monkey's uncle

notes on human ecology, population, and infectious disease

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Thoughts on Black Swans and Antifragility

December 26th, 2012 · 2 Comments

I have recently read the latest book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile. I read his famous The Black Swan a while back while in the field and wrote lots of notes. I never got around to posting those notes since they were quite telegraphic (and often not even electronic!), as they were written in the […]

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Tags: science · Statistics

On Global State Shifts

July 5th, 2012 · No Comments

This is a edited version of a post I sent out to the E-ANTH listserv in response to a debate over a recent paper in Nature and the response to it on the website “Clear Science,” written by Todd Meyers. In this debate, it was suggested that the Barnosky paper is the latest iteration of […]

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Tags: Climate Change · Human Ecology

Three Questions About Norms

March 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Well, it certainly has been a while since I’ve written anything here. Life has gotten busy with new projects, new responsibilities, etc. Yesterday, I participated in a workshop on campus sponsored by the Woods Institute for the Environment, the Young Environmental Scholars Conference. I was asked to stand-in for a faculty member who had to […]

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Tags: Anthropology · Conservation · Demography · Human Ecology · Infectious Disease · Teaching

Guess What: Food Prices Still Near All-Time Highs

July 14th, 2011 · 1 Comment

The FAO Food Price Index (FPI) remains at near record-highs, and this at a time when record droughts and calamitous famine threaten the Horn of Africa. Using the latest data from the FAO FPI page, I plot here the FPI time series from 1990-2011. World food prices are high and have remained so since the […]

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Tags: Biofuels · Diet & Nutrition · Human Ecology

Nicholas Wade on Science and Anthropology

December 11th, 2010 · 1 Comment

Nicholas Wade, who normally writes really terrific stuff on science in the New York Times, has a brief piece on our Anthropology fracas du jour. It’s good to see an expression of concern for the place of science in anthropology in such a prominent place and by such an important science writer.  I just wish […]

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Tags: Anthropology · Human Ecology · Teaching

Uncertainty and Fat Tails

May 5th, 2009 · 4 Comments

A major challenge in science writing is how to effectively communicate real, scientific uncertainty.  Sometimes we just don’t know have enough information to make accurate predictions.  This is particularly problematic in the case of rare events in which the potential range of outcomes is highly variable. Two topics that are close to my heart come […]

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Tags: Human Ecology · Infectious Disease · Statistics

On Journal Impact Factors

February 16th, 2009 · 3 Comments

How do we evaluate the quality of published work?  This has become an issue for me recently for one general and two more specific reasons.  The general reason is that as one approaches one’s tenure decision, one tends to think about the impact of one’s oeuvre. The specific reasons are, first, I have a paper that […]

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Tags: science

More on Science in the Obama Times

January 27th, 2009 · No Comments

As a follow-up to my post on science and the Obama Inaugural, I wanted to note a terrific essay  by Dennis Overbye on the civic virtues of science in the New York Times. He argues that virtue emerges from the process of science: “Science is not a monument of received Truth but something that people do to look for truth.” […]

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Tags: Uncategorized

Unusual Editorial

July 29th, 2008 · No Comments

This is something you don’t typically see in the editorial pages of the New York Times, viz., advocacy for reinstating US Air Force investigations of unidentified flying objects.  Pope has a point; closed-mind policies are probably never a good idea.  This is not to say that we have little green men coming to cut crop […]

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Tags: Uncategorized