Neanderthals Don’t Deserve Their Bad Rep

Maybe it’s their famously protruding brow ridge or perhaps it’s the now-discredited notion that they were primitive scavengers too dumb to use language or symbolism, but somehow Neanderthals picked up a reputation as brutish, dim and mannerless cretins.

Yet the latest research on the history and habits of Neanderthals suggests that such portrayals of them are entirely undeserved. It turns out that Neanderthals were capable hunters who used tools and probably had some semblance of culture, and the DNA record shows that if you trace your ancestry to Europe or Asia, chances are very good that you have some Neanderthal DNA in your own genome.

Read more of my latest features at the Washington Post. Also, be sure to check out the cool graphics.

Dueling Claims About Flu Drugs

The CDC is telling doctors to prescribe more antiviral flu medications, because, “If you get them early, they could keep you out of the hospital and might even save your life.” But the FDA explicitly prohibits the drugs’ makers from making claims that these drugs can reduce hospitalizations or deaths, and scientists who’ve reviewed the evidence on these flu drugs say they’ve only been shown to reduce the duration of symptoms. Who’s right? Read more in my latest FiveThirtyEight story here, then listen to an audio discussion about the story.

WHYY interview: Every Time You Fly, You Trash The Planet — And There’s No Easy Fix

Earlier this month, I wrote a FiveThirtyEight story about aviation’s climate problem, Every Time You Fly, You Trash The Planet — And There’s No Easy Fix. (A companion story, Some Airlines Pollute Much More Than Others, examined a new study that measured the relative efficiencies of U.S. carriers.)

This week, WHYY’s science show, the Pulse, interviewed me about the story, in a segment titled, There’s Nothing Green About Flying. You can listen here.

The Case Against Early Cancer Detection

In November, I joined Nate Silver’s data journalism site, FiveThirtyEight, as the lead writer for science. My first feature for FiveThirtyEight was on a familiar topic, cancer screening. Specifically, I made the case against early detection of cancer. I realize it might seem crazy, but once you take a close look at the data, it doesn’t seem so irrational.

In a similar vein, this week, in JAMA Internal Medicine, I explain why I’ve opted out of mammography. The JAMA piece is a more detailed version of a story I first told in a Washington Post column. Click here to read the full text version and get through the paywall.

Kids who aspire to pro sports need more play, less practice

Expensive sports camps and intensive practices and team competitions for young kids are becoming more and more common. Efforts to corral children into highly focused sports programs often arise from good intentions, yet research suggests that kids who specialize in a single sport when they’re young risk injury and burnout but don’t improve their odds of attaining an elite sports career. In most cases, giving kids more time for unstructured play and a chance to sample a wide array of athletic pursuits provides a better recipe for success.

Read more of my latest Washington Post, column: Too much practice and specialization can hurt instead of help child athletes.

This column has a sidebar: Is 10,000 hours magic or not?

 

Does CrossFit push people too hard?

It seems as though nearly everyone who has heard of CrossFit has an opinion about it — even people who have never tried it. Aficionados claim that this brand of high-intensity workouts is a fast and fun way to get fit. Critics say that it’s a fast track to injury.

Read more of my latest Washington Post column here. 

 

The Courage to Live It: A Master Class on the Business of Freelancing

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Dates: August 24-27, 2014

Place: The Mountain Research Station, west of Boulder Colorado.

Deadlines and fees

Online Application 

You know how to write and you’ve already done some freelancing, but you want to up your game — and your income. Or maybe you’re itching to quit your staff job and set off on your own to earn a living writing independently. Be your own boss. Work your own schedule. Pursue the stories you care about. If these are your passions, then Courage Camp is for you. As protagonist Owen Meaney says in the John Irving novel that bears his name, “If you’re lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” Continue reading “The Courage to Live It: A Master Class on the Business of Freelancing”