May 24, 2007

Stephen Colbert interviews Jared Diamond

Here's another hilarious Colbert interview! This time he takes on Jared Diamond, the famous biologist and author of Guns, Germs and Steel. Even though the book has been out for awhile, it was the topic of most of the conversation.

For those who don't know, his book is about how the cultures of Eurasia were able to conquer the rest of the world, because they were essentially more lucky. Well, in the sense that they happened to inhabit more fertile land with better crops and animals that were easier to domesticate. This gave the peoples of Europe and Asia a considerable advantage over those of Africa and the Americas. This is just a very brief overview though, so if you haven't already done so, you should definitely check out the book!

Overall, Colbert displays his usual wit and humor in his questioning, but I think Diamond survived without a hint of confusion or agitation. Go check it out!

May 23, 2007

New MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology

The Institute for Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford has developed a new program where candidates can earn a Master's of Science in cognitive and evolutionary anthropology! Awesome!

The degree is earned over the course of 12 months. Students, along with the usual research method and statistic courses, study the course of human evolution from a biological, cognitive and behavioral perspective, while analyzing how the mind creates culture as well. The new program looks incredibly interesting to me.

Here's a very quick snippet summarizing the program:

"Arguably, Homo sapiens are the only animals capable of genuine language, culture, and religion. We are distinguished by our laughter, singing, rituals, and art, as well as our intelligence. What about our evolution and our resulting cognitive equipment make us human? Make culture possible? The Institute for Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology's Masters program explores these issues through the lenses of contemporary research in cognitive and evolutionary anthropology."
This is good news! It's great to see the incorporation of research dealing with human evolution with that of human and animal cognition. It's a mistake to ignore the fact that the human mind is a product of natural selection, just as any other part of the body!

The program starts in October of 2007!

May 14, 2007

E.O. Wilson and the Encyclopedia of Life . . .

Edge has a link to an awesome video of E.O. Wislon.

It's footage of Wislon accepting his 2007 TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) prize, which includes a $100,000 check. Here's some detail about what the TED prize actually is:

"The prize was introduced in 2005, and it is unlike any other award. Here's why. Although the winners receive a prize of $100,000 each, that's the least of what they get. The real prize is that they are granted a WISH. A wish to change the world. There are no formal restrictions on the wish. We ask our winners to think big and to be creative. They are permitted several months of dreaming, brainstorming and planning. Then they come to TED, and during a special session at the conference, they unveil their wish. The goal is that it creates an incredible sense of excitement and common purpose. It inspires the TED community, and all those who hear about the wish, to offer their help in making the wish come true."
Well, Wilson's wish is to create an encyclopedia of life! This is supposed to be a web-based collection of data created by scientists and amateurs on every aspect of the biosphere. What an incredible task! We know so little about nature right now. But I guess that's really the purpose of it . . . to get people interested in learning and discovering more about the biosphere. In his talk, he discusses various threats to life on our planet as well. And there's also a really cool video montage of nature during his talk, including micro-organisms, insects, monkeys and people. So go check it out!

May 9, 2007

Richard Dawkins interview

There's an awesome interview of Richard Dawkins over at Cosmic Afterthoughts. It was pretty good, so I recommend checking it out.

For those of you who don't already know, Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist from Oxford University who popularized the view that natural selection acts through the survival of competing genes, and that our physical and behavioral traits are adaptations due to the genes that promote their propagation best. So you can see how he's been an influence to evolutionary psychology I'm sure. I mean, he's basically laid the foundation for it! This argument of his was laid out in the 1976 release of The Selfish Gene.

Lately though, he has been gaining more attention for his active popular science writing, unabashed atheism and promotion of skepticism. This is what the interview concerns itself with mostly. They discuss his newest book, The God Delusion, and his views of why it's important to promote reason over faith. I think it was a generally good interview, definitely not as hostile as some I have seen in the past. Whether you agree with him or not, I still recommend checking it out, as well you should check out his books! My favorites are The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker. (Thanks to pharyngula for posting the Cosmic Afterthoughts link!)

On another note, google has recently added a feature to blogger, in which readers can watch youtube and google videos without leaving the blog page. Pretty cool! And if you haven't noticed, I have added such a videobar to my blog. At the moment videos from Steven Pinker and Philip Zimbardo are on rotation, just because I have mentioned them a lot on this blog. I also threw in some banjo videos for good measure! To check them out, you just click on one of the videos and it'll load at the top of the page . . . well under my title that is. So anyways, check them out, let me know what you think . . . does it look messy? Should I keep them? Comments are welcome!

May 2, 2007

New Evolutionary Psychology Blog!

My good friend, and fellow grad student in the William & Mary psychology department, has just started a new blog about evolutionary psychology! You can find it over at brain and evolution. I'm pretty excited about it actually. He's a bright guy and has already came up with some interesting posts. He's new to the "blogosphere," so please go check out his site and say hello and all that stuff!

Well, on another note, this is the last week of classes! I'm pretty excited, but I just have loads of work to do . . . yeah, what else is new right? Well, exams are coming up next week, but in between now and then I'll fit in some time for new posts.

I'm not sure what I'll be doing after schools out, besides blogging of course. I know I'll be doing some research and working as a TA for a class during the second summer session and all . . . and I'll probably be working on topics for my Master's thesis. We'll see how that goes I guess. One thing that I am looking forward to is that the 19th annual conference for the Human Behavior and Evolution Society will be held here at The College of William and Mary around the end of this month. I'm siked! Well, that's all for now!