science podcast #20

Cooking and Human Origins, Big Kangaroos, Little Dinosaurs

Catching Fire

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This week: How barbecue may have sparked human evolution.  Also: giant kangaroos, shrinking dinosaurs, and some old grain.

Catching Fire: Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham has written a new book called “Catching Fire.” In it, he argues that – more than anything else – what allowed our hominid ancestors to evolve into modern humans was the invention of cooking.

Wrangham has spent decades studying primates in Africa. He says cooking gave our ancestors access to a wider range of foods, helped their brains grow, and – because they no longer had to eat berries and leaves for six hours a day – gave them leisure time to develop tools and technologies.

Richard Wrangham

Richard Wrangham

Wrangham also proposes other provocative ideas: how the explosion of modern, over-processed foods plays a key role in today’s obesity epidemic; and how cooking led to the subjugation of women. And Wrangham shares his own experiences eating raw meat and leaves like chimpanzees do.

Wrangham is also our guest in The World’s interactive science forum. Join us for a lively conversation. Ask questions, share your ideas, or just exchange your favorite zebra and gazelle recipes.

Guest: Prof. Richard Wrangham, Harvard University.

And….. Elsa’s Favorite Science Stories For the Week

More on prehistoric food:

Humans killed Australia’s giant kangaroos (illustration below). (The study.)
Dinosaurs were smaller than we thought. (The study.)
Earliest granary discovered in Jordan. (The study.)

Mashed Potatoes USA, by James Brown
Struttin’ With Some Barbecue, by Louis Armstrong


Hunting may have driven giant kangaroos (Procoptodon goliah) to extinction. Image courtesy of Gavin Prideaux, Flinders Univeresity.

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