June 13, 2012

How the Balance of Nature and Nurture Varies Across a Country
Researchers from King’s College London studied 45 childhood characteristics in 6,759 pairs of identical and non-identical twins across the United Kingdom, to determine whether their genes or their environment was more important. A new series of “nature-nurture” maps produced by the team revealed that some areas are “environmental hotspots” for particular traits, but in other places the same attribute is mainly governed by genetics. (Nick Collins, The Telegraph)

Last Moment Robot
Jarred by the notion of someone dying in the company of a machine instead of loved ones (or at least other humans)? That’s partly the point. On the one hand, the image “reveals the cruelty of life, lack of human support/social connections,” Dan Chen, who created the robot, tells Crave. “On the other hand, the robot becomes something that you can trust/depend on. It could give you the ‘placebo effect’ of comfort.” (Leslie Katz, Crave, CNET)

Morningness and Happiness
Morning people aren’t chipper just as the sun is coming up; they are happier and more satisfied with life overall, a new study suggests. Teenagers’ night owl tendencies fade as they age, and the study says this switch to a morning-focused schedule could be why older adults are happier than younger ones. (Jennifer Welsh, LiveScience)

New Strategy for Searching for Life on Mars
Rather than hunt for microbes like the Viking missions of the 1970s, NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, a wheeled rover nicknamed Curiosity, will look for places that could have hosted and preserved life. (Irene Klotz, Reuters)

Delhi Freethinkers Group
Atheists are a tiny minority in India, numbering just 720,000—less than 0.1 percent of the population—according to the 2001 census, the latest year for which figures on religion are available (results on religious affiliation from the 2011 census won’t be published until 2014.) “Outing” yourself as a nonbeliever is difficult for many in Indian families, where being religious is taken as a given, according to members of Delhi Freethinkers. (Joanna Sugden, India Real Time, The Wall Street Journal)

Creationism in Turkey
As Islam takes on a more visible public profile in Turkey, academia is becoming a battleground over the theory of evolution. Scholars who espouse creationist ideas are becoming more assertive in challenging Darwinism. The recent push by those who see a divine role in human evolution has alarmed Darwin’s adherents. In May, hundreds of academics and students angrily protested against what was billed as Turkey’s first academic conference on creationist ideas, held at Istanbul’s Marmara University. (Dorian Jones, The Atlantic)

Category: Field Notes

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