Category Archives: Culture

Why the future might not be where you think it is

Bystrov/Shutterstock By Ruth Ogden, Liverpool John Moores University Imagine the future. Where is it for you? Do you see yourself striding towards it? Perhaps it’s behind you. Maybe it’s even above you. And what about the past? Do you imagine looking over your shoulder to see it? How you answer these questions will depend on… Read More »

The sea was never blue

Maria Michela Sassi writes: Homer used two adjectives to describe aspects of the colour blue: kuaneos, to denote a dark shade of blue merging into black; and glaukos, to describe a sort of ‘blue-grey’, notably used in Athena’s epithet glaukopis, her ‘grey-gleaming eyes’. He describes the sky as big, starry, or of iron or bronze (because of its solid fixity).… Read More »

Robert Bellah, a socialist who insisted that democracy needs religion

Matthew Rose writes: If Émile Durkheim helped Bellah understand American ideals, the German sociologist Max Weber helped him confront American realities. Bellah’s deepest criticism of individualism was that it undermined the very conditions that make it possible. Its vision of human beings as free to choose their own identities and commitments had not brought about a… Read More »

The puzzle of Neanderthal aesthetics

Rebecca Wragg Sykes writes: Sometime between 135,000-50,000 years ago, hands slick with animal blood carried more than 35 huge horned heads into a small, dark, winding cave. Tiny fires were lit amidst a boulder-jumbled floor, and the flame-illuminated chamber echoed to dull pounding, cracking and squelching sounds as the skulls of bison, wild cattle, red… Read More »

Unearthing the origins of agriculture

John Carey writes: Archaeobiology involves gathering and analyzing the remains of humans and plants to discern how people were living and what they were eating and doing. It started first with bioarchaeology, a term coined in the 1970s for the study of human bones and teeth, explains Clark Larsen, an anthropologist at The Ohio State… Read More »

The many myths of the term ‘Anglo-Saxon’

Mary Rambaran-Olm and Erik Wade write: The few uses of “Anglo-Saxon” in Old English seem to be borrowed from the Latin Angli Saxones. Manuscript evidence from pre-Conquest England reveals that kings used the Latin term almost exclusively in Latin charters, legal documents and, for a brief period, in their titles, such as Anglorum Saxonum Rex, or king of the Anglo-Saxons.… Read More »

Are world happiness rankings culturally biased?

Emiliana R. Simon-Thomas writes: Every year, the World Happiness Report ranks 146 countries around the globe by their average level of happiness. Scandinavian countries usually top the list, the U.S. falls someplace in the mid-teens, and war-torn and deeply impoverished countries are at the bottom. The happiness scores come from a survey of life satisfaction,… Read More »

Orwell and Camus’ loyalty to truth

William Fear writes: A war still raged in Europe, but the enemy were firmly in retreat. The occupation of Paris had been broken, and France was free, and so were the cafés of the Boulevard St Germain. No longer did the waiters have to serve coffee to SS officers. One afternoon in April 1945, a… Read More »

Unlocking secrets of the honeybee dance language – bees learn and culturally transmit their communication skills

A honeybee is performing the waggle dance in the center of this photo to communicate the location of a rich nectar source to its nestmates. Heather Broccard-Bell, CC BY-ND By James C. Nieh, University of California, San Diego The Greek historian Herodotus reported over 2,000 years ago on a misguided forbidden experiment in which two… Read More »

Biophobia hurts nature and humans

Emily Harwitz writes: When Masashi Soga was growing up in Japan, he loved spending time outside catching insects and collecting plants. His parents weren’t big fans of the outdoors, but he had an elementary schoolteacher who was. “They taught me how to collect butterflies, how to make a specimen of butterflies,” Soga recalls. “I enjoyed… Read More »

How religion made us a successful species

Victor Kumar and Richmond Cambell write: For most of history, human populations were limited to small bands of around 150 members. After exceeding that size, a band would split and drift apart, the descendants forgetting their common ancestry. At some point in human history, however, bands were knit together into tribes—groups of groups—geographically distributed but… Read More »