Barbara J. King

Barbara J. King is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. She is a Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary. With a long-standing research interest in primate behavior and human evolution, King has studied baboon foraging in Kenya and gorilla and bonobo communication at captive facilities in the United States.

Recently, she has taken up writing about animal emotion and cognition more broadly, including in bison, farm animals, elephants and domestic pets, as well as primates.

King's most recent book is How Animals Grieve (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Her article "When Animals Mourn" in the July 2013 Scientific American has been chosen for inclusion in the 2014 anthology The Best American Science and Nature Writing. King reviews non-fiction for the Times Literary Supplement (London) and is at work on a new book about the choices we make in eating other animals. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work in 2002.

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."

About 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from some form of anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. That is a staggering figure.

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.

All this summer, bears have been on my mind.

Last month, Undark Magazine published an essay I wrote about the time I thought I was a bear.

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.

Rock art images of bulls, bison, horses, lions, rhinoceros, and other animals from caves like Lascaux and Chauvet in France and Altamira in Spain have become popular icons showcasing the antiquity of human-animal relationships, as well as human creativity.

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.

One busy morning at the Seaford Veterinary Medical Center in Yorktown, Va., two cats brought in by their owner waited in their carriers in the lobby because all of the exam rooms were filled with animals.

These two were nervous creatures, what the center's hospital director, Lowrey Reynolds, told me are termed "red zone cats" — distinct from the more moderately distressed "yellow zone" or laid-back "green zone" cats. In the past, these cats have required anesthesia just to get through a veterinary visit.

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.

I write science, but I read memoir.

The pairing of memoir and science writing can be an excellent conduit for learning: What may strike a reader as somewhat abstract in science writing may become more real when encountered in a searing narrative of a person's own highly specific experience.

Here's a look at a trio of recent memoirs that involve three topics I've written about at 13.7 -- fatness, cancer and gender (though really, gender is threaded through all three):

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body

A video clip posted this month on YouTube and other sites shows a wild condor, having just flown down from the sky, walking toward and embracing a man in a very moving way. It is capturing attention worldwide and raising some intriguing questions about animal behavior.

Remember the movie Quest For Fire?

It's an iconic Hollywood moment: Ancient humans discover how to make fire. It happens pretty quickly, and there's a chase scene — starring a saber-toothed tiger — to heighten the suspense.

Off the big screen, though, evolutionary changes, including cognitive-behavioral changes that would underpin our species' control of fire, often happen in fits and starts over lengthy periods.

There are some very cool projects going on in spider science these days.

In one study, jumping spiders are induced to climb small viewing towers to contemplate experimentally manipulated images of prey. In another, wolf spiders are invited to assess visual and vibratory signals, digitally altered in various ways, that represent qualities of their potential mating partners.

Innovative methods are being used to ask the question, "What goes on in the mind of spiders?" The results suggest that the answer is "quite a lot."

Are chimpanzees spiritual?

It's a question that Jane Goodall made famous by proposing that the rhythmic swaying and rock-throwing by chimpanzees at waterfalls in Gombe, Tanzania, is an expression of awe and wonder — of spirituality.

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.

On Tuesday, paleoanthropologists led by Paul Dirks at James Cook University revealed in the journal eLife that Homo naledi, a small-brained hominin found in South Africa, lived — and may have cared for their dead in careful, intentional ways — as recently as 236,000 years ago.

There's an entertainment act that's showing up at Minor League Baseball games in which border collies take the field with capuchin monkeys strapped onto their backs.

Together the dog-monkey teams race at speeds up to 30 miles per hour — chasing after sheep — to applause from spectators.

The cowboy monkey rodeo spectacle has been called "an American sensation" and "a wildly popular entertainment act."

But how do the animals involved feel?

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