All Hail the Atlatl

Woman the Able Hunter     As we have been culturally taught, women are considered the “weaker” sex and yet given the chance, women can easily rise to the challenge of unscrewing a jar, opening a stuck window, and moving furniture using a little ingenuity. And now, a recent study of an archaic tool called the atlatl, or spear thrower, proves that this kind of female ingenuity has been serving women for centuries and making them competent hunters alongside men. The atlatl is a simple J-shaped piece of carved wood with a…

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Do Big Brains Make Us Smart?

The Answer is No     Humans have the largest brain-to-body ratio of any animal. We have giant, complicated, brains that should make us the smartest animals on  Earth. But oddly, we spend so much of our time trying to dull that intelligence—we drink alcohol, take drugs, go shopping, have sex, watch TV, look at our phones for hours, read, talk to each other a lot, and spend most of the day with useless thoughts wandering through all those brain cells.   In other words, we have big brains but can’t handle…

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Everything on Earth

How Natural History Museums Around the World Are Dusting Off Their Vast Collections to Answer the Most Critical Questions of Our Time   The group of third graders being led through the Hall of Biodiversity at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City have no idea. The couple from California admiring the stuffed African elephant standing proudly in the rotunda of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington D.C. is clueless. The group of older visitors taking the “Nature Walk” to view various recreated animal habitats at the Chicago…

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Monkey Fake News

When the Public is Fed the Wrong Information About Primates     A recent article about Japanese macaque monkeys went viral, even getting exposure on Stephen Colbert, because of its provocative headline: “Love Triangle Challenges Reign of Japan’s Monkey Queen.” But that idiotic headline, based on inaccurate reporting, was simply fake news. I know this because as an anthropologist, I spent many years observing and searching about macaques and the reporter doesn’t seem to have any idea how these animals operate. When someone is educated and experienced in a profession or a…

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