December 16, 2010

Your Brain on Religion
Dr. Andrew Newberg has scanned the brains of praying nuns, chanting Sikhs, and meditating Buddhists. He studies the relationship between the brain and religious experience, a field called “neurotheology.” And he’s written a book, Principles of Neurotheology, that tries to lay the groundwork for a new kind of scientific and theological dialogue. (Neal Conan, NPR)

Bioethics Commission’s Synthetic Biology Report
The president’s bioethics commission says there is no need to temporarily halt research or to impose new regulations on the controversial new field known as synthetic biology. In the report, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues says that at present the technology—which involves creating novel organisms through the synthesis and manipulation of DNA—poses few risks because it is still in its infancy. (Peter Wayner, The New York Times)

How Animals Grieve
Whether animals comfort dying comrades and show signs of grieving for the dead may depend on where they live, as well as on how compassionate they are. (Michael Marshall, New Scientist)

Obama Talks More Personally About His Faith
When President Obama lit the National Christmas Tree behind the White House last year, he spoke of a “child born far from home” and said “while this story may be a Christian one, its lesson is universal.” This year, Obama referenced that same “child born far from home,” but added a more personal twist: “It’s a story that’s dear to Michelle and me as Christians.” Three days later, at a Christmas benefit concert, the president again talked about how the story of Christmas “guides my Christian faith.” What changed? (Adelle Banks, Religion News Service)

Join the Exoplanet Search
The Planet Hunters project is the latest citizen-science campaign organized by the crew at Zooniverse. Hundreds of thousands of computer users are already helping Zooniverse classify galaxies through Galaxy Zoo, and analyze lunar craters through Moon Zoo. This new project aims to recruit users to check data gathered by NASA’s Kepler mission, which is expected to detect hundreds of Earth-like planets in a region of the constellation Cygnus. (Alan Boyle, Cosmic Log, msnbc.com)

Ruling on the Appeal of Hwang Woo-Suk
An appeals court ruled to uphold most of the fraud convictions against the South Korean scientist disgraced in a cloning scandal that shook the international scientific community. (Hyung-jin Kim, Associated Press)

No More Religious Bus Ads in Fort Worth
City buses in Fort Worth next year will not carry religious advertisements after atheist group banners on four vehicles drew criticism. The Fort Worth Transportation Authority voted to no longer accept religious advertisements. Board member Gary Havener says he thinks the ads create divisiveness. (Associated Press)

Category: Field Notes

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