November 2, 2011

Genes of an Extinct Ancestor Found in Modern Humans
The latest findings involve genes from Denisovans, a recently discovered member of the Homo genus who lived in central and eastern Asia until 40,000 years ago. Denisovans, humans, and Neanderthals last shared a common ancestor about 1 million years ago. Earlier research found lingering Denisovan traces in genomes of people from Oceania. Now they’ve been found in southeast Asia, too. (Brandon Keim, Wired Science, Wired)

Stem Cell Research and the Vatican
In a rare move, the Vatican decided to collaborate with a private company, NeoStem, to do education and eventually research. The Catholic Church is investing 1 million dollars to form a joint foundation, and next week, scientists from around the world will meet at the Vatican to discuss the future of stem cell therapies. (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, All Things Considered, NPR)

America’s Motto
Citing a crisis of national identity and mass confusion among Americans about their nation’s motto, the House voted on a resolution “reaffirming ‘In God We Trust’ as the official motto of the United States.” (Jennifer Steinhauer, The New York Times)

The Fraud of Dutch Psychologist Diederik Stapel
“We have some 30 papers in peer-reviewed journals where we are actually sure that they are fake, and there are more to come,” says Pim Levelt, chair of the committee that investigated Diederik Stapel’s work at Tilburg University. Stapel’s eye-catching studies on aspects of social behavior such as power and stereo­typing garnered wide press coverage. (Ewen Callaway, Nature News)

VIDEO
Light-Speed Roller Coaster Ride

It’s the ultimate ride for thrill-seekers: a roller coaster hurtling down a track at near-light speed surrounded by color changes and distortions. Now, an animation developed by physicist Michael Hush from the Australian National University in Canberra lets you see the effects described by Einstein’s special theory of relativity, by creating a fictional world where the speed of light is about 5 meters per second. (Sandrine Ceurstemont, New Scientist TV)

Category: Field Notes

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