Happy National Fossil Day! Fossils are among the most thrill-inducing traces of the past to discover. These preserved remains of once-living organisms, usually more than 10,000 years old, are a primary source of evidence about the past. For a paleoanthropologist like me who is interested in reconstructing the diets of ancient humans, fossils are invaluable clues to that help piece together a puzzle that is inevitably incomplete.
In less than the time it takes you to read this, someone in the United States will be sexually assaulted. One person is assaulted every 98 seconds; almost 37 people in an hour and 888 people a day. There is less than a 1 percent chance that any given perpetrator will go to jail. Rape is underreported, under-prosecuted, and disbelieved. Ours, as anthropologist Peggy Sanday might say, is a rape prone society.
Blood tests, echocardiograms, waist measurements, and body weigh-ins comprise a cyclic apparatus of health checks at clozapine clinics. Most patients have a diagnosis of “treatment-resistant schizophrenia,” but their clinical records are mostly filled with cardio-metabolic concerns. Having a “clozapine belly”—as one patient described their weight gain to me—becomes normalized in the clinic waiting room.
The revolution in information and communications technologies, which had so much promise for broadening access and participation in scholarship, certainly seems much darker and more ominous now. Social media platforms have been weaponized to subvert democracies and weirdly globalize local nationalisms.
What little solace we had from Abigail Fisher losing her anti-affirmative action case against the University of Texas, is now under threat as a new legal case is underway against Harvard University. The current lawsuit that alleges Harvard University discriminates against Asian-Americans student applicants is not a lawsuit claiming “reverse racism” or racism against white people.
A recent exhibit at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas, Texas, asked visitors to view stone tools not as artifacts but as works of art. The curators—artist Tony Berlant and anthropologist Thomas Wynn—displayed hand axes without context, which encouraged patrons to see the lithics as aesthetic objects rather than tools.
The origin of modern humans is one of the most popular and hotly debated topics in the history of human evolution research. Researchers have produced a thick literature, both scholarly and public.
In the past year, at least four fossil finds have been billed as overturning the story of human evolution. The 300,000-year-old Homo sapiens specimen from Jebel Irhoud, Morocco, is hailed as pushing back the age of our species by nearly 100,000 years.
A common teaching analogy in paleoanthropology is that of the drunk looking for her keys in the light of a streetlamp. When a passerby asks if she dropped something, the drunk responds, “actually I dropped my keys on the other side of the road, but it is too dark for me to see over there.”
In a tweet from 2013, Roseanne Barr called former United Nations National Security Advisor Susan Rice a “big man with swinging ape balls.” This year, Barr was at it again, tweeting “If Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby =vj.” VJ was a reference to Valerie Jarett, a former senior advisor to President Barak Obama.