Anthropology

Zoos have used water moats to confine chimpanzees, gorillas or orangutans. When apes ventured into deep water, they often drowned, which indicated that apes could not learn to swim and so prefer to stay on dry land.

But it turns out that they can.

Two researchers have video-based observation of swimming and diving apes. Instead of the usual dog-paddle stroke used by most terrestrial mammals, these animals use a kind of breaststroke. This swimming strokes peculiar to humans (and apes) might be the result of an earlier adaptation to an arboreal life.

Excavations of tools at two neighboring Paleolithic sites in southwest France have made the blurred lines between modern humans and Neanderthals more blurry. 

Two research teams from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and the University of Leiden in the Netherlands have jointly reported the discovery of Neandertal bone tools unlike any others previously found in Neandertal sites - but similar to a tool from later modern human sites and still and still used even today. 


In the 19th century, following the Enlightenment, the process of secularization seemed to be on a slow but unstoppable roll.  One consequence of this was the development of a view of history, whereby religion in general, Christianity in particular, and above all the Roman Catholic church, assumed the rôle of the enemy of all progress, and progress was by definition good.  Clerics were pictured as Asuras (in Hindu epic titanic beings perpetually at war with the Devas or gods) always opposing the scientists with their own Clerisy.

How would you measure the 'evolution' - that is to say, changes - in human culture and psychology over the last 200 years? 

Psychologist Patricia Greenfield of the University of California, Los Angeles used the Google Ngram Viewer to examine the frequencies of specific words in a corpus of over 1,160,000 English-language books published in the United States between 1800 and 2000. At least it tells us how linguistics evolved.


The result, says Greenfield, is that people have shifted from rural environment to urban. 

She has coined this hypothesis the "Theory of Social Change and Human Development" and believes that the usage of specific words waxes and wanes as a reflection of psychological adaptation to sociocultural change. 


There is a "thrifty phenotype" hypothesis which suggests that economic conditions present during fetal development that then improve dramatically during a person's childhood lead to poorer health in adulthood. 

In other words, if people are poor, it might be healthier if they stay poor. The evidence: the strikingly high prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the American South, which the author of a new paper suggests can be partially traced to rapid economic growth between 1950 and 1980.


Hemp (Cannabis sp.) has been a fundamental plant for the development of human societies. Its fibers have long been used for textiles and rope making, which requires prior stem retting.

This process is essential for extracting fibers from the stem of the plant but can adversely affect the quality of surface waters. The history of human activities related to hemp - its domestication, spread, and processing - is frequently reconstructed from seeds and pollen detected in archaeological sites or in sedimentary archives, but this method does not always make it possible to ascertain whether retting took place.

When most people think 'green' in America, they think of liberal Democrats. It's a carefully crafted image. Conservatives who deny global warming conserve energy just as much as liberals who accept it but that gets little attention. Sociologists in a new paper instead found that the idea of the 'green' Christian is the environmental trope they need to spend their time debunking.


Women are waiting longer before getting married - if they get married at all, according to a new analysis.

The U.S. marriage rate is now at 31.1 - which in statistical terms means roughly a rate of 31 marriages per 1,000 married women, not 31 percent. That rate is 60 percent lower than 1970. In 1920 the marriage rate was 92.3. The wave of gay marriage legislation across the US will likely cause a temporary blip in that, at least until expensive gay divorces kick in, but the overall trend will remain downward.


Do looks matter in the work place? There are a lot more unattractive people running departments and entire companies than there are pretty ones - but a new paper by academics says just the opposite. Pretty people have an easier time on the job.

The paper by Timothy Judge, professor of management at the University of Notre Dame, and Brent Scott from Michigan State University, is the first to link attractiveness to cruelty in the workplace. 


Despite the horrors of the Maoist regime, the Communist Party dictatorship in the People's Republic of China continues to exist and retain control, even though tens of millions of people suffered from persecution or were executed for political reasons while he lived. 

Even less likely, the perpetrators and victims have managed to continue living together long after the death of Mao Zedong and the beginning of the reform era in 1978.