May 11, 2010

Is There Something Universal About Music?
A number of musicians, including some notable composers, claim that music is a universal form of human communication which transcends barriers of culture and language. Now psychologists are putting this universality back on the agenda, and are investigating whether certain elements of music are hard-wired into the brain. (Philip Ball, New Scientist)

Responding to Stephen Hawking’s View of Aliens
The Journal of Cosmology compiled responses from a dozen scientists and has published them online. Some criticized Stephen Hawking’s use of human behavior to predict what aliens would do, but others said that human behavior was a reasonable yardstick. Few, however, questioned the premise of Hawking’s statements—that alien life forms probably exist and we are likely someday to encounter them. (Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times)

Many Religions Link Modesty and Faith
Though the burqa and niqab have made news in recent months, Islam is only one of many religions that connect modesty to faith with specific garments. Many Mormons, Amish, Orthodox Jews, and Christians promote modest appearance, among men and women, to various degrees. (Neal Conan, Talk of the Nation, NPR)

New Study Finds Listening to Mozart Doesn’t Increase Intelligence
A team from Vienna University’s faculty of psychology has analyzed all studies since 1993 that have sought to reproduce the Mozart effect and found no proof of the phenomenon’s existence. (Kate Devlin, Telegraph)

Kids Overimitate Adults
Whether they’re preschoolers from Australian suburbs or Kalahari Bushmen, children copy adults to a fault, according to a new study. The findings suggest that overimitation—in which a child copies everything an adult does, even irrelevant or silly actions—is a universal human trait that may contribute to our complex culture. (Gisela Telis, ScienceNOW)

Does Studying Science Cause Atheism?
There’s a cliche out there, particularly among some conservative religious folks, that there is something nasty about science (and particularly evolutionary science), such that studying it will kill off your belief system. However, Elaine Howard Ecklund’s research seems to give the lie to this idea. (Chris Mooney, The Intersection, Discover)

Category: Field Notes

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