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.

Last Friday, I noticed this posting on Facebook by Lawrence Carter-Long:

"If you 'see the person not the disability' you're only getting half the picture. Broaden your perspective. You might be surprised by everything you've missed. DISABLED. ‪#‎SayTheWord"

Imagine this: Right next to the lab where blood is drawn and blood pressure is taken stands a fully stocked kitchen — in your doctor's office.

It's not meant for the staff's lunch break, either.

During your checkup, your physician invites you into the kitchen, demonstrates some healthy-cooking tips she picked up in medical school and writes you a prescription for a cooking class.

Fans of author Yann Martel's immensely popular Life of Pi, or of the film adapted from the novel 11 years later, will understand my eager anticipation of his new novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, released last week.

Editor's Note: Some may find the graphic descriptions in this post disturbing.

When I walked into my first virtual reality experience last week at Sundance Film Festival, there was no movie theater or screening room to enter. It consisted only of a single, rotating desk chair and a virtual reality (VR) headset sitting on a table.

How much does it matter that filmmakers accurately portray the scientific details — of cosmology or physics for instance, or evolutionary theory or genomics — on the big screen?

My initial response — "It matters a lot, of course!" — has changed after attending a Sundance panel presentation called "The Art of Getting Science Right" at the Park City film festival this week.

The Eagle Huntress, a documentary film set in Mongolia directed by Otto Bell and starring teenager Aisholpan Nurgaiv, debuted Sunday at Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. With its focus on a charismatic girl who has accomplished something other women have not in 2,000 years — she hunts on horseback with the help of a golden eagle — the film has earned standing ovations.

In his new book, The Big Question: Why We Can't Stop Talking About Science, Faith and God, Alister McGrath argues that "we need more than science to satisfy our deep yearnings and intuitions." That something more for McGrath is God, specifically, the Christian God.

For babies carried to full term, birth weight is considered "normal" between about 6 pounds, 2 ounces and 9 pounds, 2 ounces. Given sustained concern about childhood obesity, I have wondered how early in life children may be at risk for extra weight.

Can babies be obese?

In her January Scientific American piece titled "What Animals Know about Where Babies Come From," anthropologist Holly Dunsworth makes a convincing case that despite popular assumptions to the contrary, animals generally — and our closest living relatives, the great apes, specifically — don't understand that sexual intercourse produces babies.

Elephants' ability to hear what is called infrasound — sound waves with frequencies too low for humans to hear — has been known about for years.

But recently, a new twist in elephants' infrasound detection was discovered — and now it has been caught on film.

The Magdala Stone, a stunning archaeological find from an excavated synagogue in Israel that dates back to the time of Jesus, sits at the intersection of Jewish and Christian history.

Since its 2009 discovery, the stone — a carved block decorated with symbols including a seven-branch menorah (rare for the time) — has ignited intense discussion among the archaeologists and religion scholars who continue to study it.

A video made available online last week shows the famous gorilla Koko communicating through the use of American Sign Language in what is billed as an address to world leaders attending the Paris climate change conference.

Alex Honnold doesn't like to watch his friends "free solo" on big rock formations like El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.

"Free solo" means that the climber uses only his or her body to climb: There are no ropes, no partner, no bolts drilled into rock for stability and support. There's also no room for error: One mistake and the climber falls and dies.

Animal rescues go on urgently every day around the world.

In the area of 1 in 2,000 people are born intersex. These individuals may have mixed genitalia, meaning some combination of ovaries and testes. This comes about either because ovarian and testicular tissue grow together in the same organ or because a "male side" and a "female side" develop in the body.

For people in the 43 million U.S. households with domestic cats, there's good news: Your cat doesn't really want to kill you.

In just four weeks, on Dec. 2, I'll teach my last-ever college class.

When I depart my classroom in the College of William and Mary's anthropology department around 3:20 that afternoon, it will surely feel surreal. After 27 years, I'm retiring from teaching to take up full-time science writing.

All life on earth is related. The way children wiggle, breathe, cuddle and grab objects can help them to realize their ancient link with fish, reptiles, mammals and apes.

This is the message of Grandmother Fish, a new book for 3- to 7-year-olds written by Jonathan Tweet and illustrated by Karen Lewis. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign and offered free in PDF form online, the book has won praise as a child's first book of evolution.

In The New York Times last Sunday, University of Toronto political scientist Courtney Jung argued that the "righteous zeal" and "moral fervor" that surrounds urging of new mothers to breast-feed their babies in this country is harmful, especially because the touted benefits of breast-feeding are more modest than we are often led to think.

On Thursday, the Odense Zoo in Denmark is scheduled to dissect a lion for the educational benefit of children on school holidays.

The 9-month-old female lion was considered "surplus." Officials at Odense said they had too many female lions. They also were concerned about inbreeding, according to reports. The lion was offered to other zoos, but when no takers were found she was killed earlier this year and stored in a freezer.

"We are biocultural ex-apes trying to understand ourselves," declares biological anthropologist Jonathan Marks in his new book, Tales of the Ex-Apes:How We Think About Human Evolution.

A six-year-old crested black macaque monkey named Naruto, who lives in the Tangkoko Nature Reserve on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, is at the center of a provocative lawsuit filed on Monday by the animal rights organization PETA.

In the arena of ocean ecology and conservation, Carl Safina is a superstar. Through television documentaries, his writings and the Safina Center, he's been a vital force for years in educating the public about ocean pollution, overfishing and conservation.

In The New York Times travel section Sunday, Stephanie Rosenbloom described a hot day this summer when she sat in the Roman amphitheater in Arles, France.

As she imagined scenes Van Gogh may have observed there during the 19th century, she says, a soft whirring sound broke into her reverie. Rosenbloom writes:

There's a lot of debate about how to define a mass shooting.

According to a recent NPR report, mass killings happen every two weeks in the U.S. — as defined by the FBI.

An 11-question quiz that tests science literacy — some would say very basic science literacy — is on my mind this week.

In U.S. counties with warm winters, temperate summers and beautiful natural resources — like beaches, lakes, hills or mountains — people's rates of affiliation with religious organizations are lower than in other places, according to a new study.

A few months ago, a 10-year-old gray-and-white cat called Bootsie was taken, together with his mother and brother, to an animal shelter in Virginia. The caretakers of the cats said they were just too old to care for animals anymore.

Bootsie's mother and brother were sent away to another animal shelter in the state. Bootsie, deemed "too shy" and thought to have a low chance of being adopted, ended up at the Animal Resource Foundation a few miles from my house, where the hope was that he might be socialized with some extra attention in a place quieter than the shelter.

The idea that our oceans teem with cultural animals — and have for millions of years — is the central conclusion of a new book by two whale scientists. And it's a convincing one.

Whales and dolphins, as they forage for food and interact with each other in their social units, may learn specific ways of doing things from their mothers or their pod mates.

This week, Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand may race as a woman in international competition.

This decision is significant because, just last year, Chand was denied by track and field's governing body (the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF) the right to compete against women because her natural levels of testosterone were considered too high for a female athlete.

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