Originally Posted: November 25, 2015
Early Native Americans Raised Turkeys, But Not to Eat
There is little doubt that Native Americans at a Utah site appropriately called Turkey Pen Ruins raised turkeys, but new research concludes that they rarely ate them, and instead raised the large birds for their coveted feathers.
The study involved extensive analysis of amino acid signatures resulting from diet that can be detected in human hair. The research, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, represents one of the first analyses of human hair from the American Southwest.
The findings indicate that Native Americans from the Ancestral Pueblo Tradition (also sometimes known as the Anasazi) heavily relied upon corn, showing that “about 80 percent of the calories and protein came from maize,” co-author R.G. Matson from the University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology told Discovery News. READ MORE
Originally Posted: November 18, 2015
Archaeologist Tom Dillehay didn’t want to return to Monte Verde. Decades ago, his discoveries at the famous site in southern Chile showed that humans occupied South America by 14,500 years ago, thousands of years earlier than thought, stirring a long and exhausting controversy. Now, Dillehay, of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, has been lured back—and he is preparing for renewed debate. He reports in PLOS ONE today that people at Monte Verde built fires, cooked plants and meat, and used tools 18,500 years ago, which would push back the peopling of the Americas by another 4000 years.
If his team is correct, the discovery will “shake up both the archaeology and genomics of the peopling of the Americas,” says archaeologist Jon Erlandson of the University of Oregon in Eugene. Genetic studies suggest that the ancestors of Paleoindians first left Siberia no earlier than 23,000 years ago (Science, 21 August, p. 841), so Dillehay’s new dates suggest they wasted little time in reaching the southern tip of the Americas. And the find raises questions about the North American record, where no one has found widely accepted evidence of occupation before 14,300 years ago. “Where the hell were the people in North America at that hour?” wonders archaeologist David Meltzer of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. READ MORE
Originally Posted: Nov. 12, 2015
SMU anthropology Ph.D. candidate Kerri Brown recently received a Fulbright-Hays international education fellowship to support 18 months of research in Brazil. Brown leaves for Rio de Janeiro in January to continue work on her dissertation about public policy related to traditional medicinal plants in Brazil.
In Brazil, home to nearly one-fourth of the world’s plant species, many groups within the country have long relied on medicinal plants for basic health care. Pharmaceutical companies also use South American plants to create medications such as quinine for malaria and beta blockers for cardiovascular disease. But local groups’ knowledge of the natural world and pharmaceutical companies’ desire to better understand and export untapped resources has created a conflict resulting in international regulation, Brown says.
“I am interested in how international policy affects various communities’ uses of medicinal plants,” Brown says. “The regulation of medicinal plants is often a point of conversation for larger issues in Latin America, such as deforestation, biopiracy and the rights of marginalized people.”
Brown first became interested in Brazil as an undergraduate at the University of Texas in Austin. A psychology and anthropology major, she studied abroad in Rio de Janeiro and volunteered at Criola, an organization that seeks to empower Afro-Brazilian girls and women to become agents of change. At Criola she became interested in women’s access to health care and use of traditional medicine.
As part of her fellowship, Brown will spend nine months in Rio de Janeiro and then travel to Oriximiná, a small town in the Amazon, to continue her research.
“The Fulbright-Hays fellowship will give me so much flexibility,” Brown says. “It will enable me to travel, attend regional conferences and meet with other researchers in Brazil.”
The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded $4.4 million in Fulbright-Hays grants aimed at increasing understanding between the United States and the rest of the world. Brown is one of 86 scholars nationwide to receive funding through the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad project.
Originally Posted: October 20, 2015
Society should trust science because it’s a long, time-tested process of accumulated expertise, Harvard University Professor of the History of Science Naomi Oreskes, Ph.D said Thursday night.
Speaking at the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute’s annual Allman Family Lecture, Oreskes explained that some of society’s misconceptions of science exist because most people cannot judge whether or not a scientific finding is true. Most people assume the risk of accepting science is smaller than the risk of rejecting it. Parents vaccinate their children because the risk of precautionary vaccinating is smaller than the risk of not vaccinating and suffering potentially harmful consequences. But society is more skeptical of scientific findings than it was before.
“The larger issue is how to reduce the number of those who deny,” said Caroline Brettell, the institute’s director. “How do we build up the trust?” READ MORE
Dallas Morning News
Originally Posted: October 28, 2015
Well, they’ve been an awkward mismatch, off and on, since the age of Galileo. And if scientific achievements have created better lives for us with, say, antibiotics and vaccines, it’s hard to make the same claim for the political consequences of bigger bombs and better guns.
It’s one thing to debate the utility of scientific fact. But it’s a much more maddening exercise to try to reach people determined to believe that science is a kind of choose-what-you-like cafeteria, where facts are only real if you want them to be.
Several professors at Southern Methodist University are working in their quiet professorial way to urge people here in Dallas to come on down and renew their faith in science. A five-part public lecture series tackling the troubling spread of science denial in America begins Thursday.
They’re starting with a bang: The first lecturer will be Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes, who has written extensively on corporations’ vested interest in and deliberate efforts to undermine widely accepted science regarding climate change.
I know, I know: You can’t even say “climate change” — much less “global warming” — without making everybody go stark raving bonkers. People who don’t know a blessed thing about physics or meteorology or atmospheric system research rocket off to their political encampments and start howling insults at one another.
That’s politics. But when political polarization begins to undermine scientific realities like evolution, the benefits of vaccination or the obvious fact that routine water fluoridation isn’t a mass murder conspiracy, we’re all in trouble.
“The level of scientific literacy is declining,” said Caroline Brettell, University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and the Ruth Collins Altshuler Director of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute (yep, her bona fides are excellent), and the key motivator for putting the lecture series together. “It’s ‘I feel’ or ‘I believe,’ but that’s not scientific practice. That’s not how it works.” READ MORE
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2015
DALLAS HALL 1ST FLOOR ATRIUM
Dedman College, the heart of SMU houses the vital disciplines the underlie great accomplishment. Denman College offers 85 exciting majors and minors in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. Their award winning faculty will be available to discuss their teaching and research interests. READ MORE
Date: November 5th
Time: 5:00 p.m. Reception, 5:30 p.m. Panel
Location: McCord Auditorium, Dallas Hall
Why have we moved from, “I don’t fully understand the science, but I trust the scientists.” to, “I don’t fully understand the science and I don’t trust the scientists to be honest about it.”? Join us for a panel discussion with Louis Jacobs, David Meltzer, Randall Scalise, and John Wise, moderated by Lee Cullum of KERA News. Contact for more information http://www.smu.edu/Dedman/DCII/Events
Originally Posted: October 7, 2015
The discovery of a nearly complete mammoth skeleton last week in Michigan raises the question of not only this animal’s fate, but also what happened to the rest of the woolly mammoths. Did humans drive the Ice Age’s great beasts to extinction? READ MORE
Q&A: Commonwealth Coffee’s Ryan Fisher
Ryan Fisher, coffee expert and co-founder of the Park Hill roastery, chats about his love for the bean and taking second place at the inaugural NYC Coffee Masters Tournament.
The launch of the semiannual Coffee Masters Tournament in London and New York this year was certainly buzz-worthy. The worldwide competition (think: Iron Chef for java) invited 20 talented baristas from around the globe to compete onstage—foaming, swirling, and tasting their way to the top. Denver’s own Ryan Fisher, co-founder and co-owner of Commonwealth, took home second place in New York two weeks ago. Here, his thoughts on the competition and his love of everything coffee.
5280: What sparked your interest in the coffee world?
Ryan Fisher: I got into coffee when I was in graduate school at SMU. I was finishing up my PhD and needed a job, so a few friends and I messed around with coffee and realized we could do a lot with it. I ended up going to London to study coffee more in depth, and then came back to Dallas with that knowledge and made a pretty reputable cafe with those friends. In the end, I wanted a new adventure, so I sold my share back to them and moved to Denver to start Commonwealth. READ MORE