Browsed by
Category: Culture

Are world happiness rankings culturally biased?

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, which goes something like this: Considering your life as a whole and using the mental image of a ladder, with the best possible life as…

Read More Read More

Orwell and Camus’ loyalty to truth

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 dishevelled Englishman walked into one such café. He was a war correspondent for the Observer — fond of shag-tobacco and Indian tea. His pen-name was…

Read More Read More

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

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 children were prevented from hearing human speech so that a king could discover the true, unlearned language of human beings. Scientists now know that human…

Read More Read More

Biophobia hurts nature and humans

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 nature quite a lot.” That early exposure helped foster Soga’s appreciation for nature, he says, and today, Soga is an ecologist at the University of…

Read More Read More

Pablo Neruda was poisoned after U.S.-backed coup in Chile, according to a new report

Pablo Neruda was poisoned after U.S.-backed coup in Chile, according to a new report

NPR reports: International forensic experts delivered a report to justice officials in Chile today regarding the death of the South American country’s famous poet Pablo Neruda — some 50 years ago. A nephew of Neruda tells NPR that scientists found high levels of poison in the poet’s remains. Scientists from Canada, Denmark and Chile examined bone and tooth samples from Neruda’s exhumed body. Neruda died in 1973, just days after the U.S.-backed coup that deposed his friend President Salvador Allende….

Read More Read More

Ancient humans and their early depictions of the universe

Ancient humans and their early depictions of the universe

Astronomy reports: In the Lascaux caves of southwestern France, which are famously adorned with 17,000-year-old paintings, the artist’s subject is almost always a large animal. But hovering above the image of one bull is an unexpected addition: a cluster of small black dots that some scholars interpret as stars. Perhaps it is the eye-catching Pleiades, which Paleolithic hunter-gatherers would have seen vividly in the unpolluted sky. Claims of prehistoric astronomy are controversial. Even if true, we frequently trace our cosmic…

Read More Read More

Ukraine liberated Kherson city. Now, Russia is destroying it, having already looted its cultural treasures

Ukraine liberated Kherson city. Now, Russia is destroying it, having already looted its cultural treasures

The Washington Post reports: Four charred baby cribs were all that was left in the maternity ward’s bomb shelter. The rest of the room was destroyed Wednesday when Russian forces attacked the city, striking one of the only hospitals in Kherson where babies can still be delivered. By fate or luck, many staff, accustomed to near-constant shelling, chose to hide in a nearby corridor rather than run to the place actually meant to keep them safe — a decision that…

Read More Read More

How religion made us a successful species

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 linked by ethnicity, dialect, and common purpose. Tribes had an edge over bands because they enabled cooperation at a larger scale. One vital benefit was…

Read More Read More

How did the patriarchy start – and will evolution get rid of it?

How did the patriarchy start – and will evolution get rid of it?

Many hunter gatherers have a long history of egalitarianism. DevonJenkin Photography/Shutterstock By Ruth Mace, UCL READER QUESTION: Many people assume the patriarchy has always been there, but surely this isn’t the case? How did it really originate? Matt, 48, London. The patriarchy, having been somewhat in retreat in parts of the world, is back in our faces . In Afghanistan, the Taliban once again prowl the streets more concerned with keeping women at home and in strict dress code than…

Read More Read More

Vikings may not have been blonde, or Scandinavian

Vikings may not have been blonde, or Scandinavian

Live Science reports: Those ferocious seafaring warriors that explored, raided and traded across Europe from the late eighth to the early 11th centuries, known as the Vikings, are typically thought of as blonde Scandinavians. But Vikings may have a more diverse history: They carried genes from Southern Europe and Asia, a new study suggests. “We didn’t know genetically what they actually looked like until now,” senior author Eske Willerslev, a fellow of St. John’s College of the University of Cambridge,…

Read More Read More

Humans may have started tending animals almost 13,000 years ago

Humans may have started tending animals almost 13,000 years ago

Science News reports: Hunter-gatherer groups living in southwest Asia may have started keeping and caring for animals nearly 13,000 years ago — roughly 2,000 years earlier than previously thought. Ancient plant samples extracted from present-day Syria show hints of charred dung, indicating that people were burning animal droppings by the end of the Old Stone Age, researchers report September 14 in PLOS One. The findings suggest humans were using the dung as fuel and may have started animal tending during…

Read More Read More

An anthropologist schooled in spiritual healing offers wisdom for troubled times

An anthropologist schooled in spiritual healing offers wisdom for troubled times

Anna Badkhen writes: Once upon a time, in a thatched spirit hut in the Nigerien village of Tillaberi, the Songhay master sorcerer Adamu Jenitongo told the American anthropologist Paul Stoller that the bush was angry. “People who speak with two mouths and feel with two hearts anger the spirits of the bush,” Adamu Jenitongo said. “When the bush is angry there is not enough rain. When the bush is angry there is too much rain. When the bush is angry…

Read More Read More

Probing the mystery of Japan’s light Covid toll

Probing the mystery of Japan’s light Covid toll

Neil Seeman writes: In light of Japan’s decision last week to waive pre-departure COVID-19 tests for vaccinated inbound travelers, it is worthwhile to consider that its strong performance over the first two years of the pandemic may have had less to do with policy than with culture. In a study published this summer in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Dr. Fahad Razak and colleagues at the University of Toronto examined COVID-19 outcomes in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the…

Read More Read More

A psychologist plumbs the cultural roots of emotion

A psychologist plumbs the cultural roots of emotion

By Emily Cataneo, August 19, 2022 When the Australian anthropologist Christine Dureau traveled to the Solomon Islands for research, she brought her toddler along, at first imagining that the universal experience of maternal love would help her relate to the Simbo women living in this foreign culture. But it soon became clear that maternal love for an Australian was different than maternal love for a Simbo woman: She learned that maternal taru, the Simbo word for love, could often be…

Read More Read More

Cultural transmission makes animals flexible, but vulnerable

Cultural transmission makes animals flexible, but vulnerable

Tim Vernimmen writes: Just a few decades ago, even most biologists would have readily agreed that culture is a quintessentially human feature. Sure, they already knew there were dialects in birdsong, and good evidence that many birds largely learned these regional songs by copying other birds. They knew that some enterprising European songbirds called tits had learned how to open milk bottles by watching one another. Scientists had even reported that the practice of washing sweet potatoes in seawater had…

Read More Read More

Don’t blame Dostoyevsky

Don’t blame Dostoyevsky

Mikhail Shishkin writes: Culture, too, is a casualty of war. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some Ukrainian writers called for a boycott of Russian music, films, and books. Others have all but accused Russian literature of complicity in the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. The entire culture, they say, is imperialist, and this military aggression reveals the moral bankruptcy of Russia’s so-called civilization. The road to Bucha, they argue, runs through Russian literature. Terrible crimes, I agree, are being committed…

Read More Read More