childhood

Childhood is the most important human adaptation. If you don't believe me, read this highly convincing essay. But childhood is also one of the most diverse aspects of our shared human culture. You know the aphorisms that incorporate the phrase "Kids these days..." You also know that most of the time the utterance is foundationless, just a grumpy complaint by someone who doesn't like the noise or disruption or some other annoyance that kids these days are so good at. But we also know that things really were different when we were kids, and that childhood varies wildly across the globe,…
The latest National Geographic Roundtable Question: Survivor-style television has grown increasingly popular over the years and done a great job of illustrating our brain's fascinating built-in survival instinct. What role do you think our ancestral instincts play today in helping us survive, thrive and accomplish our goals? How much of our ancestral survival instincts are innate verses learned? First, the innate vs. learned part of the question. This is a false dichotomy. We have evolved to learn. We probably have "built in" mechanisms to learn new things. This means that when we have…
A child in the womb is not just some hapless creature waiting to be born into a world of experience. It is preparing. Through its mother, it senses the conditions of the world outside and its body plans its growth accordingly. There is strong evidence that people who are under-nourished as embryos grow up to have higher risks of heart disease and other chronic illnesses. For example, people born to women during the Dutch Famine of 1945 had higher risks of coronary heart disease as adults. We might nod our heads at this as if it were expected news, but it's actually quite a strange result.…
Today we have a guest post by myself, from 25 years ago: It was my very first ant publication, printed on the back page of a biweekly family newsletter.  The ants I later determined to be Lasius flavus, and I am happy to report that the species still abounds at my old haunts in upstate NY despite all my collecting and squishing of queens. That's me on the right, collecting ants with co-conspirator Steve