Dress for Evolutionary Success

April, 2013                                                                                                    Nautilus

Picture one of those ascent-of-man charts that depict a progression of profiles, from an ape walking on all fours to a slumped hominid to a modern human standing erect. What’s missing? The modern human is naked. No accessories!

Illustration by John Hendrix
 We may not find a chapter on fashion in science textbooks but ornamentation and tailoring have played feature roles in our success as a species. On the prehistoric catwalks we creamed the Neanderthal competition on both functionality and style and went on to become the dominant hominid in virtually every climate zone on earth. 

As I discovered through a host of interviews with paleontologists, anthropologists, evolutionary psychologists, and fashion historians, clothes don’t just make the man—they make us human. Clothes and body decoration evolved in a suite of human communication tools and behaviors that have shaped the runway of human evolution and culture.

Fashion has been as “crucial to the emergence of the modern human as music and dance, art and humor, and language,” says evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller, an associate professor of psychology at the University of New Mexico. “It’s a legitimate part of human nature.”

That’s hardly news to the well-dressed man and woman. Still, putting fashion and science in the same sentence can seem a little strange. So, to reassure you that the pride and excitement you feel when you put on an Armani suit or a pair of Manolo Blahniks is emotionally legit, let’s turn back to our evolutionary past. The dawn of clothes reveals that we were born to strut.   (More)

Inside The Secret World of Plant Communication

April, 2013                                                                                                    Modern Farme

Photos by Sarah Illenberger
 Without plants, humans and animals could not survive, so it’s no wonder we long to communicate with them. Many past civilizations worshiped plants and have tried to converse with them through rituals and other means.  Read more @Modern Farmer

How to Grow A Cocktail

March, 2013                                                                                        Modern Farmer

What do you see when you walk into a liquor store? If you’re nature writer Amy Stewart, you see “the world’s most exotic botanical garden, the sort of strange and overgrown conservatory we only encounter in our dreams.” Indeed, without plants we wouldn’t have the martini. Or prosecco. Or single-malt scotch. Almost every element that goes into a great drink—from the fermented grains and grapes, to the herbs and fruits that flavor them, to the celery stalk in your glass—is a denizen of the plant world. Stewart’s latest book, The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks, tells the story of over 150 of these intoxicating flora and includes loads of tips for bartenders, gardeners and farmers on the art of alcohol.

 What are some weird plants that can show up in an alcoholic beverage?
You name it. If it’s a fruit or an herb, if it’s edible, someone somewhere has dropped it into some alcohol and made booze out of it. A lot of these plants go back to medieval medicine. Capillaire syrup was originally a medicinal thing made from maidenhair fern that was supposed to treat jaundice. But it became sweet botanical syrup that ended up as a cocktail ingredient. No one makes maidenhair syrup anymore. But you could. And I have.

What’s it used for?
Mostly old punch recipes like Jerry Thomas’ Regent Punch, which is one of those strange drinks that have green tea, Champagne and all kinds of crazy things.  (More)