May 4, 2012

One in Seven People Think the End of the World Is Coming Soon
Nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10 percent think the Mayan calendar could signify it will happen in 2012, according to a new poll. (Chris Michaud, Reuters)

Is Evolution a Bad Story?
Dan McAdams’ research focus is narrative psychology—specifically, the development of a “life-story model of human identity.” As he writes in his book The Redemptive Self, “People create stories to make sense of their lives.” When you think about it, we tell stories to make sense of pretty much everything. The problem is that evolution doesn’t fit neatly into the narrative box. As McAdams puts it: “You can’t really feel anything for this character—natural selection.” The biblical story of creation, in contrast, couldn’t be richer. Talk about drama! (Tom Bartlett, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

A Duplicated Gene and Our Complex Brains
A single ancestral human gene that made two copies of itself may have helped the evolution of our large brains 2.5 million years ago, as our ancestors were diverging from australopithecines. Paradoxically, it seems the effect of the extra copies was to slow down individual brain development. This allowed time for neurons to develop more and better connections with one another. (Sara Reardon, New Scientist)

Psychoanalysis of Hitler From 1942
A secret psychological report, unearthed by the University of Cambridge, has found evidence of Hitler’s outlandish beliefs, including his illusion of “divinity.” The profile, which also reveals the leader “seriously contemplating the possibility of utter defeat,” discloses how he believed he was the “incarnation of the Spirit of Good.” (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph)

Hugvie Robot
Just insert your smartphone into a pocket inside the Hugvie’s head and call your loved one. Another gadget inside the robot converts the voice of your beloved into vibrations that the hugger can feel. Another vibrating device inside the Hugvie mimics the pulse of a heartbeat. (Tracy Staedter, Discovery News)

BOOKS
Time Warped

Time, arguably our most precious nonrenewable resource, has a slippery nature in our minds. Sometimes it flows quickly. In other situations, it trickles at an unbearably slow pace. And, to the horror of many, it speeds as we age. Why should something as reliable as a ticking clock be perceived with such inconsistency? Claudia Hammond, science author and broadcaster, explores this question in her new book. (Robin Nixon, LiveScience)

EXHIBIT
The World of Your Senses: Parallel Perspectives From Buddhism and Western Science of Sensory Perception

After a decade of study under top scientists from the Smithsonian and the Exploratorium museums, a group of Tibetan Buddhists are displaying their paintings, which depict the five senses, at the Exploratorium. The seven monks and two nuns, who live in exile in India, are in San Francisco for the U.S. debut of “The World of Your Senses: Parallel Perspectives From Buddhism and Western Science of Sensory Perception,” a collection of 15 paintings depicting sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. (Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle)

Category: Field Notes

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