February 14, 2012

Why Adele’s “Someone Like You” Makes Us Cry
What explains the magic of Adele’s song? Though personal experience and culture play into individual reactions, researchers have found that certain features of music are consistently associated with producing strong emotions in listeners. Combined with heartfelt lyrics and a powerhouse voice, these structures can send reward signals to our brains that rival any other pleasure. (Michaeleen Doucleff, The Wall Street Journal)

This Is Your Brain in Love
Men and women can now thank a dozen brain regions for their romantic fervor. Researchers have revealed the fonts of desire by comparing functional MRI studies of people who indicated they were experiencing passionate love, maternal love, or unconditional love. Together, the regions release neuro­transmitters and other chemicals in the brain and blood that prompt greater euphoric sensations such as attraction and pleasure. (Mark Fischetti, Scientific American)

Long-Term Relationships
A team of researchers led by Inna Schneiderman of the Gonda Brain Sciences Center of Israel’s Bar-Ilan University have just published a study examining the role oxytocin, commonly called the “cuddle hormone,” plays in the early stages of romantic relationships. While differentiating cause and effect is tricky, the researchers find a strong link between lasting relationships and high levels of the hormone. Oxytocin, as they note in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, promotes trust, bonding, and attachment—between adults, and between parents and their offspring. (Tom Jacobs, Miller-McCune)

The Dark Side of the “Love Hormone”
A new wave of studies is showing that oxytocin is neither the cause of our better angels nor a panacea for the world’s social ills. In fact, its effects vary greatly depending on the person and the circumstances, and it can tweak our social interactions for worse as well as for better. (Ed Yong, New Scientist)

Could Life Have Started in Thermal Springs?
It’s a question that strikes at the very heart of one of the deepest mysteries in the universe: How did life begin on Earth? New evidence challenges the widespread view that it all kicked off in the oceans, around deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Instead, hot springs on land, similar to the “warm little pond” favored by Charles Darwin, may be a better fit for the cradle of life. The controversial new theory suggests the search for extraterrestrial life must go beyond a hunt for alien oceans. (Colin Barras, New Scientist)

How the President’s 2013 Budget Proposal for NASA Affects Planetary Science
The bad news—and fans of Mars should brace themselves—is that the budget, if approved, would officially signal the termination of NASA’s participation in two European-led missions to the red planet in 2016 and 2018. However, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says the agency isn’t abandoning plans to explore Mars in the future—it is merely trying to come up with better ideas to do so without breaking the bank. (Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, ScienceInsider)

When I Was a Child I Read Books

Marilynne Robinson: Science can give us knowledge, but it cannot give us wisdom. Nor can religion, until it puts aside nonsense and distraction and becomes itself again. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Category: Field Notes


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