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.

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.

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