biogeography, Schizophrenia, Development, and Altruism

This week on

  • Julien Riel-Salvatore of A Very Remote Period Indeed discusses how biogeography may be leveraged to help us better understand how and where hominins may have lived in past. However, Julien cautions that we need to consider the data at hand when drawing conclusions—specifically, with regard to dated sites, and emphasizes the importance of social and cultural data when trying to place humans.
  • At Neuroskeptic, the neuroscientist investigates whether AI can experience schizophrenia, concluding that there may be benefits to experiment design with this sort of research.
  • At Per Square Mile, Tim De Chant reveals faunal resettlement patterns in the wake of habitat development—there are a number of qualitative factors that are considered.
  • How do you keep rotten folks in line? At Evolving Economics, Jason Collins shows how benefits can help encourage altruism.

Tune in next week for more research from the social sciences.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Rise of the Mobile Screen

One day those I-walked-10-miles-to-school-in-the-snow-uphill-both-ways stories may include the following:
When I was a kid, we would watch our shows on television—not on our phones. Oh, television! Back in those days, we paid for someone to run a cable to the house so we could watch shows and commercials on these boxes. Well, they started out as boxes, and they were pretty small, but then they got bigger, and less boxy, and soon they were just screens that we mounted to the walls. But they were still stationary, so we wound up putting them everywhere—bathrooms, kitchens, spare bedrooms, waiting rooms, even some restaurants had them. Yep, those were the days.
Nielsen is reporting a decline in television ownership in the US that can be traced back to the 2009 shift from analog to digital. It seems that more people are watching TV shows and movies on their computers and smart devices, taking media with them while in transit.

Nielsen does acknowledge that the recent economic downturn may be a factor in television sales, but also reports that media consumers are increasingly giving up subscription services in favor of online and mobile viewing—so called "cord-cutters," who are using services like streaming Netflix and Hulu to access the shows they're interested in following.

The television has been a focal point of home life for many people for a long time: it has been a babysitter, a social point, and a companion for some. I'm trying to imagine my family members watching the Thanksgiving day bowl games on their phones or huddled around a computer screen. It likely isn't a shift that will happen soon.

How frequently do you use your portable devices for streaming video? Has anyone out there cut the cord? Tell us about your liberating experience if you have one to share.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shame and The Endangered Lunch Hour

Credit: Ryan Ozawa

Lunch is an often neglected meal of the day: sometimes skipped, many times hastily consumed, lunch is often over before it begins. It feels like an intrusion: we have to stop what we're doing, pause our stream of thought or work, to feed our bodies? What a bother.

Reader Will Hawkins recently suggested a post by Joel Spolsky on the importance of eating as a team:
Where and with whom we eat lunch is a much bigger deal than most people care to admit. Obviously, psychologists will tell us, obviously it goes back to childhood, and especially school, particularly Junior High, where who you eat with is of monumental importance. Being in any clique, even if it’s just the nerds, is vastly preferable than eating alone. For loners and geeks, finding people to eat with in the cafeteria at school can be a huge source of stress.
Spolsky briefly discusses the ways in which technology enables loners to maintain clique distance today, and stresses the importance he places on eating with coworkers. And while it may be true that any number of us choose to eat at our desks, or conduct business over lunch, or even tend to virtual crops while we eat, eating alone can provide a moment to unwind, as well as a chance to eat without judgement of what we're eating and with whom and why.