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.

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.

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