Anthropologists In Space

The Otherworldly Tale of Anthropologists and Space Aliens     On October 4, 1957, Russia launched the first satellite, the first human-made object, to orbit the earth, calling it “Sputnik” which is Russian for “traveler.” America wanted to be the first in space — after all, the Cold War was raging, and the space race was part of that war — but it took a year before they launched a similar U.S. satellite. Those launches, and the space race in general, were signs of a massive, universal, culture shift for the human…

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Why Numbers Matter

    Numbers are drawn symbols, or figures, that represent something else. The sign 2 is not just a slinky line; it is a collectively recognized and agreed upon symbol for two of something. Throughout history, that representation has made life a lot easier for transactions among people — it’s a lot easier if I write “I owe you 2 cows” than bringing the cows physically into the conversation and parading them around and forcing you to see that there are indeed 2 cows. Numbers are also the symbols used in counting, a numerical…

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Chimpanzee Moms are Cool

If you think it’s been a hot summer in America, try living in southeast Senegal, especially in the dry savannah area of Fongoli where temperatures rise to 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Then try being a chimpanzee, an animal covered in hair but one that is smart enough to turn on a cold shower if only there was any running water around. But researchers have observed that Senegalese chimps do have a natural way to beat the heat — they duck into a series of cool caves when the temperature is unbearably hot. The…

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The Most Selfish Culture on Earth-Or Maybe Not

Once Considered Unkind, the Ik Turn out to Be Nice When anthropologist Colin Turnbull lived among the Ik people of Uganda between 1964 and 1967, he found a bleak, loveless, unkind society where everyone was only out for themselves. Turnbull wrote about his experience in the best-selling 1972 book The Mountain People, an ethnographic follow up to his highly acclaimed The Forest People about the cooperative and socially entwined Mbuti pygmies of the Republic of Congo. The contrast between the two cultures couldn’t have been more shocking. The Ik were held up as evidence that…

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