Barbara J. King

This post is my last for 13.7: Cosmos & Culture.

For 6 1/2 years, I have had the privilege and the pleasure of writing commentaries — about 50 every year — for NPR on animals, anthropology, human evolution, nature, gender and higher education.

The blog's science and culture commentary is being discontinued by NPR — and, so, it's time to say goodbye.

Consider this list of names for hamburgers that are now, or have been, on the market: Thickburger, Whopper, Big Mac, Big Boy, Chubby Boy, Beefy Boy, Super Boy.

Notice a pattern there?

Writer Carol J. Adams does. This list comes from her book Burger, published last month. As the hamburger business gradually grew over time, Adams explains, so did the size of the hamburger — and the gender associations.

In an effort to reduce the number of invasive iguanas in South Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has funded a project in which scientists from the University of Florida approach green iguanas sleeping at night with the goal of killing them.

I think it's fair to say that many parents focus a lot of energy — and worry! — on protecting their small kids from risky situations.

But it turns out that integrating limited risk into our kids' playtime may be taking a step toward healthier child development.

Over the past few years, I've spent many hours reading up on — and a morning observing — the smart, sassy behavior of octopuses.

Barbara J. King is an anthropology professor emerita at the College of William and Mary. She often writes about the cognition, emotion and welfare of animals and about biological anthropology, human evolution and gender issues. Barbara's new book is Personalities on the Plate: The Lives and Minds of Animals We Eat.

Civilization originated in the Fertile Crescent region, including parts of modern-day Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Egypt. That's the lesson most of us learned in school.

In it, civilization is used in a highly positive way to refer to the rise of city-states and the development of writing around the 4th millennium B.C.

Much of the U.S. remains firmly in the grip of winter, even as the sports-enthused world prepares to cheer on athletes in snow-and-ice-centered events at the Winter Olympics.

When we read books, why do we forget so much of what we read, in only weeks or even days after we read it?

Coming across an article on this topic by Julie Beck in The Atlantic over the weekend, I found insight and even some consolation. I'm not the only one who forgets the plots of novels I've truly loved.

Late last year, an infant elephant in the state of Kerala in India fell into a well as the baby's herd moved to cross a river.

Together, villagers and government officials mounted a five-hour rescue, using heavy earth-moving equipment to clear a path of packed-down soil that allowed the youngster to climb out.

In a post published by the conservation organization Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International (DFGFI) last month, the behavior of a mountain gorilla female in Rwanda was described in striking terms.

The 26-year-old female, named Pasika, has been traveling alone with her baby for more than seven months in Rwanda's Virunga mountains, ever since her social group fell apart at the death of its silverback leader. Her infant, Mashami, is now one year old.

A year ago this month, animal activist Paul Shapiro sat in the offices of the Hampton Creek food technology company in San Francisco and put a forkful of foie gras in his mouth.

In my house, we celebrate Christmas.

In preparation, we selected a beautiful, aromatic Fraser fir tree for our den. This means that our five indoor rescued cats get to enjoy their annual holiday enrichment activity — climbing partway up through the branches, batting down ornaments, and attempting to shred the wrapping and ribbon from presents under the tree.

Some chaos definitely ensues, but it's fun to see the cats so excited — and we've never yet had an outright tree crash like this one.

Have you ever walked out of a movie theater and said to your companion, "Wow, the science in that film was awesome?"

Imagine a college course that requires students to give up computer and cell-phone technology for a month — and, in fact, to cease speaking entirely for that period.

Then imagine that the class is super-popular, with students clamoring to get in.

In his new novel Origin, Dan Brown (most famous for The Da Vinci Code), describes his protagonist Robert Langdon's approach to the conundrum of students' devotion to personal tech devices in the classroom.

Langdon is, Brown writes, "one of several Harvard professors who now used portable cell-jamming technology to render their lecture halls 'dead zones' and keep students off their devices during class."

During a press conference on Aug. 15, President Trump was asked by a reporter why he waited so long to "blast neo-Nazis" in the wake of the white supremacist rally held the previous weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

That rally resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a young counterprotester, and injuries to dozens of others.

How can wildlife conservationists best work to save endangered wildlife like the rhinos, lions and elephants of Africa?

This question sits at the heart of Trophy, a movie directed by Shaul Schwartz and co-directed by Christina Clusiau that opens in New York on Friday and more widely at the end of the month (see the trailer here).

Over the millennia, our ancestors continuously developed new techniques and technologies that enabled them to find, eat, and cook meat and plants — and in coastal populations,

As the full extent of the damage from Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana starts to become clear, many of us have been glued to coverage of urgent rescues, including of people's pets.

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