November 17, 2010

Focusing on the Threat of Global Warming Could Backfire
A growing body of research from the social sciences has pointed to one of the major challenges in communicating about climate change. This research suggests that many political leaders, environmentalists, and scientists—by focusing narrowly on the risks of climate change—may unintentionally trigger disbelief, skepticism, or decreased concern among audiences. A forthcoming study at the journal Psychological Science by researchers at UC Berkeley provides further insight into these challenges. (Matthew Nisbet, Age of Engagement, Big Think)

Do Funny Movies Make Us Take Fewer Risks?
A new study out of the Copenhagen School of Business argues that when blockbuster comedies are released, investors become risk averse on the first trading day that follows. (David Weidner, MarketBeat, The Wall Street Journal)

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer
Sitting and being fussed over by technicians in a clean room at the Kennedy Space Center in preparation for a February launching—and looking for all the world like a giant corrugated rain barrel—is an eight-ton assemblage of magnets, wires, iron, aluminum, silicon, and electronics that is one of the most ambitious and complicated experiments ever to set out for space. The experiment, if it succeeds, could help NASA take a giant step toward answering the question of what the universe is made of. (Dennis Overbye, The New York Times)

The Mystery of Consciousness
Science can document all the processes involved in vision—electromagnetic waveforms striking the retina and proceeding electrochemically along the optic nerve to the brain’s occipital lobe. But where does the felt experience of what is seen—let’s say the color red—come from? (Michael Posner, The Globe and Mail)

New Journal for Research on the Biology of Religion
Richard Sosis, an associate professor of anthropology at UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and two colleagues at Boston University are co-editing a new journal on the biological study of religion. The journal, Religion, Brain & Behavior, will begin publication next year. (Susan Campbell, Still Small Voice, Hartford Courant)

Good News Out of Louisiana
Last week, parents in Louisiana raised objections over the fact that science books proposed for adoption in that state would teach kids about (the horror!) evolution. As Winston White, one of the residents who complained about the books, said, “It’s like Charles Darwin and his theory is a saint. You can’t touch it.” Louisiana’s textbook advisory panel listened to the public complaints and there’s some good news. By an 8 to 4 vote, the panel recommended the books be adopted. (Lauri Lebo, Religion Dispatches)

Q&A
Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

In his new book, Green Deen: What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet, Ibrahim Abdul-Matin challenges Muslims and non-Muslims to be stewards of the earth. He hopes the book will help rebrand Muslims from terrorists to environmentalists. (Maria Ebrahimji, CNN)

OBIT
Allan Sandage

Astronomer Allan Sandage of Pasadena’s Carnegie Observatories, one of the most prominent cosmologists of the 20th century who spent the better part of his lifetime trying to determine the precise age of the universe, died Saturday at his home in San Gabriel. He was 84 and had been suffering from pancreatic cancer. (Thomas Maugh II, Los Angeles Times)

Category: Field Notes

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