May 30, 2012

Why Didn’t Anyone Tell When Pedro Hernandez Confessed to Killing Etan Patz Years Ago?
Why wouldn’t a group of as many as 50 people—much less a Catholic prayer group—who’d just heard one of their members confess to murdering a child report the crime to police? Chalk it up to human nature and a phenomenon psychologists and sociologists call “diffusion of responsibility.” It’s when the responsibility for a task or action is spread out among many different people, so that no one person feels that they have a personal obligation to carry it out. (Benjamin Radford, Discovery News)

Everyone Cheats
Dan Ariely: What we have found, in a nutshell: Everybody has the capacity to be dishonest, and almost everybody cheats—just by a little. Except for a few outliers at the top and bottom, the behavior of almost everyone is driven by two opposing motivations. On the one hand, we want to benefit from cheating and get as much money and glory as possible; on the other hand, we want to view ourselves as honest, honorable people. (The Wall Street Journal)

Oldest Known Recognizable Musical Instrument Discovered in German Cave
Exploring a human cave settlement along the Danube with the tongue-twisting name Geißenklösterle, researchers have discovered flutes dating back to as much as 45,000 years ago using radiocarbon-dated bones found in the same layer of the archaeological dig. The discovery marks the earliest example of such instruments found to date, which points to early humans showing artistic impulses far earlier than initially believed. (Chris Barton, Culture Monster, Los Angeles Times)

Visual Memory
Two separate experiments present a paradox: Why are we capable of remembering such a massive number of images with great detail in some instances, and not even a few images after a couple of seconds in others? What determines whether an image is stored in long-term vs. short-term memory? In a recent review, researchers at Harvard University and MIT argue that the critical factor is how meaningful the remembered images are—whether the content of the images you see connects to pre-existing knowledge about them. (Julian De Freitas, Scientific American)

The Date of the Crucifixion
Jesus, as described in the New Testament, was most likely crucified on Friday, April 3, 33 A.D. The latest investigation, reported in the journal International Geology Review, focused on earthquake activity at the Dead Sea, located 13 miles from Jerusalem. The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 27, mentions that an earthquake coincided with the crucifixion. (Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News)

Q&A
Jill Tarter

Space.com recently caught up with Jill Tarter to discuss the reasons for her career change, how the SETI effort has changed since she started out in the 1970s, and what it would mean to finally pluck an alien signal out of the air. (Mike Wall, Space.com)

Category: Field Notes

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