April 25, 2012

Do People Hold Robots Morally Accountable for The Harm They Cause?
If a robot in combat accidentally kills a civilian, who is to blame? This isn’t as straightforward of a question as it sounds. A team of scientists presented a study at the International Conference on Human-Robot Interaction and found that although robots don’t have free will, people sometimes treat them as if they do. (Jesse Emspak, Discovery News)

Health Benefits of Social Relationships
Leonard Mlodinow: It’s all good and well that we can unite against an external foe, but what is perhaps more interesting is a result put forth by a slew of recent studies: People who are a part of a group are also far better equipped to conquer an internal foe—the threat of bad health. (Streams of Consciousness, Scientific American)

Violence and the Early Aging of Cells
Children who are exposed to violence at a young age show changes in their DNA equivalent to several years of premature aging. That’s the finding of an international group of scientists who analyzed data from the Environmental Risk Study (E-Risk), which tracked 2,232 children born between 1994 and 1995 in England and Wales. The researchers focused on 236 children whom they followed from age 5 to 10. (Alice Park, Healthland, TIME)

Vulture Breeding in India
Vibhu Prakash and his team at the Vulture Conservation Breeding Centre in Pinjore Forest are working to stop any further decline and eventually aim to release birds, bred in captivity, into the wild. Their success will not only help to rebalance the ecosystem, which depends on vultures for quick disposal of rotting animal carcasses, it will also give hope to members of one of the world’s oldest religions. For almost 3,000 years, Parsis, or Zoroastrians as they are known outside India, have relied on vultures in their funereal practice of “dokhmenashini.” (Joanna Sugden, India Real Time, The Wall Street Journal)

Famous Atheists and Agnostics
Nonbelievers aren’t just old gray-haired guys and boring academics. These secular celebrities also identify as irreligious. (Houston Chronicle)

Q&A
Michael Scheier

Michael Scheier reflects on his influential work with Charles Carver and shares how their humble study on human motivation ultimately inspired countless studies on mind-body interactions. He also assesses why their optimism scale was an instant hit in the scientific community, how their findings have been adapted by other researchers, and the future of our understanding of hope and well-being. (Hans Villarica, The Atlantic)

EXHIBIT
Between: Embodiment and Identity

A look inside your skull can be an odd experience. Does an image of your brain in some way represent you and your identity? Or, in reality, does it offer little more insight into your humanity than an X-ray of your arm? This question—do biomedical images shape our sense of ‘self’—is the inspiration for the exhibition “Between: Embodiment and Identity” at Inigo Rooms, Somerset House, London. (Rebecca Hill, CultureLab, New Scientist)

Category: Field Notes

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