Anthro in the news 3/21/11

• What is the meaning of safe?
Barbara Rose Johnston, cultural anthropologist at UC Santa Cruz, asks what is “safe” in today’s nuclear world?

• The lessons of Fukushima
Hugh Gusterson, cultural anthropologist at George Mason University, discusses the lessons of Fukushima for nuclear energy policy.

• Staying calm when the unthinkable happens
Theories abound as to what makes Japanese people so cooperative, patient, and resilient. “It strikes me as a Buddhist attitude,” says Glenda Roberts, an anthropology professor at Tokyo’s Waseda University.  “Westerners might tend to see it as passivity, but it’s not that. It takes a lot of strength to stay calm in the face of terror.”

• Fire it up
Up for debate is the question of the use of controlled fire by our ancestors. A review of data from over 100 European sites indicates hearths dating to 300-400,000 years ago. Others (notably Richard Wrangham of Harvard University) claim much earlier use of controlled fire by hominins in Africa 1.9 million years ago. A big question is: what is convincing evidence of “controlled use of fire”?

• In memoriam
Donny George, prominent Iraqi archaeologist, died at the age of 60 years following a heart attack. He was director of research for the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage when the United States and its allies invaded Iraq. He replaced a cousin of Saddam Hussein as head of the Iraq National Museum and helped to rebuild the museum, recover stolen objects, and protect Iraq’s many archaeological sites from destruction and looting.

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