What We Don’t Know About Bonobo(s)

25 07 2007

And while reading the New Yorker, make time for this new story too —  contemplate it in front of a fan, maybe over a julep?

In the far distance, such lines of inquiry may converge at an understanding of bonobo evolution, Hohmann said, and, beyond, the origins of human beings.

“It’s a long path, and, because it’s long, there are few people who do it. . . A student working with bonobos can close his eyes and pick a topic, and it can’t be wrong.”

. . .The bonobo fell out of the view of scientists at the very moment that the public discovered an interest. In 1991, National Geographic sent Frans Lanting, a Dutch photographer, to photograph bonobos at Wamba.
. . .“I became sure that the boundaries between apes and humans were very fluid,” he said. “You can’t call them animals. I prefer ‘creatures.’ It was haunting, the way they knew as much about you as you knew about them.” It became his task, he later told Frans de Waal, “to show how close we are to bonobos, and they to us.”

And if you really get into it, you’ll be rewarded with quotes like this one (that might explain a lot about third-millennium schooled teen behavior as well as bonobos?) —

Captivity can have a striking impact on animal behavior. As Craig Stanford, a primatologist at the University of Southern California, recently put it, “Stuck together, bored out of their minds—what is there to do except eat and have sex?”





Harvard: More Marine Corps or Modeling Agency?

25 07 2007

In the summer blog lull, I’ve been reading and reviewing saved stuff and just came across Malcolm Gladwell’s “GETTING IN” on the social logic of Ivy League admissions:

Social scientists distinguish between what are known as treatment effects and selection effects.

The Marine Corps, for instance, is largely a treatment-effect institution. It doesn’t have an enormous admissions office grading applicants along four separate dimensions of toughness and intelligence. It’s confident that the experience of undergoing Marine Corps basic training will turn you into a formidable soldier.

A modelling agency, by contrast, is a selection-effect institution. You don’t become beautiful by signing up with an agency. You get signed up by an agency because you’re beautiful.

At the heart of the American obsession with the Ivy League is the belief that schools like Harvard provide the social and intellectual equivalent of Marine Corps basic training—that being taught by all those brilliant professors and meeting all those other motivated students and getting a degree with that powerful name on it will confer advantages that no local state university can provide.

. . .The extraordinary emphasis the Ivy League places on admissions policies, though, makes it seem more like a modelling agency than like the Marine Corps . . . To assess the effect of the Ivies, it makes more sense to compare the student who got into a top school with the student who got into that same school but chose to go to a less selective one. Three years ago, the economists Alan Krueger and Stacy Dale published just such a study. And they found . . .

[go read the whole thing, it’s gripping!]