June 12, 2012

Creationists vs. Evolutionists
Robert Wright: I do think that in recent years disagreement over evolution has become more politically charged, more acrimonious, and that the rancor may be affecting other science-related policy areas, such as climate change. My theory is highly conjectural, but here goes. (The Atlantic)

More on Money, Happiness, and Neurotic People
While more money doesn’t guarantee more happiness for anyone, increasing income is actually associated with less happiness among neurotic people who already earn a good salary. In fact, as pay increased, well-off neurotics are less happy than their non-neurotic peers, survey data indicate. For poor neurotics, however, increasing income has the opposite effect: They become happier than their non-neurotic peers. A new study offers an explanation for this complicated relationship, suggesting it’s all about expectations. (Wynne Parry, LiveScience)

Why the Honor System Works at the Farm Stand
“When you sell me something I want and trust me to pay you even when you’re not looking, you’ve made my life good in two ways,” social psychologist Michael Cunningham tells The Salt. “I get something delicious, and I also get a good feeling about myself. Both of those things make me feel good about the world—that I’m in a good place. And I also see you as a contributor to that good—as somebody I want to reward. It’s a win win.” (Deborah Franklin, The Salt, NPR)

A Report on the Ethical Issues Raised by New Techniques to Prevent Mitochondrial DNA Disorders
Reproductive procedures that would save children from inheriting mitochondrial diseases received a provisional thumbs-up from an influential U.K. bioethics body. The London-based Nuffield Council on Bioethics found few ethical qualms with two procedures that involve transferring DNA from an egg cell with defunct mitochondria to another woman’s egg that has been stripped of its nucleus. (Ewen Callaway, Nature News Blog)

“Vampire” Graves Discovered in Bulgaria
More than 100 such “vampire” graves have been discovered in Bulgaria recently, all of them containing male aristocrats or clerics whose bodies had been repeatedly stabbed or nailed into their coffins after death. Bozhidar Dimitrov, head of the Bulgarian National History Museum, told the Sofia News Agency that ”these people were believed to be evil while they were alive, and it was believed that they would become vampires once they are dead, continuing to torment people.” (Catherine Traywick, TIME)

The Latest on the Search for the Higgs Boson
Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research are using their large Hadron Collider, the world’s biggest particle accelerator, to try to prove that the mystery particle really exists. Poring over huge volumes of data, CERN physicists are confident they are now closer to achieving that aim, outside scientists with links to two key research teams at the Switzerland-based facility said. “They are getting quite fired up,” one scientist outside CERN but with links to the experiment who declined to be named told Reuters. (Robert Evans, Reuters)

Q&A
Victor Stenger

An interview that will appear in the book How to Prove God Does Not Exist by Trevor Treharne, to be released in September by Universal Publishers. (The Huffington Post)

BOOKS
Killing McVeigh

A timely new book by Indiana University School of Law associate professor Jody Lynee Madeira. In it, Madeira asks a question most of us have asked at one time or another in our lives: “What is closure? Does it exist? If so, where and for whom. If not, why?” She then tries to answer those questions, often laboriously, using the bombing trial survivors as her control group. (Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic)

EXCERPT
Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain

Elaine Fox: Optimism is a crucial survival mechanism, honed by nature, to keep us going even when everything seems to be going wrong. Psychologists call this the optimism bias, and almost all of us have fallen prey to its appeal at some point. (Salon)

Category: Field Notes

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