July 6, 2010

Personal Robots as Companions
After years of effort to coax empathy from circuitry, devices designed to soothe, support, and keep us company are venturing out of the laboratory. Paro, its name derived from the first sounds of the words “personal robot,” is one of a handful that take forms that are often odd, still primitive, and yet, for at least some early users, strangely compelling. (Amy Harmon, The New York Times)

Who’s to Blame for Our Recent Disasters?
The Oxford theologian and philosopher Austin Farrer, a friend of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, advanced the concept of “double agency.” Oversimply put, the idea seeks to reconcile faith and science, and divine agency and free will. In Farrer’s rendering, God creates creatures and phenomena, which, as agents themselves, then create and act freely. (Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker)

App vs. App
Publishers of Christian material have begun producing iPhone applications that can cough up quick comebacks and rhetorical strategies for believers who want to fight back against what they view as a new strain of strident atheism. And a competing crop of apps is arming nonbelievers for battle. (Paul Vitello, The New York Times)

NASA Reaching Out to Muslim Nations
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a recent interview that his “foremost” mission as the head of America’s space exploration agency is to improve relations with the Muslim world. (FoxNews.com)

Emotion Regulation
Research in the past few years has found that people develop a variety of psychological tools to manage what they express in social situations, and those techniques often become subconscious, affecting interactions in unintended ways. (Benedict Carey, The New York Times)

Classical Music of the Heart
If you play music to vegetative patients, their heart rate changes in the same way as that of healthy controls, suggesting that music can affect the neural systems of emotion even when conscious thought is impossible. (Wendy Zukerman, New Scientist)

Formula for Giving
To better understand my own philanthropic inertia, and some of the common motivations and mechanisms for charitable giving, I turned to a few experts in the field. (Rob Baedeker, San Francisco Chronicle)

Help Fund a Happiness Documentary
The Kickstarter campaign for Happy is split into three phases, with the first one, targeting 33,000 dollars, ending July 10. So far, as of July 5, it has raised more than 18,742 dollars, meaning the project must raise just over 14,000 dollars in the four days remaining. (Miguel Gonzalez Jr., Speakeasy, The Wall Street Journal)

Independence Day Celebration (Atheist Style)
The Fourth of July is a little deity-free celebration stationed in the middle of summer for believers and nonbelievers alike. (Monica Hesse, The Washington Post)

Category: Field Notes

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