The Best of the Week(s)


Plenty of social science goodies: Tattoos, temples and hard cider.

Spirited History: Founding Fathers Liked Their Cocktails – Sacramento Bee – By Michelle Locke, Associated Press

Early Americans had quite a varied taste for spirits.

Colonists didn’t have much success raising barley to make beer, so they turned to apples, which did grow well, and made hard cider. Alcohol levels were probably fairly low, in the four percent to five percent range, notes [cider-maker David] Sipes.


The one thing colonials weren’t likely to drink was water, considered a very dubious beverage.

The Urartian god Teisheba. Image: liveon001.

The Urartian god Teisheba. Image: liveon001.

Remains of Long-Lost Temple Guarded by Life-Size Statues Discovered in Iraq – CBS News – By Owen Jarus, LiveScience

The temple was dedicated to the supreme Urartian god Haldi. The kingdom of Urartu was an ancient competitor of the Assyrians, and precedes modern-day Armenia.

In addition to the statues and column bases, [archeologist] Marf Zamua found a bronze statuette of a wild goat about 3.3 inches (8.4 centimeters) long and 3.2 inches (8.3 cm) tall. Researchers are now trying to decipher a cuneiform inscription on the statuette.

5 Ways Your Friends Make You Happier, Healthier and an All-Round Better Person – Huffington Post – By Lindsay Holmes

Having a friend by your side can help big challenges seem smaller — and our health is no exception. Research has shown that strong social support systems have a positive effect when you’re battling a disease, cut your risk for dementia and also alleviate depression.

Like All Animals, We Need Stress. Just Not Too Much – National Public Radio – By Richard Harris

“We do something that takes a little bit of a risk and has a good outcome, we feel exhilarated — that’s good stress,” says [neuroendocrinologist Bruce] McEwen.


“When stress is sustained or repeating or extreme, then all [the usual systems] gets disrupted,” says Huda Akil, co-director of the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan. “And eventually, you do it long enough and it starts impacting other systems … immune responses; it can affect the heart; it affects brain cells. It depends how long we’re talking about.”

Do Soccer Teams Foul Based on International Relations? – U.S. News and World Report – By Lindsey Cook

Do the animosities between nations manifest on the field between players? U.S. News pooled a bunch of BBC data to find out.

Tightness and Looseness: A New Way to Understand Differences Across the 50 United States – Scientific American – By Jesse Harrington and Michele Gelfand

Two psychologists write that “tightness and looseness” can help explain major political and social differences, such as attitudes about drug use and immigration. The difference lies in whether states have “strong norms and little tolerance for deviance (tight), or weak norms and greater tolerance,” (loose).

Cultural differences often arise from differences in ecological and historical conditions… The strong norms that characterize tight nations help humans coordinate their social action in the face of numerous survival threats.  Loose nations can ”afford” more latitude and permissiveness because they face far fewer natural and human made threats.

A photo of irezumi-style tattoos from 1889. Image: Kusakabe Kimbei.

A photo of irezumi-style tattoos from 1889. Image: Kusakabe Kimbei.

Why Tattooing is Universal – The Atlantic – By Olga Khazan

Tattooing may be one of the most striking affirmations of identity. It’s permanent and in many cases highly visual. They signal to others where we’ve been, who we come from and what we believe, among other uses.

Tattooing, when you think about it, is like smiling: Nearly every culture does it, but not always for the same reason.

Fun – Not Winning – Essential to Keep Kids in Sports – USA Today – By Hoai-Tran Bui

The No. 1 reason that kids drop out of sports is because it’s no longer “fun,” says the new study from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The study, published Thursday in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, homed in on the factors that made organized sports fun for kids — findings that could help combat the rising risks of childhood obesity.

Don’t Save for Future? You May Be Ignoring Health – Times of India – By Indo-Asian News Service

Some similar habits drive both physical and financial health.

The decision to contribute to a retirement plan predicted whether or not an individual will act to correct poor physical health indicators, the findings showed. Insufficient retirement funds and chronic health problems are at least partially driven by the same time discounting preferences, the researchers showed.

Uncontacted Tribe in Brazil Ends Its Isolation – Science – By Heather Pringle

There are about 100 uncontacted tribes in the world, according to Survival International, a human rights group. The Brazilian government’s current policy forbids members of the public from contacting or influencing them.

The meeting was Brazil’s first official contact with an isolated Amazonian tribe in 20 years. Anthropologists remain deeply concerned about the tribe’s future as it encounters novel diseases and resource-hungry outsiders. Many previous contacts have ended in tragedy, as diseases such as influenza and whooping cough ravaged tribes.

Featured Image: Some paint survives at an old Urartian hill fortress. Credit: Mediacrat, Wow! Armenia.