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.

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.

You know your cats' cute habits, their distinct personalities and their likes and dislikes for food, play and affection.

But could you say whether your cats are right-pawed or left-pawed? That is, have you noticed which paw they use first to step over a raised object or to step down the stairs?

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

When you think of Polynesia, what images first come to mind?

Would you be curious and excited if, out on a walk near your home, you came face-to-face with a young owl, not yet a confident flyer?

Has anyone — a parent, teacher, or boss — told you to purge the words "um" and "uh" from your conversation?

When these words creep into our narrative as we tell a story at home, school, or work, it's natural to feel that we can do better with our speech fluency.

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.

Join me for a memory exercise involving food and family: Think back to the main-course meals your grandparents served you. And, if you're middle-aged or older, like me, your parents, too.

How many vegetarian or vegan dishes were among those main courses?

Animal videos are shared online nowadays at a pace that can be overwhelming.

Once in a while, though, a video offers a unique and unforgettable message.

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."

In 1981, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould's book The Mismeasure of Man hit the presses.

Have you spent quiet time poring over a set of maps? Maybe of a region halfway around the world that you've always wanted to visit — or even the mountains or coastlines of your home area?

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.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20.5 million students attended U.S. colleges and universities last year. The numbers shouldn't be much different this year.

Right now, as August rolls over into September, millions of families are sending their kids off to college. It's an emotional and exciting time.

Think about the last time you were bored — seriously and persistently bored.

Maybe you had to carry out some mind-numbing repetitive task for hours on end, or maybe you were just trapped at the airport or train station, waiting out a lengthy delay without a good conversational partner, book, or movie. You look at a clock and it seems to move at a surreal, glacial pace.

Robots posing as people online are "a menace," Tim Wu wrote recently in The New York Times.

Bots swarm the Internet pretending to be human, slinging election propaganda and controlling hot Broadway tickets.

Babies are born at all hours around the clock. They show up when they're ready! I heard this folk wisdom all the time when I was pregnant with my daughter in 1993. As it turned out, Sarah was born (with just a little nudge from Pitocin, the synthetic version of the hormone oxytocin) at 6:41 on a Saturday evening.

Just two generations ago, most babies did come around the clock.

Now, though, most babies born in the U.S. arrive Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.

In a new book, University of North Carolina, Charlotte anthropologist Jonathan Marks says that racism in science is alive and well.

This stands in sharp contrast to creationist thinking, Marks says, which is, like racism, decidedly evident in our society but most certainly not welcome in science.

Last Saturday, I took part in the first Reducetarian Summit on the campus of New York University in Greenwich Village.

Panel discussions and interaction with the audience — not "sage on the stage" lectures — were the main events of the summit.

As often happens for me, in the midst of trying to process insights coming fast and furiously, my brain grabbed hold of one simple utterance, held on fast, and build connections from there: Lunch should be an academic subject for our children.

At Bonn-Oberkassel in Germany's Rhineland, two people were buried together with a dog 14,000 years ago.

Just in time for World Migratory Bird Day, May 10, an article in the April issue of Animal Behaviour explores the impact of shifting migration patterns in one population of migratory birds.

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