November 16, 2010

Hayabusa Brings Asteroid Dust to Earth
Success! The Hayabusa space explorer has picked up dust from the Itokawa asteroid, from which it returned in June after a seven-year mission. The grains are the first materials ever returned to Earth from an asteroid. (Richard Van Noorden, The Great Beyond, Nature)

Molecular Animation
Building on decades of research and mountains of data, scientists and animators are now recreating in vivid detail the complex inner machinery of living cells. The field has spawned a new breed of scientist-animators who not only understand molecular processes but also have mastered the computer-based tools of the film industry. (Erik Olsen, The New York Times)

Evolution as an Aesthetic Experience
The experience of evolution can be enriched in a variety of ways: by addressing preconceptions and implications, by borrowing techniques from marketing and psychology, and by making use of Internet resources, computer games, and even rap music. Since the experience of evolution has a significant subjective component, not everyone will respond positively to a traditional approach. If we want evolution to be accepted by everyone, we may need an approach with a bit of everything. (Quinn O’Neill,
3 Quarks Daily)

Testing Stem Cell Therapy on Stroke Patients
The procedure involves injecting ReNeuron’s neural stem cells into patients’ brains in the hope they will repair areas damaged by stroke, thereby improving both mental and physical function. Unlike U.S. company Geron’s clinical trial in patients with spinal cord injuries, which started last month, the Scottish study uses stem cells derived from human fetuses rather than embryos. Fetal stem cells do not have the same flexibility to turn into different tissue types as embryonic ones. (Ben Hirschler, Reuters)

The Claim that Humans Were Using Tools 3.4 Million Years Ago Is Challenged
The original claim was based on what were purported to be butchery marks on animal bones found in Ethiopia. It pushed back the earliest known tool-use and meat-eating in our ancestors by some 800,000 years. But Manuel Dominguez-Rodrigo and his team tell the PNAS journal that the marks are more likely to be animal scratches. (Jonathan Amos, BBC News)

BOOKS
In Your Face

A British psychologist renowned for his study of face perception, professor David Perrett, has written a book that explores whether the idea that looks inform the personality becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because people’s sense of self emerges from how others respond to them. (Harriet Alexander, The Sydney Morning Herald)

EVENTS
International Festival of Great Minds

Rabbi David Wolpe: The festival brings together thinkers and writers from all over the world. How eclectic? At dinner the first night I sat across from David Buss, expert in human sexuality, Phil Zombardo, psychologist who has written extensively about evil and heroism, and at my side was Henry Markram, a scientist from Lausanne who is painstakingly building a computer model of the brain. (The Huffington Post)

Category: Field Notes

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