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Posts Tagged ‘yale’

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Photo: Klaus Wagensonner/Yale Babylonian Collection
The Yale Babylonian Collection houses four tablets that contain recipes for stews, soups, and pies. Three tablets date back to “the Old Babylonian period, no later than 1730 B.C.,” says National Public Radio.

When I come home after being away a long time and feel overwhelmed by all the things that have to get done to settle back into my life, I like to start with some completely unnecessary little chore. I find it’s calming.

Perhaps in these difficult times, when we wake up in the night afraid of what will happen next, it can stabilize us to do something totally unnecessary and unrelated to the worries of our world.

How about cooking something from a 4,000-year-old recipe?

Maria Godoy asks at National Public Radio, “What did a meal taste like nearly 4,000 years ago in ancient Babylonia? Pretty good, according to a team of international scholars who have deciphered and are re-creating what are considered to be the world’s oldest-known culinary recipes. …

“The tablets are part of the Yale Babylonian Collection at the Yale Peabody Museum. Three of the tablets date back to the Old Babylonian period, no later than 1730 B.C., according to Harvard University Assyriologist and cuneiform scholar Gojko Barjamovic, who put together the interdisciplinary team that is reviving these ancient recipes in the kitchen. A fourth tablet was produced about 1,000 years later. All four tablets are from the Mesopotamian region, in what is today Turkey, Syria, Iran, and Iraq.

For a long time, says Barjamovic, scholars thought the tablets might be medical texts. In the 1940s, a researcher named Mary Hussey suggested the writing was actually recipes, but ‘people really didn’t believe her”‘ at the time, he says.

” ‘The tablets all list recipes that include instructions on how to prepare them,’ the authors write in a piece about their work published in Lapham’s Quarterly [in 2019]. ‘One is a summary collection of twenty-five recipes of stews or broths with brief directions.’ …

“The researchers write that the ‘stews represent an early stage of a long tradition that is still dominant in Iraqi cuisine’ — specifically, aromatic lamb stews [flavored] ‘with a combination of spices and herbs and members of the Allium family, such as onion, garlic, and leek. These seem to be direct descendants of the Babylonian versions found on the culinary tablet with stew recipes.’

“So far, the cooking team — which also includes a food historian, a curator, a chemical biologist specializing in food, a professional chef and an expert on cultural heritage — has re-created three stews. ‘One is a beet stew, one is vegetarian, and the final one has lamb in it,’ says Barjamovic.

“NPR’s Scott Simon spoke with Barjamovic about the research. …

“Why have these recipes taken so long to come to light?
“Well, people don’t expect ancient texts to be food recipes. They were known since the 1920s, really, but were thought to be perhaps medical texts, stuff like that. It was really only Mary Hussey, a scholar from Connecticut, who suggested that they might be recipes [back in the 1940s]. And people really didn’t believe her until a French author and scholar [French Assyriologist Jean Bottéro] in the 1980s was asked to write an encyclopedic article about cooking in the ancient world. He had heard about this rumor that they might be recipes. So he went to Yale and found out that they were. And of course, being a Frenchman, he started working on them.

“So have you tasted any of the recipes?
“Yes, I’ve cooked these many times now. And the big difference between our French colleague, Monsieur Bottéro, and the way that he could handle these texts in the ’80s and now is that we have a somewhat greater knowledge of, first of all, the ingredients listed in the texts themselves. We quite simply understand many of the words better than he did. But secondly, and more importantly, we’re working together as a team and he worked alone.

“Are they good?
“Yes, they are, I would say — some of them. … Not as foreign as you might imagine. And there are some basic elements that we share with this kind of cooking. And there are certain aspects of the human palate which are not going to change, which biologically we remain the same.

“Any big-name chefs express an interest in making the recipes or putting them into restaurants?
“Big name? No. Small name? Yes. All over the place, there are lots of people who are contacting me these days and asking whether, you know, one would be interested in collaborating on having this presented in a restaurant.”

More at NPR, here.

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Photo: Aaron Wade
The Wade brothers (from left: Nigel, Zach, Aaron and Nick) are all going to attend Yale.

I have often felt awe for parents who do a good job of managing twins, especially when the twins are infants. How much greater is my awe of the Wade brothers’ parents, who must have done a lot of things right to manage quadruplets who all became academic achievers.

As Sarah Larimer wrote at the Washington Post in April, “The Wade quadruplets, of Liberty Township, Ohio, learned that all four had been accepted at Harvard and Yale universities — offers that added to a pretty impressive pile of potential college destinations. …

“Besides Harvard and Yale, the Wade brothers have loads of options for the next four years. Nick got into Duke, Georgetown and Stanford. Aaron is in at Stanford, too. Nigel made the cut with Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt, and Zach with Cornell. …

“ ‘The outcome has shocked us,’ Aaron said. ‘We didn’t go into this thinking, “Oh, we’re going to apply to all these schools and get into all of them.” It wasn’t so much about the prestige or so much about the name as it was — it was important that we each find a school where we think that we’ll thrive and where we think that we’ll contribute.’ …

“Darrin Wade, who works for General Electric, and his wife, a school principal, have saved some money for their sons’ education. But the father said it’s not enough to cover four sets of full tuition for four years at full price at elite private universities. The mother and father are mindful of their own need for retirement funds, too.

“ ‘We have to make sure that we’re helping them down the road by not being a financial burden on them when we get older,’ Wade said.” More from the original story here.

I needed to know what the upshot was and managed to find a May follow-up story. NBC reported that Yale offered the four brothers a great financial aid package, so that’s where they are going.

Hat tip: Cousin Claire on Facebook.

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Photo: North Carolina Arboretum
Plant physiologist Joe-Ann McCoy extracts seeds from black cohosh collected in western North Carolina.

A plant physiologist, worried about the future effects of global warming on biodiversity in Appalachia, is not only preserving seeds but working to attract preservation-based economic development. It would be almost like getting a sponsor for one of the plants there, a plant whose roots are used in popular herbal remedies.

At Yale Environment 360, Nancy Averett writes, “When she can spare the time — away from the grant applications, journal articles, and economic reports strewn across her desk — plant physiologist Joe-Ann McCoy laces up her hiking boots and heads to the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina.

“Dodging copperheads and black bears, she winds her way deep into the forest, her eyes scanning the lush understory for black cohosh, a native plant whose roots have been used in herbal remedies for centuries, primarily to treat symptoms related to menopause. When she spots her quarry, McCoy gently pulls the plant’s seed pods — tiny brown orbs that rattle when shaken — off the stem and slips them into a paper envelope.

“The seeds inside those pods — which will be cleaned, vacuum-packed, and then stored in a freezer at -20 degrees Fahrenheit — give McCoy hope. As the director of the North Carolina Arboretum’s Germplasm Repository, her job is to preserve native seeds in this highly biodiverse area in southern Appalachia before climate change makes it impossible for some native vegetation to survive there.

“But the black cohosh holds another promise, as well. The plant’s roots are used in top-selling herbal remedies, and, if someone could succeed in growing black cohosh as a crop and manufacturing supplements here [it] could help drive economic development in this job-scarce region. …

“North Carolina [is] special in terms of biodiversity. Studies have documented more than 4,000 species of plants, 2,000 species of fungi, and 500 species of mosses and lichens in the region. Unlike much of the U.S. East Coast, during the last three ice ages the ground in this region did not freeze, which means the plants here have a much longer genetic history and more diversity than in other areas.

‘If I had to pick one place in the entire U.S. for this project,’ McCoy says, ‘it would be here. This is the ultimate spot.’ …

“When she first came to the arboretum, she focused on black cohosh and creating a robust seed collection from the plant’s entire geographic range — she has 22 different strains — and then growing plants from each strain so she would have enough seeds to back up her collection in three different repositories. These include two federal storage sites — in Ames, Iowa and Fort Collins, Colo. — plus the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.”

After cataloging the seeds, McCoy turns her attention to the economic possibilities. Read here about her work with investors. The Yale article also describes her ginseng efforts and her assistance to Cherokees who value plants used in traditional medicine.

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A Dutch diplomat started following me on twitter. He’s a Yale World Fellow, so how bad could it be? (Better than, say, Contagious Disease Fellow.)

@Alex_Verbeek is focused on environmental issues, and today he tweeted about the Stockholm Environment Institute, “ is ranked second best think tank worldwide.”

Because of my Swedish relatives, I naturally felt curious about SEI and looked it up. The website doesn’t say which think tank is first — or at least not prominently — but it does say that the US office is in Somerville, Mass., of all things. You learn something every day. I did know that the great environmental radio show Living on Earth is in Somerville, but the city is still a bit under the shadow of its industrial past.

From SEI’s website: “SEI’s vision is a sustainable future for all. Our mission is ‘to support decision-making and induce change towards sustainable development around the world by providing integrative knowledge that bridges science and policy in the field of environment and development’.

“To deliver on our mission, we work across issues like climate change, energy systems, water resources, air quality, land-use, sanitation, food security, and trade, and we approach these issues from a range of perspectives from the natural and social sciences.

“We combine scientific research with policy analysis, connecting our work to decision-makers and civil society in global governance, national public policy, regional cooperation, local planning, and the private sector. We generate and share knowledge that catalyses action, and always take a highly collaborative approach: stakeholder involvement is at the heart of our efforts to build capacity, strengthen institutions, and equip partners for the long term.

“Making scientific knowledge accessible is a priority. We publish our own series of open-access reports and briefs, alongside articles in leading academic journals, and work creatively through a range of media to ensure that our research is available to those that need it. We convene seminars and conferences that bring together decision-makers, academics, and practitioners to debate key issues and share knowledge, and engage in and inform policy processes, development action, and business practice worldwide.”

Whew! Wonky! Wish I could introduce SEI to Somerville neighbor Steve Curwood of Living on Earth. He’s pretty good at using everyday language for listeners.

I hope to learn more about the Stockholm Environment Institute, in any case, and am delighted its US office is so close to home.

Photo: Stockholm Environment Institute
One environmental concern SEI is studying is disaster risk in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Here’s something fun from the bird kingdom: a mating dance that looks like Michael Jackson’s moonwalk and a researcher who posits an aesthetic sensibility in animals.

WNYC radio in New York has the story.

Richard Prum is an ornithologist at Yale University … Some of Prum’s latest work is on the philosophy of aesthetics. It stems from his earliest research, as a young scientist, studying small South American birds called manakins. Manakins are known for outlandish mating displays. The males perform an elaborate dance, including moves that look a lot like moonwalking.

“To Prum’s eye, the diversity and complexity of these dances could only be explained as an appeal to the birds’ aesthetic preferences — in other words, it’s art. ‘My hypothesis is that ornament in manakins evolves merely because it’s beautiful,’ Prum says.

“This idea clashes with the view of most evolutionary biologists, who see displays like these as signs of evolutionary fitness. They think the male manakin’s dance signals to females that he is healthy and will sire strong offspring. …

“Prum says that Charles Darwin was on his side. ‘That was Darwin’s original idea about mate choice — it’s about the aesthetic faculty’ …

“Doesn’t this idea about animals having aesthetic preferences anthropomorphize them? ‘I think that we don’t anthropomorphize birds enough!’ Prum says. ‘We’re afraid of talking about their subjective experiences, because we can’t measure it. But in fact, what they experience is desire, the subjective experience of beauty, of being attracted to something.’ ” More here.

Video: NatGeoWild

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If you are a scientist who wears ties, or if you know one, consider designing your own at Vermont-based Cerebella. Past design ideas have resulted in frog-skin, moon-jellyfish, pollen-tetrad, and obelia (a tiny marine animal) neckties.

At Cerebella’s blog, Lucy Partman wrote on October 13 about how she ended up Chief Curator for the company.

“I grew up in New York City … going to museums— and I mean a lot of museums —especially the Met. … My parents … are designers and own a clothing store in Manhattan so dinner table discussions often involved fabric prints, shirt designs, sizes, quantities, and window displays …

“At LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts … I went from biology to painting, from art history to calculus.

“At Yale, I tried to continue this interdisciplinary education. I majored in both history of art and biology and constantly sought to intertwine these interests, passions. For example, I worked with conservators — who work in a hybrid art studio and science lab — at the Yale Center for British Art to conserve paintings …

“I founded an organization at the Slifka Center called Slifka Arts to provide students the opportunity to curate and exhibit student art. … Shortly after the opening of an exhibit I curated at the Slifka Center called Only in a Woman: Microscopic Images by Harvey Kliman, MD, PhD — which will soon be exhibited at Brown Medical School — Ariele [Faber, Cerebella founder,] contacted me regarding the exhibit and Cerebella. Our conversation has continued ever since.” More here.

Photo: Cerebella
Frog-skin Necktie. Each Cerebella textile pattern is designed by finding inspiration under the microscope.

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“How did the turtle get its shell?” asks Carolyn Y. Johnson in the Globe.

“A group of scientists at Yale University and the Smithsonian Institution argue that a reptile fossil that has been gathering dust in museum collections is actually a turtle ancestor, and that its reduced number of ribs, distribution of muscles, and T-shaped ribs could help settle the question once and for all.

“In a paper published Thursday in the journal Current Biology, they unveil the argument that a 260 million-year-old creature called Eunotosaurus africanus was a turtle ancestor, hoping to help resolve a debate that has split the scientific community for decades. …

“The ink spilled so far has roughly divided the scientific community in two camps. On one side are those who believe that the turtle shell came about as external bony scales, similar to the ones found on armadillos or certain lizards, that eventually fused together with the reptile’s internal rib cage. On the other side are those who believe that reptiles’ ribs instead began to broaden until they eventually formed the bony protrusion that is the shell, mirroring the way that turtles develop in the egg.”

Which theory does the 260-million-year-old Eunotosaurus support? Read up.

“ ‘The results are pretty convincing; previously I was skeptical as to whether Eunotosaurus was a likely relative of turtles,’ [Kenneth Angielczyk, a paleobiologist from the Field Museum in Chicago], wrote in an e-mail. ‘But Tyler [Lyson]’s results make me think it is a plausible idea.’  ”

Scientists clearly have a lot of fun, but let me try a more Kipling-esque approach to the turtle question.

When the world was new, Oh, Best Beloved, the Turtle was a small, soft creature who played all day with other small, soft turtles on the banks of the great gray greasy Limpopo River all set about with Giant Eucalyptus Trees. He was timid. He was shy. He kept his distance from the great beasts of the jungle. But he was watchful, too, and he learned from what he saw. And so it happened, Oh, Best Beloved, that at the very day, hour, and minute that the Giant Python Rock Snake stretched out the stumpy nose of the Elephant’s Child, the Turtle felt a great fear come upon him. And he ran and rolled himself in the grease of the greasy Limpopo River all set about with Giant Eucalyptus Trees, raced to the most gigantic of the Giant Eucalyptus Trees, embedded his sticky self in the most gigantic of the Giant Eucalyptus Trees seeds, and there remained.

When he felt brave enough to stick his head out, he reported to all the small, soft turtles what he had seen. And thus the world gained not only a Turtle with a Shell, but the very first embedded reporter.

Photo: Luke Norton
This South African sideneck turtle bears a structural resemblance to the fossil of a creature called Eunotosaurus africanus.

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